Saturday, October 6, 2007

In the beginning...

We all have defining moments in our lives. This is one of my defining moments. That's me in the cab of CNR 9098. All of 14 years old! This blog will explain how I got there in 1957, and where I went from there.

My Dad was a career diesel engineer on tugboats. In 1956, he was assigned Chief Engineer on the "Comet," a Miki class tug (LT 393) based in Prince Rupert, BC. It was a good posting.  The Comet towed a rail barge from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan Pulp at Ward Cove, Alaska, a few miles north of Ketchikan.

Chief Engineer Harry McDonald
The company, ABC - Alaska British Columbia Transportation Company - was a shell of Puget Sound Tug and Barge out of Seattle. The decision was made to move Mom, my sister, me and the dawg to Prince Rupert. So it was, we boarded the Queen of the North - the old Princess Norah - not the vessel that sank off Gil Island two years ago - and moved to Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert is named to honor Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, commonly called Prince Rupert (1691-1682.) How they picked him is probably a story in itself!

The town of Prince Rupert began as a dream when founder Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, saw the island on which it sits as the perfect terminus for marine trade, and rail and sea travel. Unfortunately, on a trip back from Europe in 1912, where he was rustling up money to finance his vision, Hays met with an untimely and tragic death aboard the Titanic.

My only contact with railroading up to this point was my tinplate UP streamliner! (Which became boring after the third circuit around the track ...)

But big changes were just around the corner.

Most structures in Prince Rupert are constructed on pilings or on blasted out rock. Pilings were driven through the water soaked muskeg down to bed rock . There was a third alternative. The house we rented was build on a log crib literally floating in the muskeg.  The house had a 10° tilt to the front; when Maggie pissed in the kitchen, it flowed through the dining room into the living room.

Friends of ours, the Sampson family, commissioned a new home in Section II in Prince Rupert. It featured 20 foot pilings driven down to bed rock to support the front of the house, and 5 to 10 feet of  rock blasted out to support the rear of the house!

So this was to be our home for the next three years. And they were filled with many experiences, which, if all goes well, will gradually unfold here in "Oil-Electric!"

Next: "Boxcars Go to Sea"

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