Southern Railway of British ColumbiaReporting marks: SRY, SVI
The Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) is a short line that has been operating in BC's lower mainland for more than a century. Currently the railway covers 198 kilometres (123 miles) from Chilliwack to just west of New Westminster.
SRY began as the British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER), an electrified interurban railway formed in 1897. BCER was taken over by the publicly-owned BC Hydro in 1961.
When BCER became part of BC Hydro, it was one of the largest electric railways in the world, but times were changing. BCER had begun converting its freight service to diesel in the 1950s. By 1970, the railway was fully dieselized.
In 1988 BC Hydro sold the line to the Itel Rail Group, a US-owned division of Itel Corp. Itel was a diversified company that specialized in the leasing of rail cars and intermodal containers. At the time Itel purchased SRY, it was the largest railcar leasing company in North America.
Itel had a troubled financial history and emerged from bankruptcy protection in 1984. Following restructuring it rebounded, but was still carrying a huge debt load. Beginning around 1990, the corporation began selling off various assets to pay off its debts. In 1992 Itel placed the rail group on the auction block. SRY was eventually purchased by the Washington Group in early 1994.
In 2006, SRY was chosen by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) to operate the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, a foundering freight line on Vancouver Island in the process of renewal. Now known as the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island (SVI), SRY operates one line from Victoria to Courtenay and a branch line from Parksville to Port Alberni.
SRY has gone on to play a major role in BC's transportation network. In addition to providing local service, it offers vital interconnections to CN, the CPR and BNSF. SRY is currently owned by URS, following a merger with the Washington Group in 2007.