CANYONS & MOUNTAINS
TUNNELS & TRESTLES.
BC Rail (formerly Pacific Great Eastern) was
initially dieselised with Alco/MLW units and they appeared in the well
known two-tone green livery (in most cases with a zig-zag) and with
yellow/orange ends below the frame.
In 1980 the
railroad began to purchase new General Motors SD40-2s. Later they also
bought some second hand. In 1984 seven GM
electric GF6C units were purchased for use on the new Tumbler Ridge
line where the tunnels and remote location made the use of electric
units more cost-effective (although occasionally Canadian National and
presumably BC Rail diesel units did travel the line). The GF6C units
appeared in an attractive new red, white and blue livery with BRITISH
COLUMBIA RAILWAY in blue and the BC flag on the white band.
Soon after, an
86 version of this colour scheme appeared. The white band was narrower,
two white lines crossed the red band near the rear of the unit and BC
Rail in white block lettering was placed on the red band. The Expo 86
was in black on both sides of the silver fuel tank.
After Expo 86 was
over, a modified scheme was introduced with a wider white band with a
small BC flag and the BC Rail logo in red and blue on this band. There
were no white lines crossing the red band.
1995 and 1999, BC Rail purchased several 4 and 6 axle second hand GE
locomotives and these were repainted in plain dark blue livery,
sometimes with yellow or silver frames and silver trucks.
Later white BC Rail logos were added. The second order of new
9-44CWL were also delivered in this livery in 2000.
BC Rail has
now been purchased by CN but in 2012
the Dash 8 and Dash 9 units were still operating across North America
in their BC Rail
liveries. All other units had been withdrawn and most have been sold or
462 mile trip on the BC Rail RDC from Prince George to Vancouver
was, I think, one of the most exciting standard gauge train trips in
North America. However it did not cover all the BC Rail system which
went north to Fort Nelson (see the
map below from the back page of Employee Timetable 19).The RDC made its last run on 31
October 2002 and BC
Rail was leased
by CN for 999 years from the Government of British Columbia in 2004.
the BC Rail locomotives were sold or scrapped but the GE Dash 8 and
Dash 9 units were kept and in 2012 are still operating on CN in their
BC Rail liveries.
this brief overview, we start at Dawson Creek (close to the Alberta
border) and attempt to show some of the rugged and beautiful country
that BC Rail traverses.
3901, 605 & 3903 (two B39-8Es with a CAT engined RS-18M in
are pulling a freight train, mainly loaded grain cars, out of
yards at Dawson Creek heading for Chetwynd to the south-west on 27 May
route the train has to descend into (and climb out of) the East Pine
River Valley and it can be seen clinging to the sandy hillsides before
it reaches this spectacular bridge.
At Chetwynd the main north - south line, from Fort Nelson to Vancouver,
one years earlier on 16 May 1978, M-420
647 (in the earlier two tone green livery without zig-zag) is making a
smoky departure with a southbound freight. There are five locos on the
head-end - M-420s 647, 644 & 641, RS-18 621 and RS-3M 569. I am not sure whether there
were any mid-train helpers but I don't think so.
we see the RS-3M 569.
All the time Alco C-420 632 (one of only two owned by BC Rail) was
sitting forlornly in the yards.
years later, a northbound freight led
by M-420 646 in the zig-zag livery, 644 in the red, white and blue
livery and SD40-2 763 is preparing
to leave the Chetwynd yards
early on the morning of 8 June
1989. BC Rail
were kind enough to allow me to travel in the
travelling up the Pine River valley we reached Septimus, where there is
a 5200 foot siding, and we met the southbound train from Fort St. John.
exchanged trains but not locomotives and returned to their
two sets of locomotives are preparing to exchange trains at Septimus.
Our train will return southbound with
SD40-2 763 now in the lead.
arrival at Chetwynd M-630 718 (with a
Locotrol remote control transmitter) was attached to the front and
after some shunting two mid-train helpers were also added -
M-630W 729 and cabless M-420B 688 (which had the Locotrol receiver -
hence its RCL
The train was now ready to leave
for Prince George. After
cresting the summit of Pine Pass about 70 miles south of Chetwynd it
began its descent. The photos show both the leading locomotives and the
mid train units.
27 May 1999 we followed another southbound freight through the Pine
By now the Alcos had been replaced by GE locomotives DASH 8-40CM 4622
(purchased new as an add-on to a CN order) and C36-8 3622 (purchased
second-hand) with Dash 8-40CM 4620 as mid-train helper.
However there was still a
rain storm in the pass!
In the photo
above the train is climbing the north side of the Pass. Below it is
descending the south side of Pine Pass.
At Wakely the electrified Tumbler Ridge branch from Quintette joins the
main line. This line carried metallurgical coal from the Quintette and
Bullmoose mines through a long tunnel to the junction at Wakeley. The
line was electrified in
order to reduce the costs of tunnel ventilation. The
mines closed in 2000 and 2003 and subsequently the electric equipment
and the locomotives sold and later scrapped. Recently new mines have
been opened and coal trains will be hauled by diesel locomotives.
6001 & 6004 are at Quintette with a loaded coal train.
The units have slow speed settings for operating through the coal
loader and remote control that allows them to be operated by the
coal loader staff.
trains and sometimes locomotives are interchanged between BC Rail
and Canadian National at Prince George. Two Dash 8-40CMs, one from
each railroad, are leaving the CN yards in Prince George with a train
empty coal cars for Wakely & Tumbler Ridge on 28 May 1999.
BC Rail also
extensive yards at Prince George and in 1999 these were switched by
slugs. On the 28 May two mothers and two slugs form a team.
The mothers are RS-18Ms 603 & 610 and the slugs are
& S406 created from old RS-3s.
the same day, in the same yards, a wood products train
was preparing to depart south behind B36-7s 3604 & 3612 (both
purchased second-hand - they have been painted but have yet to receive
their logos). Note that one locomotive has a blue frame and one a
of Prince George to Quesnel there is more rugged terrain with forested
areas and several steep valleys requiring trestles including the
well-known Cottonwood trestle.
At Quesnel there is a large pulp mill, a yard and station and often a
switching activity. From Quesnel south to Williams Lake, the line
travels on a plateau above the Fraser River. There is fertile
agricultural land on the plateau as seen here near Kersley.
4613 & Dash 9-44CWL 4644 were on the point of this southbound
Dash 8-40CM 4605 was the mid-train locomotive remotely controlled from
4613 on 2 June 1999. We followed this train to Williams Lake.
of the Fraser River Canyon are
steeper and more wooded. The mid train helper of the
same train is seen below near Soda
tributaries join the Fraser River and these have to be crossed.
At Hawks Creek the 312 foot high steel trestle, seen below, is one of
railway bridges in the world.
Finally the train enters Williams Lake.
Lake the line follows the San Jose River through ranching
land to Exeter (100 mile
house) and Lone
Butte and then on to Kelly Lake.
BC-21 and two other RDCs are seen below at Exeter station southbound on
11 June 1989.
At Kelly Lake
descends for thirty five miles at a 2.2% grade into the Fraser Canyon
and eventually crosses the river on a high trestle before arriving at
Lillooet. The journey up or down this grade in the RDCs certainly
provides splendid sights of the canyon and its steep sides.
Often the track seems to be on a ledge of sand with nothing to stop it
plunging into the river thousands of feet below. Regrettably, on 29 June 2006, a CN
locomotive and flat car of lumber ran away on the grade and derailed
with disastrous consequences.
In the picture above,
three DASH 8-40CMs (one of which is mid-train) are using their dynamic
and regular brakes to
control a heavy freight on its descent. Below the train has
arrived safely at the trestle on 30 May 1995. A suburb of Lillooet is seen on the
Lillooet is an important yard
and the terminus of many RDC
On 19 May
1986 six RDCs (33, 20, 31, 10, 11
& 21) are loading passengers before proceeding south to North
Vancouver. The first two RDCs have come from North Vancouver and the
other four from Prince George. All six are returning to North Vancouver.
of Lillooet the tracks hug the shoreline of Anderson and Seton Lakes
where there are frequent rock slides. For this reason all trains are
preceded by a speeder or more recently a highrailer (BC Rail also did
north of Lillooet) but the practice may have been discontinued by CN.
Dash 8-40CM 4607 & SD40-2 756 are heading a
freight beside Seton Lake on 30 May
There are many more spectacular
sights along the
lakes and then on the
descent into and the climb out of Pemberton towards Whistler. Often
freight trains had both mid-train helpers and pushers here. Now because
of higher-powered locomotives pushers are rarely used.
In this picture taken on 19 May 1986, from
the window of a southbound RDC, three M-630s 714, 702
& 705 together with
mid-train helpers (704 & 706) and pushers (726 & 763)
are getting a northbound freight underway using all their 21,000 hp.
Look at the
Whistler the line travels through more well known territory (but
nevertheless very attractive) as it descends through tunnels and across
raging rivers to the coast at Squamish. The main workshops for BC Rail
were located here and major repairs and rebuilds were carried out in
these shops On 1
1995 slug S408 and Dash 8-40CM 4626 were being repaired (4626 had been
involved in a sideswipe).
RS-18M 626 had just been
rebuilt with a CAT engine and new ventilators and was being steam
At Squamish on 1
June 1995, the northbound train # 1 with RDCs 31 & 33
passes Stawamus Chief Mountain and a few minutes later a southbound
freight passes the same
Vancouver-bound freight is hauled by DASH 8-40CM 4609, SD40-2 766
and 629 a CAT re-engined RS-18 (RS-18M).
From Squamish the line travels along the rugged coast to North
Vancouver. It is along this stretch of track that the Royal Hudson 2860
haul its tourist train. At North Vancouver there were extensive yards,
shops and wharves.
On 21 May 1986, RS-18
612 and S-13 1003 were switching the wharf.
On the same day
S-13s 1001 & 1002 were switching the yards. All three S-13s
have different liveries.
same day Alco C-420 # 805 was at the
North Vancouver shops.
The British Columbia Railway Volumes
1& 2 by Timothy J. Horton published by BRMNA Calgary
BC Rail - British Columbia's Great Train Adventure by Chris Harris
published by Country Light Publishing.
BC Rail Condensed Profile No 3
BC Rail Timetable 19