A Canadian Regional Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
Pacific Great Eastern Railway
British Columbia Railway (1972)
BC Rail (1984)


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September 26, 1948
The Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE), was a railway that operated in the Canadian province of British Columbia. It was a class II regional railway and the third-largest in Canada, eventually operating 1,441 miles of mainline track. It was owned by the provincial government starting in 1918, became British Columbia Railway (BCR) in 1972, and BC Rail (BCR) in 1984. In 2004 the operations were sold to the Canadian National Railway. The details of the sale have become the subject of protracted public inquiry as part of the proceedings of the trial surrounding a scandal known as the British Columbia Legislature Raids Affair, or "Railgate". Chartered in 1912, the railway was acquired by the provincial government in 1918 after running into financial difficulties. A railway that ran "from nowhere, to nowhere" for over 30 years, neither passing through any major city nor interchanging with any other railway, its southern terminus was at Squamish and its northern terminus at Clinton, 166 miles from Squamish. By 1921 the northern terminus was Quesnel, 347 miles north, and then 12 miles further.. Major expansions were made between 1949 and 1984 to bring the PGE (BCR) mileage to 1441. Primarily a freight railway, it also offered passenger service, as well as some excursion services, most notably the Royal Hudson PGEmap1948
Pacific Great Eastern
1948
excursion train. The railway's operations were not always profitable, and its debts, at times, made it the center of political controversy.
History of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway and it's successors

Pacific Great Eastern Railway
1912 - The Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE) was incorporated to build a line from Vancouver north to a connection with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) at Prince George. The GTP and PGE had agreed that the GTP, whose western terminus was at the remote northern port of Prince Rupert, could use their line to gain access to Vancouver. The railway was given its name due to a loose association with England's Great Eastern Railway.
1912 - The PGE took over the Howe Sound and Northern Railway, which at that point had built nine miles of track north of Squamish. The British Columbia government gave the railway a guarantee of principal and interest to make the construction bonds saleable.
1915 - The line was opened from Squamish 176 miles north to Chasm. The railway was starting to run out of money, however.
1915 - PGE failed to make an interest payment on its bonds, obliging the provincial government to make good on its bond guarantee.
1916-1918 - Disputes and lawsuits regarding bond monies.
1918 - PGE settlement turns railway over to the government.
1918 - Two separate sections of trackage had been completed: A small twenty mile section between North Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay, and one between Squamish and Clinton.
1921 - The provincial government had extended the railway to a point 15 miles north of Quesnel, still 80 miles south of a connection to Prince George. This extension was later removed
1928 - Last train runs on Horseshoe Bay - North Vancouver line as auto roads are built to replace it.
1928-48 - PGE runs "from nowhere to nowhere", Squamish to Quesnel only, however they did operate sleeping and dining cars on its single daily train. It did not connect with any other railway, and there were no large urban centers on its route. It existed mainly to connect logging and mining operations in the British Columbia interior with the coastal town of Squamish, where resources could then be transported by sea. The government still intended for the railway to reach Prince George, but the resources to do so were not available, especially during the Great Depression and World War II. The unfortunate state of the railway caused it to be given nicknames such as "Province's Great Expense", "Prince George Eventually", "Past God's Endurance", and "Please Go Easy".
1949 - The PGE began to expand. Track was laid north of Quesnel to a junction with the Canadian National Railways at Prince George.
1952 - The line opened to Prince George.
1953-56 - PGE constructed a line between Squamish and North Vancouver, using old North Bay right of way.
1958 - PGE reached north from Prince George to Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.
1960-68 - A 23 mile spur was constructed to Mackenzie. A third line was extended west from the mainline (somewhat north of Prince George) to Fort St. James.
1971 - Main line now completed from Fort St. John 250 miles north to Fort Nelson, less than 100 miles away from the Yukon.
1972 - PGE name was changed to the British Columbia Railway (BCR).

British Columbia Railway
1973 - The first 125 miles of a planned extension from Fort St. James to Dease Lake (412 miles) were completed to Lovell.
1974 - BCR inaugurates excursion service from North Vancouver to Squamish using the "Royal Hudson" steam locomotive, built in 1940 and acquired in 1973.
1977 - Dease Lake line extension stopped at Jackson, 363 miles, due to costs and competition from roads.
1978 - Trains on branch toward Dease Lake terminated at Driftwood, 20 miles beyond Lovell, and balance of track and right of way abandoned.
1983 - Logging decreases and Dease Lake extension completely closed.
PGENEWmap
Pacific Great Eastern Expanded
1983 - BCR built a new line and acquired another. The Tumbler Ridge Subdivision, an 82 mile electrified branch line, opened in 1983 to the Quintette and Wolverine mines, two coal mines northeast of Prince George that produced coal for Japan.
1984 - The BCR was restructured as BC Rail Ltd.(BCR) owned jointly by the British Columbia Railway Company (BCRC) and by a BCRC subsidiary, BCR Properties Ltd.

BC Rail

1984 - BC Rail acquired the British Columbia Harbours Board Railway, a 23 mile line that connects three class I railways with Roberts Bank, an ocean terminal that handles coal shipments. Since the line had been constructed in 1969, it had previously been leased to CPR, Burlington Northern Railroad, and Canadian National Railway in succession.
1991 - Dease Lake extension reopened
1991-2001 - Debt load increases significantly.
1993-99 - Branches into ocean shipping instigated, and BC Rail and BC Marine become part of BCR Group.
2000 - Portions of Tumbler Ridge line closed due to Quinette mine closing and diesels replace electrics.
2001 - Royal Hudson Steam Excursion discontinued.
2002 - Passenger service. which consisted of the Budd-RDC operated Cariboo Prospector and Whistler Northwind trains, discontinued, due to unprofitable operations and aging Budd RDC cars.
2003 - Wolverine Mine closes and Tumbler Ridge line stops remaining operations.
2003 - BCR Groups sells BC Marine, less Vancouver Wharves to Canadian National.
2004 - BCR leased to Canadian National, contractually for 980 years, except for a remnant from Roberts Bank connecting to the main CN, CP and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Lines. .

Our Sources
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Copyright Richard Parks, April 30, 2009, revised Sept. 27, 2011