Sunday, October 12, 2008

Train Wreck - Part 2

Smithers Division, Skeena Subdivision, Mile Post 102.2 September 27, 1958. As earlier reported, I was beside myself trying to wrangle a ride out to the train wreck at Mile Post 102.2!

Rebuffed by a scowling Super, I then thought of stowing away on the work train caboose, or one of several crew and tool cars.

But then the thought of running into the Super out in the middle of no-where sank in. Visions of my lifeless body floating down the Skeena River into Hecate Strait made me reconsider asking the conductor of the wreck train to take some photos for me, which he did. Photos were taken by Stan Wozney, Conductor.

A little background on the wreck site. Survey crews mapping the route of the Grand Trunk through the Coast Range Mountains shot more than 12,000 miles of lines before settling on the current alignment, along the northern bank of the Skeena River.

At 310 miles in length, the Skeena River is the longest river in North America without a single dam, emptying into Hecate Strait. The Grand Trunk Pacific began construction from Prince Rupert eastward following the water level route in May 1908.

This is wild country, and
winters are a harsh experience. There were several permanent slow orders stretches; 15 miles per hour, with crew members admonished to be on a sharp look out for “moving mountains.”

This Goggle Earth photo shows clearly the scars of many slides, which must cross the Canadian National, to get to the Skeena River! Slides are a common occurrence along this entire stretch of transcontinental railroad.

It is a matter of record that the primary contractor, Foley Brothers, Welsh, Stewart (FWS)** spent $100,000 per mile blasting along the base of the mountains through old granite with dynamite, black powder, and Virite***. This stretch, from Prince Rupert to Hazelton, some 136 miles, took most of four years.

Here is an over view of the wreck, looking west, with Lidgerwood 50515, her assisting steam generator car, and CNR GP-9 4409 in the rear.

In these photos, we can barely make out the Lidgerwood coupling onto the steam generator car of ill fated varnish 196, with workers digging out the muck and rocks from around her trucks. Fortunately she remained upright.

The easy part is over, getting the steam generator car re-railed and pulled out of the way. She will be back hauled to the nearest available siding at Sockeye Cannery, and then the 4409 and Lidgerwood will return to retrieve CNR 1271, the trailing engine on the power pack and lead unit, CNR 1276.

* Recommended reading: For those who have a real interest in the building of the Grand Trunk in British Columbia, including the extension to Prince Rupert, I highly recommend
“A Thousand Blunders – The Grand Trunk in British Columbia” by Frank Leonard.

** FWS was affectionately known as “Find ‘em, Work ‘em, Starve ‘em,” with wages at $3.00/hour for an 8-10 hour day. ($3.00 in 1914 had the same buying power as $63.01 in 2008.)

*** Virite was composed of nitroglycerine, charcoal, and nitrate of potash. More stable than dynamite, non-freezing, no offensive odor. Not waterproof, requiring cartridges in a wet environment.

See Also:
Train Wreck - Part 1
Train Wreck - Part 3

2 Comments - Click here:

SDP45 said...

Looks like the CN was adding track capacity by having the cars perpendicular to the track instead of parallel. Neat idea!

Great shots of the wreck. You could not get that close to one today.


Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

Enjoyed reading the conclusion, you were lucky to get some pictures. Like sdp45 said, you'd never get this close today.

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