One of the many historical photographs in Iron Road West. Contributed photo

BC’s history with railways in new book

Iron Road West contains 500 historical illustrations and a story about the Northwest’s armoured train

Best selling author Derek Hayes’ 17th book Iron Road West An Illustrated History of British Columbia’s Railways will be available in stores this Saturday.

Iron Road West uses 500 historical illustrations to explore the political, social, and economic impact the railways had on British Columbia.

“I came to realize how important railways were to the development and growth of B.C. as a whole,” Hayes said. “It’s easy to overlook the importance of railways these days because we got roads, we got trucks and we got cars … it got things going.”

Smithers is the perfect example of this Hayes said as it was originally founded to serve as a regional headquarters for the Grand Truck Pacific Railway.

Railways were very lucrative, which meant a lot companies were willing to do anything to get a piece of the pie.

In the book Hayes describes how the Canadian Pacific railway and the Kaslo railway actually ripped each other’s tracks off the ground when they were vying for plot of land in Sandon in the Kootenay region.

“That [was] repeated in a number of places,” Hayes said. “Relatively minor skirmishes where [people] took the law into their own hands.”

Hayes also examines the brief period of time when armoured trains where patrolling the Bulkley Valley.

After the invasion of the Aleutian Islands by the Japanese during the Second World War, the Canadian government thought they’d turn their attention south and attack by coming through the Skeena region.

To prevent this the government sent armoured trains to the area in 1942. The trains had anti aircraft guns and carried a battalion of soldiers, Hayes said.

The trains weren’t in service for very long as the Japanese had withdrawn from the Aleutian Islands in the summer of 1943. The armoured train unit was disbanded in 1944.

“It’s kind of an interesting story because Canada has never before or after had an armoured train,” Hayes said.

Iron Road West can be purchased at Speedee Stationary or wherever books are sold online.

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