Friday, May 6, 2011

Kamloops Railways ~ CPR ~ CNR ~ Kamloops, BC

Kamloops has a long history and much of that includes the railways.  It all began in 1879 when Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Canada, called for tender to construct 206 km (128 mi.) section of railway from Yale, BC to Savona’s Ferry on Kamloops Lake. The Canadian Pacific Railway, commonly referred to as the CPR was founded in 1881.

Kamloops Lake, Kamloops, BC
CPR hired workers from China, called coolies, and other workers including European, called navies were also hired to construct the railway lines as we know it now.  The Chinese were paid less but did the most dangerous jobs including explosives. They were treated poorly but played a major role in building the western stretch of railway.

Railway tracks follow Kamloops Lake edge
Following WW 1 and several changes to the systems of control, the Canadian government took control and formed the new Canadian National Railway, the CNR by combining eastern and western railway companies and made it national. 

Railway routes were carved out of mountains and rock
The CNR completed a track in 1915 that used the Yellowhead Pass through the Rockies that then ran parallel to the CPR from Kamloops to Vancouver, BC.  There were several mountain passes that would have seemed impossible to lay tracks through but it was done.  We can read about but only imagine the hardships that the men who constructed these miles of railroads that we still use today, had to endure.

Viewpoint from Cherry Creek as train arrives into Kamloops, BC
The completion of the transcontinental railway was a condition set by Sir John A. Macdonald for British Columbia’s entry into Confederation to connect the west to the east.  He saw a unified Canadian nation and Quebec and Ontario had sought access to the raw materials and markets found in the west.  The last spike was driven in at Craigellachie, BC on November 7, 1885.

Freight train seen while boating on Kamloops Lake
Both the CNR and the CPR now have railways that are on either side of the Kamloops Lake and many times a day there are freight trains carrying cargo for destinations, some to go all the way across Canada from Vancouver. 

Railway tracks line both sides of Kamloops Lake
CNR freight travels through Kamloops to Edmonton, AB and northern Alberta.  The CPR travels onto Calgary, AB to the east.  There is a total of 72,212 km (44,870 mi) of functioning railway tracks in Canada.

Spectacular sight for visitors arriving in Kamloops by train
Over the years, there has been a passenger train service for those wishing to enjoy that mode of travel as well as the scenery they will get to enjoy as they travel through the Fraser Valley or the scenic routes it would follow from Kamloops. 

The Rocky Mountaineer arrives at the CPR station in Kamloops, BC
If you are wanting to travel some of these railroads and wish to have a tour of some of our beautiful BC scenery, a great way to do that would be with the Rocky Mountaineer.  I hear they offer wonderful holiday packages.  The Rocky Mountaineer now carries passengers following the CNR tracks on the northern side of Kamloops Lake as it approaches Kamloops and its overnight stay. 

The old CPR Staion in Kamloops, BC
The original CPR railway station has been restored to be a restaurant as well as facilities for the passengers of the Rocky Mountaineer and closely resembles a true railway station of days gone by.  I can almost hear those famous words.   Aaaaaall aboaaard!

The Kamloops Heritage Society restored the old CNR Steam Locomotive 2141 and has been offering train rides for all to enjoy.  The “Spirit of Kamloops” will soon be ready to begin the 2011 season.  Watch for the summer schedule and plan to take a ride on that old train for an unforgettable experience.