One of the best things about having this column is how sometimes it leads to new information of which the Museum was previously unaware. Last week I wrote about Train Wreck, and all the Museum knows about the site.
I explained how the box cars did not fall in their current location but were dragged there, evident from the lack of damage to the old-growth Douglas firs that surrounds them.
This morning I got a visit from Rick Valleau, whose family logged in the Whistler area for 20 years. Rick came to the Museum to tell me that it was actually his father and uncle, Laurence and Bob Valleau, who moved the train wreck after the accident!
The crash occurred in 1956 shortly after the Valleau family had moved to the area. The wreck happened in a rock cut and the PGE workers couldn't get in there to repair the rail tracks and unblock the line. The Valleaus took their logging machinery (a couple of D8 Cats) down to the site and pulled the cars up the track and into the forest, where they lie today.
I am so excited to fill in the missing pieces about Train Wreck and delighted that the story involved the Valleau family, whose history is so tied up in the area. In the early days of Whistler the Valleaus were a very important part of community life. In 1966 their logging camp at Mons was the site of the post office, they acted as a community centre before any other facilities existed, letting their cookhouse be used by the Alta Lake Community Club for fundraisers. They also donated their equipment and manpower to digging the first garbage dump when Whistler's population grew large enough to warrant one. Rick's father Laurence was named Citizen of the Year in 1974.
Aside from their generous community work the Valleaus were also involved in the construction of Whistler Mountain, building the road from the valley to mid-station and removing usable timber for the newly cut runs.
I'm very grateful to Rick for coming in and sharing his story with us. If there is anyone else out there who knows any more about Train Wreck do let us know. The more accounts we have, the better!
Sarah Drewery is executive director of the Whistler Museum.