Saturday afternoon, May 14, 1960 under overcast skies, the last steam engine to puff into Dawson Creek pulled slowly from the station and chugged down the tracks on its last run in this district.
The old steam engines, which once opened up the west and formed the link uniting the provinces into a dominion, are fast fading from the skyline of the Canadian West. Now outdated, they are being replaced with modern diesels.
As the cutback in passenger train service takes effect in Dawson Creek this week, the steam engines will no longer be used. With them go a bit of the glamour of the early pioneer days. To the engineer, Neil Doherty, it was like losing an old friend, and the fireman Slim Wearmouth shared his feeling as they eased the panting monster around the “Y” to head it back to Edmonton.
On hand to see the last of the steam engines was Mayor John Wilcox, who is an old-timer with the railroad himself, having put in 45 years of service before his retirement.
“I brought the first steam engine in here, and I should see the last one out”, he stated. He was general foreman when the train first came into Dawson Creek on January 15, 1931.
This was a double farewell being celebrated on Saturday. It was fitting that the last steam engine should also carry the last load of mail that will be carried by train in or out of this city. From now on, all mail which was formerly carried by the train will be trucked in. This railway post office service began in Dawson Creek in June of 1935 and ended Saturday, May 14, 1960.
As the baggage car eased around the bend following the receding train, the silver smudge of smoke streaked across the skies for the last time, and the lonesome wail of the whistle echoed against Dawson Creek’s hills.