This site mentions the armoured train based in Prince Rupert
CANADA’S BEST KEPT SECRET OF WWII
The Armoured Train
by Ted Hackett
"The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the enemy’s successes in the following weeks and months caused great concern on the West Coat of Canada. Prince Rupert was now a strategic port, and embarkation point for US Army Personnel and supplies destined for Alaska. The United States had already built an installation and had several personnel stationed at the port. The Canadian National Railway line that ran along the Skeena river now became very important. At that time no highway ran to Prince Rupert
The defence of Prince Rupert was supported by seven coastal batteries and, in 1942, by two railway guns supplied by the United States Army.The RCAF 7 BR Squadron patrolled the area using Blackburn Shark aircraft on floats. John Moyles was stationed there and hopefully he will write an account of his adventures at that time.
In early 1942 it was decided to build an armoured train to patrol the railway line between Prince Rupert and Terrace, B.C., a distance of 95 miles. The train was assembled at the CNR Transconna Workshops in Winnipeg, Manitoba and consisted of seven pieces of modified, armour plated, rolling stock pulled by a steam locomotive. The locomotive was a CN class H-10, number 1426 and 4-6-0 commonly called a “10 wheeler”. That last bit of information is for any railroad buffs amongst our readers. There were plans to replace the steam locomotive with a diesel electric and CN No.9000 was chosen, but by the time it was obtained through the US Navy the need for the train was downgraded.
The train was manned by a company from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and equipped with Bren Guns, 75mm and Bofor guns. The assigned task was to patrol the Skeena river and engage any ships that attempted to sail up the river and, perhaps land troops.
The Japanese departure from Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and the reoccupation of the Island by the US Army certainly lessened the threat to Prince Rupert and the train was eventually taken out of service. The train was parked on the siding at Terrace and eventually returned to the CNR for dismantling., a little over two years since its creation.
Ted refers to an excellent book on the topic; THE ARMOURED TRAIN IN CANADIAN SEVICE by Roger V. Lucy. Your Editor was able to obtain this book, courtesy of Robert Henderson. Following are some interesting excerpts from Roger Lucy’s book.
With the attack on Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941 and the fall of Singapore 15 February 1942, public opinion on the West Coast, in the words of C.P. Stacey were ….in a state approaching panic…..
[Editor – at that time plans for the mass evacuation of Vancouver Island where being formulated.] Security was so tight that people in Prince Rupert did not know of the armoured train until after the war.
The CNR train crew consisted of, engineer, fireman, conductor, and two brakemen. Department of National Defence reimbursed the CNR $100.00 per day for each crew member and $80.00 per day for rental of equipment.
The train at all times was to be in charge of the CNR crew, who in turn were under the orders of the O.C. Troops and move the train in accordance to his instructions subject to the standard of operating rules.
The five officers and 145 Other Ranks were made up mainly of Home Defence conscripts and moral was not high. Major General W.A. Giesbach , Inspector General for Western Canada states that he found them unenthusiastic, even sullen. On the first run to Prince Rupert two went AWOL
To add to the problems the rail bed was in need of up grading. Ties were rotting and some spikes were so loose they could be removed by hand. The resulting vibration necessitated lowering the speed to 10 to 15 mph. The vibrations played havoc with the search lights and gun mountings which were attached solidly to the floors of the rail cars. The cars had to be sent to Vancouver for adjustments.
For security reasons the train did not adhere to scheduled runs. As a result it ran over a man asleep on the tracks severing both is legs. It was determined that he was a local sleeping off a binge. Two CNR rail line workers were killed when the train hit them when they were using jackhammers. Due to the non scheduled runs they were not expecting the train and they did not hear it approaching over the sound of jackhammers .Due to the status of the roadbed, the train was located at Tyee, close to the mouth of the Skeena.
On November 7, 1942 the train complement consisted of a Major, Company Sgt. Major, Quarter Master Sergeant, 3 Corporals,, clerk, artificer, and cook. The remainder of the crew were detailed from 14th Brigade, an Infantry company (5 officers and 119 Ors) gun crew (2 officers and 24Ors, searchlight crew (8 Ors), signals (3Ors), Medical staff, and 3 Royal Canadian Engineers.
The first Commanding Officer of the Armoured train was Captain N..K. Gateson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served from 27 June, 1942 to 28 February 1943. He was replaced by Major J.C. Herbert of the Oxford Rifles who served until the train was moth-balled in October 1943.
On July 31, 1944, Royal Assent was given to the Order in council disbanding the Unit.