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5 things you (probably) didn't know about trains in Vancouver

The first train engine to make it to Vancouver from eastern Canada is still here
vancouver-trains
Clockwise from top left: A map showing some of the land given to the CPR, the eastern part of False Creek (circa 1893) that was filled in, a train on the Grandview Cut in 1939, the first passenger train arriving in Vancouver in May of 1887.

From the earliest days of the City of Vancouver to the futuristic (for the 1980s) SkyTrain, rail trail has been essential to Vancouver.

It's the the reason for the city's boom 130 years ago, and it still plays a big role in the local economy, feeding the Port of Vancouver constantly.

So here are 5 things you probably didn't know about trains in Vancouver.

1. Stanley Park Train exists because of a typhoon

Typhoon Freda hit Vancouver on Oct. 12, 1962, bringing with it destruction from southern Oregon to southern B.C. In the Lower Mainland at least 7 died in the storm with wind speeds up to 140 km/h in Vancouver.

One of those deaths happened in Stanley Park, where 3,000 trees were destroyed.

On the city's website Freda is described as "the most devastating storm in Vancouver history."

However, for all the pain and misery it caused, one could argue there's a silver lining: The Stanley Park Train.

The high winds knocked down so many trees that when they were cleared out there was enough land to set up the popular attraction.

2. The first train to arrive in Vancouver is still here

While not as famous at it once was, Canadian Pacific Engine No. 374 is a Vancouver legend due to the role it played in one of the city's most pivotal moments.

It was the engine that hauled the first train in Canadian history to arrive here, arriving in Vancouver on May 23, 1887 to much fanfare.

The train was a sign of the role Vancouver would play in not just the region but the nation, as it became the terminal city for country's only coast-to-coast transportation route aside from horses. That railway was essential to B.C. becoming part of Canada instead of the U.S. or something else.

While Engine 374 continued to work for decades (ending service in 1945), it didn't immediately get cushy home after retirement. It was donated to the city and sat near Kitsilano Beach until Expo 86. At that time it was brought in for restoration.

Now, the engine that was a symbol of Vancouver's future a year after it was founded sits in a museum dedicated to it and railways at the Roundhouse in Yaletown.

3. The Canadian Pacific Railway was given a lot of land to come here

The Canadian Pacific Railway was the essential piece in B.C. joining Canada and initially the route was drawn all the way from the east coast to a west coast terminus in Port Moody.

For years that was the plan, but that plan was updated with Vancouver as the new terminus (when the plan was first created Vancouver wasn't much of a community and wasn't incorporated).

Part of the reason that plan was updated is the government gave 6,000 acres of unceded land to the railway company.

With the land secured, the terminus was moved and Vancouver boomed; in five years the population went from 1000 in 1886 to nearly 14,000 in 1891. By 1911 there were over 100,000 people here. The land the CPR was given was quickly worth a lot of money; they owned all or portions of Kitsilano, the West End, Shaughnessy and more.

4. False Creek's relation to railways

The shores of False Creek may be one of the more popular areas to live in now, but for much of the city's history it was industrial land.

Prior to the arrival of settlers it had been a large body of ocean and saltwater marshland where local indigenous groups gather food.

Once had grown south from Gastown, False Creek became an important industrial area and port; as the eastern half of it was mostly marshy land that didn't have a commerical use, Canadian Pacific Railway decided to fill it in; they then got the land they'd created.

On that land they built a huge railyard, and Pacific Central Station, which still operates.

5. The Grandview cut

Though it wasn't as big a project as filling in False Creek, the Grandview cut was also a mega project created for rail traffic.

It was built in 1912 and 1913 for the Great Northern Railway which was building a way into Vancouver from the USA.

While the cut fell into disuse, it was revived, in a sense, but the Millennium Line, which used it when the new SkyTrain route was built in the early 2000s.