British Columbia Railway
Those of you who are aware of PGE history will recognize the liberties I have taken with the truth in the following story. Those of you who are not aware of PGE history rest assured that this story is mostly fictional. One of the benefits of freelancing is that you can write your own history and you can always change it if you like.
The history of the Cariboo Western Railway begins in the time of railroad fever at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1905 a charter was granted to the Vancouver Westminster and Yukon to build a railway from the second narrows along the north shore of Burrard inlet to Howe sound and north to Squamish . After the election of 1906 Premier McBride announced a new aggressive railway policy. Shortly after the Howe Sound, Pemberton Valley and Northern was chartered to build from Squamish to Anderson Lake. The V WM & N began to get nervous and began laying track from second narrows west along burrard inlet in 1906.
In 1908 the Grand Trunk Pacific announced plans to build a branch line from Prince George to Vancouver and began surveys south from Prince George. This spurred the HS PV & N into action and they began laying track north from Squamish. Meanwhile the VW&Y had reached West Vancouver and service began using a Hall-Scott gas /mechanical car. The railway however was out of cash. The Great Northern’s Jim Hill saw an opportunity to extend his empire northward and the railway was sold to GN front Vancouver Victoria & Eastern. During 1909 the VV&E extended track to Horseshoe bay and started freight service to a new waterfront terminal.
The year 1911 was significant in the history of the CWR. The GTP began laying track south from Fort George and the HSPV&N renamed Howe Sound and Northern began laying track north to Checkamus canyon .The HS&N was making a profit hauling logs and passengers and was able to sell bonds in London to finance construction to Lillooet. The HS&N reached Pemberton Meadows in 1912 and began surveys to Lillooet. The GTP reached Quesnel in October 1912 after some expensive bridges were built. While the mainline was being pushed to Prince Rupert the Cariboo branch was pushed south. As they got closer to Prince Rupert the cost of the transcontinental project started to become a burden. The decision was made to stop funding the cariboo branch after it reached Williams Lake. Meanwhile to the VV&E it looked like there would be railways running from Prince George to Squamish and they thought the Great Northern (VV&E) should carry that traffic south so they began grading a route north to Squamish and track laying began the following year.
The amount of track laid began to slow considerably as the VV&E encountered difficult terrain along Howe sound and the HS&N ran into similar problems going around Anderson & Seton Lake. At this time the Great Northern lost interest in. the project and ended it’s backing of the VV&E. Both railways ended nowhere, were encountering expensive construction and were out of money. The solution they found was to form a new railway. The Cariboo Western Railway which included all the assets of the former VV&E burrard inlet lines and the HS&N It was incorporated on Jan 1914. The CWR include new investors which were not disclosed at this time.
The CWR realized that completing the line from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish would be expensive so a barge service was started to connect Garibaldi (as Squamish was renamed) and North Vancouver. The Canadian Northern announced they were building a branchline to connect Ashcroft and Pemberton in order to benefit from the development of the cariboo and to have a second route to the pacific coast. Observers at the time thought it interesting that the CWR now had funds to complete it’s line to Pemberton at the same time the CN was connecting Pemberton to Ashcroft.
In 1915 the GTP stopped operating the cariboo branch blaming continuing cash shortages and low traffic levels .The provincial government felt that the railway was vital to the development of the north so they took over the line. The Pacific Great Eastern was created to operate the line as well as extend it to Pemberton and north of Prince George to open up the north. By the spring of 1916 the PGE was laying track south from Williams Lake and by September the PGE reached Pemberton.
The companies announced the obvious, that the CN owned part of the CWR and service over the line began. On February 16 1917 the first passenger train arrived in Garibaldi from Kamloops amid great fanfare and celebration. Traffic was slow to grow as the Great War was going on and the Canadian Northern was on the brink of financial collapse. The CWR was trying to extend the burrard inlet line to Garibaldi but was finding it expensive even though the VV&E had already done some surveys and grading. By 1918 the PGE was laying track south from Clinton but it was too late for the CWR and CN. who were out of cash. The plague of railway problems in CANADA caused the federal government to create the Canadian National Railway to take over the bankrupt railways. The BC government however didn’t want Ottawa controlling a provincial railway so a deal was made .The CWR would be reorganized and CN and PGE would each own half of the new railway.
So 1919 saw the Cariboo Western Railway emerge on sound financial footing with a line running from the CN at Ashcroft to Garibaldi on Howe Sound. It interchanged with the PGE at Pemberton and work continued on the link to North Vancouver. Work on the Howe Sound section proceeded slowly using personnel who could be temporarily spared from other duties. Copper had been discovered at Britannia Beach in 1900 and limited mining began in 1910. In order to make their operation economically viable the Britannia mining and smelting company approached the railway in 1920 to complete the line from Britannia Beach to North Vancouver with the incentive of prepaid shipping being offered. The CWR accepted and work began in earnest to complete the line. This was finally achieved and the first train reached Garibaldi from North Vancouver in July of 1922.
This marked the completion of the Cariboo Western Railway mainline. The barge service was used to connect Garibaldi to Vancouver Island .In the following years CN used the CWR for through freight particularly drag freight and like the D&RGW became proficient at moving trains quickly and efficiently over steep mountain grades. Garibaldi grew into a city with a pulp mill ,harbor and much industry and the railroad became the prosperous modern company it is today