The railroad's expansion did not end here as it continued to push northward over the next few decades. During 1958 British Columbia Premier W.A.C. Bennett announced intentions to extend the Pacific Great Eastern Railway into the Yukon and connect Alaska with the rest of the North American railroad network. During the 1960s the PGE saw more growth than it had experienced its entire half-century of operation when new construction connected the road to Fort Nelson, 334 miles north of Prince George. Along this main line spurs were also opened to Mackenzie, Quintette, Fort St. James, and Dawson Creek (here, an interchange was made with CN). At this time the railroad also looked to the northwest and its proposed Dease Lake Line. From the main line at Fort St. James this new route would extend 412 miles to Dease Lake, which was very close to both the Yukon and southern Alaska (it also was not far away from short line, White Pass & Yukon).
Ultimately, rising costs ended construction on the Dease Lake project
after just 263 miles had been completed to Jackson. Interestingly, since that time there
have been no serious proposals to connect Alaska (at least in terms of
actual rails laid) although the idea has been discussed many times. During 1972 the PGE was renamed
as the British Columbia Railway with a new logo and two-tone green
livery. Interestingly, this name lasted a mere 12 years as it was
shortened to BC Rail in 1984 with a red, white, and blue paint scheme.
The railroad saw one last expansion during the early 1980s as well, the
Tumbler Ridge Subdivision which stretched 82 miles from Wakely to
Quintette. It was constructed to tap coal mines and not only featured
two large bores (the 5.6-mile Table Tunnel and 3.7-mile Wolverine
Tunnel) but was also electrified using motors built by Electro-Motive's
General Motors Diesel Division (GMDD) of London, Ontario.
At its peak BC Rail covered 962 miles, including all main lines and
branches. The PGE's, and later BC Rail's freight
traffic initially relied mostly on natural resources such as wood
products (lumber, pulpwood, woodchips, etc.), ore, and agriculture.
However, as the railroad was greatly expanded after World War II its
freight was vastly diversified from interchange traffic with major
connections (Milwaukee Road, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Great
Northern, Northern Alberta Railways, Northern Pacific, British Columbia
Hydro & Power Authority, and Union Pacific) to intermodal and
general merchandise. After owning the railroad for more than 80 years
the British Columbia government announced in the spring of 2003 that all
property except the right-of-way would be sold to Canadian National,
which formally occurred a year later on July 15, 2004. Today, CN still
leases the former Pacific Great Eastern/BC Rail system from the
Thanks to "To Alaska Or Bust On A Mixed Train" by Steve Patterson and Joe McMillan from the August, 1986 issue of Trains as a primary reference for this article.
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