When this picture was taken in 1932 it was noted as being a picture of the last locomotive to cross West Hastings Street. It was on the route that angled through the Downtown from Alexander to the freight yards by False Creek. From July 1932 a newly bored tunnel allowed trains to move between Burrard Inlet and False Creek. The tunnel – or much of it – still exists because SkyTrain now runs through it to head to Waterfront from Stadium station. The tunnel was dug a little deeper to allow the SkyTrain tracks to be stacked on top of each other – the tunnel wasn’t wide enough to allow two trains to run side by side.
We’re not trainspotters, so we could be quite wrong, but this looks as if it was Canadian Pacific’s locomotive 232; an old 0-6-0 steam engine that would have probably been used to haul carriages and freight cars over short distances within the city between CP’s various freight yards. In an earlier post we featured one of the bigger locomotives used to haul the passenger trains across country, sitting on the same line, on Alexander Street.
The building on the left of the picture was the Headquarters of the BC Electric Railway Co who ran the tram and interurban system, which by the 1930s was apparently also doing double duty for Westminster Motor Coach. The odd thing is that this appears to be the only reference to an organization of that name. We haven’t found any records for an operation with that name, and it doesn’t appear in any street directories either. W Marwell Somervell designed the building, completed in 1911, and still in use today as a lighting showroom with offices above. (The building permit for the $350,000 project identified him as M Somervell).
One other thing we noted is the sign on the building for “BC Rapid Transit Coaches” We had no idea the term was in use so early – although with a slightly different meaning. In 1930 there was a scheduled coach to Seattle (which went through Sumas) and another to Chilliwack. Fares from Chilliwack to Seattle were $3.50, return $6.00, but to Bellingham only cost $1 ($1.50 return).
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Can N32