Hank Rabe - Public Freightways Story
Public Freightways

Last Updated on :

You may download any image for personal or non-commercial use only.

Public Freightways Story

Public Freightways is a result of several mergers of small truck lines serving points in British Columbia's Lower Fraser Valley within 100 miles of Vancouver.

Public was unique in Canada's motor transport industry. It was employee owned. From a modest beginning, it has expanded gradually to provide scheduled line haul service between most points, covers the Pacific Province with contract or charter service.

Jim Vanderspek came to Canada from Holland in 1928, he joined his brother John in Princeton B.C. on August 30. From jobs hauling coal at Princeton, the brothers switched to lumber and then back to coal with their own trucks. This lasted six months until the mine folded. Moving to Vancouver, Jim bought broken beer bottles for resale to stucco manufacturers. Following two months at this, he became one of B.C.'s original "lease operators" driving for Union Transfer on a 75-25 percentage basis.

In 1932 he started a butter and egg route, buying the produce from Lower Fraser Valley farmers, selling it to retail outlets in Vancouver. Jim and his wife went to Red Deer Alberta in 1934 on a Christmas holiday and belated honeymoon, to investigate the possibilty of hauling foothills butter, eggs and cheese to the coast market. There was no Canadian route through the Rockies and could not haul through the United States. In the meantime an Interational-Harvester truck ordered for the operation has been delivered. On May 1st, 1934 Vanderspek's Transportation was born.

For the next nine years until gasoline and rubber rationing forced the suspension of service, the neatly painted and always attractive trucks maintained usually reliable schedules from Vancouver through the then treacherous Fraser and Thompson River canyons to Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna.

After the war ended, Vanderspek promoted the merging of eight small trucking firms into Public Freightways Limited. Everyone was given equal shares in the new company. Mission City Freight, Winton's Transfer, Chilliwack Cartage, Lake Freightlines (Harry Black Sr.), Cloverdale Freight, Langley Freight, Black Motor Freight, Oliver Transfer, and Vanderspek Transport. On March 1st, 1951 Public Freightways was formed.

Expansion-minded Jim Vanderspek is a salesman's, salesman, Gordon Winton seen that service promised was delivered. Where the Dutchman would dream and scheme with the aid of a coffee shop paper napkin. Winton worried over equipment, supervised scheduling and maintance.

Dedicating the greatest part of his effort to attaining operational efficiency, Jim Vanderspeck strongly advocated the standardized equipment for Public Freightways fleet. That was quite a challenge when one considers the history of eight different companies and their equipment. Turning point came in 1955 with the formation of the Public Freightways Employees Association. This way the employees became share holders in PFL. Employees were payroll deducted for shares in the company. Vanderspeck got the working capital he needed to trade off his old rigs and invest then in a fleet of 55 new trucks.

By 1968 Public had 36 diesel-powered tractors. Thirty were tandems, all but four were Kenworth. All but one were Cummins Diesel powered. All are equipped with Jacobs engine brakes. Gasoline powered tractors numbered 22, all International Harvester. Gasoline powered trucks total 63, five of them GMC the balance International. Most of PFL's 60 Van's bear the Can-Car trademark. 12 have ThermoKing reefers. 35 flatdecks bear the Columbia Trailer emblem.

In 1972 Public Freightways and Johnson Terminals became one. Public closed its doors in 1989, due to the down turn in the economy and the small profit margin. The company decided to close while the going was still good.

Story by Hank Rabe

Many thanks to Harry Black, Les McKenzie, Kevin Duddy, Odd Longva and Hank Suderman for sharing these photos.
If anyone has more Public Freightways pictures that they would like to see added to this page, please email the web master at cdntrucky@shaw.ca.

1954 Reo taken along the Trans Canada Highway between Hope and Rosedale, BC

I kind of think that the Reo was superimposed on a picture of the highway, because is looks just a bit big for the roadway. So thinks the webmaster.

Arch beams 1961 for Super Value store Penticton. These were picked up in New Westminster. Photos were taken at the Skagit Bluffs on the Hope Princeton Highway, the beams were 85 ft. long
Photo was taken at the Skagit Bluffs on the Hope Princeton Highway Another photo of the load of beams. Looks like it might have been taken east of Princeton Unloading beams in Penticton
Ev Humble at Topley Landing for Granisle copper mine at Babine Lake. . Photos by Harry Black Three loads of steel for Granisle Copper At Cairnsite March 1966 Public Freightways Ltd Ev Humble driver taken at the Flood Truck Stop and Cafe taken in 1964.
Public hauled for Granby Mining at Phoenix and were given the haul to the new mine at Granisle
Kenworth K-100 #4502 Public Freightways IH in front of Rural Truck Lines Terminal Aug. 24, 1959.
Public Freightways White Freightliner with a pup and 2 forklifts Young Harry Black beside his first Semi
1947 Vancouver Harry is the child in front of picture with his Dad's truck at rear. 1946 Lake Freight Lines serving Harrison Lake & Harrison Hot Springs General Motors Truck.
1947 Lake Freight Lines and Rural Truck Lines Vancouver B.C. Lake Freight Lines Trucks General Motors truck driver Harry Black Sr.
Winton's Rural Truck Lines Winton's Rural Truck Lines
Pop and Norm
Jason Winton Collection
My grandfather, Wm. Gordon Winton
with his brothers Jack & Norm, and father Daniel
Jason Winton Collection
Public Kenworth # 546, Public bought 40 Kenworths with Cummins engines. Public Hayes # 534 July 1959. Public bought the Hayes From Princeton Brewery when it took over the beer hauling. Harry Black Jr. driver IH # 624 R-series with load of steel pipe June 1959 driver Doug Long.
Public Freightways brand new Kenworth taken at Public Freightway's terminal at 1445 Charles Street in Vancouver, BC. The Kenworth hasn't even got a number on it yet. Gary Morton Collection.
IH # 522 Load of pipe at Rural truck lines terminal, looks like a IH KB in the back ground. Two IH with loads of tanks IH Tandam # 527 with a load of culverts driver Harry Black 1959
Fork lift inside terminal loading trucks 1955 New White Freightliner #181 Vancouver B.C. 1956 Kenworth model 848-4R
Still Creek shop at Burnaby K-925 Kenworth #562
driver Harry Black
Truck #545, photo 1966
Driver's name is Eddie Grubisic
IH #529 with Austin-Westen grader 1960
driver Al Brown.
IH #529 with a load of pipe IH Sept 1959
White Freightliner #181 photo 1959 New IH #533 Aug 1959 driver John Paul Before the Port Mann Bridge opened in June 1964 the Trans Canada Highway became part of Highway 99A through Surrey (Whalley). This shot shows two posed Public Freightways trucks on a Sunday morning. Here you see the Freightliner tanker on Royal Ave. and the International van on Highway 1/99A. The bridge in the background is the Pattulla Bridge. Drivers: #181 Morris Venier and #525 Doug Long.
Public Freightways 1950's Kenworth with a Princeton Brewery trailer. Public Freightways Kenworth on highway 3 between Keremeos and Hedley, 1965 there was a flood and the RCMP took this picture of a freightways truck coming through. Tip Anderson driver and water was to the top of fuel tank 1965
Shifting Cargo apparently caused 35-ton diesel truck and trailer to overturn at Rupert and Wellington. Truck landed on a bus stop where, police said, three women had been standing seconds before the mishap. Driver David Aire, 31, of 2185 East Third, suffered minor injuries.
Here are more pictures of Public #305 on a flatbed being hauled back to Vancouver, BC. Later this truck was scraped.
These photos were taken at the Flood Cafe and Truck Stop. Rick Harker Collection.
IH truck moving a building in coalmont B.C. early 50's note man on ladder removing telephone insulater from wire so that building can move under telphone lines. Tip Anderson who was the local Public agent was doing this move for a family member. Tip Anderson Collection.
Early 1980's Public Freightways IH doing a little weekend work for the family, moving a house or cabin at Tulameen B.C.
Forklift with a pallet of Pacific canned milk June 1959. Kenworth #4503 off the road very icy roads driver was Moon Bosnich
Kenworth #542 involved in an accident with the Freightliner below on the Trans Canada Highway near Bridal Falls.
Wrecked Evergreen Trucking Freightliner taken east of Rosedale where the Trans Canada Highway went from four lanes to two lanes towards Hope.
K-100 # 4502 Kenworth #562 driver Harry Keith Kenworth #540
Public Freightliner on a rainy day K-100 Kenworth, with a farm tractor and hay baler Public terminal with two KW and two IH trucks taken at Kinnaird (south of Castlegar, BC)
Truck #544 driver Al Finely Princeton B.C. terminal under construction truck #544 early 1960's Public Freightways Kenworth #539 in front of the Grand Forks post office in Grand Forks, BC.

The Kenworth is northbound along the old CPR right of way. Galena Mountain in Washington state is in the background. This building is now the Grand Forks City Hall.

Thank you Geoff Danish for the correct location

Truck #557 at the terminal ready to head out with Can-Car trailer. Driver is Moon Bosnich and Jim Vanderspek. Truck #554 getting a load of bridge beams for the bridge at Trail, B.C. from Dominion Bridge Hayes Cabover # 534 Highway #3, driver Harry Black
New IH #309 June 1959 IH new 1959 with trailer This was a shot of one of Public Freightway's Kenworths-Eastbound through Grand Forks, BC with what appears to be a load of pipe. Geoff Danish Collection.
Oct. 25, 1975 Public-Johnson Terminals burns down Owner Operator had a bad day White Freightliner #3424, with co-worker Roy Atkins.
White Freightliner #3424 Setting and checking brakes before heading out White Freightliner White Freightliner
Ford Cab over # 4458, driver Verne Svendsen, Osoyoos driver. IH Transtar (Unistar??) 4 wheel drive, Public bought six of these trucks to run the Fraser Canyon and the Hope- Princeton. They did not work out at all. Just not enough truck for the # of axles on the trailers they were pulling. Four trucks crashed and Public lost three drivers, and sold the other two trucks. IH Transtar, Feb.17, 1981 Whipsaw Creek near Princeton
IH Jan. 8, 1981 Boss Mountain IH Transtar White Freightliner #4644
Taken at the Osoyoos Husky
Public Freightways Terminal Trucks used for P & D work in town Kenworth test truck. All manufacturers were allways giving trucks for Public to try out.
Truck used for transporting the companys parade and special events truck 1913 Federal. Trailer was repainted for the parade truck
Aug 1981 Birch Bay, WA unloading the 1913 Federal 1913 Federal unloaded safely
I took this 1913 Federal Truck on a tour through the Kootenay’s in 1977 with Princeton being my first stop.
This is a old Federal truck that Johnson terminals and Public Freightways had restored and I believe to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary. This truck was in Princeton July 1977 for a Friday evening parade. Tip Anderson was the driver and he used the truck on Saturday for a few in town deliveries. The exact year of truck is unknown. Truck has carbide lights and solid rubber tires. Hank Rabe Collection.
Artist drawing of proposed new Public Freightways Terminal building 1967

Public Freightways Brochures
Harry Black Collection
Public FreightwaysBrochures    
Public Freightways Driver CB Handels
    Public Freightways Drivers CB Handles
Rick Harker Collection

The following pictures come from the Les McKenzie Collection
Public Freightways tanker in an accident east of Princeton at Sterling Creek bridge, early 1950's.

Different accident same corner. Public Freightways Reo.

Public Freightways Freightliner tanker.
Kevin Duddy Collection
Public Freightways International Emeryville tanker. Kevin Duddy Collection Public Freightways taking on a load at the Kelly Douglas warehouse at Nelson, BC during the summer of 1963. Hank Suderman Collection

Pictures of What Is Left of an International Unistar from Ron McKercher.

I found your site and the photos of the International 4x4 Unistars brought back a memory from January 7, 1976. I was 19 at the time working for PFL on the dock. I wanted to drive so bad I had diesel smoke coming out of my ears.

One of Public's drivers lived across the back lane from me and on friday nights I would go with him up the canyon. He taught me to drive and quite often I would drive from Lytton into Lillooet.

So one January night we set off. My intention was to learn how to chain-up.we were heading back and had just cleared Hells Gate Tunnel when the driver lost control. His choices were over the edge or into the wall. He chose the wall. These photo's show what was left of the tractor, as you can see the chains are still hanging on the tanks. Both the driver and myself survived, although the driver broke his wrist. I haven't seen the driver in 28 years. I'm driving still and the smoke out my ears is starting to fade.

Good job on the website, I enjoyed it.

Ron McKercher

Lewis "Louis" Stevensen
1912 first truck and 2 ton Chev and then a 1937 3 ton Ford
Mid 30's to 1941 hauled mainly for Buckerfields from Milner
1941 - 1947 essential service years, Louis worked from Eric Brolin, Chilliwack to Vancouver
1946 -1952 Stevensons Truck Line purchased truck and license from Tom Dent.
Truck shown is a 1948 Mercury (right) bought new and sold to Public Freightways in April 1952.

Manager at White Rock: 1952-58
Grand Forks: 1958-59
Hope & Kamloops: 1959-60
Worked at Cloverdale: 1960-64
Charles Street & Still Creek: 1965-1975
Retired in 1975 at the age of 63

Submitted by Bruce Harger

Public Freightways Kenworth Public Freightways #546 Kenworth. Harry Keith (L) and John Paul (R). Taken at Public Freightway's terminal at 1445 Charles Street in Vancouver, BC. John Paul Collection. Thanks to Kathie Paul for the picture.

This photos was taken In the lunch room at Public. Left to Right: Morris Verrier, Roy Atkins, Glenn Beaver, John Paul and one person unknown.

Darlene Hargreaves (nee Atkins) Collection.

Here is a drawing that one of drivers did at the Charles street warehouse. Darlene Hargreaves (nee Atkins) Collection.

Public Freightways terminal at Castlegar, BC
Rick Harker Collection
Rick Harker Collection Morris Verrier at the Public Freightways terminal at Princeton, BC
Rick Harker Collection
Public Freightways terminal at Grand Forks, BC. Eddie Grubisec is seen walking around the Hayes cabover.
Rick Harker Collection
Harry Black switching in Osoyoos
Rick Harker Collection
Lynn Schneider with a demo Kenworth
Rick Harker Collection
John Rorvik Public Freightways White Freightliner May 1984. Shirl Rorvik Collection.

E-Mail any comments to Hank Suderman         E-Mail any comments to Hank Rabe
Back to the Main Transportation Page
Back to the Trucks Page