The Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDC)

BC Rail's Cariboo Prospector - Sep 2002

Photos of BC Rail's now discontinued Cariboo Prospector passenger service between North Vancouver and Prince George. For nearly fifty years, this was a mainstay of the Budd RDCs, operating daily from North Vancouver, along the Howe Sound, through Whistler, and up to Lilooet in the magnificent Fraser River Canyon. Three times a week the service continued north up the precipitous side of the Fraser River Canyon, then along the Cariboo Trail, scene of BC's Gold Rush, through to the heart of BC's north at Prince George. The service which left North Vancouver at 7am, would not reach Prince George until after 10pm at night, having travelled a total of 468 miles. The following morning the Cariboo Prospector would return south from Prince George, meeting the daily return service at Lilooet. At Prince George, the route connected with VIA Canada's Skeena service between Jasper and Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast.
All Photos: © Copyright Bevis R W King 2002 - All Rights Reserved.

The British Columbia Railway (BCRail) has run Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) between their station in North Vancouver, and the centre of Northern British Columbia: Prince George, for nearly fifty years. On the 31st of October 2002, the last of these services ran bringing to an end daily passenger service on one of the most picturesque lines in North America. I took the oportunity to ride this fantastic route one final time before the line closed, and at the same time bid farewell the last group of Budd RDCs still with their original operator on their original route. No mean feat in itself in these difficult times for North America's passenger services.

These pictures were taken on the Southbound Cariboo Prospector on the 30th of September 2002, where the service from Prince George was operated by an RDC-3 (BC-31) leading, and an RDC-1 (BC-15) following. The daily return service from North Vancouver to Lilooet and return was operated by RDC-3 (BC-30) and RDC-1 (BC-11) which took the lead for the journey south from Lilooet. Two days later (Wednesday 2nd October) the northbound service out of North Vancouver was operated by BC-30, BC-10, BC-31 and BC-15.

BC-31 and BC-15 stand ready to depart from the BC Rail passenger station at Prince George, northern BC. It's 6:50am and the dawn is only just breaking. There are maybe 30 passengers boarding the train at Prince George and all are seated in BC-15. The seating in BC-31 is not used until further south. The train crew consists of no less than six staff - driver, trainman, conductor, customer services manager and two catering staff.

Mid-morning and the Southbound Cariboo Prospector has reached Williams Lake, BC. It's running a little late thanks to having to reverse into a lumber products siding to allow a northbound freight service to pass by. Southbound freights gave way to the Cariboo Prospector at Prince George and Quesnel. The first shot shows BC-31 and BC-15 plus the south side of Williams Lake depot seen from the road; the second one shows BC-31 from the depot car park; the third shows the north side of the depot at BC-15 and BC-31; the final shot is a close-up of BC-15.

It's around 4pm in the afternoon and the Southbound service from Prince George has traversed the impressive Fraser River Canyon and has reached Lilooet. Here the southbound service is coupled onto the daily return service from North Vancouver to Lilooet which was formed by BC-30 and BC-11 on this day. BC-30 takes over the lead position from this point south, the order being BC-30, BC-11, BC-31, BC-15. The other operational RDC-1, BC-10, wasn't in use on this occasion.

With clouds gathering in the late afternoon, the now four car Cariboo Prospector services, weaves it's way long the shores of Anderson Lake, south of Lillooet. These pictures were taken from BC-15 (final car) and show BC-30 and BC-11 heading the train south. This also demonstrates the sharp curves of the line dramatically since the front two RDCs are clearly visible from the fourth.

Footnote: After the termination of the Cariboo Prospector service, three of the Budd cars were sold to the Oregon Department of Transport to operate a summer-only tourist train from Portland OR to Astoria OR. This train is due to operate between May and Septembember along a 160 mile stretch of the Portland and Western railroad route. It is planned to run each summer 2003 to 2005 as part of the bicentenial celebrations of Lewis and Clark's expedition. The cars sold were RDC-1s BC-10 and BC-11, and RDC-3 BC-31. RDC-1 BC-15 and RDC-3 BC-30 were sold to a scenic rail operation in New Hampshire - the Wilton Scenic Railroad. Fire damaged RDC-1 BC-14 was purchased by a private collector and is to live at the West Coast Rail Heritage Park in Squamish, BC (On the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler). RDC-1

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