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CN is reported to be mothballing the middle portion of the former BCR

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CN is reported to be mothballing the middle portion of the former BCR
Posted by beaulieu on Thursday, April 2, 2020 12:41 AM

Reports are circulating that CN is mothballing the portion of the former BCR mainline from Squamish, British Columbia to Williams Lake. Reportedly the last train movement has already taken place. This portion is the most scenic on the whole railway, but it is also the portion with the toughest gradients.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Thursday, April 2, 2020 4:01 PM

Several years back(?) I read an article in regards to this area of the BCR. IIRC Track was laid to Williams Lake(?) And with in=activity on that portion of the then BCR; the local population was using a sort of railroad 'jitney' to move the isolated students to their educations, and others in the area as needed for errands? 

Unfortunately, I cannot seem to recall the magazine, or more of the details?  

 Was not this BCR, at sometime being looked at, as an answer to extending the Alaska RR further South towards a connection with the Lower 48 ? 

 

 


 

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Posted by beaulieu on Thursday, April 2, 2020 6:18 PM

samfp1943

 Was not this BCR, at sometime being looked at, as an answer to extending the Alaska RR further South towards a connection with the Lower 48 ? 

 

The north end of the railway was surveyed to Dease Lake. Though the rail was only laid to a station named Takla, about 250 miles short of Dease Lake. This was the closest location connected to the North America railway network to Alaska. During the era before the Province of British Columbia sold the railway to CN there were three through freights per day from Prince George to Vancouver. Since the takeover CN has runoff much of the lumber business and diverted much of what remains east from Prince George(located on CN's line to Prince Rupert). What was left was a heavy local handling the remaining business(and requiring DPU) over the +2 percent grades.

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Posted by ttrraaffiicc on Thursday, April 2, 2020 7:17 PM

beaulieu

 

 
 During the era before the Province of British Columbia sold the railway to CN there were three through freights per day from Prince George to Vancouver. Since the takeover CN has runoff much of the lumber business and diverted much of what remains east from Prince George(located on CN's line to Prince Rupert). What was left was a heavy local handling the remaining business(and requiring DPU) over the +2 percent grades
 
 

 

Yet another line abandoned. This industry really does have both feet firmly planted in the grave.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Thursday, April 2, 2020 10:06 PM

Back in the early '90s when my dad and I rode the BCRR's Caribou RDC's to Prince George, the RR ran a school train S. from Lillooet to serve the students along Seton Lake. Didn't see anything about a school operation near Williams Lake. Caribou ran daily between N. Vancouver and Lillooet and 3 days a week two cars continued to Prince George and returned the next day. We met two freights on our trip which were (if I recall) about 60-80 cars long. Not a lot of sidings or industry along the route. Dad wanted to take this trip to see the Tumbler Ridge Project which was a major export coal mine with an Electrified spur through tunnels between the mine and the original railroad. This coal was destined to Asia with big unit trains that ran to Prince Rupert. But as the expresion goes, "that ship has sailed". Electrics are gone but some coal still is exported. Prince Rupert has become a major port. We saw the spur heading NNW toward Dease Lake but it did not show any signs of activity. You might want to see these video's.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKKKZpibKus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SDHmrlgsFA

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, April 3, 2020 8:48 PM

I missed riding the Caraboo, but when the Rocky Mountaineer began running over the route, I thought I had a second chance.  I hope by "mothballing" it means it may be resurected in the future.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, April 6, 2020 8:01 PM

https://www.wltribune.com/news/cn-suspending-service-between-williams-lake-and-squamish-effective-april-3/

It's all too true.

The date has been pushed back a few days, last I heard the final train is supposed to run tomorrow.

I'm not sure what Rocky Mountaineer will do in the future, they have already cancelled service this year due to the pandemic.

Also, CN formally applied to abandon the Takla Subdivision (Dease Lake line) last year.  It has not seen a train in over a decade.

I wonder if the Fort Nelson Sub will be next, it is down to one or two short trains a week (10-20 cars of oilfield supplies).

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, April 6, 2020 8:31 PM

I wonder if BC is regretting selling the line?

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Posted by Ulrich on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 12:50 PM

MidlandMike

I wonder if BC is regretting selling the line?

 

 

To my understanding BC still owns the line although CN will nolonger be providing services on it. Maybe BC will find another operator for it...or.. maybe we will see BC once again running their own trains under the BC Rail banner... somehow I doubt it.. but who knows. 

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Posted by lenzfamily on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 4:18 PM
The agreement with CN is not public knowledge and never has been. The BC provincial gov't transferred 'ownership" or whatever it is to CN without divulging any details, a point of considerable public anger and debate at the time. The short answer to the question of another operator of the line south of Williams Lake is : 'Who knows!?'.... Charlie Chilliwack, BC
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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 5:32 PM

As there are currently no active customers on that stretch of track, and CN is the only potential interchange partner, I don't think there will be many other interested operators.

This reminds me of the abandonment of CP's Coquihalla and Carmi Subdivisions on the former Kettle Valley Railway.  Eventually that entire line was abandoned as local traffic declined. 

The rest of the former BC Rail line from Williams Lake to Prince George is almost entirely dependent on forest products, and that industry has taken a big hit in recent years with the Pine Beetle epidemic and American softwood lumber tariffs.

This action has also eliminated any operation on a through route with 2%+ grades.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 8:47 PM

With CN's busy mainline and Prince Rupert line, you would thing they could use the BC lne for relief.  My guess is that most of thr traffic load that would use it (forest products?) would be southbound.  I know there is a steep northbound grade out of the Fraser Valley, but are the southbound grades as steep?

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 9:14 PM

MidlandMike

With CN's busy mainline and Prince Rupert line, you would thing they could use the BC lne for relief.  My guess is that most of thr traffic load that would use it (forest products?) would be southbound.  I know there is a steep northbound grade out of the Fraser Valley, but are the southbound grades as steep?

Yes.  The southbound ruling grade between Lillooet and the summit of the Coast Mountains is over 2%.  BC Rail used to have pushers based at Pemberton.

I've never been on the line, and am too lazy to look up the track profile right now (a problem for future me), but there are two long northbound grades of over 2%.  Between Squamish and Whistler, where the Cheakamus Canyon derailment happened, and the infamous Kelly Lake Hill between Lillooet and Exeter, which is the longest such grade in North America, at over 30 miles.   

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by beaulieu on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 9:31 PM

The British Columbia provincial goverment sold BC Rail Ltd. to CN. This included everything from the ties on up. CN also assumed the leases on all leased equipment, and any and all contractual obligations. The Province retained the underlying ROW which it leased to CN for a 60 year period, plus a guaranteed 15 year extension at CN's option. CN paid upfront for the 60 year lease plus the 15 year extension. In addition CN has the option for 15 60-year extensions subject to agreement between both parties on the price for each extension which will be negotiated prior to the beginning of each of the subject extensions. Lastly before each of the subsequent extensions either party has the option of not extending the agreement with the Province being required to give CN five years notice, and CN must give the Province three years notice. Also should CN decide to terminate the agreement, CN must sell enough equipment both track and rolling stock equivalent to what was purchased, at the fair market price as of the time of termination of said agreement. 

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Posted by lenzfamily on Thursday, April 9, 2020 12:11 AM

[quote user="beaulieu"]

The British Columbia provincial goverment sold BC Rail Ltd. to CN. This included everything from the ties on up. CN also assumed the leases on all leased equipment, and any and all contractual obligations. The Province retained the underlying ROW which it leased to CN for a 60 year period, plus a guaranteed 15 year extension at CN's option. CN paid upfront for the 60 year lease plus the 15 year extension. In addition CN has the option for 15 60-year extensions subject to agreement between both parties on the price for each extension which will be negotiated prior to the beginning of each of the subject extensions. Lastly before each of the subsequent extensions either party has the option of not extending the agreement with the Province being required to give CN five years notice, and CN must give the Province three years notice. Also should CN decide to terminate the agreement, CN must sell enough equipment both track and rolling stock equivalent to what was purchased, at the fair market price as of the time of termination of said agreement. 

 

Beaulieu

Your reply got me thinking and doing some research about the CN Transaction which was finalized in July of 2004. At the time no detail was given publicly to the citizens of BC.

I decided to go to the BC Government website. As far as I can see so far: the details of the transaction are recorded in a variety of reports, votes, financial statements. So far I have not found a document that details the 'CN Transaction' lease agreement on the above website.

I did find in the BC Railway Annual Report of 2018-2019 some of the detail I was looking for.

The railway assets above the ROW and Track Structure were sold to CN along with whatever business BC Rail was doing at the time. CN also assumed any debt the railway was carrying. The Province (BCRC) retains ownership of the right of way and surfaced track structure according to the documents I found. 

Other subsidiaries (wharfage and other shipping/stevedoring facilities) of BC Rail were retained by the province at the time. Some have been retained. Some have been sold according to the documents I have so far seen.

The buy back arrangements appear quite complex, at least to me. It would take  more research to clarify many details. If they are to be found in one place on the BC Provincial Website, that would be great. I'm not holding my breath on that one. The previous provincial government had a way of hiding detail that was truly astounding. 

If CN is holding the bag for a 60 year initial lease on the ROW and surfaced track structure plus a 15 yr up front renewal, I guess that is on them. This is one investment that I can't think they've gotten much ROI. 

It will be interesting to see how things (businesswise) turn out north of Williams Lake. I don't know of much more than lumber traffic on that segment and with logging and milling the way it is now in BC I don't know how much traffic actually exists or will realistically develop. 

We were told at the time of sale CN had taken over operating BC Rail to provide alternate rail access from Prince Rupert south to the Pacific Northwest and the US Midwest.  

That clearly didn't work out. What comes next will be interesting.

Charlie

Chilliwack, BC

 

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Posted by cx500 on Thursday, April 9, 2020 10:30 AM

One line of thought at the time was that CN's interest in the line was to create a monopoly in that whole region of British Columbia, and ensure a long haul for themselves.  An independent BC Rail could also interchange with CPR and BNSF in Vancouver, providing competitive options for shippers in the north.  Both those roads did look at bidding but backed out, possibly because they felt the "fix" was already predetermined in the back rooms.  Lots of controversy about that at the time and the smell still lingers.

John

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, April 9, 2020 3:11 PM

That line makes no sense as a through route to and from the west coast as CN's former Canadian Northern line to Vancouver and the GTP line to Prince Rupert involve grades of no more than 1%.. 

Maybe this scenic line will go the way of the Kettle Valley... a trail for hiking and biking.. I hope so. 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, April 9, 2020 8:27 PM

I always wondered why PGE built the route up the grade to Kelly Lake.  Could they have not followed the water level route of the Fraser River.  Was river canyon construction prohibitive, or was traffic potential on the plateau a better option?

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, April 9, 2020 9:01 PM

The railway was built in fits and starts over a period of 50 years. Early on the goal was to connect with the GTP at Prince George, thereby creating a through route to Vancouver . The overbuilt GTP was floundering with an OR of 150% as at that time there was very little traffic to and from Prince Rupert, and a connection to Vancouver, a major port and urban center,  it was hoped, would have provided more traffic. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, April 9, 2020 10:10 PM

Ulrich
The railway was built in fits and starts over a period of 50 years. Early on the goal was to connect with the GTP at Prince George, thereby creating a through route to Vancouver . The overbuilt GTP was floundering with an OR of 150% as at that time there was very little traffic to and from Prince Rupert, and a connection to Vancouver, a major port and urban center,  it was hoped, would have provided more traffic. 

The reality is that all railroads were built in fits and starts as financing was made available.  Most had no intent to go much beyond the next 'big town' or river port.  The rail systems we know today weren't even a dream when most railroad lines were initially constructed.

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Posted by cx500 on Thursday, April 9, 2020 10:46 PM

MidlandMike

I always wondered why PGE built the route up the grade to Kelly Lake.  Could they have not followed the water level route of the Fraser River.  Was river canyon construction prohibitive, or was traffic potential on the plateau a better option?

 

 
In the lower Fraser Canyon CPR already occupied the most feasible, or in some cases the least worst, side of the river, and likely Canadian Northern already had claimed the opposite bank.  There was certainly no room for a third railway.  North of Lytton, where both escaped the Fraser canyon to head east up the Thompson River, the Fraser was no easier.  The highway between Lytton and Lillooet at one point crosses a sliding scree slope.  I have seen that location reduced to a single lane with only little red cones to encourage drivers not to stray over the edge and perhaps 1,000 feet down into the Fraser.
 
Once PGE rejoined the "water level route" of the Fraser River their best option was the long 2% grade up to Kelly Lake, to escape out and away from the canyon as soon as possible.  It also allowed them to access territory with more traffic potential.
 
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, April 10, 2020 7:10 AM

ttrraaffiicc
 
beaulieu

 

 
 During the era before the Province of British Columbia sold the railway to CN there were three through freights per day from Prince George to Vancouver. Since the takeover CN has runoff much of the lumber business and diverted much of what remains east from Prince George(located on CN's line to Prince Rupert). What was left was a heavy local handling the remaining business(and requiring DPU) over the +2 percent grades
 
 

 

 

 

Yet another line abandoned. This industry really does have both feet firmly planted in the grave.

 

I passed a semi on the side of the road this morning that had blown a tire. The trucking industry really does have both feet firmly planted in the grave.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by Julian_UK on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 11:05 AM

Know if theres been any changes to this, or is the line still effectively in hibernation between Squamish and Williams Lake?

Been searching online, but all I can find are reports from 2020!

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, June 17, 2021 12:46 PM

Our test train traversed this line northbound just the other day, this was the first through train between Squamish and Williams Lake since regular freight operations ceased.  

The track has not been officially abandoned or taken out of service (yet), and there have been occasional moves to place or remove stored cars.  

Rocky Mountaineer currently plans to restart their tour train operations in early July, and tickets for their ex-BC Rail route are currently available on their website:

https://www.rockymountaineer.com/train-routes/rainforest-gold-rush-leisure?package=a754R000000H7ilQAC

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, June 17, 2021 7:14 PM

SD70Dude
Rocky Mountaineer currently plans to restart their tour train operations in early July, and tickets for their ex-BC Rail route are currently available on their website:

I've always wanted to ride that, and I am thinking sooner is better than waiting.  What will travel restrictions be for visitors from the US this summer?

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Thursday, June 17, 2021 8:38 PM

I rode the BC rail route twice on their RDC's. Once with my dad back in the '90s when he wanted to see the Tumbler Ridge mine and BC rail electrification. About 12 years later, I returned with my wife to take the Rocky Mountaineer package that included the BC rail from Vancouver to Prince George, the Via Rails Skeena train which had a PARK dome car to Jasper, bus to Banff and Rocky Mountaineer back to Vancouver. It will not be forgotten. Sad to see B.C. rail mothballed. The scenery was so beautiful. On B.C. rail got to ride in the front with the engineer and we chased a bear down the ROW until I thought we caught it but I decided to bail off the track just in time. The B.C.rails train ran four RDC's between N. Vancouver to Lilloett where two cars were dropped to return to N Vancouver while the remaining two continued to Prince George. The pair we were on had one of its two diesels overheat and it shut down on the steep climb out of Lilloet. We waited on the grade for a SB freight to deliver a man to get it restarted. Then at Quesnel, two hours late, the new Engineer (who I suspect was the senior man on the roster) took over and he (I believe) wanted to get home on time. Speed limit be dammed. No weed weasels. Speed limit was 69, we did 80. We made up over an hour of delay. And the RM's Gold Class service is FABULOUS. Makes first class on Amtrak seem like steerage. Car has an open platform, to ride in the fresh air. Windows better than the Amtrak sightseer car and some of the best food you can want. One of the best trips I have ever been on.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Thursday, June 17, 2021 10:30 PM
 

MidlandMike

 

 
SD70Dude
Rocky Mountaineer currently plans to restart their tour train operations in early July, and tickets for their ex-BC Rail route are currently available on their website:

 

I've always wanted to ride that, and I am thinking sooner is better than waiting.  What will travel restrictions be for visitors from the US this summer?

 

Leisure travel is still banned until further notice.

 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, June 18, 2021 3:21 PM

MidlandMike
SD70Dude
Rocky Mountaineer currently plans to restart their tour train operations in early July, and tickets for their ex-BC Rail route are currently available on their website:

I've always wanted to ride that, and I am thinking sooner is better than waiting.  What will travel restrictions be for visitors from the US this summer?

The restrictions on non-essential travel just got extended until July 21:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/border-closure-blair-1.6071155

British Columbia and some other provinces had or have tighter restrictions.  As an Albertan, for a time I would not have been allowed to cross the border into B.C. unless my travel was essential (work counts).  

Many are hopeful that the restrictions will start being lifted in late July or August, but I am not so optimistic.  While our vaccination program is going well we still have quite a bit of ongoing community spread, including at least one of variants that appears more contagious than the original virus.  Any future re-opening announcements so far appear to be efforts to make political hay as opposed to being based in sound science.  

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by ccltrains on Sunday, June 20, 2021 9:45 AM

 Several years ago my wife and I rode on the last "loop" run that BC rail had.  We went from Vancouver to Prince George, over nighted there and the next day took VIA's train to Prince Rupert.  Overnighted there and the next morning took the ferry to the northern end of Vancouver Island then a bus to Courtney where we caught the E&N to Victoria.  A great time an d ride that sadly cannot be repeated today. 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, July 11, 2021 1:48 PM

The mainline closures related to the Lytton fire have prompted CN to reopen the former BC Rail line as a through route.  It is not known how long this will last.  

The first train ran from Squamish to Lillooet last night.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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