For best opportunities to photograph or just observe passing trains, it will be necessary to drive about one hour and 15 minutes from the Accent Inn through the Fraser Valley to Mission (CP) or Matsqui (CN). These locations are about five minutes apart on opposite sides of the Fraser River and are connected by a highway bridge. Therefore, either highways 7 (Lougheed) or 1 (Trans Canada) may be used to reach these sites. However, highway 7 is recommended as it follows CP's mainline and offers chances to spot trains on the way to Mission and Matsqui which are not available on the CN side of the river. Train density at these locations is normally between 26 and 34 each day so one should not have to wait too long between trains. Parking is not a problem at either location, and since commuter trains do not run on weekends, you may use their station parking lot in Mission. CN and CP have a track sharing arrangement which begins here and continues east for about 120 miles. This results in unidirectional running with both roads running west on CN and east on CP. As a result, on sunny afternoons, the light favours train photography at the Matsqui location.
Should you find the drive to Mission/Matsqui too lengthy, another option is available albeit with less train density. 15 minutes from the Accent Inn in Burnably, Winston St. parallels the double track BNSF mainline into Vancouver. You will find several photo locations starting at the junction of Winston St. and the Lougheed Highway and continuing east for a few miles to Cariboo Rd. Although this line is owned by BNSF, it is not currently used by them. Instead, CN and CP wheel a total of about 12 trains per day over the line.
East of Vancouver
If you are travelling from east of Hope consider driving through the Fraser Canyon on highway 1. This is a first class highway but it takes a little longer than the Coquihalla. Both CN and CP's mainlines pass through the canyon and there are multiple photo opportunities.
The Southern Railway of British Columbia is Vancouver's only short line. As a former interurban, it was Canada's longest and is largely still intact. Although train frequency is not good on weekends, the Southern's units tend to congregate at their shop which is located just off Marine Way on the Burnaby/New Westminster boundary. Entry to the diesel shop is by way of Trapp Ave.
At the intersection of Frances St. and Ingleton Ave. in Burnaby, less than 5 minutes from the Accent Inn, is a seldom remarked railroad structure, the head house for the Burnaby Tunnel's ventilating system. At two miles in length, it's the second longest tunnel on the CN system and is relatively modern by railroad standards, having been opened in 1969. Prior to construction, CN Acquired a house at the above mentioned intersection and dug a 200 foot vertical shaft to the tunnel's mid point for the purpose of ventilation. On completion, the shaft was capped with a building styled to resemble a house in the hope of blending into the neighbourhood. Two fans at the shaft's bottom draw air through the house's eaves and discharge it out both tunnel portals. Less than a year after the tunnel's opening, the ventilating fans failed one day, allowing diesel smoke to rise up the shaft and discharge from the house's eaves. A passer-by noticed this and called the fire department to report a house on fire! Although there are four houses at the intersection of Frances and Ingleton, you won't have any difficulty identifying the shaft's head house … it's the one with no windows. In case you were wondering, CN's longest tunnel is the three mile Mount Royal Tunnel in Montreal.
The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway is in the Cloverdale area of Surrey. They have completed their carbarn and their station and are running # 1225 between Cloverdale and Sullivan station.
The Vancouver area’s only railroad museum is located approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes north of the Accent Inn on 39645 Government Rd. in Squamish. Their collection numbers 95 pieces of rolling stock and motive power including CP Royal Hudson 2860 which is currently operational.
Historic Passenger Terminals
Vancouver is fortunate to have two large downtown passenger stations which have survived largely unchanged since their construction during the First War. Pacific Central Station located at 1150 Station St. near the intersection of Main St. and Terminal Ave. was built by Canadian Northern which became part of Canadian National soon after completion. It currently serves trains of VIA and Amtrak as well as intercity buses. Our other station is Canadian Pacific’s at the north end of Grandville St. which also continues to serve trains. Five days a week it terminates commuter trains from Mission , sees countless light rail trains on a daily basis and is the terminal for a cross-harbour ferry to North Vancouver.