On The Rails of Northern British Columbia's History


Kenneth Scott Bateman - CNR Engineer



Ken Bateman of Smithers BC was an engineer for CNR for 25 years before he and Frank Watson died in a slide on November 2, 1978

The Trainwreck of 78 took the lives of Ken Bateman and Frank Watson in northern British Columbia

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Kenneth Scott Bateman

From Steam to Diesel

Kenneth Scott Bateman was born in Prince George, BC, on January 14, 1933. His parents were John Carey and Sophia Bateman. Ken had a brother and a sister, John and Marion. His mother Sophia, my grandmother, is a woman I will never forget. Some of my fondest memories as a child were with Sophia in her home while she told stories as we sat in her kitchen while the fire crackled in her old wood stove. The home was heated by the wood stove and from a stream engine boiler in the basement.

John Carey Coulton Bateman, was born on May 19, 1901, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. He passed away on November 12, 1945, in Kamloops, when Ken was 12 years old. John Carey's father, Edwin Wettenhall Bateman, passed away in 1957 in Burnaby, BC. Edwin's house was bought and is being restored by Burnaby Village Museum. As I talk with surviving family members and friends who know more than I do I will edit and update this document.

I believe Ken moved to Prince Rupert, BC, about 1950, when he was seventeen. He worked for the CNR and had worked his way up from being a boiler cleaner to a fireman on steam engines. Steam engines remained in Prince Rupert until 1959, and as a three year old boy I remember riding the head end and being inside the steam engine while my father shoveled coal into the firebox. I clearly remember Santa Claus coming into the Prince Rupert CNR yard on a steam engine, being with my father and receiving gifts from Santa Claus.

Ken met my mother, Elaine Patricia Christensen, in Prince Rupert and they were married in 1955. I was born on September 17, 1956. Ken and Elaine would have two more children during their marriage. Denise Marie, born September 21, 1958 in Prince Rupert and Diana May, born August 19, 1969 in Smithers. Before moving to Smithers we lived in Prince Rupert at the Summit Apartments and on 7th Avenue. When we lived in Prince Rupert I was very young but will never forget the strong winds and heavy rains, tremors from the Alaska earthquakes and tidal waves coming into the Prince Rupert Harbor and sinking ships. I remember one storm when my father did not come home as expected and my mother was very worried about him. Well, my father was not able to get home since he was trapped inside his car after a power pole was blown over by the wind, landing on his 1953 Chevrolet sedan, trapping him inside while the sparks flew. Ken did not try to get out of his car since he knew that to touch any metal on the car with electricity flowing through it could be the death of him.

Ken Bateman began his career with CNR on steam engines and finished his career on diesel

We moved from Prince Rupert to Smithers in 1962. Smithers was a much calmer environment and warmer than Prince Rupert. We lived in the Miller Apartments until 1963 when our house was built at 744 Main Street. The property and the house construction cost $16,000. That amount barely buys a car today.

I learned how to skate when we moved to Smithers and began playing hockey. My father became very involved and I remember the road trips when he often drove some of the team in his car and supported us at the games. About 1969, the The Rusty Rails hockey team was formed. This was a team of Smithers and area CNR workers who were out to have fun on the ice. Kenneth Scott Bateman and Francis William Watson were two players on that team. I played bantam hockey in 1970 and our team played The Rusty Rail. The game turned out much rougher than it was intended to be and the two teams never played each other again but, that one game was something to remember.


Canadian National Railways locomotives were Kenneth Scott Bateman's life and love and it is where he died in 1978


Jan 14, 1933 - Nov 2, 1978

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I was very fortunate as a boy to have a father like Ken, for hockey, fishing, hunting, and for someone to talk to. A lot of my weekends were spent with my father in the locomotive making trips to, Terrace, Endako, Prince George, or Prince Rupert. During the summer months I would go with my father for weeks on work trains. I will never forget one summer when I was eleven years old and with my father on a work train. The other workers were telling me that my father knew a lady up in the mountains close to where we were working and he used to visit her there. It seemed innocent enough to me at eleven years old. However, when I mentioned my father's friend, the lady up in the mountains, to my mothers some time later, she did not see it this way and spoke of this lady to my father. My father did not appreciate me speaking of this lady up in the mountain to my mother.

I always remember my father speaking of his dog he had as a child in Prince George, Toby, a very smart German Shepard. During the Second World War, Canadian Forces offered my father $100 for Toby. My father refused to sell him so they offered him $200, he still refused to sell. When I think about this amount of money at that time it amazes me since $200 would have put a down payment on a house or bought a good used car or truck.

I loved my family and enjoyed life until I was about twelve years old. Ken and Elaine were not getting along very well and in March 1972, Elaine left Ken and moved down to Parksville, BC. This changed the life for Ken's children, Diana, Denise, and myself. Stability was lost and now only bad things were being said about my father. Truth or not, young children do not live well with this reality.


Ken Bateman and Frank Watson died in November 1978 when their second locomotive was pushed into the Skeena River by mud

Diana, the youngest was the safest. However, Denise was having a hard time in school and not happy, which led to more troubles later in her life. Myself, I was completely unhappy, quit school, left my mother and grandparents place, and got into all kinds of trouble. I got my first job on the CNR on a work train in 1973, at fifteen years old. Over the next five years, while Dad and I did communicate, things were never the same again. We had our suppers together, we met each other at the night club or at events in town but, something had been lost. If Ken had lived longer we may have regained some of what we lost but, we ran out of time. I do know though, my father was happier in the last five years of his life than he had ever been before. He had found something in those last five years and he was happier. I love you Dad, always will, and maybe someday we will meet again and we will laugh. Please look after your grandson, Littleboo, for me.

Kenneth John Bateman

Kenneth Scott Bateman died on November 2, 1978 when their CNR train was washed into the Skeena River in Northern BC




One memory I have of time with my father when I was young is one which I will never forget. My father purchased a 16 foot boat with a 50hp Mercury outboard motor. I loved the boat and the time I spent on the water with dad. One fishing trip we made to Owen Lake we spent the night camped out. All evening around the campfire my father worked on a piece of wood which was to connect the 50hp motor to the 5hp Elgin outboard so that dad could steer the boat while trolling from the steering wheel. It worked great. Dad had also installed new drain plugs in the stern so first thing in the morning when we got out on the water dad asked me to drive the boat while he pulled the plugs to drain the water from inside the boat. Dad said, " open it up about half throttle," which I did. Then my dad said, "open it up some more." In my mind I thought there must be water coming into the boat so I opened the throttle fully and turned around to watch dad. The next time I turned and looked forward all I saw were the shore and trees coming my way. We hit the shore doing about 30mph and dad flew from the stern to the bow like thunder. So when we stopped I jumped out of the boat and was ready to run. We were lucky since where I hit the shore there was only fine sand and no rocks. However, the piece of wood my father had worked on all evening was only splinters now


Francis William Watson was the conductor who died when their CNR train was washed into the Skeena River November 2, 1978





I feel my father did not live as long as he should have and I think about this lots. However, what I think about more and what hurts so much more is my son, Brenden Lee, who lost his life at two years old near Christmas in 2003. It took me many years before I did not cry many times a day and even today it hurts and there are tears. My father and Brenden would have been best buddies and I believe they are today where they now live. If you would like to know more about Brenden and what I learned from him in his two short years with us please visit Littleboo.ca and Boo Graphics


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