In the archives – trains, planes and automobiles data recovery tools

So I went to the archives’ database and searched up ‘march.’ images of a flood in 1939 were the first to show up, but as I explored the explosion of 1943 in great depth for the past couple months, I decided that something a little less catastrophic might be a bit nicer to investigate this month.

Of course, there were many images of the arrival of U.S. Troops in 1942, and even more relating to the alaska highway in general. Amongst all these images, one caught my eye.

There was a great banner welcoming P.G.E. Construction crew to dawson creek, with an added touch that made me smile, and I can’t help but think it reflects the northern spirit: “congratulations on a fine job done in record time.” on march 12, 1958, the expansion of the pacific great eastern railway north from prince george reached dawson creek.These images


after waiting for nearly half a century for direct rail service to the coast, not to mention the 20 years spent waiting for a for a highway connecting the peace river country to the rest of the province – finally the promise made by premier’s for decades was fulfilled.

Apparently a railway expansion that was built in under two years, as the expansion project officially began in 1956, was most appreciated. On the south peace historical society’s website (calverley.Ca), dorothea calverley takes note of this as well:

“starts and stops marked the whole history of the road. There was a litany of arguments, scandals, royal commission inquiries, long hours of heated debate in the legislature, and jokes about being the railroad.These images it was referred to scornfully as a railway that “started nowhere and ended nowhere” because for many years it did not go into vancouver to connect with that port. The charge was made that “the P.G.E. Has always been tied up in politics, and it always will, as long as the government owns it”.

There is one undeniable fact. If the railway bridge across the peace had not been completed when the famous peace river highway bridge fell down in 1958, traffic to alaska would have thinned up to a trickle. As it was, planks were laid to bring a roadbed up to the level of the rails, and single lane traffic passed over it except when a train was on it. It was a startling sight, after hundreds of miles without a traffic signal to be confronted with red and green lights in the wilderness.These images however, at almost all hours of the day and night from a dozen to a hundred vehicles would be lined up waiting for the light to change and reverse the flow of traffic.”

The citizens of dawson creek weren’t the only ones conscious of the miracle of quick construction. The PGE also acknowledged that the coming of the rail from the coast to the peace country was long overdue. In another picture, along the side of one car, stark white against the orange, is a sign that reads: “PGE vancouver to the peace river empire.”

More images depict crowds of people lining up along the railways tracks and pressing against the railways cars, all eager to welcome the new link to the coast of the province.Dawson creek along with these are the many images of W.A.C. Bennett arriving in dawson creek on the latest PGE expansion.

But images are not the only things the archives preserves. In association with these images, the archives have what we call ‘ephemera’, bits and bobs, documents and souvenirs, related to the PGE – though, perhaps, not directly to dawson creek. Amongst this ephemera, we have a guest list for the inaugural train, which departed vancouver and travelled up to squamish on august 27, 1956. The list is alphabetical and names each passenger as well as the car number and space they had been assigned. We also have a cardboard conductor’s hat, never assembled, from the day of the inaugural trip in 1956.Peace river

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