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A Trip In History

While I have personally never ridden the rail, I was often told by one of my friends that I should make plans to visit the past and ride the Kettle Valley Railway, but yet to do. 

While we are still in the midst of Covid-19, many are looking at what they are calling a “stress release” and when the time is ready to travel there is no better way to do this than visit one of BC’s Historic railway lines.

Riding the trail you have the chance to step into the time machine and visit the rail-line that was welcomed when BC entered Confederation in 1871 that promised a rail-line from coast to coast.

The catch at that time was that the CPR never had a track to service the folks in BC where mineral deposits such as Silver were being mined as well as the fruit industry.

The late 1890’s saw the CPR extend service to the South Okanagan and began constructing the Shuswap & Okanagan Railway, which ran from Sicamous and on the CPR Mainline. 

It ran through to Okanagan Landing situated on the Okanagan Lake and here it was the CPR Sternwheeler Ships that traveled south to Penticton that saw them carry freight and families that saw them make various stops.

It wasn’t until 1901 that a charter was created for the Kettle River Valley Railway that was in place so as to connect a mine at Republic and the Grand Forks smelter at Grand Forks, which never materialized until J. J. Warren and an Ontario lawyer took over the financial problems of the almost then defunct KRVR. 

His vision was to meet with CPR President Shaughnessy about what the future held for BC’s railways. 

He (Warren) wanted to form an alliance with both the CPR and the KRVR that represented a subsidiary corporation used to expand the rails west from Midway, all done legally. 

His vision chugged along that saw the Kettle Valley Railway begin it’s survey work in 1910 that ran from Midway to Penticton (Carmi division) and Penticton to Merritt (Princeton division). 

He also wanted to see the line go through the Coquihalla Pass for it to be successful and a short year later work began on this subdivision.

One of the many KVR engineering feats is Summerland’s Trout Creek Trestle Bridge that ran 619 feet across and 238 feet above the Canyon floor which was known as the “infinitesimal” bridge – “incalculable, inestimable, great and fathomless”. 

It was the highest structure on the KVR and the third largest of its kind in North America when it was built, but since ungraded in 1927 & 1928 by filling in the Trestle approaches replacing trestle work with steel girders.

The KVR earlier trains were all routed from Midway to Spence’s Bridge that saw them eventually hook up or connect with the CPR mainline. 

It wasn’t until after July 1916 that the Coquihalla subdivision was complete that saw them travel south from Brodie to Hope, eventually connecting with the CPR mainline. 

Eventually the Coquihalla subdivision proved too much and suffered various washouts, snow and rock slides and to the dismay of many in 1959 it was closed that saw the earlier route put in place. 

The final passenger run was made in January 1964 and sad as it sounds, a short eight years later the subdivision from Midway to Penticton known as  Carmi was shut down and eventually the tracks torn up.

In today’s world the KVR is running all in parts thanks to financial support from Municipal, Regional, Provincial and Federal Governments and is operated by the Kettle Valley Railway Society.

They are a non-profit charitable organization that like others welcomes new membership in order to continue the overall restoration of one of BC’s treasures.

When you finish this part of your journey why not extend your vacation and stop in Sicamous and hit the water on a world class Sicamous Houseboats 

Book your extended vacation by calling (250) 836 2505

It’s a trip you enjoy from dawn to dusk!!

E-mail: Sportswave@dccnet.com