CP Abandons the Rogers Pass Tunnel Project
In the face of insurmountable technical difficulties CP Rail has decided to abandon the Rogers Pass Tunnel Project. This is a terrible blow to the company which has been forced to look at alternatives such as electrification.
The problem stems from a unique strain of sightless mice that live in the old Connaught Tunnel. They moved into the tunnel shortly after construction, living on the grain that fell out of the boxcars passing through. Successive generations have been able to live without the need for sight and the Connaught Tunnel Sightless Mouse is now a distinct breed that is found nowhere else.
A distinguished animal psychologist explains:
"This is a perfect example of an animal adapting to its environment. We call it 'tunnel vision' and it is also found in people who have worked in the Civil Service for any length of time. The Tunnel Mouse has never been bred in captivity. When exposed to daylight it runs round and around in circles until it disappears up its own portal."A few years ago, Greenpeace, the conservation group, made strong protests about the phasing out of the boxcar in favour of the hopper cars for grain. The new cars leaked far less that the older ones and caused a severe reduction in the numbers of Tunnel Mice. The specifications for the outlet gate mechanisms were subsequently modified to allow sufficient leakage of grain to sustain the Tunnel Mouse population.
The completion of the Rogers Pass Tunnel Project would have meant that only empty eastbound trains would have used the old tunnel thus starving the Tunnel Mice into oblivion. CP Rail had originally planned to issue conductors of eastbound trains with a bucket of grain with instructions to broadcast it from the rear platform of the caboose while traversing the tunnel. The Canada Grains Council had been consulted and supported the scheme as a good way of helping to get rid of the surplus prairie grain crop. The CGC suggested that only high quality wheat be used because tests had shown that lower grades could produce a condition known as Tunnel Mouse Tummy Ache. The whole scheme was dropped with the imminent demise of the caboose. CP Rail were also concerned that there would be a build up of buckets at the east-end of the tunnel.
VIA was anxious to distribute the grain from the "The Canadian". An expensive feasibility study was carried out but they came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to train their crews to carry out this difficult job. In any case why should they throw better food to the mice than they throw at their passengers.
CP Rail also considered the possibility of catching the Tunnel Mice and transferring them to the new tunnel. The sightless mice have developed a radar sensing system somewhat similar to the bat and it has not proved possible to catch any of them. The Assistant Superintendent was instructed to enter the tunnel and lure them out with some cheese attached to a long piece of string. The Tunnel Mouse, with a steady diet of grain, does not like cheese and this initiative also failed. As one wag put it:
"It would have been a case of the blind leading the blind!"With the fate of this unique piece of our Canadian heritage in the balance, environmental groups banded together to mount a vigorous and ultimately successful campaign to stop the work that would have obliterated the Tunnel Mouse. A spokesman for the group explained:
"When they got rid of steam locomotives they destroyed the habitat of the Canadian Tender Trout. This rare fish had become adapted to locomotive tenders. It found its way in there through fish eggs in water taken from local streams. It was threatened with the changeover from steam to diesel. We fought to make the railways tow an old locomotive tender behind every diesel. We were unsuccessful that time and this strengthened our resolve to save the Tunnel Mouse."And so the future of this unique furry creature with well developed whiskers would appear to be assured. A further fight is in the offing however. It seems that the unique sensing system developed by the Tunnel Mouse is affected by electric currents over 12 volts. Eddy currents from high voltage overhead wires cause it to react as if it were exposed to daylight. CP Rail feel that they can overcome this problem and a new locomotive is on the drawing board. Produced by a consortium of GM and Athearn, it will be known as the SD60-C (the "C" stands for the new Can type DC traction motor).
The last word must lie with the railway. A CP Rail spokesman was heard to mutter on April 1st:
"If your new Honda is delayed in delivery from Japan you had better blame it on the Tunnel Mouse."
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, April 1987.