Monday, February 9, 2009

PGE - Prince George Eventually!

Pacific Great Eastern 562, North Vancouver, July 3, 1961. Here we are near Pacific Great Eastern’s Mile Post zero in North Vancouver, BC. The other “end of track” is almost due north at Fort Nelson, Yukon Territories, Mile Post 928.4, 262.5 miles north of Prince George!

Her sister, PGE 561 is on display at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, BC.

An article in Trains Magazine years ago spotlighting the PGE, remarked on the roller coaster track profile up through the gut of British Columbia. 2.2% grades, ascending and descending were rough on brake shoes!

Birthing as Howe Sound and Northern, the Province of BC (hence, the public) took over in 1918, as Pacific Great Eastern. Shown here is Victor West photo of HS&N #1, used during construction.

Lovingly referred to as “Please Go Easy” or, my favorite, “Prince George Eventually” the line conjured up profits with wood products, and service to hinterland communities. Tumbler Ridge coal came in 1982, when the name had been changed to BC Rail. Montreal Locomotive Works supplied the bulk of locomotives to the line. With their asthmatic four-cycle motors, at throttle-up, they sounded like they were going to disintegrate!

Rail connoisseurs held the Pacific Great Eastern in awe, as the Caribou Dayliner, First Class 1 northbound, First Class 2 southbound, service passed through some of the most remarkable scenery in North America. The Budd RDC’s (Rail Diesel Cars) were an efficient means of travel, which served the dozens of communities well for many years.

But there was a Change in the Wind. A master plan was brewing, and Canadian National bought the operating rights, not the roadbed upon which the rails lay, for 1 Billion (B as in billion) Canadian Dollars in 2004. The roadbed is still owned by the Provincial Government, hence, the Public. Purchasing these track rights gives CN a direct link from Prince George to Vancouver, as part of the massive investment in the Prince Rupert Container Port.

Railroader Stuff: PGE 562, built by Montreal Locomotive Works as an RS-3, 1600hp, built 1955, SN 76108. Rebuilt by BC Rail in 1985 as slug S-410. Retired 1987.

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