Brian Croft
Painting the History of Vancouver and British Columbia

308. New Westminster BCER Depot - 1926

Limited Edition Stretched Canvas Giclee Print, (unframed): sn95, ap10, pp5

20x32 (inches) sn $700, ap $800, pp $850

From an original painting by Brian Croft

“New Westminster BCER Depot – 1926” is one of the original paintings in my “Streetcars of Vancouver” collection. The collection is intended to bring to life the colourful and exciting story of the British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BCER) and its electrified streetcar and tram service.

When the first six brand new streetcars began operations on June 27, 1890, the only other city in North America operating electric streetcars was New York City. The first streetcar lines were installed and operated by fledgling companies, which were formed in rapid succession during the difficult early start-up years. First the Vancouver Street Railway Co, then the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Co, New Westminster service was started by the Westminster & Vancouver Tramway Company and eventually Consolidated Railway and Light Company took over the combined financially troubled operations. New capitol was eventually organized with the formation of the BCER Co. in 1897. Under the able leadership of Robert Horne-Payne the newly formed BCER began to flourish marking the beginning of what was to be a new and long era of success.

The original reference photograph, captioned 1926, that I used to establish this painting appears inside the front of Mr. Henry Ewert’s book “The Story of the B.C. Electric Railway Co. It shows the impressive depot that BCER built in New Westminster; the building still stands today.

The original New Westminster depot opened on March 26 1900. It was a modest one story building on the south side of Columbia between 8th and Begbie St. A second much larger depot was built opening in 1911. Photographs of the new depot in 1912 show that there was no canopy installed at that time but by 1926 an impressive canopy protected pedestrians on their approach and departure from the depot.

I decided to paint the depot as a night scene so that I could emphasize the corporations two main functions were to provide both rapid public transportation and an electrical power grid. When BCER pushed out new railway beds they brought with them electrical service. In a very real sense BCER lit up the Lower Mainland and I felt I could dramatize this by painting the New Westminster depot, proud with electric lighting, in front of a threatening night sky.

Tram 1224 peeks from within the depot portico sporting the brand new BCER livery of red and gold. St Louis Car Co. built Tram 1224 in 1913 in a two man, double end configuration.

Brian Croft