Motorcars, Speeders and Railcars

By Wayne Parsons

Southwest Railcar Ltd. - British Columbia 2006

CN main line west bound from Smithers to Terrace, BC

Friday July 21, 2006 is day three of our west bound journey from Prince George to Prince Rupert, BC.  At 131 miles it is our second longest day in terms of mileage.  The addition of a great side trip at Hazelton, BC to see the Ksan (Indian) Historic Village meant getting into Terrace after dark.  The weather dial is still set to "beautiful" and that is the only way to describe the entire day!

7:15AM - CN Rail Host John Armstrong and our escort today CN Foreman David Valdez review their paperwork.  This is similar to track warrants.  However, in this central traffic control area we are treated as a work party and given a "block" which often ends on a siding where we wait for a passing train.  How cool is that?

7:54AM - Three miles out of Smithers we pass the Kathlyn Glacier making the closest approach any train in Canada gets to a glacier.

9:55AM - Between mile 28 to 36 we cross Boulder Creek, Porphyry Creek and Mudflat Creek on three curving trestles 158 feet high.  The trees hide the true scale of these tall bridges. 

According to our guide book this is some of the most "rugged country any train in the world travels through."  We stop between bridges on the high rock shelf to get photos of the river below.

Your web page reporter Wayne Parsons 300 feet above the river.


9:55AM - There are 10 tunnels on our trip today.  Mark Werner in Car #18 enters the one at mile 40.   Both the picture above and at right were taken at the east entrance. 

Car #20, with Elizabeth and John Monhoff operating, enters the tunnel at mile 40. 

Side Trip to Ksan (Indian) History Village

MP 45.9 - Three villages share the name Hazelton in this area.  They are Hazelton, New Hazelton and South Hazelton.  Our bus driver, Hazel, wanted us to know she was from Hazelton.

10:47AM - Hazel did not make us sing any campfire songs.

11:26 AM - The Ksan History Village is built on a peninsula formed by the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers.  This fishing village site faces the water which was both highway and food source for the natives. 


11:35AM - Our native guide explains that the buildings were made of Cedar planks.  Buildings housed multiple families - all members of one clan. The  raven, wolf, turtle, etc., symbol of the clan is on outside of the building.  

The totem poles each have their own story but, the story is known only to those who paid the carvers.

The most important symbol is at the bottom and the least important at the top.  The despised Indian Agent in a hat is often found at the top of the pole.

11:40 AM - We enter the buildings for presentations about the surrounding artifacts and lives of the natives.  The Ksan slept in family groups around the platform we are sitting on.

12:15PM - Wooden raven, frog, and wolf masks.

(Above) 1:47PM - Long lines at the historic village gift shop delayed our departure from there by 45 minutes, so our stop at New Hazelton has been 3 hours.  We've still got about 80 miles of track left today.


(Right) By 2:38PM we've reached the Andimaul 6530 foot long siding at MP 68.1 where we wait for two passing freights that arrive at 3:13PM and 3:34PM.



3:57PM - Scenery west of Andimaul.

4:09PM - Mile post 74.1 west of Kitwanga


4:18PM - near MP 77 the Seven Sister's mountain is across the river.

4:57PM - around MP 80 we stop for another view and photos of the Seven Sisters Mountain.


5:23PM - Cedarvale at MP 85 - Mark Werner and meet coordinator Tom Phair chat while we wait for another "block."

6:35 PM - MP 119 - At Usk is one of  three remaining reaction ferries in British Columbia.  Large rudders catch the river's moving current to slide the ferry along the guide cables to the other shore.  The motor boat on the right is for emergencies only.

MP 119 - we're in the hole on a small stub track.


Earl Leeson and CN Foreman David Valdez talk shop about hy-rails.  The eastbound freight arrives at 8:07PM.

8:56PM - MP 132 - Arriving at Terrace we pass switchers working in the yard.  This has been a fabulous day full of interesting railroad engineering, dramatic scenery, and local history. 


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