Harry Kruisselbrink

Smithers: A town built by rail

Harry Kruisselbrink spoke about his youth and why he wrote a book about the railway in Smithers.

Harry Kruisselbrink has lived in the Bulkley Valley for most of his life and has worked close to the railway for nearly as long.

He has compiled his experience and a large stack of research to make a revised version of a book he released in 2008, Smithers: A Railroad Town.

Kruisselbrink moved from Holland to Barrett, between Houston and Smithers, with his family shortly after the second world war.

Since then he has lived nearly his entire life in Smithers.

In 1955, one of his first jobs was to carry telegrams from the train station to locals and business owners and vice versa.

“When I was hired telegraph was communicated by Morse code,” he said.

“But within about six months teleprinters were brought to the Smithers CN station.”

The new technology made messaging quicker and business was able to expand in the valley.

“In those days we had a direct link with Vancouver,” Kruisselbrink said.

“We transmitted important communication like lumber orders and changes in fuel prices.”

Kruisselbrink was able to advance to communications technician after taking a few electrical and technical courses, the bulk of his work happened at the Smithers railway station.

Despite his long history working and being generally associated with the railway Kruisselbrink found he was entering uncharted territory when he sat down to write his first book.

“I realized my knowledge in the area was woefully inadequate,” he said.

Kruisselbrink continued researching the railway’s effect on Smithers after he spoke at an elder’s college at NWCC.

“That was in 2005 and I published the shorter version of this book in 2007.”

The book spans pre-European contact to the present day and tells the story of how the railroad enabled a town to be built and sustained in the shadow of Hudson Bay Mountain.

“Smithers was really an afterthought during the construction of the railway,” he said.

“It was initially conceived during the construction of the Collins overland telegraph line.”

By Sept. 1866 the telegraph line was operational in what is now known as the Bulkley Valley, named after Col. Charles S. Bulkley, engineer-in-chief of the telegraph project.

The first train passed through Smithers in 1913, but rail traffic was prevented from making it to Prince Rupert until 1914 when the Grand Trunk Pacific railway was completed.

There was no such town as Terrace at the time and Hazelton was the hub of trade due to paddle-wheel boats inability to make any further headway, Kruisselbrink said.

Once the railway was complete Smithers became more of a centre of commerce.

“This railway is still the finest railway in North America,” he said.

“It was built to a very high standard by Charles Hays because he was competing with the southern rail companies.

“Without people like Hays, Smithers would never have existed at all.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Town grants Chamber $20K

Chamber estimates up to $65K in lost revenue, turns to council for help

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New Salt Boutique the realization of a vision for owner Caroline Marko

Marko combines the rough and the soft in a minimalist, clean airy space

Coastal GasLink pipeline work ramps up

With spring thaw ending, workers start to arrive for summer season

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

Most Read