Crisis at the Power House

Contributed by Jeff Laurie, former Mine Garage foreman

Gotta tell my story about that Power House.

As everyone knows it was the only source of electricity for hundreds of miles and supplied everything Cassiar needed for business and social use. A very important piece of the Cassiar mosaic indeed.

So, you can imagine the consternation when one very cold winter day the small Caterpillar diesel engine that ran the fuel pump that brought fuel from the tanks across the road to the big engines quit and could not be started.

As I recall the experts tried starting it for a day and a half and were starting to get panicky. Finnjng Tractor the Caterpillar dealer had all it's best people involved and of course every mechanical person on the claim had a go at the problem. Those big Rustons also supplied heat to all the Panabode homes in town through underground steam lines. Peter Jones, the Mine Manager had already ordered all the big bus's he could find to head for Cassiar to affect a big evacuation and people were stunned to learn that if they couldn't get the engine running soon the mine would be shut down and everyone out of work until the problem was solved.

As you may recall, the drinking water for the open pit operations was hauled up the hill in a 35 ton Pacific truck with a big water tank welded into the box. There was no clean water up on the mountain and the water from the cooling system on the big engines in the power house was always warm enough to not freeze on the trip up the hill.

The main truck driver for that job was Alex Joseph who I'm sure everyone knew but probably never spoke with. We affectionately called him the F.B.I. because he was a physically big man but he usually didn't speak unless he had something important to say and had the gentlest heart of anyone I've ever known.

Alex was patiently waiting for this engine to get started so he could resume his water haul up the hill while all the know it alls ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. He and I were standing up on a gantry overlooking this madhouse around the engine when he gently nudged me and just pointed to the side of the engine as they were trying to get it to fire one more time. In a flash I and Goldie Kavaz another Mine Garage Foreman who was there with us saw what he was pointing at . . . . it was what I recall being known as the "Sentinel" seen on almost every engine in the operation. It was a small cylindrical device designed to shut down any unattended engines should they overheat or run low on oil or whatever. Whenever it would do its job for whatever reason there was a thin silver colored lever on it's side that had to be twisted to a re-set and run position. Alex knew this because he had one on his truck that he'd used many times before.

Goldie and I were gobsmacked and didn't know what to say or do not wanting to embarrass all the big shot experts who had missed this simple action. So Goldie casually walked down the steps on the gantry and sidled up to the side of the Caterpillar and snuck his hand down to reset the Sentinel. The next time they turned it over, voila, it started on the first turn and everyone jumped back and yelled out loud, something like W.T.F. or something similar. And to this day, as far as I know, Alex, Goldie and I were the only ones who knew what happened that day and how the disaster was avoided.

It's been about 25 years since this happened and this story is to the best of my memory but if anyone else was there at that time please enlighten us further.

June 19, 2010

This page was last edited Monday, February 02, 2015

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