With the CN Cisco Bridge fire today (June 30th 2011, reminded me of a previous fire at that location in August 1977, thought I'd repost this.
Cisco, BC.….August 13th 1977
Blog by Helmut, last updated April 4th 2004
In the almost 30 years I put in on CP as dispatcher, among many mishaps, two come to the forefront as affecting operations the most at the time.
The first one in December 1975, was when a run-away barge took out one of the spans on the CNR (owned by Transport Canada) Fraser River Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey, affecting all CN, BCHydro, BN and Amtrak Trains. All trains all had to be detoured via the CP Mission bridge for about 5 months. Operations and dispatching were changed forever from that time on..
The second one was when a westbound CNR Sulphur train caught fire on the night of August 11th 1977 caused by a hot box. The car was dragged for a few miles and subsequently derailed on the CN bridge crossing the Fraser River at Cisco causing a number of other Sulphur cars to derail along with it. A total of 6 cars derailed on the bridge, more of them catching on fire. The fire was so hot it melted and twisted the steel rail like spaghetti.
It took days, or perhaps it was weeks before the cars were removed from the bridge. The view below looks north (railway east) taken right at the 101 Mile marker on CP's track. These pictures were taken one and a half days after the derailment / fire.
Pictures below taken from almost directly underneath.
The very next day, CP started working on clearing the right of way for a new connecting track between CP and CN. There had been a connecting track at this location until about 1952, but at a 4% grade, it was impractical and taken out. The new grade was constructed at 2%. I think it took about a week to put it in place with CN putting in a large work force to get it happening. For the almost 4 months that detours operated here (from Cisco to Mission on the Cascade Subdivision) personnel were placed at both switches of the connecting track to line them for trains, a hot line was put in service between chief dipatchers and dispatchers of both railroads, as well after a month or so CN radio frequencies were installed in CP's dispatching office radios. The picture below shows heavy equipment busy at work preparing for the new right of way for the connecting track.
CP ran up to 40 tonnage trains a day (including detours of course) during this time, in the process setting a single track world tonnage record at the time for a single track railroad. Delays were horrific, many crews had to be changed off due to delays, and this before the new shorter crew hours took effect, this being prior to the Hinton disaster. North Bend yard was a long way yet from being extended, and with all crews and pilots changing off for all trains here, became a major point of congestion. The picture below taken at North Bend (still the old operator's office at left, the old roundhouse in the background on the right) is unusual in that both trains in the picture are CN trains, note the CN caboose. This picture is looking north, railway east.
Transporting all this personnel from the highway across the river to and from North Bend was a logistical nightmare as well, as this was before the bridge was built connecting Boston Bar with North Bend. There was a cable suspension ferry in place at the time, able to carry one car or pickup at time. Efforts to restore and name this as a historical site have failed. Below is a picture taken from the Boston Bar (CN) side of the ferry. It could get hairy in windy conditions, and was outright frightening on dark and foggy nights.
The picture below was taken on the ferry from the driver's seat of my convertible, looking over the trunk downstream.
Hope you enjoyed this bit of my reminiscing Helmut
Please visit my railvideos website offering cab ride videos on CP in the Fraser and Thompson canyons, on the abandoned Princeton Sub, the Westcoast Express and on Vancouver Island.