Tag Archives: trains

Crafts in the Park is Back for 2019!

Crafts in the Park is back!  Each week we partner with the Whistler Public Library to present a story and craft in Florence Petersen Park.  This year’s theme is “When I Was In Whistler, I Saw…” and each week will feature a different animal, activity or object that could be seen in Whistler, either in the present or in the past!

Crafts in the Park runs on Wednesdays from 11am-noon.  It is a drop-in program for all children ages 4-12, with a chaperone present.

Week 1: July 10

Have you ever seen a beaver in Whistler?  In making their home in the valley, beavers made dams along waterways and changed the landscape for many years to come.  Many of the rivers and streams in Whistler are still the way they are because of beavers.  For our first craft, we’ll be creating cone beavers and paper bag dams.

Week 2: July 17

Traveling to Whistler became a lot easier in 1914 with the arrival of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.  Instead of 3 days, the trek from Vancouver now took about 9 hours (still a lot longer than we’re used to today).   The railway had a major influence on making Whistler a popular resort destination, and we’ll be making our very own train engines in any colours you want.

Week 3: July 24

For this week, we’ll be collaborating with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to make animal headbands!

Week 4: July 31

Alta Lake became a popular fishing destination in 1914 and people caught many different kinds of fish.  Just like those early visitors, we’ll be making our own mini fishing rods and fish.  You’ll even be able to catch these fish with your rod, and fish can be designed however you want!

Week 5: August 7

Before the train came to Whistler, it took 3 days to reach Alta lake.  The first day was spent on a steamboat from Vancouver to Squamish, and from there you would have to walk all the to Whistler, accompanied by a pack horse.  When fishing lodges began opening on Alta Lake, some lodges kept stables and would take guests on rides around the valley.  This week we’ll be making our very own horse, who can stand all by itself!  For ambitious crafters, we’ll also be making clothespin riders.

Week 6: August 14

Sailing has been popular in Whistler for over 100 years and Alta Lake residents enjoyed taking all kids of boats out in the summer.  We’ll be making our own sailboats out of sponges, corks and paper.  Just like real boats, these really do float!

Week 7: August 21

While Whistler is very well known for its winter sports, in the summer mountain biking takes over the town.  This week we’ll be making pipe-cleaner bikes and bikers!

Week 8: August 28

Downhill skiing came to Whistler in the 1960s and has been wildly popular ever since.  Snowboarding was introduced to the hills in the 1980s, and now both sports are found on the mountains each winter.  We’ll be making our very own skiers and snowboarders this week, as we look forward to another snowy winter!

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesdays!

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This Week In Photos: October 11

This week had some major events in the 1980s, some of which resemble things happening in Whistler today.  For more photos of the construction of Lift No. 6 (Jersey Cream) on Blackcomb take a look here.  For more photos of the 1984 floods, check here.

1978

A quiet day at Garibaldi Building Supplies Ltd. in Function Junction.

Dancing was a must at the recent Quonset hut party, and few people were left off the dance floor.

Diners fill their plates at the Community Club dinner this past weekend.

1979

The game is on! Students from Signal Hill play the Myrtle Philip School soccer team on Wednesday.

Construction of the town centre continues as this building stands alone.

Builder and artist, Trudy Salmhofer decorates one of her new chalets in Blackcomb Estates.

Lorne O’Connor (left) from the Vancouver Olympic Committee and Whistler alderman Rolly Harsey lead the visiting C.O.A. delegates from the plane on Saturday. Following behind are Frank Shaugnessy and Cliff Powell, both from Montreal.

1980

The dinner part of the Community Club dinner & dance hosted in the Myrtle Philip School gym.

Paul and Jane Burrows take a turn around the the floor.

Kelly and Max Maxwell with their new daughter Fiona at the Community Club dinner.

Whose legs were on display at the dinner?

The Whistler Liquor Store has a curb outside but there still remains some paving to be done.

RCMP & wrecker crews remove the van from the fast flowing Lillooet River.

1982

Whistler’s future firefighters examine the tools of the trade at Myrtle Philip School.

Crowds swarmed to Whistler Village over the Thanksgiving weekend to enjoy some sun and relaxation.

Chop-chop! Dozens of Whistlerites took advantage of a stockpile of free timber left on the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain after trail clearing operations. The mountain was open to the public Saturday and Sunday.

Sikorski S61 chopper lifts cement for the tower pads of Blackcomb’s new Lift No. 6.

Worker welds part onto tower head assembly due to be installed on Lift No. 6, under construction on Blackcomb Mountain.

It’s a dog’s life at the pound when your master hasn’t shown up yet to pay the fine and bring you home again.

Sergeant Jim Hogarth settles into his new duties as head of the Whistler RCMP detachment. With 17 years on police forces, Hogarth brings a good deal of experience to the position. He resides in Emerald Estates with his wife and two daughters.

1983

It was a case of a bridge too high and a house too wide last Thursday at the Fitzsimmons Creek Bridge in White Gold. Although the house owned by Len and Patty Richie was eventually moved from Garibaldi Estates to Lot 30 on Ambassador Crescent, it couldn’t go by the bridge for more than six hours.

House mover Bob Malaughney takes a chainsaw to one of three bridge-posts (one had already been ripped off) that have to be removed.

And resting behind it all on a beam supporting the house was the fragile bird’s nest.

John Robinson puts final touches on his MDC home with help of wife Diane and daughter Kristal.

1984

Pat Carleton, ex-mayor of Whistler, came out of the closet Sunday to join aldermanic candidates Paul Burrows and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in celebrating the official opening of Whistler’s new municipal hall. The building, which was opened six weeks ago, was formerly used by Keg Restaurants, relocated and later renovated at a cost of $492,000.

Passersby saw the Soo River leap its banks on Highway 99 close to Pemberton Monday, but highway crews soon had the river under control.

Fifteen loaded freight cars were forced off the B.C. Rail track just north of Pemberton after the Lillooet River eroded material supporting ties and tracks. The railcars were part of a 96-car freight train southbound when the accident occurred early Monday morning. Elsewhere in Pemberton, houses, farmland and roads were flooded badly, but by Tuesday afternoon the flood was on the wane, although more rain was forecast.

Pemberton fire chief Milt Fernandez, who supervised rescue and flood control operations in the besieged town, takes a moment out at the rescue centre for victims of the Meager Creek disaster. Fernandez and other rescue workers laboured around the clock Monday and Tuesday before outside help arrived to push back the rising waters. But Pemberton wasn’t the only victim of torrential rains.

In Whistler, two log jams developed on the Cheakamus River and by Tuesday had reached a precarious point. Mailoch and Moseley logging company employees survey a major buildup at the garbage dump bridge six miles south of Whistler. Clean up operations began Tuesday night.

When Trains Connected People to Alta Lake

When Bob Williamson first arrived at Alta Lake (now Whistler) in February of 1930, he found himself in a valley bearing little resemblance to the bustling resort town of today.  Even getting there was a completely different experience.

Bob came to work as a lineman for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, at the time the most common and reliable transportation to and from the valley, or, as Bob put it, “the only means of transportation with the outside world.”

Bob Williamson at work on the transmission lines, well before Alta Lake was able to access the electricity they carried.  Smith Collection.

For most people, travel was confined to four days of the week: north on Mondays and Thursdays, south on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Passengers travelling from Vancouver would leave on a Union Steamship at 9 am and, after switching to a train in Squamish, would arrive at Alta Lake about 4:30 pm.

The view of Brandywine Falls clearly shows the railway bridge which provided a unique view to passengers. Philip Collection.

When Bob’s wife Florence (Flo) joined him at Alta Lake in September, the pair travelled south, leaving their car in Lillooet and taking the train the rest of the way.

During the summer months a couple of special trains were added to the usual schedule.  An excursion train on Sunday ran from Squamish to Alta Lake and back and a Fisherman’s Special headed north to Lillooet on Saturday and back south on Monday.  Later, a third through train was added going north on Wednesdays and south on Fridays.

Today, the only trains that come through Whistler are either freight or the Rocky Mountaineer.  Those that passed through the valley in the 1930s were mixed trains, carrying a combination of freight and passengers.

They stopped at various restaurants along the way, including Rainbow Lodge when heading south, to provide meals for passengers until dining cars were added later in the 1930s.

 

A southbound PGE train pulling in to Rainbow Lodge.  Jardine Collection.

Alta Lake had two railway stations, the Alta Lake Station at Mile 37 and the Rainbow Lodge Station at Mile 38.  Mileages were measured from the Squamish dock, where the railway began (when the railway was extended to North Vancouver in 1956 the mileages were changed to read from there, creating some confusion when looking at older documents).

Bob and Flo rented a cabin from Bill “Mac” MacDermott on the south end of Alta Lake.  As Mac usually rented his cabins out to summer visitors, he had to do a bit of winterizing when the Williamsons moved in year round.

By 1934, with the addition of a generator, a pump for indoor plumbing, a gas-powered washing machine and a propane fridge (possibly Alta Lake’s first refrigerator) Bob and Flo were comfortably settled.

Life at Alta Lake had quiet periods, but Bob remembered some exciting moments as well, one of which arrived on the train from Pemberton.  A woman was on her way to Vancouver to have her baby, but made it only as far as Rainbow Lodge.

Grace Woollard and Grace Archibald in the Cheakamus Canyon on their way to Alta Lake, 1912. Clarke Collection.

There she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.  As Bob recalled, the boy was named Philip for Alex Philip and the girl Grace after Grace Woollard, a retired nurse living at Alta Lake who helped with the delivery.

In 1942, Bob and Flo left Alta Lake for Lillooet and a promotion within the railway.  By that time, float planes had started arriving in the valley, but the railway remained residents’ main connection between Alta Lake and the outside world.

Whistler Before the Sea-to-Sky

Whistler’s steep, mountainous terrain is what makes it so attractive as a tourist destination. It’s perfect for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking. However, those same rocky hills have been one of it’s greatest challenges, providing a frustrating barrier for tourists and residents alike.  For the first non-indigenous settlers, the area was only accessible by a narrow path known as the Pemberton Trail, constructed in 1877. This trail, which ran from Burrard Inlet, around the far side of Alta Lake, and up to Lillooet, was intended to provide access to the Gold Rush.

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The Pemberton Trail would have ran around Alta Lake’s far shores. Photo: Philip Collection

Unfortunately, by the time the trail was constructed the rush was basically over. An attempt was made to take cattle down it, but most of them died, due to the lack of grazing and the difficult terrain. With no other use for it, the Pemberton Trail functioned as an occasional route for travelers. The trail took three days, by steamship and by foot, assisted by a packhorse. In those days, horses were an important asset. Travelers carried supplies on packhorses, as did Myrtle and Alex Philip, founders of the area’s first resort. They also used a series of workhorses to construct Rainbow Lodge- to simplify things, all the horses were called “Bob”.

The train tracks also provided a ready-made sidewalk for Alta Lake and Parkhurst residents. Photo: Philip Collection

Many of the area’s inhabitants hoped the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway would make access easier. The PGE had multiple false starts- a company was incorporated to build it in 1891, and by 1909 twelve miles of track were completed, when they ran short of funds and had to stop.

By the time construction began in earnest in 1912 the railway had acquired a number of despairing nicknames, among them  “Province’s Great Expense”, “Past God’s Endurance”, and “Prince George Eventually”.  Finally, in 1914, the railway was up and running from Squamish to Quesnel, and soon resorts, logging, and other industries began to spring up in the area. Transit was still anything but easy. The journey involved four to six hours on steamship from Vancouver to Squamish, and a further three to four hours to Alta Lake, as the train only went from 25 to 40 km/h and often had to stop to refuel. The train ride was upgraded through the years, including the addition of open-topped observation cars and a dinner service. Though the journey was long, it wasn’t unpleasant- travelers often enjoyed ice cream, or beer if they were older, as they waited in Squamish. There were also stops for afternoon tea at Rainbow Lodge, costing 35 cents.

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The creation of the PGE made it easy to travel in style. Photo; Philip Collection

Despite these improvements, the journey was still a long one. In the sixties, the Garibaldi Lift Company, hoping to set up skiing in the area, realized that something more convenient would be necessary in order to draw in tourists. A “road” was built from Whistler to Squamish in 1962, although it was. Initially the track was mostly fist-sized rocks and dirt, and driving across streams was sometimes required. 

The trail was plowed infrequently, making winter journeys treacherous. Tire punctures were common, and the first trips from Vancouver took five hours. Thankfully, the road was paved in 1966, and improvement has continued up to the present. The most recent upgrades were for the 2010 Olympics, cutting the travel time down to the two hours we enjoy today.  Although travel time has ranged from multiple days to a matter of hours, people have always felt Whistler was worth the trip.

Highway 99, shortly after it’s creation- still not paved! Photo: Gord Leidal

 

Sparks and speeders – death-defying days on the PGE Railway

Last September we received a visit in the Museum from Walt Punnett, who worked for the PGE Railway in the spring of 1946 in fire suppression. He was only 22 years old when he took the job, which entailed him and a partner riding along in a speeder (railway maintenance vehicle) behind trains and spraying water on any sparks created as they moved along the tracks. His route ran from what is now Darcy to Whistler, which was then known as Alta Lake.

A covered speeder traveling on the PGE tracks in wintertime

Rainbow Lodge was still owned by Alex and Myrtle Philip that spring, and Walt quickly proved popular with the owners and guests. According to Walt, “They were always running short in Rainbow Lodge, so I ran what I called a ‘beer run’ from Pemberton down to Alta. I would stop in…at the old Pemberton Hotel, pick up a couple of cases of beer and a breadbox so no one knew what it was…and we headed down to Whistler.”

Another type of speeder, with an open top

Walt was lucky enough to work with a partner – working alone on the railway proved particularly dangerous for the section crew members, who were responsible for repair jobs. Walt got to know quite a few of them that spring – and some of the horror stories that came along with the job. One man by the name of Pete Rebagliati was attacked by a grizzly bear, which buried him under some brush, presumably to save him for snack time later on. Amazingly, he was able to crawl out and make his way to Pemberton for help.

These one-man crews travelled in smaller “soap-box” speeders that could be manhandled off the tracks if a train happened to come along. According to Walt, “They just had a set of handles that slid out from one end of the speeder, you’d pick it up like a wheelbarrow and turn it sideways, and you could trundle it off the tracks.” A bit different from the pickup truck service vehicles that make their way along those very same tracks today.

Speeders weren’t necessarily the safest means of travel. While Walt was still working for the railroad, he narrowly escaped a collision with the front of a cowcatcher on an oncoming train, while attempting to help a millworker who had run the tips of his fingers through an edger. The accident happened on a Sunday, and Walt had the only form of transportation that could be used to get the injured man to medical care – his speeder.

A young man (Reg Shurie) stands in front of a PGE train in the 1920s - the cowcatcher is covered in snow, but you can still imagine how scary a close encounter with one of these would have been!

Walt was given the rundown on which trains were running that day, and off they went. With only one train that was still miles away, he wasn’t concerned about running into it. Near Anderson Lake, heading downhill and northbound, he rounded a bend and “there was a double-headed steam engine coming at full-bore uphill.” Moving too fast to jump, he held onto his passenger, threw on the one-wheel brake, and “watched the cowcatcher coming straight at me.” At the last second, they jumped off either side of the speeder, and watched as it flipped “about fourteen feet in the air.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Walt recalls, “I found out that day that cactus spikes go right through the upper portion of a logger’s boots – we jumped into a patch of prickly pear.”

Walt had already taken a job falling logs, and that fateful Sunday was his last day working for the railway (perhaps he should have put his notice in for Saturday). He started working for Blackwater Timber the very next day, and didn’t look back on his railway days.

These handcars (powered by pumping the lever at the front) were popular before speeders were introduced, and were sometimes used by those who lived at Alta Lake since they were much faster than walking