It was a brisk Thursday morning when my workmate Cody and I (Coby Reid) set out to complete a track inspection ahead of our trains. We work on a section of railroad, high in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Our line is a short section, only seven miles long, that stretches between the town of Fruitvale and the rural region of Columbia Gardens. The track represents the only remaining stretch of the historical Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway, built by the American entrepreneur and railroad tycoon Daniel C. Corbin between 1892 and 1893.
At about 8 am, shortly after crossing over one of our eight, large, historical wooden trestle bridges, we came across a small group of elk that regularly cross the river from the Fort Sheppard Conservancy Area. We completed the first half of our inspections without any issues and moved on to a section of track just south of our own, a connecting section of rail which we maintain that runs up from across the American border and along the Columbia River.
It was on this stretch of track that we came across a small bobcat sitting within the gauge of the railway (in the center of the tracks). The cat was reposed on his haunches with one arm leaned casually over the rail, as though he were reclining in an armchair.
An unusual sight, we exited our highrail truck to investigate. Upon closer inspection, we found that the wild cat had become frozen to the rail while enjoying a duck for breakfast. We believe the bobcat froze to the cold steel rail because it was wet from pulling the duck from the river. We took a moment to think about the situation before deciding to call our office to ask for someone to bring us a pail of hot water to help free the unfortunate cat from the rail.
A short while later, our boss arrived, water in hand and ready to assist. He poured the water on the cat’s rear legs, quickly freeing one. But this further agitated the feisty bobcat whose instincts told it to protect its breakfast. With a bit of coaxing and more warm water the cat was free. But to our surprise, it did not want to leave without a fight. The wild cat was still protecting its food.
The three of us now had no choice but to scare off the bobcat. With a few yells and some coaxing by revving our truck engine, the animal sprung off the tracks. We removed the duck and placed it where our friend might finish his meal safely away from the tracks and then we continued on our way.
Having extended our morning, the bobcat ensured that we completed our inspections only 30 minutes shy of the next train’s passing — the very train that would have ended our small friend’s life had we not been conducting an inspection that morning.