February 23, 2021

The Black Porters’ Quarters on Richards Street

It’s Black History Month – and Michael Gordon adds this contribution:

Those of us old enough to remember can recall being hosted by a Black porter in a sleeping car on a CPR transcontinental train between Toronto or Montreal and Vancouver. I do, and they were wonderful hosts – a good memory to reflect on this month.

This week at the Vancouver Archives I discovered the CPR Porters’ Quarters at 1227 Richards Street. It was near Drake Street, which was the entrance to the CPR rail yards where the transcontinental passenger trains were prepared for journeys east to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Minneapolis-St Paul

View photos and train schedule:

Goad’s 1912 Atlas showing the block where the Porters’ Quarters were located at 1227 Richards Street

1227 Richards today

At that time three transcontinental trains departed from the CPR Vancouver station (now our Waterfront Station).

  • 9 am – Toronto Express
  • 2:30 pm – Minneapolis-St Paul (via Moose Jaw – the ‘Soo’ Line)
  • 7:30 pm – the Imperial Limited for Montreal (and on to Halifax)

The porters would have been hosting on one of those three trains and, when having a break in Vancouver, they stayed at the CPR Porters’ Quarters.

The train fare to Toronto for a lower berth was $16 and $56 for a ‘drawing room.’

CPR Passengers at the Vancouver CPR Station at the foot of Granville Street on Burrard Inlet with a Black porter already aboard (Courtesy of Vancouver Archives)


Extract from the Vancouver Directory showing the listing for the CPR Porters’ Quarters 

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  1. And this book:

    They Call Me George : The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada

    Smartly dressed and smiling, Canada’s Black train porters were a familiar sight to the average passenger–yet their minority status rendered them politically invisible, second-class in the social imagination that determined who was and who was not considered Canadian. Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards–a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense–the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential Black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.


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