Skeena Pacific Railway

From Dominion of British Columbia
Skeena Pacific Railway
Headquarters 1 Station Street
Kitimat KT1W 5PR
AAR reporting mark SPR
Locale BC
Track gauge 4' 8½" standard gauge
Route length 487.4 miles total
224.4 miles double-tracked
12.7 miles freight only
Electrification 25kV 60 Hz AC, 487.4 miles
Predecessors Skeena & Pacific Railway

The Skeena Pacific Railway (AAR reporting mark SPR) is the third largest railway company in British Columbia, operating over a total of 487.4 miles of railway. It is a partnership between private interests (60%) and the Nisga’a Lisims government (40%). The SPR's passenger and freight trains play a vital role in the social and economic life of the northwestern part of the Dominion. The Skeena Pacific holds the distinction of being the only heavy-rail railway company in North America to operate a fully electrified network.

History

The Kitimat & Omenica Railroad (K&O) was chartered in 1889 to built a railway from Kitimat (today's South Kitimat Station) to Terrace (renamed Ganiks Laxha in 1980). Construction of the line north from Kitimat began in 1891, and in 1892, the first two miles of track were opened, operated as a logging railway. Due to an extreme shortage of funds, by 1922 only six miles of track had been built. In 1924, a new group of owners bought the K&O and renamed it Skeena & Kitimat Railway (S&K), with the line being extended only as needed for logging, with temporary tracks being laid and moved as necessary.

By the summer of 1941, the K&A's route length was just over 9 miles of mainline track. The outbreak of the Pacific War, fears of Japanese attack against Prince Rupert led to the expansion of Kitimat as a port, and with a loan from the Dominion government, a massive construction effort was begun in the middle of December, 1941. Despite the harsh winter conditions, the line from Milepost 9.0 North to Terrace was completed and opened for service in March 1942; at that time, the company was renamed again, becoming the Skeena & Pacific Railway. The S&P moved significant amounts of freight and troops from Terrace to Kitimat, even after the threat of Japanese attacks on the coast had vanished.

After the end of the war, plans were made to build a vast hydroelectric power station to supply power to a large new aluminium smelter to be built nearby. To aid in the construction of these projects, the line was extended south from Kitimat to the selected site, where a new town for the workers was built, called Kemano. This line was completed in 1947, and at the same time, the company was once again renamed, receiving its present name, Skeena Pacific Railway (SPR). At the same time as construction of the new, fully electrified line took place, the existing line between Kitimat and Terrace was also electrified.

In the 1950s, the Dominion government began implementing a farsighted, long term plan for development of the North, the New Towns Project. Inspired by the British undertaking of the same name, this project envisioned the transformation of a number of towns and settlements in northern BC into planned "model cities". Two of the settlements selected for this project were New Aiyansh (renamed Gitlaxtʼaamiks in 1988) and Meziadin. As railway service was vital to the success of the project, the SPR was offered a 25-year subsidy by the government to build and operate the line. Accepting the offer, the SPR built a new electrified trunk line north from Terrace, reaching Nass Camp (north of New Aiyansh) in 1957, and extending to Meziadin in 1963.

After the BCR finalised its plans for a line to Dease Lake, the SPR began another extension of its northern trunk line. In fact, it was the SPR that built the line from Iskut Junction to Dease Lake; this was sold to the BCR after the Stikine Line from Fort St James reached Iskut Junction on 1975. After the sale, the SPR retained running rights into Dease Lake - the Iskut Junction–Dease Lake section is the only electrified section of the Stikine Line.

In the late 2010s new extensions to the Skeena Pacific network were made to serve two liquefied natural gas terminals under construction at Kitimat and Kemano Beach; the latter required a 10.6 mile extension to the southern trunk line.

Motive power and rolling stock

Steam Locomotives

Road numbers Wheel arr. Total Acquired Retired Notes
1–2 2-truck Shay 2 1892 1939–1942 New for K&O; #1 plinthed at Kitimat
3 3-truck Shay 1 1911 1943 Acquired second-hand
4 2-truck Shay 1 1918 1942 Acquired second-hand
5 3-truck Shay 1 1926 1946 Acquired second-hand
6 2-truck Shay 1 1928 1944 Acquired second-hand
100–101 0-6-0 2 1941 1952 Second-hand from BCR, class Ba1a
200–203 2-8-0 4 1941 1956 Second-hand from BCR, class Gf1a
300–305 4-6-0 6 1941 1947–1949 Second-hand from BCR, class Dd2b


Electric Locomotives

Road numbers Wheel arr. Total Acquired Retired Notes
E100–E109 D 10 1947 in service New for SPR, same as BCR class EFc1a/EB01; rebuilt in 1986–1989 and 2014–2019
E200–E211 2-C+C-2 12 1947 1973–1976 New for SPR, universal version of BCR class EQm1a
E300–E321 2-B+B-2 22 1956–1961 1974–1977 Second-hand from BCR, class EAg1b
E400–E435 B-B-B 36 1973–1976 2019–2021 New for SPR, BC-built version of Japanese class EF66
E500–E535 B-B-B 36 2018–2020 in service New for SPR, standard gauge version of Japanese class EF210


Diesel Locomotives

Road numbers Wheel arr. Total Acquired Retired Notes
D100–D102 C 3 1952 1983–1986 Second-hand from BCR, class DBa1a
D200–D208 B-B 9 1953–1955 in service New for SPR, rebuilt 1984–1986
D300 B-B 1 1969 1987 Second-hand from CPR, class HS-5b

Electric multiple units

Series Total cars
(of all types)
Acquired Retired Notes
E900 61 1962 1986–1988 Second-hand from BCR, class EM1b
E1000 66 1968–1970 2018–2021 New for SPR, Type AM3, same as BCR class EM20, BCR 2000 series; semi-permanently coupled 3-car sets
E1100 147 1985–1988 in service New for SPR, based on Dutch ICM type, rebuilt 2008–2010; 7-car sets
E1200 120 2018–2021 in service Bombardier Aventra, same as BCR class EM40; 5 car sets

Network

The Skeena Pacific operates 487.4 miles of railway, all electrified at 25kV 60Hz; 182.9 miles are double-tracked, 41.9 miles are passenger only, and 12.7 miles are freight only. This network is divided into four operating areas called Divisions; responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the lines and infrastructure within a given operating area is the responsibility of the Division in question.

1. First Division (HQ Kitimat)

111.9 miles, electrified; 41.5 miles double tracked, 12.7 miles freight only

Ganiks Laxha (BCR)–Kemano Beach (Ganiks Laxha–Albcol double tracked; Kemano–Kemano Beach freight only)
Gas Spur: 0.9 miles, electrified, freight only
South Kitimat–Supertest LNG plant
Hospital Beach Spur: 1.2 miles, electrified, freight only
Albcol–Hospital Beach

2. Second Division (HQ Gitlaxtʼaamiks)

110.1 miles, electrified; 68.2 miles double tracked

Ganiks Laxha (BCR)–Spencer Junction–Nass Camp
Gitlaxtʼaamiks–Gingolx line: 41.9 miles, electrified
Spencer Junction–Gingolx

3. Third Division (HQ Meziadin)

73.2 miles, electrified, double tracked

  • Ganiks Laxha–Dease Lake line (part): 73.2 miles, electrified, double tracked
Nass Camp–Meziadin

4. Fourth Division (HQ Iskut)

192.2 miles, electrified

  • Ganiks Laxha–Dease Lake line (part): 192.2 miles, electrified
Meziadin–Iskut Jct (BCR) (SPR has running rights over the BC Rail line from Iskut Junction to Dease Lake (22.5 miles))

Passenger services

The Skeena Pacific operates passenger trains on seven routes; of these, five are Local services making scheduled stops at all stations and halts, and two are Rapid services, one of which is operated in conjunction with BC Rail. All of Skeena Pacific's passenger services except the Haisla Rapid are operated with electric multiple-unit trainsets, with first and second class seating and a cafeteria compartment. Baggage handling is free of charge for both classes; large parcels are handled for a surcharge. The trains between Meziadin and Dease Lake are amongst the fastest Local trains in BC, reaching speeds up to 70 mph in some places.

Timetables can be found on the page of each individual line.

The various categories of passenger service are defined by the Ministry of Labour, Industry & Railways in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport & Communications; these categories are applicable to and used by all railways providing passenger service in British Columbia. Like all other railways in BC, ticket prices for SPR passenger trains are based on the Ministry's Schedule of Railway Fares.

Rapid

Rapid (also known as "semi-express") trains are similar to regular Express trains, making a limited number of scheduled stops, but stops can be booked up to an hour in advance at any station on the route that has passenger service.

  • 1/2 Nisga’a Rapid (SPR): Kemano–Ganiks Laxha–Meziadin
Daily service with a morning departure from each end.
Scheduled intermediate stops: Kitimat, Ganiks Laxha, Gitlaxtʼaamiks
  • 79.1–4/80.1–4 Haisla Rapid (BCR/SPR): Kemano – Prince Rupert
Four daily return trips with first and second class chair cars and a dining car; these trains do not have baggage handling. Two of the trains are operated with BCR equipment and crews, the other two with SPR equipment and crews (but the dining car is supplied by the BCR); each railway has running rights over the other's tracks for these trains. The short-trip surcharge applies only to trips between Kemano and Ganiks Laxha.
Scheduled intermediate stops: Kitimat, Airport, Ganiks Laxha

Local

Local trains are passenger trains that make scheduled stops at all stations and halts along the route they serve. No baggage handling; large parcel handling can be booked at least three hours in advance.

  • 101/102, 103/104, 105/106, 107/108, 109/110, 111/112: Ganiks Laxha – Kemano
Six daily return trips.
  • 201/202, 203/204, 205/206, 207/208: Ganiks Laxha – Gitlaxtʼaamiks – Gingolx
Four daily return trips.
  • 250/251, 252/253, 254/255: Gitlaxtʼaamiks – Ganiks Laxha
Three daily return trips.
  • 301/302, 303/304, 305/306: Ganiks Laxha – Gitlaxtʼaamiks
Three daily return trips.
  • 401/402, 403/404, 405/406, 407/408: Gingolx – Gitlaxtʼaamiks – Meziadin
Four daily return trips.
  • 500/501, 502/503, 504/505, 506/507: Meziadin – Gitlaxtʼaamiks
Four daily return trips.
  • 601/602, 603/604, 605/606: Meziadin – Dease Lake
Three daily return trips.