The Port of Port Moody

This past summer the Port Moody Heritage Society put together its 5th online exhibit for the Community Memories project hosted by the Virtual Museum of Canada. The exhibit “The Port of Port Moody” includes photos, maps, and oral histories which showcase significant port activities that occurred in the North end of Burrard Inlet ever since European settlement. The following information can be found in this exhibit with accompanying photos and oral history excerpts.
Port Moody’s development began due to its proximity to deep waters. Europeans began to use the area as a route to New Westminster. North Road, constructed by the Royal Engineers, gave access to Burrard Inlet. This provided another option for getting supplies if the Fraser River was frozen or if the royal city was attacked from the River. It was because of this that Port Moody was named after Col. Richard Moody, head of the Royal Engineers in BC.
Port Moody’s next encounter with fame came in 1879 when the Canadian House of Commons chose this location as the site for its Western Terminus. Again, because of the deep water access, it was thought to be a suitable location for exchanging goods between ship and rail. When the CPR completed the railroad in 1885, it greatly increased the amount of freight shipped between the East – primarily Japan, China and India – and Eastern Canada and Europe. From Nov. 1885 to June 1887, Port Moody played a pivotal role in this route between Asia and Canada. Large sailing ships came and went from the CPR wharf in Port Moody exchanging tea and other Asian exports for Canadian lumber. When the CPR extension to Vancouver opened in 1887, Port Moody’s role greatly diminished but was not forgotten.
In early 1900 the lumber industry took over as a primary industry in Port Moody. Mills sprang up around the North end of the Inlet. Tugs became a familiar sight as they were used to tow logs and log booms in and out. The Baird family was the main provider of tug boat services from 1920 until the 1970s. Bill Baird and his sons ran a number of tugs under the names The Best, Our Best, Myn Best among others. They provided services to Flavelle sawmill tugging logs into the mills and sawdust out. They were also hired to break ice in the Inlet during the occasional winters, such as that of 1948, when the Inlet would freeze over. They also provided help with barges coming in and out of the local oil refineries and later in moving ships into and out of Pacific Coast Terminals.
Oil refineries played an important role in the development of Port Moody throughout the 1900s. The BC Refining Company started in 1908 and operated under a variety of names. Today, this site is occupied by Petro Canada. Imperial Oil opened its refinery in 1914 and was in operation until 1995. For both companies barges were the chief means of getting crude oil into the refining plant until 1953 when the Trans Mountain Pipeline was built.
But Port Moody’s port was not only occupied by industrial vessels. In the early days, ferries were an important part of the transportation system around the Inlet. At different times, three vessels helped move people between Port Moody and Vancouver as well as making stops at Old Orchard, Sunnyside, Belcarra, Ioco, Barnet and Dollarton. Known as the New Delta, Scenic and Skeena, these ferries played an important role in the lives of people living in Port Moody. Many have fond memories of taking the New Delta 8am trip to Vancouver for a day’s outing. There was also a ferry which transported workers between Port Moody and Ioco. This ferry ran back and forth at shift times for Ioco workers who lived in Port Moody.
Some of the other unique vessels that have navigated these waters were owned by the military. In the mid-late 1800s British Naval vessels came to this area for target practice. As evidenced by the numerous cannonballs found on the north shore of Port Moody, these vessels would fire cannons onto the unoccupied shore as practice. The Ioco dock saw a submarine during WWI, the Canadian gunship HMCS Curlew in the 1920s and a Canadian gunboat in 1935. While most of these vessels did not stay long, they each made quite a stir for residents in their time.
Today, we see the large ships of Pacific Coast Terminals (PCT) coming and going though the waters of the Inlet. PCT opened its Port Moody facility in 1960 to ship sulphur, wood chips, coal and chemical fertilizers. Today it is considered the largest exporter of sulphur in the world. Ships from PCT are sent around the world and are known as PanMax ships because they are suited to crossing the Panama Canal.
In today’s Inlet, we more frequently see smaller sailing and motor boats. This is in part because of Reed Point Marina. Built in the 1970s, Reed Point is one of the largest marinas in Canada. Reed Point reflects a modern Port Moody who has shifted away from large industries and is known to residents as a beautiful place to enjoy nature in the forest, along the shore and in the water.
The Port of Port Moody exhibit will be available online at www.virtualmuseum.ca/English/CommunityMemories/index.html by the end of February 2011. We hope that you will take the time to visit the site and enjoy the history of our great port.

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