British Columbia Electric Railway Company, 1897-1928 : a British company in British Columbia

Patricia Roy
In the two decades prior to World War I, London was the centre of the most extensive financial empire in the world. Canada was particularly popular among British investors. In 1897, a group of British capitalists led by R.M. Horne-Payne, a successful financier, acquired the electric street railways and electric power facilities which local entrepreneurs had initiated in Vancouver, New Westminster and Victoria. The British capitalists then organized the British Columbia Electric Railway Company,
more » ... ic Railway Company, The creation of the B.C.E.R. inaugurated a thirty-one year long symbiotic relationship between British capitalists and the British Columbia public, Unlike their local predecessors, British capitalists had access to the large amounts of capital necessary to rescue an infant enterprise from the embarrassment of depressed times and to expand its operations as southwestern British Columbia grew rapidly during the prosperous years of the Klondike gold rush and the prairie wheat boom. During these years, the B.C.E.R. completed an urban street railway network, built major interurban railways in the Fraser Valley and on the Saanich Peninsula and introduced hydro-electric power to southwestern British Columbia. Thus, the B.CE.R. provided its customers with, modern and efficient conveniences. The B.CE.R. was unique among Canadian transportation and utility companies of its time. Many of these firms also raised capital in Britain but none seems to have been as closely controlled by a British Board of Directors, The company's general manager in Vancouver for example, was on an agent who could make no significant decision without the consent of the Board in England. A superficial survey of other Canadian utility companies suggests that British Columbians were better off with a British company than they would have been with a Canadian one. In good times, the B.C.E.R. took lower profits out of its operation than did comparable Canadian firms? in bad times, it had greater financial stability than many of [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0106627 fatcat:2nzbppvar5c25dfom6yi5jm2cq