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Kettle Valley Steam Railway


Kettle Valley RailwayReporting mark: KV

The fabled Kettle Valley Railway (KVR), opened in 1915, was built to serve both the combined interests of the mining sector and sovereign interests of BC and Canada.

Its origins lay in the silver rush that took place in BC's southern interior. Once silver was discovered in 1887, the area was flooded with American miners. The miners quickly discovered that it was far easier to get their supplies and ores in and out using the Northern Pacific Railroad. In order to keep revenue within Canada, the federal and provincial government determined that a second railway was of absolute necessity.

Picture of KVR engine
The KVR in the early 1900s

Construction of the railway was slow and laborious, owing to the difficult mountainous terrain. Planned by Andrew McCulloch, Chief Engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the railway took close to 20 years to complete.

The KVR offered both freight and passenger service. Freight included fruit and forestry products with the mainstay being ore from the Kootenay region. Passenger service included the Kettle Valley and Kootenay Express lines which travelled between Vancouver and Medicine Hat, Alberta. At its height, the railway covered 500 kilometres (325 miles).

In 1931 operations were taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), which continued to treat the KVR as a subsidiary. Over the years the KVR frequently doubled as a second mainline due to washouts, avalanches and other problems that often plagued the CPR mainline on the west coast. As a result, the CPR upgraded the line during the 1940s and 50s in order for it to withstand the same rigors as the mainline.

Changing industrial conditions that started in the late 1950s led to a gradual shutdown and abandonment of the line. The Copper Mountain Branch was closed in 1957 following the closure of the Copper Mountain Mine. The Coquihalla subdivision was abandoned in 1959 due to a washout. Freight service was cancelled in 1962 followed by passenger service in 1964. By the 1980s, only a small section of the railway remained in service for the saw mills. A slump in the forest industry during the mid 80s, spelled the end of the KVR. By 1990 the railway had been officially abandoned.

Today a 16-kilometre (10-mile) portion of the old KVR remains in service as a heritage railway. Now known as the Kettle Valley Steam Railway (KVSR), it's operated by the Kettle Valley Railway Society, a non-profit charitable group, comprised mainly of volunteers. The society offers regularly scheduled trips from spring to fall as well as holiday events and charters. Bookings are recommended. Schedules and fares are available on the KVSR website.