If you live in Lower Lonsdale you may be have been awakened late at night by the piercing screech of a whistle as a train trundles along the North Vancouver waterfront. As abruptly as the noise appears, the rumbling sound just as quickly disappears as the train proceeds into the darkness of the Lonsdale Rail Tunnel.
Although less than one kilometre long, the Lonsdale Tunnel has served as a vital link between the west and east ends of the North Shore for over eighty years. Built at a cost of $250, 000, the tunnel was the final link connecting the Pacific Great Eastern Railway with the existing Transcontinental Railroad. The PGE began construction in 1913 at its terminus at the foot of Lonsdale Ave. in North Vancouver. The goal was to connect North Vancouver to Prince George by rail, an ordeal that eventually took over forty years to complete. The new tunnel was necessary to keep the existing rail traffic from interfering with the now bustling community of North Vancouver.
The occasion of the tunnel opening was such an important event that it was presided over by the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Willingdon and his wife. On April 24, 1929 a special train departed the Canadian Pacific depot in Vancouver carrying Willingdon, his staff and various dignitaries. It then proceeded over the Second Narrows (Railway) Bridge and through the newly constructed terminal system on the North Shore. After a brief ceremony at the eastern entrance, it became the first train to pass through the new tunnel.
The engraved year “1929” is still visible over the original tunnel opening now just east of St. Georges Ave and south of Esplanade. To this day, eight to ten trains still utilize the important connection between east and west North Vancouver.