Sunday, May 31, 2009

Work Train

Canadian National Railways 4809, Skeena Subdivision Mile Post 67.5, January 1959. Constant exposure to soggy elements keeps track crews busy year round. This area is where the Skeena River knives through the Coast Range Mountains, which receive upwards of 200 inches of rain per year.

The winter of 1958 - 1959 saw more than it’s share of rock slide severing the Canadian National Prince Rupert Extension. This crew working with a string of Western Air Dump cars and Type A Jordan Spreader 51070 working out a waterlogged stretch of track between Salvus and Kwinitsa on the Skeena Subdivision.

With only six trains a day, most running through this area at night, crews were unimpeded in completing their assigned tasks. Nevertheless, there is no radio communication in this part of the world, so flaggers with a fist full of torpedoes and flares sit it out at each end of the work zone, trying to keep warm.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4809, nee 7564 built in London Ontario by General Motors Division in October 1953, serial number A-543, as a GP7, 1,500 horsepower. Renumbered 1709 9/54, renumbered 4359 6/56, renumbered 4809 in August 1957. Leased to Northern Alberta Railroad from November 1967 thru January 1968. In a wreck in 1971 and declared a constructive loss, ending up in the junk yard at Transcona Shops in 1981.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Continent Apart!

Canadian National Railways 4411, Prince Rupert, December 1958. “tis the season,” and here we find CNR 4411 double headed with CNR 4408 and an unknown steam generator car and caboose, delivering Santa Clause to town.

I was dumbfounded today to discover that I have a shot of the same locomotive, a continent apart, wearing her original number! What are the odds of THAT, when the two photos are one continent and two years apart!

Now to be perfectly honest, I did NOT take this photograph of CNR 1735, apparently in Truro. The negative was in a group I had traded with someone in Nova Scotia, when we were living in Prince Rupert. At any rate, this particular series of locomotives were built with Bloomberg trucks, and air reservoirs under the car body.

After all these years of fiddling around with this stuff, I made a startling discovery the other day, that the 4200 series GP9’s had their air reservoirs in the short nose, and those locomotives, with Flexicoil trucks and dinky fuel tanks, were correctly identified as GP9L’s – “L” for lightweight.

Indeed the 700 mile long Prince Rupert Extension was considered a branch line, and the speed limit for passenger trains was 35 miles per hour!

Well, I am loosing focus here. The point of this article is to show the CNR 1735 as built and originally numbered, and again as the CNR 4411, following renumbering in 1956. That means the photo of her as 1735 had to be taken in Truro shortly after she was built in 1955.

If you look closely at the photo of CNR 4201, you can see the pipe on the roof running from the air compressor in the machine room to the short nose housing the reservoirs. Even when I was riding these units, I never realized this fact!

Finally, I did find a shot of CN Slug 258 in Railpicturearchives, but it is marginal.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4411, nee 1735. Built by Electro Motive Division in London Ontario as a GP-9, 1,750 horsepower, March 1955, serial number A-654. Renumbered CNR 4411 in 1956, road class GR-17a. Pulled from service and sent to CNR Pointe Charles Shops in 1990, and rebuilt as CN Slug 258, road class GY-00F, commonly assigned in a “Mother Daughter” arrangement with a 72XX series GP-9.

Post Script. Thank you all for the great comments I’ve received on the recent three part BC Rail series “Tacheeda, Bullmoose and Quintette” It was a challenge to research – nothing much written about the Tumbler Subdivision – and a lot of bogus information, like, the coal trains supplied a power plant. But some fine folk came through to provide photos and information. Thank you to them, as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A World Away from Vietnam

Loading HH-43B Kaman Huskie onto C-124 for trip to South East Asia

Port Townsend, today. On Memorial Day, I related the loss of a buddy in Vietnam, A1C William Pitsenbarger.

The pilot of the HH-43B Kaman Huskie, nicknamed with a “Pedro” call sign, was a fellow by the name of Harold (Hal) Salem. As Rescue Crew Commander (RCC) Captain Salem determined the safety of a rescue mission and often had to make life and death decisions to protect his crew and aircraft.

“Pits” Pitsenbarger was ferried into the combat zone by Captain Salem, RCC of “Pedro 97.” And Captain Salem had to leave Pits on the ground, under withering enemy fire.

And it was RCC Captain Salem who returned with Pedro 97 the following morning, discovering the carnage inflicted during the night.

Upon completion of his Temporary Duty in Vietnam, Captain Salem was assigned to us at the Western Air Rescue Center as our Flying Safety Officer. And we became great friends.

As a member of the inspection team, I accompanied our officers on routine inspections of our 13 detachments located in the eight western states. Whenever possible, we flew on military aircraft, which required fitting a parachute! Great confidence builder!

And here is Captain Salem relaxing at the pool in Albuquerque New Mexico, where we were inspecting Detachment 3, Kirtland Air Force Base. A world away from Vietnam.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Perfect Plan

Port Townsend, today. I certainly appreciate the comments I have received concerning my "Memorial Day" recollection.

However, my motive for joining the US Air Force was not quite so lofty as “Supporting the Cause of Freedom.” There was little evidence of that in Vietnam, like another misadventure, ill advised and executed.

Nor was my motivation driven to avoid the Draft Lottery. The Draft Lottery began long after I had served my time. The Draft Lottery was first held December 1, 1969. In fact, working as a Disc Jockey, one of my featured daily segments – “the Squirmer” – was devoted to announcing with much fan-fare and rolling drums “today’s winning number in the Ol’ Draft Lottery!”

However, if you were well placed in society, you had nothing to fear from the Lottery!

Not having any desire to flip burgers or wait tables, I fabricated a “winning plan” to finish my degree in Broadcast Journalism – derailed by the dazzling lights, flowing liquor, and charming ladies at a well-respected Washington State University Women’s Dorm Complex – I figured to kill two birds with one stone.

The plan was so simple, so clever, I could hardly contain myself! Voluntarily join the service and get into Armed Forces Radio and TV (AFRTS!) This approach got any danger of military service out of the way on MY terms, and Uncle Sam would give me a degree in Broadcast Journalism!

Is this not brilliant thinking?

Having been brought up around the water, worked on tugs and survey ships, I figured, what the heck, join the Navy. The Marines and Army looked too much like hard work. What future did I envision learning how to dig holes in the ground?

So, I laid out my plans to the Navy recruiter who was salivating in the presence of such an eager enlistee! Then the bozo blew it. Just before he had me “sign on the dotted line” he said, “Gotta hand it to you kid, you know what you want and you went for it! Ya know, radio operators on submarines can deploy a 600-foot long wire, under water, and using long wave transmitters, broadcast half way around the world!” (Big cheesy smile!)

Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Radio Operator? Submarines? Under water?

Obviously, my master plan needed serious refinement. I politely told the bewildered CPO that I would have to talk to my parents about all this, and would be back later!

Where upon I narrowly escaped “running silent, running deep!”

As I pondered my remaining choices, US Coast Guard or US Air Force, my mind flashed back to some terrifying experiences in the Gulf of Alaska whilst working on a tug for Alaska Freight Lines. I developed a “Coefficient of Hunger” theory. Simply stated, the higher the wave, the lower the appetite. And the wretched fear of dying in a terrifying blow out in the Gulf of Alaska, caught in 75 mile per hour winds and 20-foot seas on a 7-day crossing!

Leaving the Navy Recruiters office, I walked across the hall to the Air Force Recruiters office.

And that’s how I ended up at Hamilton Air Force Base.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Port Townsend, Today. Memorial Day for many is a special day to remember and reflect upon a loved one, friend, or passing acquaintance who lost their life for our country.

For me, the memory of a buddy, "Pits" Pitsenbarger, killed in Viet Nam, will always be with me. Fresh out of boot camp, I was sent to my permanent duty station at Hamilton AFB in California. My job title was to be Personnel Specialist, and I was assigned to Western Air Rescue Center.

It was a small group level entity, enjoying tenant status on an Air Defence Command base - protecting San Francisco. When we were fully staffed, there were less than two dozen of us in the building, and only a handful of us living on base. So we billeted with the 41st Air Rescue Squadron.

The field of blue represents the Sky from which our mission is accomplished, with a star for each of the 13 Air Rescue Detachments within Western Air Rescue Center. The thunder bolt and olive branch symbolize our mission in time of war or peace, and the Airman and Space capsule, those who depend on us.

After reporting to the barracks chief for my assigned "living" space, I am struggling with my duffel bag containing my worldly possessions, when this fellow comes over to help me.

"Hi! I'm Pits!"

Turned out my bunk area was next to his. It was sparse; a bunk, a locker, a dresser arrangement and a lot of roommates! I realized that he had been leaving the barracks when I stumbled in, but he was considerate in helping me get established. And so when he offered to show me where the Airman's Club was at and introduce me around, I was grateful.

Pits was a Paramedic - Jumper (PJ), one of the elite, assigned to the 41st. The Air Force equalivant to a Green Beret. Jump and combat qualified to be dropped in to rescue people in distress and administer top of the line first aid.

For the most part we didn't see that much of each other. The 41st running at full speed, constantly flying training missions and preparing to send Paramedics to Viet Nam. And Pits went with one of the groups. We had a hell of a send off party for him, and decorated his bunk area with memorabilia. It was widely speculated that he probably didn't sober up until he got to the Philippines!

We were a tight group. Our aircraft and pilots were constantly running rescue missions in Viet Nam, with Paramedics assigned to each mission. One day just after lunch, our Commanding Officer called us into a conference room. In a barely audible voice he read aloud a classified message, notifying all Air Rescue Service Personnel that "Pits" wasn't coming home.

Well, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. It was so incomprehensible. Lives were being lost over there daily, and you got numb to it. Until you recognize a name.

"Hi! I'm Pits!"

Details of his final mission can be found here. For caring for the wounded and sacrificing his life while aggressively defending his comrades, William H (Pits) Pitsenbarger received the Air Force Cross on June 30, 1966.

Well, his comrades demanded he receive a higher award, and after USAF review, the original award was upgraded. Airman Pitsenbarger was the 59th Medal of Honor recipient, and the sixth enlisted from the USAF. On December 8, 2000, the Medal of Honor was presented to his Mom and Dad in a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Museum.

To this day, the USAF Sergeants Association has an annual recognition for Air Rescue Personnel who perform "above and beyond," named in honor of William "Pits" Pitsenbarger.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Milwaukee Hi Jinks!

Port Townsend, today. There is something grotesque about staging a wreck of any kind for “entertainment.” The promoters of yesteryear pushed the envelope of insalubrious exhibitions, staging head-on collisions between two locomotives. These so-called “cornfield meets” had unpredictable results, with spectators ducking whizzing rivets and skewered with red hot metal.

Nevertheless, there were other non-destructive shows staged to draw crowds to special events. And the humble Milwaukee Road was not immune from such high jinks!

On March 6, 1920, a well-orchestrated ceremony was held, celebrating the opening of the Pacific Coast Division electrification. Milwaukee assembled a gaggle of brass from the head office and did publicity stunt down in Kent, Washington, designed to draw crowds and show off the new powerful bipolar electric, shortly before her inaugural passenger run.

Following the obligatory photo opportunities and speech making, Bipolar 10254 and Class N1 mallet 9520, a 2-6-6-2 were rolled out for a pushing contest. Drawbars would never have withstood the forces of a tug-o-war.

The bipolars glued twelve 370 horsepower traction motors to the rails, exerting 116,000 ft/lbs tractive effort. The N2 Class, built by ALCo to haul passenger trains over the Cascades during the switchback days before the Cascade tunnel was completed. They were rated a 70,396 ft/lbs tractive effort.

Those “in the know” knew the outcome before hand, but it was great show for the audience, with horns blaring, steam chests spewing clouds of steam, a heady smoke cloud shooting skyward from the stack. But despite the electrical humming and the steamer huffing and chuffing, the contest was one sided.

After the initial give and take between locomotives to fire up the audience, the bi-polar got serious, creeping the resisting mallet backwards until she lost traction, spinning out with the resultant staccato report from the stack.

Written with the usual flair of honest to god newspaper writers of days gone by, the Seattle Times headline declared, "Mastodon Veterans of Rails Giving way to New King, History is Made in Strength Test." The story related, "The mightiest of Steam locomotives met in contest with one of the new electric locomotives just installed by the Milwaukee Railway, and went down to defeat."

From what I have read, the bi-polar’s were hot. Used on the signature “Olympian,” road crews were admonished not to send passengers tumbling to the rear of the passenger cars when departing from the station!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Positive Train Control - Revisited!

Port Townsend, today. I just spent some time watching a gaggle of private yachts transit Mira Flores Locks at the Panama Canal. The Canal Authority put in a high-resolution camera last year, and it delivers a heck of a picture, even under sodium lighting at night. (Ed. Note: Watch "progress bars" top of frame. Camera updates ever 30 seconds!)

With increasing pressure by the Obama Administration to implement Positive Train Control systems, America’s railroads are researching and evaluating what is turning out to be multitude of systems, each one hoping to be selected.

There is a lot of money to be made in system installation, system maintenance and system training. Oh, to be young again!

And this flood of systems development activity (SDA) has resulted in an alphabet soup of acronyms, (ASOA) for example:

  • CAS - Collision Avoidance System
  • CBMT - Communications Based Train Management System
  • ETMS - Electronic Train Management System
  • ITCS - Incremental Train Control System
  • OTC - Optimize Train Control
  • VTMS - Virtual Train Management System
And my favorite, ACSES - Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (similar to Robo Cop?)

Kansas City Southern (KCS), the sixth largest US railroad, has been numero uno in a joint venture with the Panama Canal Railway since 1998. The 47-mile long KCS joint venture recently completed a total upgrading of the coast-to-coast rail link and is 100% equipped with state of the art computerized Positive Train Control (PTC.)

The Panama Canal Railroad chose Quantum Engineering’s TSPTC - Train Sentinel® Positive Train Control. [Ed. Note: Quantum Engineering sold to Safetran in 2008.]

As an aside, I found it interesting that many cruise ship passengers are faced with a tough choice! Ride the cruise ship through the canal, or hop off and ride a first class passenger train along side the canal! The Panama Canal Railway Company acquired a 1938 Southern Pacific Dome Car, the “Rio Chagres,” and remodeled it at a cost of almost $1 Million!

Reading the descriptions of these positive train control systems and the mountains of analytical statistics they can generate, I get a sense of overwhelming ones self with reams of operational data. I dunno. Are we complicating life, rather than simplifying it?

And how does the Manifest Movement Specialist (MMS), also known as the locomotive engineer, react when thundering down the track and confronted with this message on his computer screen?

The requirement for Positive Train Control seems to revolve around preventing train accidents, including head on collisions, side swipes, and over-taking collisions. When one reads through the "official inquiries" and "NTSB Findings" a pattern emerges which would suggest, in my opinion, that the answer to reducing these incidents rests not with applying technology, but with dealing with the human condition. Making sure crews have stable work shifts, plenty of rest between assignments, comfortable accommodations for over-night turns, and an aggressively monitored health program.

Seems to me, that would be much better in the long run, promoting personal health and safety. Throwing technology at human conditions isn't an answer. A GPS dome on the cab of a locomotive still doesn't do a damn thing for a hogger who got a total of five hours out of the saddle, running sniffles, and upset family life.

But then what the hell do I know about running a railroad!

I am ever so grateful to have known some of those good old boys of yesteryear, who moved a heck of a lot of tonnage without running into or over each other, guided by an iron-fisted dispatcher, a set of flimsies, a timetable, an authorized timepiece and good old-fashioned common sense (GOFCS.)

See also: "Positive Train Control."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tacheeda, Bullmoose, Quintette Part 3 - Conculsion

Explorer Alexander Mackenzie, whilst searching for a Trans Canada crossing, explored the upper reaches of the Fraser River, the Peace River, and eventually descended the Bella Coola River out to the coast, thus becoming the first explorer to complete a trek across North America, other than Mexico, in 1793.

During his explorations, he observed coal seams visible at the surface in the Peace River Canyon, in what would later become British Columbia.

Modern day explorers, working for a handful of mining companies, mapped out vast reserves of coal, suitable for thermal energy and production of coke for steel making.

Finally, with changing world markets and aggressive marketing efforts on behalf of British Columbia and Canada, agreements were signed in 1981 with Japan to supply metallurgical coal over a 16-year contract.

To realize this potential, two mines had to be opened for production, a town had to be constructed, an access road to the outside world had to be built. A receiving and ship loading facility needed to be built. A railroad had to be built, and locomotives and rolling stock had to be manufactured to get the coal to tidewater.

Mine to Rail head

Both Bullmoose and Quintette mines were open pit surface mines. Coal beds, lying in sheets of varying thickness, were just below the surface. Once the overburden is removed exposing the coal, removal is straightforward.
Coal was moved from the mining pit to the BC Rail loading point, called a load out, by truck at the Bullmoose Mine, and by an 8 mile long conveyor belt at the Quintette Mine.

As with a grain elevator operation, each load out had storage silos. Each silo had a capacity of 5,000 tons.

Shown here is two of three silos at Quintette during construction. Each load out had a circular track, 20,750 feet at Bullmoose, 20,185 feet at Quintette.

Road crews did not operate unit trains around the circular load out. A load out operator controlled the throttle of locomotives via a radio controlled Pacesetter unit mounted in the cab. Trains crawled at 6/10ths mph around a 3.5-mile circular loop and through the base of a silo, where they were loaded by gravity.

It is interesting to note that car loading took place at the “end” of the curvature, so that a straight line pull of loaded cars could be achieved, thus preventing “stringline” derailments. A “Stringline” derailment occurs under conditions of slow speed and heavy power application, with the rail cars attempting “straighten out” a line of cars on a curve.

Rail head to Tidewater

Unit trains made the round trip from mine to tidewater in four-day cycles. An unusual part of the operation involved the BC Rail train crews, who switched power packs in the middle of their run, from diesel to electrics.

This is the Ridley Island Terminal located about 10 miles east of Prince Rupert, near the mouth of the Skeena River. Back in the ‘80’s, Prince Rupert’s original grain elevator, located on the Prince Rupert waterfront, was demolished, and a new grain handling facility was located here on Ridley Island. The Terminal eventually grew with facilities for grain, bulk, and then coal processing. The loading/unloading loop visible from Google Earth.

In this shot, you can see the site of the old Columbia Cellulose mill, where I rode log trains between Prince Rupert and Terrace back the late ‘50’s.

Again, under radio control, the unloading operator controls the unit train around the unloading loop and through a rotary dumper. Using specialized couplers, cars remain connected throughout the operation. A typical 98-car unit train was unloaded in less than two hours.

Empty unit trains, originally set up in 98 car blocks, were returned from Ridley Island Terminal via Canadian National crews approximately 450 miles east to Prince George.

At Prince George, BC Rail crews would pickup the empty unit train for a two-day turn to Tumbler Ridge. BC Rail diesel-electrics ran 72.9 miles up the Chetwynd Subdivision to Tacheeda, located at Mile Post 535.4.

In this Google view, you clearly see the route coming up from the south (bottom of photo) to the “hand off siding” at Tacheeda. The hand off sidings at Tacheeda were electrified, the end of juice from Tumbler Ridge Subdivision. Dark shadows of the catenary arches can be clearly seen.

Lutz Lehner and Helmut Wisinger captured the typical motive power pack hand off in this series of taken at Tacheeda:

Here we see three GF6C’s awaiting the hand off with the diesel powered BC Rail train coming up with an empty unit train from Prince George.
The crew removes the diesels from the train, parking them on a siding for the next “down-bound” full unit train.

In this view, we see the crew moving their grips from the diesel units to the electrics, for continued movement to Tumbler Ridge.

The electrics are hook up to the empty unit train and head north from Tacheeda 2.2. miles to Wakely, Mile Post 0, Tumbler Subdivision.

At Wakely the train makes a right hand turn and heads east up to Table Valley toward Tumbler Ridge.

A BC Rail track patrol checks out the rails following the passage of the train, “just in case” something may have been left behind! Once the empty unit train is dropped off at either mine, the crew tied up for the night in Tumbler Ridge. The following morning, they would reverse the process, completing a two-day turn.

Oh, yes. You may recall that in Part Two, describing the GF6C electric locomotive, I related that the throttle control on the electrics had an eight-notch paradigm, similar to diesels. This made the transition between electrics and diesel electrics much easier.

Beginning of the End

The last loads of coal were shipped by the GF6C electrics from the Quintette mine at Tumbler Ridge on the 19th and 20th of August 2000. On the 19th, a full 106-car train departed behind 6007, 6002, 6005, with helpers 6004, 6006, and 6001. On the 20th, loose ends were cleared out leaving Quintette with 106 loads, 21 empties. It stopped at Bullmoose – now renamed Teck - picking up an additional 21 empties.

And the 16 or so miles of rail between Teck and Quintette, were pulled up, including the load out loop.

With Quintette closed, electrics ran between Teck and Tacheeda until the 1st of November 2000, when they went into deep storage, along with 6003 at Murray - Tumbler Ridge – until 2003.

They never ran again.

Despite the fact the two major tunnels, used as justification for electrification in the first place, were still in use, a number of reasons were cited for withdrawing the electrics. Rationale ranged from the reduced number of trains, shorter trains allowing better speed through the tunnels, stabilized costs of diesel fuel, improved locomotive technology, and lack of spare parts for the electrics.

I understand BC Rail 6003 parked up at Murray, (Tumbler Ridge) had been scavenged for a number of parts. Sounds like a re-run of the Milwaukee Road story ... eventually the units were towed to Vancouver for storage.

In February 2004, following three years in storage, BC Rail returned the seven GF6C locomotives to their owner, CIT Leasing. Once it was clear the original contract had expired, all seven unique electric locomotives were pulled from storage in Vancouver BC and sent south to Tacoma - Coast Engine & Equipment Company - CEECo for destruction. Coincidentally, I understand CEECo is now shuttering ...

“On Track,” the newsletter for the Prince George Railway & Forestry Museum in Prince George, B.C., details how the museum was able to save one of the seven electric locomotives, Number 6001, in a dramatic last minute reprieve from the cutters torch at CEECo in Tacoma. It’s quite a story of persistence against all odds, as these locomotive preservation projects usually are.

By October of 2000, coal production had diminished from two or three trains per day to two or three coal trains per week. The handwriting was on the wall.

The Bubble Bursts!

The province had funded construction of a $400 million, 300-kilometer rail line linking the mines to CN Rail’s main line to Prince Rupert. It also built access roads, hydro connections and services for the all-new town of Tumbler Ridge, about 60 km west of the Alberta border. The federal government helped build the coal terminal at Prince Rupert.

The total bill to taxpayers came to about $1.6 billion. Development of the two mines added up to another $1.5 billion in private investment. The overall investment was to be guaranteed by 15-year supply contracts with the mines’ Japanese customers at well above the market price.

But before the first Japanese ore freighter even loaded its first shipment at the Ridley Island terminal in January 1984, the steelmakers began demanding cuts in volume and price.

Some politicians actually accused the Japanese of initially creating an artificial demand, so they could dicker for lower prices once the delivery mechanism was in place. But let us not get into the politics!

The End of Diesels

BC Rail dispatched the last diesel drawn coal train from the Bullmoose on April 10th, 2003. Headed by diesels DASH 9-44 CLW’s 4641-4624-4625-4644, with 62 loads and 43 empties.

Over the life span of the project, ten thousand eight hundred and eighty-two coal trains had delivered coal to Ridley Island Terminal.

With both Bullmoose and Quintette mines closed, and the 16 miles of track between Quintette and Tumbler Ridge pulled up, the catenary was de-energized. The arches were left standing, but time took its toll - stretches were wiped out by avalanches and not replaced.

At the other end of the line, the Federal Government was seriously considering selling off the Ridley Island Terminal deep water loading facility which was costing the taxpayers an estimated $500,000 a month just to sit idle.

In November. 25, 2003, Canadian National announced the acquisition of publicly owned BC Rail Limited for $1 billion in cash. In the deal, CN picked up the shares of Canada's third-largest rail company along with the right to operate on BC Rail's roadbed under a renewable 60-year lease. The roadbeds remain in public hands, while CN will took over rail transportation and maintenance.

No coal moved off the Ridge during most of 2003, all of 2004, and into 2005.

The Mythical Phoenix

Like the mythical Phoenix, Tumbler Ridge has arisen from the ashes. With new demands for her coking coal, not from Japan, but now from China!

The line was repaired and extended and once again, coal is moving from the mines. They mines carry different names. The original players are pages in history. But the mechanism is the same. Mine to load out to tidewater. And a new generation of diesel-electrics is doing the pulling.

Like so many towns who were tied to the forest products industry have had to do, Tumbler Ridge is on a journey to define itself free of the vicissitudes of the coal industry.

Editors Footnote: A blog article without photographs is a total bore and waste of real estate. Without the following folks, in no particular order, I would not have written this series:
  • The inspiration to write this series came from seeing Marty Bernard’s photographs.
  • I am thankful to the series of photos taken by Lutz Lehner, a German National who had taken a vacation trip to BC in 1999. I contacted Lutz and he was very gracious in providing the action shots of the GF6C’s handing off to diesels at Tacheeda. You can see all his photos of BC Rail at
  • Mark Forseille, of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, who was also lucky enough to see those magnificent electrics at Tacheeda and other points along the Tumbler Ridge. Mark dug out photos of the specialized coal cars, which were built by Canadian National’s Transcona Shops on the original order!
  • Helmut Wisinger, who operates “Lines West.” Like me, Helmut is an avid fan of another great electric train, the Milwaukee Road. Other goodies by Helmut can be found at
  • Paul Roy, a friend of Helmut’s, provided the color file of the BC Rail GF6C Brochure – what a find!
  • Ms. Doreen Younge, with whom I had the pleasure of talking to at the Visitor Services Coordinator, District of Tumbler Ridge. Doreen was a great help in separating fact from fiction!
  • Mr. Bill Black, Manager, Process, Wolverine Coal Ltd., Tumbler Ridge BC. And now retired!
  • Mr. Brian Carli, Manager, Network Strategies, Canadian National in Edmonton, Alberta.
  • And to William Rogerson, who allowed me to incorporate the interior cab shot of BCR 6001, at her home at the Railway & Forestry Museum in Prince George.

Post Script

BC Rail 6001 stands in a railroad museum in Prince George, mute testimony to the halcyon days of the Tumbler Ridge Subdivision. And after all was said and done, BC Rail never recovered its investment cost.