First Train Through Smithers
On April 8, 2013, a huge crowd of retired CN workers and community members gathered at the Old Church to celebrate the anniversary of the “first train through Smithers,” which chugged through 99 years ago on April 8, 1914. The last spike was driven in Fort Fraser on April 7, 1914, and the train then proceeded westward to Smithers and Prince Rupert. The first train to actually arrive in Smithers was a track-laying work train that arrived on October 4th, 1913. The Autumn 1913 issue of BC Magazine stated:
“Probably the most remarkable welcome ever given to a new railroad in British Columbia was extended at Smithers to contractors and workmen when the steel of the Grand Trunk Pacific reached there a few weeks ago. Unbounded enthusiasm was shown by Bulkley Valley residents, who have waited for years for the sight of a railway locomotive. When the track-laying machine rounded the curve east of Smithers and poked its nose out on the long tangent that passes through the town, it was a signal for a big demonstration.”
To celebrate this milestone, Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine, partnered up with the Bulkley Valley Museum to host a celebratory luncheon with archival displays and a presentation from local author and former BV Museum curator, Jane Stevenson. Prizes were given away and several stories were shared. Pat McCammon announced that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hann, were there in 1914 to meet the first train. Several retired CN workers were also in attendance at the event, and after polling the room, we discovered that Ted Huntington was hired on earliest… in 1946!
Another railroader, Axel Peterson, arranged a fascinating display of artifacts and archival materials related to the railroad. From conductor’s caps, to log books, to a silver tea service from an old dining car, the history of the railroad was made tangible.
Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate the first train through Smithers. Here’s to another century of the railroad continuing to connect the communities across the Bulkley Valley.
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