Motorcars, Speeders and Railcars

By Wayne Parsons

Southwest Railcar Ltd. - British Columbia 2006

CN main line west bound from Terrace to Prince Rupert, BC

July 22, 2006 - This is the fourth day traveling west from Prince George to Prince Rupert.  Much of today's 94 miles of track is along the river with views of the distant mountains and far shore, salmon fishermen on sand bars and in aluminum boats, and a stop at a cannery now a museum.  Arriving in Prince Rupert we pass through the container port construction area, the Prince Rupert VIA station for passenger traffic, and finally tie up on a stub at the old Prince Rupert station.

Saturday 9:12 AM passing MP 6


10:31 AM - Our escort today is CN Foreman Burt Philatt (left).  Like all the CN employees, he is most gracious to us and we appreciate his hospitality very much. 

Burt is holding us short of this crossing at MP 7 waiting for a "block."  NARCOA President Pat Coleman is the lead car (right). 

In addition to the RR signals, flaggers are going out to help the group cross.



12:04 PM - This deer, just visible in front of car 12, can not figure out how to get back into the woods. 

12:21 PM - The road from Terrace parallels the track most of the way to Prince Rupert.  British Columbia does not have a traditional highway department.  Instead, the roads are maintained by a private contractor working for the Province.


1:42 PM - The pilings in the river mark the site of an old cannery.

3:12 PM - After this freight clears, we back out onto the main and run four miles to The North Pacific Cannery at MP 82.

2:20 PM - MP 78 - As we roll past these boxcars parked on the siding at Sockeye, a decision is made to wait here for our next train meet.  We do a reverse move to the signal light just visible at the rear, and tuck into the siding behind the cars on the left.


4:00 PM - With no more trains due today, we leave our cars on the main and start the cannery tour.

The main building, dating from 1889,  now houses a gift shop upstairs.  Near the end of the cannery's service this building, closest to the railroad and highway, most likely served as a warehouse.


The young lady at the left turned out to be our tour guide.  She did a twenty minute one woman stage show about the people who lived and worked here.  A self guided walking tour followed.

The packing process was done by a crew of Chinese workers hired by a contractor known as the "China Boss" who was also Chinese.  He was paid on a piece work basis.  In turn, he paid the workers, provided kitchen and dormitory services for them, and kept any profit.  This  labor practice lasted until the end of WWII.


The building on the left was for the "Net Boss" who supervised all aspects of the fishing process.  On the right are dormitories for the workers and a few single family houses for the managers.

Eventually automated canning equipment became so fast that just one plant could handle the salmon catch of the entire region.  This new equipment and the end of the China Boss labor system brought the closing of river side canneries.  North Pacific last processed fish around 1980.

5:29 PM - At MP 87 is the spur for the Ridley Island coal and grain terminal.  The speeders are lined for Prince Rupert and the main track (on the right).  This is the third deepest port in the world.  Tugboats are not needed to pilot the ships in and out of this harbor.

5:38 PM - A container port is under construction.  CN plans to run a modest two container trains a day within a year.  Prince Rupert, BC is one days' sailing closer to the Orient than any other North American port.


5:43 PM - As we enter the "City of Rainbows" we pass the barge switch at MP 93. Here freight cars are loaded twice a week onto barges bound for Alaska by way of the inland waterway.  Because Prince Rupert offers many options and efficiencies to shippers, rail traffic will continue to grow. 

6:00 PM - The inset shows the maintenance shops where the speeders were parked on the last visit here.  The tracks are now gone and the building donated to the city.  In the larger picture the original Prince Rupert station is on the left and The Crest Hotel where we are staying is on the hilltop.


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