Friday, July 1, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Peace Through Superior FireHorsepower

Today's train of thought- perhaps unsurprisingly- brings us not only north of the border, but about as far north as one can get on the North American standard gauge railroad network (while Fairbanks, AK would be further north, railcars moving to and from Alaska actually have to travel by ship). Around a hundred years ago, it was determined that the Peace River region in northwestern Alberta was one of the few places remaining for settlers which could support agriculture under the dominion of Canada's land grants. The only problem was that there was no rail link to the rest of Canada, so a series of competing lines were awarded charters to build lines radiating north and west out of Edmonton. After WWI, many of these lines were struggling financially or incomplete and after a series of lease agreements with the province. Alberta would then continue to group these railroads under the Northern Alberta Railways umbrella and the line to Dawson Creek, BC would serve as the railhead to the Alaska Highway construction project following US entry into WWII. The NAR would see some postwar traffic, but it began to taper off when Pacific Great Eastern (BC Rail's predecessor) built a line into Dawson Creek from the south.

Already half owned by Canadian National, the NAR would cease to exist as a separate entity when CN purchased a controlling interest in NAR in 1981. In the late 1990s, much of the NAR lines were targeted for divestiture by the CN, only to have the separate entities (mostly operated by Rail America, Savage Rail Services and CANDO) be reacquired by 2007.

Here, contributor Tim Stevens caught CN SD40 #6001 leading a pair of battered GP40-2LWs as they cross a trestle in Peace River, AB with a slightly overpowered local bound for the Daishowa Paper mill west of town on August 29, 2008.

Also to the west of town is the junction where the line to Hines Creek, AB meanders west while the line to Hay River, NWT heads north. Hay River is terminus for the northernmost standard gauge line in Canada.

I thought I'd close out Canada day with this.

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