Truest Northerners, 2042—A fanciful look ahead

👤Charlynn Toews 🕔Oct 01, 2012

Five more passing lanes for trains will be added along the tracks between Prince Rupert and Edmonton. In 2011, more than a half million train-car loads moved over the BC north corridor, and could double by 2015. Technology was also upgraded for the trains— some of which are now 12,000 feet long.

I’m old enough to remember the complaining we did 30 years back, when the trains were only three kilometers long, reading a letter to the editor whining about waiting a few minutes to cross the track to get to work from the south side of Terrace to the northside! Seems like a joke nowadays.

I also remember watching the extra tracks being built alongside Highway 16, would’ve been in 2012 or so, driving between Rupert and Terrace. “Efficient,” my young self thought. While one long double-height train is zooming along, another can wait to one side, then zoom! It’s the next train’s turn to go either west or east, with hardly a break in rail use.

Then who could forget the excitement of the first triple-height trains! Of course there were the jobs they brought, blasting taller tunnels all along the line; the workers were good and hungry after hauling away tons of rock. Thirsty, too! We all did well in those boom times, northside and south.

Some grumbled that three containers would be too tall to squeeze under Sande Overpass, but those were the professional grumblers. Old Geezers, I would have called them then—retired, so they could complain full-time.

More efficiency was needed for more capacity, so more passing lanes were built. Before you knew it, there was always a train rolling. Always. No break in the flow.

Even before the Sande was decommissioned, we had sort of got out of the habit of going to the southside, so we didn’t really notice at first. We northsiders joked we had the Liquor Store, and they said, “Oh yeah? Well, we have the airport!”

Smithers was not affected as much. With the tracks running alongside town rather than through it, just a few neighbourhoods were cut off.

Burns Lake lost Tchesinkut Lake, but those southsiders in Southbank and Ootsa Lake were already pretty independent, even told the ferry it should just wait for a call—they’d build a fire on the beach if they needed a ride.

In Vanderhoof, the northerners got the river, and I hear they reverted to farming river lots. Without the highway (too many decommissioned structures) we soon lost truck deliveries and supplies like copper wire or new cell phones.

I know that in Terrace, the seed-savers became hugely popular in the new economy—self-sufficiency! I hear that our southsiders drive to Kitimat where they barge up all kinds of out-of-season fruit, and gasoline! That’s just a rumour, though. And I remember clearly the very last day we saw a plane low enough to land—so much for their precious airport!

On the positive side, there is a new pride among us here on the north side of the tracks, cut off from the south in every way. We are the truest Northerners, hardy and strong, not soft and luxury-craving like the gas-guzzling southsiders!

And never mind those port people in Kitimat, Stewart or Rupert. I hear the most unspeakable depravities are brought by sea: tankers full of orange liqueurs and chocolate, strange people of every description wandering their streets. I’m glad The Train is always here, always rolling by, protecting us from Outsiders.