Friday, December 26, 2008

First Snows of Winter on the Skeena River

Canadian National Railways 4426, Skeen Subdivision, Mile Post 86, October 1958. Winter is coming to the Skeena River Country, and my buddy Mike and I do a couple of photo runs before Highway 16 becomes miserable. The first snows are already evident, and the wind blows damn cold down the Valley.

Under cover of white flags, running as Extra West 4426, the solitary geep hurries along near Salvus at top speed for this subdivision, 35 mph. Train crew recognizes “Prince Rupert’s Rail Fan Club” and gives us a tattoo on the air horn.

She’s got some fuel oil tankers and 28 log bunks destined for the paper mill at Port Edward. After the set out, she’ll hook up to the crew car, and finish the 10 miles or so into Prince Rupert.

There were no radios out here on the Prince Rupert Extension, and a lot of long lonely stretches between anything resembling civilization. I am truly blessed to have been able to experience this wild country.

While it looks wintry and beautiful now, it can get downright dangerous and deadly up here. Four months after I took these shots, the local newspaper sent this dispatch to the outside world:

Prince Rupert Daily News, February 2, 1959. CNR reported two large snow slides near Mile 67.9, between Salvus-Kwinitsa. On February 1 at 8:30 p.m. a westbound freight train was hit by a slide. A second slide struck and derailed three cars. One car went into the Skeena River and two onto the highway. Heavy rainfall was reported in the area at the time. Besides the derailment at Mile 42.2, snowslides and washouts occurred between February 1st and 3rd . The largest slide came down at Mile 46.7, measuring a length of 100 ft. (30 m) and a depth of 20 ft. (6 m). The rail line was closed for 45 hours.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4426, nee 1750, built as GP-9, 1,750 horsepower, by General Motors Division (GMD) London Ontario, Road Class GR-17a, April 1955, serial number A-669. Renumbered 4426 in 1956. Converted to slug 244, road class GY-007, St. Charles Shops, 1990. Ran with 7200 series GP-9 Mother units, similar to this setup.

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