UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The British Columbia Railway and regional development Gamble, Ellsworth Paul


This thesis considers the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, the British Columbia Railway as of April 1, 1972, a Provincial Crown corporation, and the implications of its extensions upon regional development. The indicators of regional development studied are population and industrial profiles. The time framework of the thesis is from 1952 to 1972, the period of the P.G.E. extensions. Two perspectives of the implications for regional development are examined. Chapter Two treats with the Provincial Government agencies whose policies have had the most effect in the study area. The financing, safety, and freight rate implications of the P.G.E. are discussed. In addition, general policies and inter-relationships with the P.G.E. of the following Provincial agencies are considered: B.C. Hydro, the Department of Highways, and the Forest Service. The third through sixth chapters consider the regional development of four regions: Squamish-Cariboo, Prince George, Peace River-Liard, and Omineca-Stikine. These regions, in turn, are broken into areas—usually to correspond with a central P.G.E. railway station and its commodity carloadings. The development within each area is studied in respect to population changes and industrial expansion since 1951. The P.G.E. commodity carloadings from 1966 through 1970 are used as indicators of regional development. The fluctuations of the carloadings of certain commodities, such as woodchips, lumber and veneer, merchandise, and machinery and parts, have been used to show the level of regional industrial development. Alone, the P.G.E. commodity carloadings are of little use. However, they take on more meaning in light of the policies of the Provincial Government agencies. The usefulness of the data takes a quantum leap when individual shippers indicate how much they ship, its routing, and its final destination. A limited attempt at this later refinement is provided by the responses of about fifty company and government officials to a single page, open-ended question letter. Most of these responses are in letter form although those companies with offices in Vancouver are interviews. A limitation of the technique used in this thesis to determine regional development is the inability to estimate the importance of the service sector. The obvious weight is given to the resource extraction and manufacturing sectors since these are the sectors which generate railway carloadings. Only when there is a significant population and the total carloadings are relatively low, are there suspicions of a large service sector or the possibility of significant truck shipments. The general conclusion to this thesis is that the Pacific Great Eastern Railway has stimulated regional development in the areas it serves directly. However, this development has been primarily in the forest products industry, in conjunction with Forest Service policies and technological improvements. The development of this industry has then provided a stimulus for maintenance and repair services and a more stable population base, which has helped to establish a need for improved highways.

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