Tag Archives: Whistler Train Wreck

Newsletter Reflects Two Decades of Change (and how some things stay the same)

April might seem a bit early to be thinking of summer; there is still snow melting in parts of the valley and you’re just as likely to see someone walking through the village carrying their skis or board as you are to see a person biking along the Valley Trail.

At the museum, however, we’re looking ahead to summer programming and expanding our staff with summer students.

Summer students end up with varied responsibilities, such as grilling at the museum’s AGM. Here are Lauren, a 2017 student, and Colin, museum Vice-President, at the grill.

We recently came across a Whistler Museum & Archives Society (WMAS) newsletter from the summer of 2001 and, despite the 18 years that have passed since its publication, the newsletter is not all that dissimilar to those we currently send out bimonthly.

Like today, the newsletter from 2001 updates readers on recent events held at or by the museum and introduces new staff members.  That summer, the museum hired three summer students: two to work with the collections and one to work more on programming and community outreach.

Kathy Look, one of the two collections assistants, worked on digitizing the museum’s collection while Eric Cron was to spend his summer cataloguing and doing preliminary work to create a database.  This type of work continues to be carried out by our summer students and interns in the archives today.

The third student, Erin Coulson, had varied responsibilities, including working on the outdoor signs around the museum, assisting with the running of the museum, publishing the museum’s newsletter and searching for information on the train wreck near the Cheakamus River to answer the many inquiries the museum had received.

The Train Wreck was a mystery for hikers near Function Junction for many years.

The newsletter also reported on the Canada Day Parade in which the museum won a prize for Best Community Club Entrant, thanks to “the creative talents of Darlyne Christian and the helpful mobile power of Alex Bunbury, both museum trustees.”  Apparently this was the first parade where Darlyne rode in her own creation, an experience she described as “quite exciting.”

After the parade the museum launched its latest cookbook, Festive Favourites, full of recipes from community members.  (As it happens, we no longer have a copy of this book in our reference library – if anyone has a spare copy we would love to take a look.)

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1997: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

Recent fundraisers were mentioned, including one held at the Dubh Linn Gate to launch the museum’s first educational website and an Oscar Night that raised over $3,500, along with new additions to the collections (such as two signs for Overlord and Lost Lake that were anonymously delivered to the museum).

Of course, there have been changes in the almost two decades since this newsletter was sent out.

The museum has moved into a different space and our online presence, including our website, has evolved (social media didn’t really exist in 2001).  In the summer of 2001 Paul Jago was announced as the winner of a competition to design the museum’s new logo, a logo that has since changed at least twice.

The museum’s previous home, as it was in the summer of 2000 during our Annual LEGO Competition. Museum Collection.

In case you don’t currently subscribe to the museum’s newsletter, our last Speaker Series for the 2019 season will be this Thursday, April 11.  We are very excited to welcome Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University to discuss his studies of sediment records in Alta and Lost Lakes and what these records can tell us about environmental change dating back to the 18th century.  If you have an interest in our lakes or a story about your own experiences of Alta or Lost Lakes, please join us!  More information can be found here.

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Train Wreck Mystery Revealed

Train Wreck – the site of several abandoned box cars just south of Function Junction – has always been a little bit of a mystery to visitors.

We had always known that it had been there since the 1950s, but apart from that we knew very little about it. In 2013, our “Museum Musings” column in the Whistler Question newspaper featured the “mysterious” train wreck. We were subsequently approached by two members of the Valleau family (who ran a big logging operation in Mons at the time of the accident) who set the record straight once and for all.

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The abandoned box cars have been given new life by Whistler’s artist community.

The first to approach us, Rick Valleau, remembered his father talking about the train wreck. The second, Rick’s uncle Howard Valleau, actually remembered the incident first-hand!

Museum staff are frequently asked about Train Wreck’s backstory, so  we are delighted to have these accounts which shed light on one of Whistler’s most unique attractions.

Here, therefore, is the firsthand account of the definitive guide to Train Wreck: The crash occurred in 1956 shortly after the Valleau family had moved to the area. The wreck happened on an area of track constricted by rock cuts, and there were three boxcars loaded with lumber jammed in there, blocking the line. The PGE Railway’s equipment couldn’t budge them so the company approached the Valleau family.

The Valleaus took their logging machinery (a couple of D8 Cats) down to the site, put a hitch (luff) on with two moving blocks to the boxcar and pried them out. They then dragged the cars up the track and into the forest, where they lie today. To all those who were confused by the fact that there is no damage to the trees around the wreck, this is because the train did not come off the rails at this point, but the boxcars were moved there after the fact.

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The unique ambiance of these colourfully graffitied boxcars amidst mature, open forest (not to mention the impressive mountain bike stunts) makes for one of the Whistle Valley’s favourite attractions.

The train had been assembled in Lillooet by John Millar, a conductor for the PGE. Millar told the story to Howard Valleau, as follows: The train had four engines. There was a mistake made on the tonnage of the train, making it too heavy, and they had to split the train to get up the grade to Parkhurst (on Green Lake). This put them behind schedule, and they tried to make up time by  travelling a little faster than usual. The speed limit on that section of rail was only 15 mph (24 km/h). The fourth engine turned a rail, causing the train wreck. They checked the tape in the engine, which told how fast they were going – the crew had thought the speed was 15mph, but in fact it was 35 mph (56 km/h).

Millar told Howard Valleau that had they known the actual speed, they would have taken the tapes out. The engineer and crew were subsequently fired after the investigation into the wreck.

Access to the Trainwreck site has in recent years been complicated by the fact that it involved a sustained stretch of walking on the train tracks – illegal trespassing. We are very excited to spread the news that the RMOW has overseen the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Cheakamus River, providing alternative, legal  access to the outdoor museum and impromptu art gallery. We hope you are able to go visit the Trainwreck, for the first or the fiftieth time, again soon.

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