White Rock
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A visit to White Rock, Colebrook, and Douglas, BC, CANADA
Friday, May 26, 2006
written by Lindsay Korst

This entire trip was inspired by Neil Roughley's excellent website
about the Great Northern in British Columbia's Fraser Valley.   Many thanks to Mr. Roughley, an employee of CN at their Port Mann yard, for his help in finding these last vestiges of the GN.

Note:  Neil's website no longer works, but using the Wayback Machine, I have added screen captures from Neil Roughley's website to the GNR Page HERE.

Courtesy of my new 4 - 10 hour day work schedule, I had this Friday off, so in a burst of adventure I decided to head north in search of ancient GN relics.  As befits the start of a 3 day weekend (Memorial Day in the US), it is pouring down rain when I leave for the border at Blaine, WA.  I stop in Marysville and am sitting at a table eating my breakfast sandwich when the daily Amtrak Cascades trundles by on its trip to Vancouver, BC.

Hmm...maybe I can catch this guy further up the freeway.  I check the schedule I keep in my truck for just such an occurrence and I will have some catching up to do.  The sky is black and it is hard to see through the sheets of water kicked up by passing cars.  No pictures here.  Amtrak 468 North is still ahead of me as I pass by Mount Vernon but I am ahead of him at Bellingham.  I head for the border at Blaine/White Rock.  It is about a 15 minute wait and suddenly I am across the border.  The passenger must be right on my heels.

Crossing into Canada, the skies have miraculously cleared of rain with only some high grey clouds.  This is what's called "a nice day" in my neck of the woods.   Getting over to the White Rock depot takes a while as the entire town is set up for revenue enhancement.  First is the ridiculous 30 kph speed limit (18.6 mph).  Try driving that with an automatic transmission.  As I toddle along, I can see in my mirror the headlight of the northbound Cascades.  Where the heck is the depot?

I pass through what appears to be the downtown with restaurants and gift shops galore.  Only a few early-morning risers are about at this hour (10:30-ish).  Up and over a hill and down the other side.  A-HA!  There's the depot!  I pull into numbered parking spot 1705 and under the glaring eye of an elderly parking lot attendant hustle over to the parking ticket kiosk and insert my credit card.  I can hear the engineer lightly playing his chime horn as the damned kiosk takes forever to print my ticket.

Finally, it's done.  I hustle back to my truck, throw the ticket on the dash and hoof down to the depot for a grab shot.  I think it turned out rather well, don't you?

Now that Amtrak 468 has gone by, there's time to inspect the station.  Here are a couple more pictures of the White Rock depot including a commemorative metal plaque on the occasion of its 75th birthday:

The White Rock depot (ex-GN) is now used as an art museum, historical archive, and gift shop.  The first two are not open when I visit, but the gift shop is.  I wander in.  There are the usual knick knacks and do dads.  Over against one wall, a purple and gold book catches my eye.  It is "Royal Metal" by Barrie Sanford which tells the story of the railroad and highway bridge at New Westminster, BC as well as the railroad development for the entire area.  Details for the book are HERE.  A very interesting read for the GN fan, IMHO. 

The next stop is the old ex-GN section house at Colebrook.  Surrounded by a forest of shrubbery, this building is in surprisingly good shape right next to the tracks.  I had some difficulty finding it at first, but was assisted by a helpful British Columbia Railway trackworker who pointed it out.  The section house is on the south side of the tracks between the Colebrook and South Colebrook signs off a gravel road.

Today's final stop was the former Douglas, BC depot which is close to the "truck border" at Blaine (Highway 15 crossing).  Originally, the Great Northern (New Westminster Southern) went across the border north from here to Cloverdale then followed the south bank of the Fraser River to New Westminster.  Today's ex-GN line through White Rock, Colebrook and Townsend came later.

As you can see, the former Douglas, BC depot has been converted into a residence and there is little indication of its former use.

Curiosity satisfied for the day, I headed across the nearby truck border and was home in a couple hours.  As of Saturday, I'm still enjoying the Sandford book, "Royal Metal".  Thanks again to Neil Roughley for directions and a great website!