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Northern Stages Ltd.

by Dick Smith

    This article is reprinted from Volume 2, Number 4 (October/November 1967) of The Coachways Thunderbird, "a magazine for and by employees of the Coachways System". The magazine was published every two months by the Coachways head office at 10040 - 104 Street in Edmonton, Alberta.

Northern Stages Ltd., Dawson Creek, 1953
RECEPTION ACCORDED the first Northern Stage Lines bus to arrive in Dawson Creek, B.C. as their tri-weekly service connecting Prince George and Dawson Creek went into effect on May 18, 1953. N.S.L., at that time, connected with Greyhound at Prince George and B.Y.N. (operating over the Alaska Highway through to the Alaskan border) on the north. Photo shows represenlatives of both lawns and Dawson Creek pipe band grouped around the Mile "Zero" post in the heart of Dawson Creek.

    Northern Stages Ltd. had its origin with two preceding pioneer bus companies in the name of Fort St. James Stages and Canadian Trailways Stages respectively.

First bus of Fort St. James Stages, 1940
    Fort St. James Stages was founded by Mr. Harold W. Smith in the year 1935 for service between Vanderhoof and Fort St. James, B.C. and consisted primarily of a taxi service for provision of mail and passenger service between these two localities. During ensuing years service was extended to the gold mining territories of Manson Creek and Germansen Landing the scene of extensive placer and hard rock mining.

    With the start of the Second World War in 1939 and the expansive development of the Pinchi Lake Mercury Mine by Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, Fort St. James Stages was expanded to service the busy community of Pinchi Lake with a passenger and express service daily to Vanderhoof and three times weekly to Prince George.

    With the termination of war time production, the economy of Pinchi Lake and Fort St. James experienced a substantial relapse and it was necessary for founder Harold Smith to look further afield for extension of his taxi and express services.

    In 1945 Mr. Smith moved to Prince George with the purchase of a local bus service and subsequently expanded his service area to include highway 16 East to Sinclair Mills, Highway 16 West to Hazelton and the area surrounding Prince George.

    Extreme operating conditions, sparsely populated areas and a general lack of economic stability in the area west of Prince George forced the abandonment of the Prince George to Hazelton service and Canadian Trailways Stages reconstructed their service area to immediate communities on Highway 16 east of Prince George, charter bus services from Prince George, school bus operations and local transit service in the City of Prince George.

Two original units of Canadian Trailway Stages (1945) in Prince George.
Founder H. W. Smith, Mrs. Smith, daughter Helen Smith, Driver Tom Stanton.

    The ensuing years from 1945 to 1953 were marginal for the bus industry in the Prince George area and the company of Canadian Trailways Stages continued a stable operation with services restricted to local areas surrounding Prince George.

Canadian Trailways fleet in Prince George in 1950.

    In the year 1953, Harold Smith gained two new shareholders in his company in the persons of his two sons Craig and Dick Smith. Services were extended to include the Hart Highway from Prince George to Dawson Creek. Local transit service in the City of Prince George was expanded, school bus operations continued to expand with the increase in population and charter bus services from Prince George to all points in British Columbia were a significant factor to the economy of this company.

    With the expansion of the bus company in Prince George in 1953 the former company of Canadian Trailways Stages was incorporated as a limited company under the new name of Northern Stages Ltd.

    From the years 1953 to 1964, Northern Stages Ltd. showed continuous and progressive growth with the economic development of the Central Interior portion of British Columbia and the fleet of buses owned by this company increased to a total of 21 units including highway operations, transit service and school bus operations.

    The political and industrial interest in the economic potential of northern British Colombia during the years 1958 to 1964 provided the basic buoyant economic atmosphere for expansion and growth for the company of Northern Stages Ltd.

    In the year 1964, Canadian Coachways Limited purchased the entire operations of Northern Stages Ltd. and this company then became a part of the Coachways System.

Bus & Motorcoach History: Yukon & Northern British Columbia