Wednesday, January 20, 2010


BC Rail at its finest: April 9, 2003. This is what the battle is all about ...

Photographer: Bill Hooper
Photo ID: 309754
Locomotive No 1, Train ID: BCOL4648.
Fountain, B.C.  April 9, 2003

Southbound PV descends the 2%plus grade that extends over 35 miles from Kelly Lake to Lillooet at the bottom of the Fraser Canyon, British Columbia. 

LINK is HERE ... please click here to see this photo enlarged.

When I wrote to Bill Hooper and told him I would die happy if I could post this stunning, tell-all photo, here's what he said:

You have permission for one time use of Photo-ID 309754.
BTW I am in full agreement with your political stance..Hopefully Gordo wont sell off Hydro also.
Bill Hooper

When I look at this photo, I see my home province. Can almost smell the sagebrush. Can hear the train whistle echoing off the hills. I love this photo. [But you must see it enlarged.]

And I can see the old BCRail (as it then was) making its careful way from the northern towns and villages, to market. Vital access. It was a time when we could control how BCR served our communities, never having to seek approval from a privately-owned head office in Montreal and/or Texas.

I remember the BC Rail trainmen who were as special as their train; knew the tracks, knew the engines, knew how to navigate our difficult (spectacularly beautiful) terrain.

I remember Don Faulkner, proud of being a BC Rail trainman, worrying about various cost-cutting measures brought in by the new owners, in particular the braking systems and the added length of the trains. The BC Rail trainmen had an expertise suited to our difficult terrain. 100 boxcars were a maximum; CN decided that 150 boxcars would bring in more profit.

And so, of course, I remember that Don and Tom Dodd died near this spot ... died trying to save a train running without Dynamic Brakes, one of the safety factors they had worried about. The  3rd trainman, Gordon Rhodes, survived  seriously injured.

Looking at this BC Rail photo, I remember why trains like that were running, carrying the production of towns and villages, farms, factories and sawmills from the BC interior ... from way, way up almost to the Yukon border ... keeping the province healthy.

That's why I can look at this photo and can easily see what has kept me running this web-site for the past 4 years, remembering that it was a good railway, an invaluable public asset, a source of provincial revenue, and a means of sustaining the economy.

It was all that, and more. It was part of us, part of who we are.

Thank heaven, the BC Rail Trial is coming in mid-March, they say. At long last, we may find out how such a significant public asset as Canada's largest regional railway could just slide out of our hands, the way it did.  And how other major public assets are at risk as well. BC Hydro is being crippled, ready for the axe, as we speak.

To look at this photo is to remember British Columbia in better times, before Campbell.

- BC Mary


Very special thanks (again) to our old friend KootKoot, without whom I would never be able to post photos or get my blog un-jammed, at times. Koot brought the BC Rail photo over from Bill Hooper's web-site and posted it here. He's trying to make it bigger for us (500 pixels, he needs). I hope he can do it.  Many thanks, Koot.  And double-thanks to the gifted photographer, Bill Hooper.  I just love that photo.  - M.


I recognized the scene in that picture immediately, having driven through there just once a couple of years ago - ironically with a group of railway enthusiasts (Whistler to Williams Lake in one day and then on to Bella Coola). I recall driving under that little bridge. That entire stretch of highway 99 along the Fraser Canyon is spectacularly scenic and impossible to forget.

I think I can now better appreciate your interest in the court case.
That's so nice, Chris. Thank you!

Bill Hooper's photograph is the most British Columbian image ever, in my view. And BC Rail belongs right at centre-stage, in my view.

Yes, unforgettable.
Thank you for that photo Mary, it brings back some memories for myself, as well.

When the passenger rail service was still running,I often chose to take the train back and forth to Prince George, rather than any other form of commute. It was a spectacular ride through the canyon,thrilling at times being so close to the raging water,seemingly hanging by a thread to the track. Never was there a more complacent journey to be taken, the rocking lull of the cars, the soft clickety-clack of the track and the freedom to get up and move about as you rode...

Ah, those were the days.I was always surprised someone didn't make a go of a tourist train ride up that route, much like good old Peter Armstrong and his Rocky Mountaineer to Jasper/Banff. The Fraser canyon rail to PG is rich with history and beauty to behold.

I think I shall go and see if I can find my BC rail photos.. seems to me I have one of a pregnant me on the back when.
Thanks, Laila ... I hope you can find some more photos of the old BC Rail.

Here's a thought ...

Why wouldn't it be possible to revive the BC Rail passenger service, from Vancouver to Prince George at least, but maybe beyond ... it's one of the GREAT train rides of the world ...

we could negotiate for the use of the trackage (BC still owns the right-of-way) so that our new company -- let's call it BCRail Highway to Heaven -- could begin service using their own former rail-line.

One train north, one train south, every day, daylight hours.

With good food, and all.

Ya think CN would refuse us? Naaahhhh ...

What do you think?
I think you are onto something there Mary,my dear.I know for a fact that Prince George is banking on making the area a tourist destination, because of the vast outdoor recreational venues at hand... German tourists have been flocking up to the Caribou for years, they love it there, and now the Chinese and Japanese into PG and further north, looking for that authentic wilderness experience.

Yes, I see the possibilities,I always have. The wild west of BC, our history, our present, and our future. We are a province like no other.

Hell, done right, it could bring big bucks to areas and towns currently hurting. What say all of you?
Yes, this is a beautiful photo...and without a doubt emblematic of British Columbia. I remember sleeping in a town in the Kootenays a few years back and hearing the train whistles all night long - they echoed for me a mournful plaint about what we have lost in this stunning place we call home.There are so many train trips I never got to take, and can't bear the idea that I may never do so...
Of course,our own made-in-BC railway could revitalize tourism throughout the province. It is a wonderful and civilized way to travel, and tailor-made for getting to areas that driving to is problematic, especially in winter.It could be evocative of the BC experience in so many wonderfully symbolic ways - those iconic images of many stunning splendours that the world has fallen in love with...
Paucity of imagination in governments is perhaps to be expected.But thank you for sharing your love of the province, for that imagination is still alive and well in many of her citizens...
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