Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Train Wreck - Part 1

Prince Rupert, September 27, 1958. I knew something was hay-wire, when about two hours after the passenger train had departed Prince Rupert, she was being hauled tail-first back into town, minus her power pack! Here we see CNR 9098+9042 parking the passenger cars back at the station!

Fortunately for me it was a Saturday. And you know what I mean by fortunate – in that I was not in school, and therefore ready to document whatever the unfolding incident turned out to be.

Well, I got the “skinny.” First Class 196 departing Prince Rupert at 07:30k with Canadian National Railways 1276 on the point, 1271 trailing, with unknown number steam generator car and a gaggle of passenger cars, tripped over a rock slide at Mile Post 102.2, about 17 miles east of town, on the banks of the mighty Skeena River.

Camera? Check! Film? Check! I am ready to go!

Wrong! I’m not going anywhere! There was no chance of riding out to the wreck site. The resident Super, who I had managed to dodge on more than one occasion, was among those riding the wrecker out to the site, and he was in no mood to deal with a sniveling kid who wanted a train ride! Furthermore, the site was more than a dozen miles from the nearest road, Trans Canada Highway 16.

However, my “insider” contacts were firm, and among the crew heading east to the wreck was the conductor, Stan Wozney, who did have his camera in his grip, and promised to take as many photos as possible when he had the opportunity. Even back in those days, railroads were “sensitive” about wreck photos.

There was some good news surrounding all this, and that was that the SW-1200RS’s stumbled over a pile of rock on a stretch of track with a permanent slow order – 15 miles per hour – and beyond a few frayed nerves, there were no injuries.

This area was one of several well known for its shifting terrain, hence the permanent slow order! In this area, the landscape rises abruptly hundreds of feet up off the Skeena River. Composed of very old fractured rock, it was subject to expansion and contraction, causing slabs to break away. And the railroad was in a tough spot, with the mighty Skeena River right next to the roadbed.

So all I could do was watch with envy, as Canadian National Railways 4409 whistled off from the station, with a steam generator car to run the Lidgerwood, Lidgerwood 50515 with it’s tool car, and a string of work cars heading eastbound out of town!

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