View single post by danpickard
 Posted: Thu Apr 23rd, 2009 07:00 am
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danpickard



Joined: Sun Sep 9th, 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 244
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Right then...crash course in history!:old dude:

Dolly Varden Mines Railway, located at the town of Alice Arm, British Columbia.  Back in around 1900, some mining prospects were staked near the town after discovery of silver.  Those stakes were only about 4 miles from the town because the terrain of the area was a bit "difficult".  A raging icy Kitsault River, verticle cliffs, thick forests, freezing winters, permanent ice fields...it wasn't no resort town!  In 1910 however, a group of prospectors ventured up the valley in search of riches.  18 miles up the mountain they discovered a rich strain of silver ore, and so claimed the site of the Dolly Varden Mines.

It was later decided that a 3' narrow gauge railway would be the best way to service the mines.  Hasty construction started on the basis of very rough estimates with very little survey work on the right of way.  Consequently, the budget for the railways construction was a farce, with massive blow outs before even reaching the half way mark.  Money was scarce, the winter was cold, the working conditions were shocking.  The line was steep, with tight curves and minimal clearances with the many rock cuttings.  "Build it quick and build it cheap" was the underlying motto, and this was reflected when the inspectors came to review the line.  The track was too light, mostly unballasted, often out of gauge, the locos were too small, most of them condemned etc etc

Amongst the cheap construction, blackmail was happening over sales of the railway with court cases eventuating to decide who will take ownership of the finacial mess.  Operating costs were high, and the price of silver had crashed.  Eventually the railway did earn its operating certificate in mid 1921, but was shut down due to huge finacial losses, officially an operating railway for around 6-8 weeks.  Some minor operations continued on the line there after, but the actual Dolly Varden operation was a bankrupt mess.  Some logging operations occurred for a few years to try and salvage some dollars, but that work only lasted a few years as well.  Eventually the metal scrappers moved in around 1937, and evidence of what was potentially the richest deposits of silver in the world were erased forever.

If you need to know the full story, do yourself a huge favour and track down the book "Steel Rails & Silver Dreams" by Darryl Muralt (Benchmark Publishing, now reprinted just recently).  It was our bible in building this layout.  The photos are stunning, and all references to this layout, with many of the scenes recreated in our version.  Cool story, cool pictures...they flogged the book when it was first released as "a railway crying out to be modelled"...damn right, thats why we did it!!!

Dan Pickard

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