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This secret armoured train patrolled a B.C. river during WWII

The No. 1 Armoured Train ran up and down the Skeena from 1943-1944

In 1942, a Canadian military train began service as what some historians call "Canada's best kept war secret."

There was not yet a highway between Terrace and the coastal town of Prince Rupert (they had not yet constructed what would later become the Highway of Tears; Hwy 16), and there was a concern that the Japanese might first invade the coast, then send troops up the Skeena River.

Prince Rupert was a port that was used by the US Military to send personnel and supplies to Alaska, and was heavily guarded by troops.

The No. 1 Armoured Train ran the stretch between that port and Terrace - 150 kilometres of rail along the Skeena - day and night, on no fixed schedule.

It consisted of eight cars, two of which were armed with large guns. Its crew consisted of more than 200 officers, quietly patrolling the river.

As you can imagine it never saw combat, though one man was killed by the train as it rolled over him while he sleeping on the tracks. Two others (railway workers) were apparently killed as they were doing maintenance to the tracks with jackhammers and didn't see or hear it coming.

Bulky because of the armour, it was slow-moving, taking about 12 hours to make the one-way trip between Terrace and Rupert.

It was decided in 1943 that the train was no longer needed, and it was decommissioned in 1944.

Most residents of Prince Rupert had no idea that the train existed until they heard about it after the war, and its crew were said to be glad it was decommissioned, as it was a tedious detail being stuck on a slow train with no action.

Ted Hackkett
Northwood Magazine
Ingenium (photos)
Ben Bradley