British Columbia

3rd-graders welcomed back onboard B.C. tram, 62 years after their final field trip

Car 1304 had its final run on a field trip in 1955, but has since been restored

Rhianna Schmunk - CBC News

September 10, 2017

Nearly a dozen people who rode Car 1304 on its final trip in 1955 returned for another spin on the now-restored car on Saturday, along with their families. The tram used to run as part of the B.C. Electric Railway in the early 1900s. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Around 60 years ago, a group of Grade 3 students from Yarrow Elementary in Chilliwack, B.C., took a field trip on a tram.

It would be the last trip for Car 1304 before it was retired from the B.C. Electric Railway.

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Recently, the tram was restored as part of a heritage initiative by the City of Surrey. On Saturday, it took its first trip since the restoration — and nine of those third-graders came back for the cruise.

Car 1304 approaches New Westminster Car Barns from 12th Street, heading to Vancouver in February 1953. (Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society)
The restored Connaught Car 1304 ran again in Cloverdale on Saturday. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Stan Harder was nine years old when he went on that field trip in 1955. Harder sat in the same seat this time around.

"It was a great trip. I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember the class and it's great to see these old friends again ... and I mean old," he joked.

"You think back to the olden days when you were a kid and it feels good." 

Stan Harder, right, was on the last 1304 trip in 1955. He was 10 years old at the time. On Saturday, Harder was one of the first to ride the tram again — and he sat in the same seat. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

"We'd often walk on the railway tracks and the train would come along and we'd have to get moving," said Jim Dueck, now 80, of growing up near the railway.

The B.C. Electric Railway was incorporated in 1897. Initially, the line ran from Vancouver to New Westminster.

The Fraser Valley line was completed 13 years later, creating an interurban network that stretched all the way to Chilliwack.

The system revolutionized transportation in Lower Mainland, but things changed when cars and trucks rose in popularity after the Second World War.

Soon enough, rubber trumped rail.

"People wanted to get where they wanted, not where the rails went," said John Spring, chair of the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society.

Most of the B.C. Electric Railway trams were destroyed by 1958, but seven survived — including Car 1304, one of three originally built for the Fraser Valley line.

Ron Jones, who volunteers with the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, thinks it's a shame more trains weren't saved, but said the feeling of riding the tram never changes.

"It's the motion, it's the sound of the whistle, it's the mystique," Jones said. "There's just something about it."

The old trams are being restored as part of a heritage tourism initiative. The hope is to have the trains run between tourist destinations in the area once they're fully restored.

Current trips run on weekends from May to October, between Cloverdale and Surrey's Sullivan Station.

With files from Deborah Goble

In 1955, Miss Fowlie's Grade 3 class was the last official passengers on the old 1304. (Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society)

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