Grand Trunk Pacific Roundhouse at Pacific
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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Pacific Roundhouse consists of a concrete foundation with associated discarded brick piles and railway track remnants. It is located on the west side of the Skeena River, east of the CNR railway tracks in the now-abandoned railway town of Pacific, British Columbia. Accessible only by train or boat, the roundhouse site is located on District Lot 919, approximately 120 railway miles from Prince Rupert and about 35 km northeast of Terrace in northwestern British Columbia.
The roundhouse at Pacific, British Columbia is valued for its historical, engineering and cultural significance, particularly as the remains of an important railway repair and maintenance structure associated with the Grand Trunk Pacific railway.As part of Canada’s second transcontinental railway, the British Columbia portion of the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) was constructed between 1908 and 1914, connecting the Canadian Prairies to Prince Rupert on the northwest coast. The construction of the GTP was considered to be the single most important influence on the opening up and development of central BC. In 1920, due to ongoing financial difficulties, the GTP was placed under the management of Canadian National Railways (CNR), and by 1923 was completely absorbed into the CNR.
Constructed in 1915, the roundhouse is significant for its utilitarian nature, being built to the GTP standard plan (Plan 120-115) typical of its time. The remaining physical foundations directly reflect the plans for a large quarter-circle-shaped building with track leading into 12 stalls, each with a below-grade maintenance pit used for the repair of locomotives and rolling stock. A large turntable in front of the roundhouse was used to align the locomotives with the stalls and was connected to a railway wye, which in turn joined the mainline track.
As the first divisional point east of the Prince Rupert terminus, Pacific was a significant part of GTP operations in BC. In addition to the roundhouse, Pacific’s railway infrastructure included a substantial passenger station (CNR Plan 100-159), freight and baggage sheds, water tank, oil tank, and coaling and sanding facilities. The selection of a railway divisional point often spurred additional economic activity resulting in the growth of the associated community. Divisional points were typically only 110 to 140 miles apart due to the mechanical limitations of steam locomotives and rolling stock of the time. Originally named Nicholl, Pacific’s importance was such that it was renamed in 1913, reflecting the company’s name of Grand Trunk Pacific. With increasing advances in locomotive technology from steam to diesel, railway operations became centralized, and as a result the Pacific roundhouse was demolished to its foundations in 1959. The divisional point was transferred to Terrace, and eventually all maintenance was relocated to Prince George, BC and Edmonton, Alberta.
The roundhouse is important for its construction materials and form. The remaining moss-covered foundations are formed of concrete; brick, glass and steel were the other primary materials employed in its construction. The GTP was known for its use of good-quality materials. The foundations themselves reflect the original association of the roundhouse with its landscape through their physical location, thickness, shape, detail and varying heights relative to the existing grade of the land. Their form corresponds directly to the GTP construction plans.
The association of this site with the contractor, Carter-Halls-Aldinger, is also important. This Winnipeg firm was responsible for many buildings, both utilitarian and aesthetic, throughout the Canadian West, including other GTP roundhouses in prairie towns such as Watrous and Biggar in Saskatchewan and Wainwright in Alberta.
The Pacific Roundhouse is valued as a key part of Western Canada’s transcontinental history, and for the fact that such structures are becoming increasingly rare. The traces of the roundhouse provide an opportunity to understand the scale and layout of the structure and its relationship to the railway tracks, the Skeena River and the former townsite of Pacific. Vegetation patterns associated with the foundations provide clues to its location and represent the inevitable encroachment of nature on the built structure.
Source: Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, Planning Department, Terrace
The character-defining elements of the Pacific Roundhouse include:
Site, Setting and Landscape
- Location of the roundhouse relative to the river, existing railway tracks and the former townsite of Pacific
- Landscape clues as to the location of the railway tracks leading to the wye
- The flat land on which the roundhouse, railway wye and turntable are located
- The concrete foundations in their original locations
- The expression of detail in the foundations, including form, shape, angle and height relative to grade
- Nearby piles of brick
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Communications and Transportation
Function - Category and Type
- Station or Other Rail Facility
Architect / Designer
Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
Location of Supporting Documentation
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, Planning Department, Terrace
Cross-Reference to Collection