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Date: 06/17/09 16:03
BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: eminence_grise

The "Northeast Coal Project" involved the development of coal mines in northeastern BC and the building of a new town, Tumbler Ridge, and a BC Rail branch line over the Continental Divide. Because this crossing of the Rockies involved two long tunnels, the branch was electrified. GMD built 6000hp GF6C electrics for this service, and a small shop was built for them near Tumbler Ridge townsite.

Sadly,the coal deposits near Tumbler Ridge were not as abundant as predicted by the geologists and the BC politicians of the day, and the mines were reported to be uneconomical after about twelve years. With little or no traffic, the decision was made to de-electrify the Tumbler Ridge branch prior to sale to the CN.

Curiously, new coal deposits were discovered literally the day after BCR was sold to the CN.

The pre-privatisation CN got massive Federal and BC funding to install CTC and other improvements between Prince George and Ridley Island near Prince Rupert.

In the brief period of electric operation, a westbound loaded coal train is approaching the Wolverine tunnel, after a lengthy climb from Tumbler Ridge. The only sound was the traction motor blowers. Two more electrics serve as manned pushers, which will cut out of the train shortly.

When I took these pictures, a large grizzly bear was grazing in the meadow on the opposite side of the tracks so I didn't venture far from my truck.








Date: 06/17/09 16:38
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: eminence_grise

The Quintette mine was owned by four mining companies, and had a long coal conveyor belt from the open pit mine to the loading facility. This was the largest facility at Tumbler and the first to close. The smaller Teck mine, with its own loadout west of Tumbler Ridge continued for a decade more.

The loading process was done without a crew on the train by remote control, with a mine employee on board as a watchman. CN supplied the cabooses used in this service, and the diesel locomotives used once the BCR main was reached near Tacheeda.

BCR 6001 was purchased by a retired BCR officer, and donated to the Prince George Railway museum.

A small shop was built at Murray BC, where BCR and GMD shop staff looked after the electric locomotives.

I understand the tracks have been removed from the Quintette loadout








Date: 06/17/09 16:57
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: RogersPass

Hello, I have 2 questions for you and they are, Are the electric loco AC or DC drive and do they run though the load out or what happens when they load the train?? Does the wire go though the load out for them to have power as it look like a balloon loop with the caboose on the other track..Cheers Brian..



Date: 06/17/09 17:15
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: m420

Note that the 6005 was the only one to receive the BC Rail logo



Date: 06/17/09 17:21
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: eminence_grise

RogersPass Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hello, I have 2 questions for you and they are,
> Are the electric loco AC or DC drive and do they
> run though the load out or what happens when they
> load the train?? Does the wire go though the load
> out for them to have power as it look like a
> balloon loop with the caboose on the other
> track..Cheers Brian..


They are AC drive, 50Kv I think.

I don't think the wire goes through the silo, but the loading loop was electrified. By using two locomotives, the power could be supplied from one pantograph while the other was lowered.



Date: 06/17/09 17:54
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: spdaylight

In late June 2007, we did a escorted speeder excursion from Prince George to Tumbler Ridge and then back to MacKenzie and on to Chetwynd. This was part of the MOW west tour that went on to Grande Cache. I shot some video from a shoulder mounted video camera . . . will have to get it out and post some clips. The night we stayed in Tumbler, water bombers were flying 200 feet over the hotel to fight a forest fire getting dangerously close to the town. We left the next morning for MacKenzie and that night they completely evacuated the town of Tumbler Ridge. When asked if we had been there that night (instead of one earlier) what would we have done, the CN safety foreman escorting the tour said we would have made a midnight run out of town! Now that would have been quite the ride. The saddest image on this trip was coming out of a couple of the tunnels high over some lakes and you would see the pine beetle damage all along the hills. All the pine trees were brown and dead due to the infestation.



Date: 06/17/09 20:21
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: greendot

The line was electrified at 50,000 volts AC on the overhead, but the traction motors under the GF6C's were special DC motors, called E-88's. The AC line voltage was stepped-down in a transformer and converted from AC using devices called thyristors.

The GE E60C's built for Black Mesa & Lake Powell, Deseret-Western and NdeM were also designed to operate under 50,000 volt AC but with DC traction motors.



Date: 06/18/09 07:53
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: Gonut1

Nice images!
Thanks,
Gonut



Date: 06/18/09 09:28
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: rob_l

Phil,

Thanks for your post. I have some questions below.

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sadly,the coal deposits near Tumbler Ridge were
> not as abundant as predicted by the geologists and
> the BC politicians of the day, and the mines were
> reported to be uneconomical after about twelve
> years. With little or no traffic, the decision was
> made to de-electrify the Tumbler Ridge branch
> prior to sale to the CN.

My understanding was that the unfavorable economics had little or nothing to do with the coal deposits. There was still plenty of coal when Tumbler Ridge "became uneconomic". My understanding was that it had to do with with BC coal not being competitive with Australian coal and other sources much closer to Far East markets. Do you have a good source/reference you could point me to asserting that the uneconomical nature of Tumbler Ridge had something to do with its coal deposits?

>
> Curiously, new coal deposits were discovered
> literally the day after BCR was sold to the CN.
>


Again, this is a surprise to me. I wonder if it is apochryphal. I was under the impression that not long after the sale to CN, Pacific Rim coal prices rose back up to the point that Tumbler Ridge was profitable to re-open, and the re-opening had nothing to do with coal deposits. Again, do you have a good source/reference?

My general impression was that all the money invested in infrastructure to export North American coal to Pacific Rim markets was perhaps the worst transportation investment of the last 50 years on our continent. North American coal is at best marginally competitive with coal sources closer to, or actually in, the Far East. The Port of LA, the Union Pacific and some Utah mines made very bad bets. The massive double-track Port of LA coal export facility is long closed and is now used to store intermodal equipment. The UP's LA&SL, replete with fancy line changes to lower its grades and many more CTC sidings, is way underutilized. After the coal bust, the UP put in a horribly low 10-year rate with APL (later Pacer) to try and put some traffic on the line. (The rate will finally expire in 2011.)

Sometime back I read somewhere that the Province of British Columbia wrote off something like C$3-4 billion (of public money) on the Tumbler Ridge initiative. If so, that was the worst bet of all.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 06/18/09 11:57
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: eminence_grise

I don't know if there is any specific book or document outlining the whole Tumbler Ridge fiasco. As a British Columbian, I resent the way my tax dollars were squandered by the politicians of the day. My knowledge of the project is based on media reports.

I was told that the Asian interest who were receiving the Tumbler Coal were locked into a ten year contract which set the price and quantity of coal delivered. The Japanese and Koreans much prefer buying coal on the spot market. Working for CP in coal train territory, I saw the quanities of coal shipped change frequently as the buyers bought coal from another source. The Tumbler "lock in" resultled in the buyers not wanting to deal any further with that source of coal.

There was politics involved at the mine site also. The Quintette partnership became a coalition of the unwilling which aired their corporate dirty laundry in the media.

Tumbler Ridge was a "model" town, with carefully laid out streets and a picturesque town square. It also had a ban on mobile homes within the townsite. Although the miners were offered favourable deals on houses there, many didn't want to be locked into ownership and a 1980's mortgage. Houses stayed empty while a trailer park grew outside of city limits and other miners made the long commute from Chetwynd which faced a more secure future should the coal mines close down.



Date: 06/18/09 12:36
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: rob_l

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I don't know if there is any specific book or
> document outlining the whole Tumbler Ridge fiasco.
> As a British Columbian, I resent the way my tax
> dollars were squandered by the politicians of the
> day. My knowledge of the project is based on media
> reports.
>
> I was told that the Asian interest who were
> receiving the Tumbler Coal were locked into a ten
> year contract which set the price and quantity of
> coal delivered. The Japanese and Koreans much
> prefer buying coal on the spot market. Working for
> CP in coal train territory, I saw the quanities of
> coal shipped change frequently as the buyers
> bought coal from another source. The Tumbler "lock
> in" resulted in the buyers not wanting to deal
> any further with that source of coal.
>


This is reflective of what I was saying. Prices for North American coal delivered to Asia can and do get undercut by coal from sources in Asia or closer to Asia. Asian customers do not want to lock in to paying prices covering the costs of new infrastructure for exporting North American coal when it is only a back-up source for them useful only intermittently for holding down the prices from their primary sources of supply.

It still amazes me how much North American money was poured into a really poor business.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 06/18/09 20:16
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: OliveHeights

Hope your visit to the loading facility was better than mine. We were up there in 1985, I believe and went to the mine HQ/entrance and asked if we could come in and photo/video the loading process. The powers that be said yes and sent a foreman to pick us up at the gate and drive us to the loader, we got shots from the control room and on the ground about the same place you were.

The foreman drove us back to the gate and the security guard said we couldn't leave yet. He was a reasonable guy and said that after they had OK'd us to enter, the general manager got cold feet and was afraid we were environmentalists out to do an expose' on them. The guard got a call from the office building asking him to confiscate our film and video tape. He asked and we said no. He called back and gave them our answer and they told him to take it anyway. He said he couldn't do that, wasn't legal. He was asked to hold onto us for a while longer while they came up with a new plan. After about a hour we said we were getting bored waiting and told him we were leaving. He called the office and told them we were leaving and they gave up. The guard said he was former RCMP and he knew taking our film was a load of crap, we were lucky he was a professional instead of your run of the mill rent-a-cop.



Date: 06/19/09 02:38
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: rschonfelder

In answer to the question above about going through the loadout, I can offer my experience. I had a cab ride just after it opened in 1984. There was a sign put up by the Swedes that said as the unit was approaching the loadout entrance "Pants Down". There was no sign on the other side but I presumed it was OK to pull them back up once you were through.

On the other topic of contracts, the Koreans were great for signing them and then not living up to it. As an articling CA at the time, one of my clients was Smoky River Coal who exported Met coal from Grand Cache to Korea through Prince Rupert. When "Spot" dropped below "Contract" the latter document was quite useful only if it was printed on softer paper.

Another thing of interest was the trip through the tunnels while I rode the Pushers. There was a monstrous waterfall inside the tunnel they called the "carwash". I don't recall why it didn't bother the electrics.

Rick



Date: 06/19/09 16:29
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: MThopper

Problems with environmentalists??? I thought the Cannucks just beat them up and took their wallets. End of problem.



Date: 06/19/09 16:34
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: eminence_grise

MThopper Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Problems with environmentalists??? I thought the
> Cannucks just beat them up and took their wallets.
> End of problem.

The Vancouver Cannucks beat someone up ? It would be nice if they could win the Stanley Cup again.



Date: 06/19/09 17:46
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: goneon66

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Vancouver Cannucks beat someone up ? It would
> be nice if they could win the Stanley Cup again.

yea, i was sure hoping luongo was gonna get "hot" against the hawks........

66



Date: 06/19/09 21:31
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: m420

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------
> The Vancouver Cannucks beat someone up ? It would
> be nice if they could win the Stanley Cup again.



"again"?



Date: 06/20/09 09:55
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: tq-07fan

rschonfelder Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> Another thing of interest was the trip through the
> tunnels while I rode the Pushers. There was a
> monstrous waterfall inside the tunnel they called
> the "carwash". I don't recall why it didn't
> bother the electrics.
>
> Rick

As far as I know the "carwash" did bother the electrics but more importantly the cantenary. By the time I got to test the Tumbler Ridge Sub in May 1997 while on Sperry, BCRail had pinned some kind of material to the roof of the tunnel to keep as much water as possible off the overhead. There was still a constant downpour of water all around the stuff on the roof. We were glad that no defects were detected that we had to go out and handtest at that point. Seriously long tunnels though. After we got all the way in we shut off all lights and could see nothing. We even had to test half of the one tunnel and come out and let the air clear before continuing.

Tumbler Ridge Sub was probably the most remote area I've ever been in. One night we tied up and rode in the back of the block truck to the famous Hotel Sentinel, which was several trailers that had been spliced together for a M of W camp. The female cook who lived there for a six month at a time cooked us all a great supper. All of us Sperry car guys were split up into separate rooms. I ended up staying in a bunk room with a couple of friendly Newfies. Next morning the cook made some great pancakes and a whole lot more food than I should have consumed at one time. Everything for Hotel Sentinel had to be brought by train, hi-rail or in extreme cases helicopter.

The next night that we got near Tumbler Ridge I had the option of going into town, which was still several km away, or staying on the Sperry car. I stayed on the Sperry and got to see the electrics go by while finishing up work. Next day though when we got to the enginehouse in the picture at Murray they backed the three unit helper set out so we could back in and fill up with water. While there the engine shop guys took a tour of the Sperry and in turn I got a tour of the engine shop and an up close look at the electric, I won't go into detail to protect the innocent. I was then invited to take a cab ride on the pusher set. It was another one of those tough life altering decisions because I would never get to see the Tumbler beyond the enginehouse. I won't spell out how well things went during the cabride, again to protect the Innocent, other than that I had a CROR A card and had experience running a Sperry car and that my decision to do the cabride was a good life choice.

The British Columbia Railroad was one of my favourite tests while on Sperry, the BCRail treated us great, not just like employess of their railroad but almost like family. The Tumbler Ridge Sub was probably my favourite of all time. I had read the article several times in Railfan and Railroad form 1988 and always thought I would make it up there some day and as luck would have it got to see almost the whole thing. I took a few pictures but they are on print film and I have no scanner.

Thank You Phil for another great post.

Jim



Date: 06/20/09 12:45
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: hoggerdoug

Table Tunnel mile 34.1 - 39.7 is 5.6 mile long Wolverine Tunnel mile 43.6 - 47.3 is 3.7 miles long and then there are a couple of shorter 800 ft & 1200 ft tunnels beyond the Wolverine Tunnel. I did about 3 months on the "pushers" from Tumbler, can't recall which tunnel had the car wash, we stopped there once to fill up a bucket thinking it was fresh spring water, not so. The other tunnel had a horrible sulphur smell in the bore hole, turns out to be from a bacteria slime growing on the tunnel walls, and the gas it gave off caused the overhead copper wire to corrode. The electric units had a different "feel" to operate, and despite no diesel motor could be noisy at times in the cab. Also the units had a type of radar to prevent wheel slip, the water and ice in the tunnels did create problems with that feature. Kind of neat that there where 6 load meters, one for each axle. Also from what I have heard, one of the decisions to electrify the Tumbler sub was there would be no need to ventilate the tunnels, that idea came back to haunt the railway. It was not very pleasant to be on the tail end pushers with either diesels on the head end or diesel pushers.
Doug



Date: 07/18/11 03:16
Re: BCR's electrified Tumbler Ridge branch, 1994
Author: zenstudy

greendot Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> The GE E60C's built for Black Mesa & Lake Powell,
> Deseret-Western and NdeM were also designed to
> operate under 50,000 volt AC but with DC traction
> motors.

I don't mean to cast any aspersions, but I don't think that statement is totally accurate.

I can recall reading a few years ago that the NdeM electrification was 25kv. When BM&LP obtained their group of former NdeM locos, those units had to be modified to run on the new 50kv system by retrofitting them with main transformers salvaged from their older electrics.

Jamison



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