British Columbia's Pacific Great Eastern Railway has reached the vast Peace River country, realizing the fifty-year dream of the people of northern B.
British Columbia's Pacific Great Eastern Railway has reached the vast Peace River country, realizing the fifty-year dream of the people of northern B.C. for a direct rail link with the Pacific. This has been accomplished in the centennial year of British Columbia.
The completion of the line from Vancouver to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John was celebrated recently with three inaugural trains making the 790-mile run carrying a host of government officials and businessmen led by B.C. Premier Bennett and his cabinet. Two years ago the line was completed to Prince George, and during the last two years a 324-mile extension has been thrust through the mountains into the Peace River country at a cost of over $60,000,000. It was a battle all the way -- through hard rock, muskeg, permafrost and bogs, to the last frontier of the province.
At the inaugural ceremonies in Vancouver, Premier W.A.C. Bennett christened the PGE, Canada's longest north-south railway, "the gateway to an empire". The band gave the party a rousing send-off and despite the foggy weather a crowd gathered at the north Vancouver station to cheer the group on their way.
Passing through the Peace River farmlands, the inaugural train arrived at Dawson Creek -- at the site of the unbuilt PGE Dawson Creek station. The throng of citizens jubilantly greeted the first train, and RCMP officers barely managed to keep back the cheering crowds. Premier Bennett addressed the gathering and made a presentation to a pioneer couple.
On to Fort St. John -- originally a trading post and organized into a village municipality two years ago -- where another excited crowd had gathered at the terminus of the rail line. At the spike-driving ceremony Mr. Bennett held the "golden" spike for John Beatton who wielded the hammer. The crowd thronged into the yards, linging the tops of box cars, piles of sleepers, or anywhere they could stand.
The first 100 per cent dieselized railway system in Canada, the PGE was the first railway system in the world to use the microwave system of railroad communication, and is claimed to be one of North America's most modern railroads.
With the construction of the line, wheat from the grain elevators of Dawson Creek can be shipped directly to the coast instead of going by way of northern Alberta through Edmonton. Dawson Creek is the starting point of the Alaska highway, and the rail line as well may eventually be extended into the Yukon and Alaska.
Before returning home, the party paid a short visit to the multi-million dollar gas scrubbing plant of Westcoast and Pacific Petroleums Ltd., just 12 miles from Fort St. John at Taylor, B.C. Transportation of sulphur from this plant provides the largest freight traffic for the PGE.
Now that the PGE has reached the Peace River country, once known as the "last frontier' it stands on the threshold of vast developments and industrialization. Untold wealth lies in the northern B.C. wilderness -- a land of great variety -- muskeg and mountain, farmland and forest, its potential wealth includes lode metals, industrials, petroleums, vast forest reserves and potential agricultural land.