Canada Day Parade and the 100th Anniversary of the PGE

Canada Day was an absolute blast in the village and at the museum!

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Andy Petersen and Sarah Drewery enjoying a rest.

This year, the theme for the parade was Earth, Wind Fire and Water.  In true museum style, we decided to attack the parade theme by blending it with a little bit of history. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the PGE Railway to Whistler; thus, we decided to build a cardboard train as our float. Oh sure, no problem, a cardboard train to fit five humans, no big deal! Not quite. Original design flaws and general limitations made for an intensive week of construction. Alas, we prevailed and our tireless efforts certainly paid off after seeing the enthusiasm from children and adults alike.

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The museum crew in full attire.

The Canada Day parade was also a great opportunity for us to talk about the actual PGE (Pacific Great Eastern) Railway, which is a remarkable piece of Whistler’s history.  As you could imagine, it was no easy feat traveling to Whistler over 100 years ago before the train.  In fact, before the railway laid its tracks to Whistler, it would take three days–two of which on foot–to make the trip from Vancouver.

This three-day journey consisted of taking a steamship from Vancouver to Squamish, followed by a horse-drawn buggy a few miles north to Brackendale, until finally renting packhorses and walking the rest of the way along the Pemberton Trail.  Let’s just say the population of Whistler (known as Alta Lake at the time) was much, much smaller then.

Grace Woollard traverses the Pemberton Trail to Whistler in 1912.

Grace Woollard traverses the Pemberton Trail to Whistler in 1912.

Cue the PGE Railway in triumph! Backed by the provincial government, the PGE was underway in 1912. Contractors Foley, Welsh & Stewart were hired to build the track from Squamish to Prince George. A ribbon of land 100 feet wide plus 15 feet for sidetrack was cleared. The PGE was open and running by October 11, 1914, making Whistler much more accessible.

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Speeder on the PGE Railway.

A very interesting thing to note about the PGE is its inapt acronym. The railway could not really be considered pacific, great, or eastern. This baffling cipher allowed the company to acquire many unofficial names, such as Please Go Easy, Past God’s Endurance and Prince George Eventually.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the PGE Railway to Whistler, Sarah Drewery (Executive Director) will continue featuring stories of the train in her weekly Question Newspaper article throughout the year. Stay tuned!

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