Originally the parent company, and later a division, of BC Electric, the BCER operated public transportation in southwestern British Columbia from its establishment in the mid-1890s, operating streetcar systems in Vancouver, New Westminster, North Vancouver and Victoria.
Power was supplied by then-innovative diversion projects at Buntzen Lake and on the Stave River system farther east, all of which were built primarily to supply power for the interurbans and street railway. A six-mile branch line, the Stave Falls Branch, isolated from the main interurban network, ran the six miles / 9.66 km to the power plant and community at Stave Falls from the Canadian Pacific Railway station at Ruskin, British Columbia.
BCER interurban trams ran along 3 lines between Vancouver and New Westminster (via Burnaby), as well as between Vancouver and Richmond, New Westminster and Chilliwack, and Victoria and North Saanich. During and after the streetcar era, BC Electric also ran bus and trolleybus systems in Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria; these systems subsequently became part of BC Transit. Trolley buses still run in Greater Vanvouver, but had disappeared from Vancouver Island by 1952.
In 1961, the provincial government took over BC Electric, with the railway becoming a division of Crown corporation BC Hydro. In 1989, BC Hydro sold the railway to a new shortline operator and the railway is now known as the Southern Railway of British Columbia and is exclusively a freight railway.
Part of the Vancouver Skytrain Expo Line follows the right-of-way of BCER's former Central Park Line through Burnaby to New Westminster. The Burnaby Lake line's right-of-way is largely taken up by the Trans-Canada Highway but sections of it survive as walking and biking powerline trails. The route of the Stave Falls Branch along Hayward Lake is also now a walking trail managed by BC Hydro and the District of Mission, with sections of it south of Ruskin Dam used as local powerline and neighbourhood walking trails.
In Victoria, the BCER built an electric interurban railway which connected to its street car system. The line ran along Burnside Road through Saanich to Brentwood, Saanichton and terminated in Deep Bay (Later renamed Deep Cove). The line ran from 1913 to 1924 and was one of three passenger railways to serve the Saanich peninsula for this period. Interurban Road uses or parallels the right of way for much of its distance. From Brentwood to Saanichton, Wallace Drive follows the approximate route of the line. North of the airport, Tatlow road follows the route to Deep Cove.