ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth


Buick Conquers Alaska Highway Grades, 1950

History of the Alaska Highway

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) - July 23, 1950

1950 Buick with 35-foot trailer in Fairbanks

BUICK CONQUERS GRADES - Monrovians Pull Large Trailer to Fairbanks, 1950

    Driving a Dynaflow-equipped Buick Special four-door sedan, hauling a 35-foot trailer weighing 7300 pounds and carrying 1500 pounds of luggage, James Post and his wife Helen traveled the 4465 miles from Monrovia to Fairbanks, Alaska, with no more trouble than two flat tires and the wearing out of three sets of tire chains.

    The trip from Monrovia to Seattle was made without incident. But the story of the trip from Seattle to Fairbanks by way of the Alaska (Alcan) Highway is that of a modern motoring pioneer. Two days out from Seattle the Posts arrived at the Canadian border town of Kingsgate, British Columbia, where they were confronted with the Canadian regulations "to haul trailers over 21 feet in length into Canada the motive power must be a jeep, a four-wheel drive or power at least equivalent to a one-ton truck."

    The customs inspectors shook their heads at the sight of the huge trailer hauled by a mere automobile but after a sales talk on Dynafiow by Post the situation was referred to the Deputy Minister of Transportation at Ottawa and permission to enter Canada was finally granted after 51 hours' delay.

Sunset Viewed

    The drive from Kingsgate to Fernie, British Columbia, highlighted by a gorgeous sunset behind the snow-capped, purple mountains, is acclaimed by the Posts as the most beautiful of the entire trip. At Fernie the motorists were warned of the hazardous conditions of the highway to Crows Nest Pass, but although they encountered many sharp curves, long steep grades and plenty of mud, their greatest danger was from falling rocks.

    Enjoyable driving over a paved highway was experienced from Crows Nest to 50 miles north of Edmonton. Then 80 miles of sticky mud and deep ruts that proved a real test for the Dynafiow Buick.

    Reaching Dawson Creek, the halfway point on the trip and the beginning of the laska Highway, the Posts were met by amazed people who didn't believe it possible for an automobile to haul so large a trailer over such a difficult and hazardous route. It was here that the motorists got their first flat tire, having picked up a nail.

Army Maintains Road

    The Alaska Highway is maintained by the Northwest Highway System of the Canadian army. Maintenance camps are 50 miles apart. Mileposts along the highway make it easier for the motorist in trouble to indicate his exact location when calling for assistance. However, no aid is available from the NWHS, according to Post. The one thing they will do, he said, is to remove your car from the highway if it is blocking traffic.

    Continuing from Dawson Creek the Posts discovered that the Alaska Highway goes over the mountains rather than through them. From Mason Creek (Mile 171) the going is a gradual climb until Mile 392, the highest point on the highway is reached.

    At Coal River (Mile 533) they were told that no automobile could possibly pull so large a trailer over the Mile 595 grade. The Posts were determined to attempt it. "Starting up that grade we seemed to stop breathing," James Post said.

Inched Ahead Slowly

    "We inched along so slowly that the speedometer didn't register but we made it and the folks at Lower Post (Mile 620) were speechless with unbelief when they saw us drive in. A bus driver then gave us our first encouragement - he informed us that since we had successfully made the Mile 595 grade we would surely get to Fairbanks.

    "Rugged conditions with continuous mountain climbing were encountered all the way to a point 35 miles from Fairbanks where we hit paved highway."

    Seventeen days after leaving Seattle the Posts arrived at their destination. The couple said that on the 3225-mile trip (including a 114-mile side trip without trailer) the Buick used 408 gallons of gasoline at a cost of $236.12 with an additional $125 for food.

The advertisement below filled the lower half of the page the above article was on.

1950 Buick Roadmaster ad in the Los Angeles Times