By Rail To Peace River (Extract), Published 8 December 1944The Northern Alberta Railways are a system jointly owned by the C.N.R., and the C.P.R. This line on which I was to travel was the old Edmonton. Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway, and had in the past, really never whipped up much of a passenger business. There were only two trains a week before the war and they were not crowded. Then once the Alaska Highway construction began, even with trains operating every day of the week, it was quite a trick to get a berth.
So busy were the cars, that J. M. MacArthur, the general manager, told me he once had a roll of carpet for a sleeper, on his hands for six months, and he could never get the car out of service long enough to get it laid. Finally, he ripped up the old rag that was underfoot, and left the bare floor as being better than the shreds and rags there before.
The railway had a terrible job getting motive power, because they had to depend on the two parent companies, both of which already were sorely pressed for power. Once incorporated into the N.A.R. however, the locomotives and rolling stock maintained their own identity. For instance, on my train was the C.N R. sleeper. Miami. (Named after Miami. Manitoba, and not Miami. Florida, as you might think.) Then I met an old friend in the diner St. James, in which I ate, when coming east from Banff on No. 4 in 1932.
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Other than the borrowed equipment, the N.A.R. coaches are painted blue, somewhat reminiscent of the Wabash's Banner Blue Limited. The blue cars are quite attractive, but of course the C.P.R.'s maroon and the C.N.R.'s Pullman green hardly help the color scheme.
The Northern Alberta, which runs 435.1 miles to Dawson Creek. B.C., thus bore the brunt of the Alaska Highway development. Heavy censorship hovered over its doings for a long time. Now, the situation is reversed, and as you go along, you will see equipment being moved out of the country. I saw a whole train-load of it go out the morning I was in Grande Prairie.
Mr. MacArthur was kind enough to invite me back to his private car. which was going up the line that night. I am not going to extol the scenery, which was interesting enough. I do want to record, however, that the finest meal on any private car was under the auspices of the N. A. R.
Where Mr. MacArthur got his chef, how in these times he manages to keep him, are his own secrets. But this chef had a way with a lamb chop, a style with a corn cob, a trick with the potatoes, a Brillat-Savarin touch to his pickle relish, that would make a gourmet drool. I didn't drool, I just ate my head off.
With us were J. G. Nickerson. manager of the Royal Bank, Edmonton, J. W. Winn. also of Edmonton, and some others whose names I have lost. But I noticed that they, too, were able to appreciate Mr. MacArthur's chef.