Monday, November 30, 2009

Winds of Change - Pillsbury Point

Prince Rupert BC, September 1957. My Dad decided to move the family, including the dawg, to Prince Rupert. He had taken the position of Chief Engineer on the M/V Comet for about a year. Since the tug spent her time between trips, towing a rail barge to Ward Cove, Prince Rupert would become our home for the next three years.

Whenever Dad had to stay on board for engine room watch, we'd spend the day helping him. Mrs. Kahley was the Skippers wife.

The tug and barge were tied up at the Ocean Dock between trips to Alaska. It was a massive dock, some 1,600 feet long, built and added onto during WWII when Prince Rupert was incorporated into the Seattle Port of Embarkation, staging and moving troops and material to the American Theater.

M/V Comet retuning to Ocean Dock with loaded rail barge ABC 24.Taken from our living room window.

When it was time to load, the Comet moved the barge downstream just over a mile to the Pillsbury Point rail barge loading bridge. There the Canadian National Railway crew would unload and load the barge with up to 24 rail cars carrying supplies up to the mill, returning with kraft bales heading for Rome Georgia and final processing

I loved to ride on the tug Comet with my Dad. Without radios or walkie-talkies, visibility limited by boxcars, the skipper maneuvered the loaded rail barge into the slip, guided only by whistle signals, issued by the first mate stationed up on the bow of the barge!

Brass whistles were commonly carried by crew as a means of summoning help should they fall overboard, and for docking operations such as landing the rail barge. This whistle, “The Acme Thunderer, London, England” is engraved with the name “Foss.” It belonged to my dad when he worked for Foss Maritime.

A few months before we arrived in Prince Rupert, my Dad caught the CNR 7536, an 0-6-0 switcher working the rail barge.

By the time I started riding with my Dad to the rail slip, the CNR 7242 had replaced the 7536, who now joined the growing dead line of steam up at Jasper, heading for certain conversion to razor blades.

It was on my second or third trip with my Dad to watch the barge loading, when I ventured off the tug, off the barge and onto the apron to take a photo of the locomotive doing her work.

Robert meets CNR 7242. I had just taken this photo when the engineer asked me if I wanted to ride with him. I did. I was all of 14 years old, didn't know a darn thing about railroads, and used my Dad's 35mm camera to take this photo. And my life changed forever!

This began a regular routine of riding the tug with my Dad to the rail loading bridge, and riding with the switch crew back to the yard. It was just a short walk, basically across a street, to meet the tug when she returned to the Ocean Dock.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railway 7536, nee Grand Trunk Pacific 404, built November 1911 at the Montreal Locomotive Works. 51” drivers; 34,666 pounds tractive effort. Serial Number 50280. Scrapped November 1958. One of her cousins, CNR 7470 0-6-0 survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway New Hampshire!

Canadian National Railways 7242, built by General Motors Division, London Onatrio as an SW-900, 900 horsepower road class GS-9c, December 1957, serial number A-1194. Renumbered 7942 in 1985, and retired in 1988. [Data: Michael Taylor]


The 7536 was dismantled. The 7242 is gone. The tug Comet burned at the dock in Prince Rupert in October 1966. Declared a constructive loss, and scuttled at Port Hadlock (five miles south of where I live.) Visited occasionally by dive clubs. The Ocean Dock burned down in 1972.

Only the Pillsbury Point rail loading bridge has survived the “Winds of Change.”

See also, "Boxcars Go to See - In the Beginning."

2 Comments - Click here:

Jim said...

That was a really interesting story. Thanks for posting it.

Dave said...

I lived on the hill above (actually above the Alaska Ferry dock) the barge slip from 1954 to 1968. I spent many hours playing on the pilings, ramp and towers of the barge slip. I have great memories of the area. Thanks for the pictures. David McDonald, Pasco WA

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