One of the first Burlington Northern Santa Fe empty coal trains to use the Southern Railway of B.C. tracks through rural Langley passes by the Sperling siding at 240 Street on Monday morning. The trains will detour through Langley and Abbotsford for the next two months.

Update: Empty coal trains began showing up in unlikely Langley locations on Monday

Lightly-used Southern Railway of B.C. line likely to host several trains a day over summer months.

frank Bucholtz

Times Reporter

Empty coal trains have started rumbling through rural Langley and into downtown Abbotsford, due to construction in Washington.

Two or three trains per day, each more than two kilometres long, are making their way through Langley and Abbotsford on the lightly-used Southern Railway of B.C. tracks.

Representatives of both Southern Railway (SRY), which owns the former interurban tracks through eastern Langley and Abbotsford, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) confirmed talks between the two companies several weeks ago.

A test run took place on Thursday, and full operations began on Monday. An empty BNSF coal train entered the west end of the SRY line at 232 Street about 10 a.m. Monday, and was in the United States before 12 p.m.

“The plan in place will be for BNSF to reroute empty coal traffic from Roberts Bank through Abbotsford down to Sumas,” BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas said. He said the detour plan is expected to last for 65 days.

“Safety is the number one priority,” he said.

BNSF is upgrading tracks and replacing two bridges between the border and Burlington, Wash.

The trains normally run south from Roberts Bank, through White Rock, and enter the United States at the Peace Arch border crossing.

Melonas said the trains would be around two kilometres long. They are limited to a maximum of 24 km/h through downtown  Abbotsford, and double that in rural areas, according to J. Singh Biln, SRY’s director of community relations.

Biln said the trains should be able to clear Abbotsford’s railroad crossings within the federally mandated five-minute time limit.

Currently, SRY runs one daily train on a return trip through downtown Abbotsford. In rural Langley, there is usually one return trip a day as well.

BNSF has been hauling an increasing volume of coal from U.S. mines to Roberts Bank, and is involved in a controversial plan to build a coal transloading facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, which has prompted plenty of opposition from neighbouring residents and groups fighting climate change.

The SRY tracks leave the main line to and from Roberts Bank at Livingstone, just east of the new 232 Street overpass, and climb a steep grade to traverse an area of farms, before travelling through the Gloucester Industrial Park, Bradner and Mount Lehman.

The tracks then descend a steep grade to the Matsqui Prairie area of Abbotsford. The tracks then pass through an industrial area of Abbotsford and its downtown, before coming to the junction point with another BNSF line at the Canada-U.S. border.

The BNSF route to Sumas is occasionally suggested as an alternative to tracks along the waterfront at White Rock and Ocean Park in South Surrey. The mayors of both White Rock and Surrey have called for removal of the tracks from the waterfront area.

— with files from Tyler Olsen, Abbotsford News

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Glenn Rose

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read