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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The Storm of 1978

In North Central British Columbia, Canada

Being born and raised in northern British Columbia, Canada, is an experience not all young people have. This is unfortunate for those who have missed growing up in such a beautiful place. There was no robbery of houses or stolen cars. There was no hectic lifestyle or traffic jams. There was no television in Smithers until 1964 and that one channel was the only channel until 1976, when we then had two. However, what there was in northern BC was life full of trusting and honest people growing with the nature and within the environment they were in. A spring of melting snow and the beginning of new life. Warm summers at mountain lakes fishing and swimming with friends and family. A fall full of colors in the valleys and mountains. A winter of hockey, skiing, curling, and keeping warm by a fire. The white snow powder and the beginning of a new year in northern British Columbia.

1978 was another year in northern BC. Winter, Spring, Summer, had passed. The colored leaves had all fallen and we were moving into winter. Most years at Halloween the temperature is cool to cold and often there is snow on the ground. However, this was not the case in 1978.

October 31, the temperature was ten degrees C, about 10 degrees warmer than normal at this time of year. In the Terrace/Kitimat/Smithers area more than nine inches of rain fell in 48 hours. Two inches of rain in 48 hours would cause high water and moving mud but, nine inches was too much of an overload for the terrain which began to crumble and wash away. To add to this tremendous amount of rain was a severe wind which reached speeds of 140 km. Areas like Chapman Lake had over 20,000 hectares of trees blown down.


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

Bridges were moved like they belonged in a Hot Wheels set and washed away. Culverts under roads that had been sufficient for years were not able to move the dramatic increase in water through them and hundreds of feet of road were washed away. Rail lines had their road beds washed away leaving hundreds of feet of track and ties hanging in the air. Power lines were knocked down or moved by mud. Natural gas lines were damaged by the Copper River. People were in their homes with no electricity and no heat. They were isolated since all roads around them were closed. Water was undrinkable in some areas and food was running low. Helicopters were used when available to bring in water and food to those most stranded.



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


November 1978

This was a time in northern British Columbia's history when everyone was surprised but, it was also a time when people became closer and relied on their neighbor, their friend, and themselves, to work together and survive. Yes, we lost three special people from Smithers during this storm, Cheryl May Halwas, Francis William Watson, and my father Kenneth Scott Bateman. They are missed and in our hearts forever. Those who survived became closer to themselves and to those around them, and learned something they will never forget.

There are many photos and reports on this website and this will increase as the site grows and has more input from others who were there during the storm or have done reports and studies. If you have some information, a story, photos, or have a question, please email me at, hoghead@trainwreckof78.ca.

I will be designing a Forum on this website soon where you are welcome to have your say and tell your story. Thank you for visiting this site, have fun, and enjoy.


What Happened?

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


Kenneth John Bateman - www.boographics.ca
Denise Marie Gustitus
Diana May Wright


Where did most of the damage occur from the storm?

Map of storm area of 1978 between Terrace and Smither which was most damaged and  where Ken Bateman and Frank Watson died after being pushed into the Skeena River by mud


Smithers BC was home for Ken Bateman and Frank Watson who lost their lives in a mudslide which pushed their CNR train into the Skeena River Movember 1978

Robert D. McDonald - Oil-Electric.com



The Wreck Of The Number 9

On a cold winter's night not a star was in sight
And the north wind came howling down the line
With his sweetheart so dear stood a brave engineer
With his orders to pull old No 9
She kissed him goodbye with a tear in her eye
But the joy in his heart he could not hide
Oh the whole world seemed bright when she told him that night
That tomorrow she'd be his blushing bride
Oh the wheels hummed a song as the train rolled along
And the black smoke came pouring from the stack
And the headlight agleam seemed to brighten his dream
Of tomorrow when he'd be coming back
He steered around the hill and his brave heart stood still

For a headlight was shining in his face
And he whispered a prayer as he drew on the air
or he knew this would be his final grace
In the wreck he was found lying there on the ground
And he asked them to raise his weary head
As his breath slowly went this the message he sent
To the maiden who thought she would be wed
There's a little white home that I built for our own
Where I dreamed we'd be happy by and by
But I leave it to you for I know you'll be true
Till we meet at the golden gate goodbye

Performed by: Hank Snow
(Writer Carson J. Robison)


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