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Fraser River Elevator No. 1

August 23, 2014

The Fraser River Terminal Grain Elevator, also called “Fraser River Elevator No. 1” and the Searle elevator, stood on the south bank of Fraser River from 1929 until 1971.

The port terminal was built by the New Westminster Harbor Commissioners to store and ship grain from the Canadian prairies to overseas markets. It was the forerunner of the Fraser-Surrey Docks.1929 - Fraser River Elevator No 1 aerial photo
The Commissioners’ elevator was connected to the Canadian National Railway via an extension from the Brownsville spur and a loop of track at the elevator.
It was completed too late in the season to receive any prairie grain in 1929,  although a small quantity of local grain was taken in for storage.

The SS Olympia was the first vessel to dock at the new terminal, arriving in June 1929 with a shipment of corn from Argentina.1929 - SS Olympia - first vessel at Fraser River Elevator


The Fraser River Grain Terminal could handle up to 100 rail cars daily. Storage capacity was 750,000 bushels. Two belts delivered 30,000 bushels per hour with six spouts pouring grain directly into ships at berth. An 1,100 – foot dock could accommodate two vessels at a time.
Maximum seasonal capability was 30 million bushels. The grains handled were primarily wheat and oats.


Colonel RC Moody in 1859 defined the Port of Queenborough as extending from the mouth of Fraser River to the eastern end of Tree Island.  New Westminster Harbor Commissioners administered the port facilities  into the 20th century.

The site chosen for the elevator terminal at the head of Annieville slough — a place best known for its early fish cannery — was in Section 34, B5N R3W,  originally owned by William Armstrong, one of the two first farmers south of the Fraser opposite New Westminster.
Armstrong established a farm in 1860 but was unable to purchase the surveyed land until it was put up for auction. Others declined to bid his farm away from him and Armstrong was able to claim it for the upset price. In 1929 the flats were still under cultivation.

1929 - grain elevator Fraser River - L Frank photo
The map below. dated 1919,  shows the area on the flats from the Westminster Bridge to the headland. The CNR would extend the Brownsville tracks from  the Fraser River Tannery down to the river bend, paralleling the Great Northern mainline  bound for White Rock.  (Timberland mill, center of map, was served by the BCER.)1919 - Fraser River - Annieville to New Westminster bridge

 

1928 - Fraser River elevator under constructionThe elevator under construction in 1928.

 

 

1929 map, below, shows the rail extension and loop at the new elevator.

1929 - map -  New Westminster Harbour Commissioners

Below, two ships loading wheat at Fraser River Elevator No. 1. in 1930, the first full year of business for the new port terminal.

1930 -  ships loading grain Fraser River Elevator No 1

Fraser River Elevator No. 1 was leased to Searle Terminal Ltd in 1933 and operated by that company until 1956 when it was assigned to Pacific Elevators Ltd.

Below, the SS Wyoming loading grain destined for the United Kingdom, 1933.

1933 - SS Wyoming - Fraser River Elevator - loading grain for UK

 

The elevator was showing signs of age in the 1960’s.

Fraser River Elevator in the 1960s

Searle Fraser River elevator around 1970

 

 

A chamber of commerce illustration from about 1970,  promoting  the Elevator as an example of industry, has a decidedly eerie quality.

 

 

Although the grain elevator was demolished in 1971, the terminal facilities continued to expand, now known as Fraser-Surrey Docks, a major terminal facility within Port Metro Vancouver.

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