Touring the Kettle Valley Railway

Welcome to Touring the Kettle Valley Railway, a photographic tour of the Historic Kettle Valley Railway. On this site I will show some of the sights to be seen along this old abandoned railway, as well as share some of the history of the old rail line where I can.

You can navigate this site in one of two ways, the easiest is to click on the “Kettle Valley Railway Map” link at the top of the page. Or alternatively, you can choose one of the six subdivisions and go from there. Or way down on the left hand side, I also have every point of interest listed and you can click on those links.

The Kettle Valley Railway was built to keep the riches of the British Columbia southern interior from going south to American smelters. The Canadian Pacific Railway was too far north and east of the southern interior for ore to be removed or supplies brought in. In fact it was closer and cheaper to have goods go through the Northern Pacific Railway that went through Spokane, Washington. There were a lot of mountain ranges in between the CPR mainline and the mines of the southern interior.

There were many attempts to build a railroad to serve Southern British Columbia. Many of them were paper railroads that never laid a piece of track. Others would lay small sections of track or go bankrupt. Even the Kettle Valley Railway itself is comprised of several smaller railroads that were joined together either via purchase, agreements to share right of way or outright purchase of another line.

The Kettle Valley Railway officially opened on May 31, 1915 with the commencement of passenger and freight service. It was nick named the Coast to Kootenay Railway. The KVR was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1931. In the 1950′s, the CPR set about upgrading the rail lines on the Kettle Valley Railway as it recognized that a second line through the province of British Columbia was a valuable asset. However, even with the upgrading of the KVR in the 50′s, the building of the Crowsnest Highway in 1949 had sounded the end of the Kettle Valley Railway. In 1961, the first of the KVR subdivisions was officially abandoned, the Coquihalla section. It was one of the most difficult sections of railway to maintain in North America, with annual snowfalls in excess of 50 feet, rock slides and forest fires.

In 1962, the last freight train ran through the KVR line, followed by the last passenger train in 1964. In 1964, the Kettle Valley Railway was deemed a branch line by the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1973 service between Midway and Penticton was discontinued, it was labeled as abandoned in 1978 and the rails pulled up in 1979. The entire Kettle Valley Railway was finally abandoned in the late eighties and the CPR began removing track as well as bridges. Some tunnels, such as in the Coquihalla section were caved in by army engineers. The Coquihalla section actually saw the worst of the destruction, first the Trans Mountain pipeline came through the pass, then followed the Coquihalla Highway in the early eighties. Most of the old rail bed was then obliterated.

The Kettle Valley Railway worked its way through some spectacular scenery in British Columbia, most notable would be the Quintette Tunnels near hope, the fantastic views from the small tunnel near Penticton and the Myra Canyon near Kelowna. The railway also climbed from 48 meters above sea level in Hope to its highest point at 1260 meters at Ruth, which is actually higher than the Coquihalla subdivision! (Note: the highway actually climbs well above where the KVR rail bed was in the Coquihalla pass, that is why it is not as high as you expect)

I first started touring the KVR in the late 90′s. Oddly enough, I had crossed paths with the KVR many times before, but did not know it. I remember fishing off the trestle in Okanagan Falls. Looking at the work shed and driving under the train bridge at Kingsvale. I had passed the Hope and Princeton stations many times. I had walked the old KVR right of way in Hope. I had even followed the Summerland to Princeton section without even knowing it, crossing the right of way many times. I remember camping at Chain Lake, where a hunt for firewood brought us to the KVR right of way, it was this section that I spent the most time on. Since I started touring the Kettle Valley Railway, many of the buildings have disappeared as well as many of the bridges. The trestle at Thalia ws burned down by and many of the steel bridges were removed by the CPR to be used elsewhere. I remember seeing all of these things and at the time, the thought never occurred to me to take a picture, back then, they were just railway bridges that we drove under, buildings we drove by and tracks we crossed over.

Luckily parts of this railway have been preserved forever by the provincial and federal government. Othello Tunnels is a Provincial Park. Myra Canyon was designated a place of national historic significance in January of 2003. There is also a ten mile section of track that still has an authentic steam train running on it, operated by a non-profit society dedicated to preserving the Kettle Valley Railway.

I am always amazed at some of the great places this railway ran through and the fantastic things to see. I am going to show you some of those places in this website.

You can navigate this website in one of two ways, you can use the menu to choose a subdivision and then a station, or you can click here (or in the menu) for the Map and then graphically choose a station to look at. Also, on the bottom of each page is a picture of an engine, clicking on one of the engines will take you to the next station on the railway.

If you have any questions, comments or anything else on your mind about Touring the Kettle Valley Railway, then please don’t hesitate to contact me at darrenc@telus.net. Also, if you have any pictures or information on any areas of the Kettle Valley Railway that you would like to share, I would gladly love to discuss them with you, shoot me an email.

In the meantime, enjoy the scenery,
Darren Critchley

By the way, in June of 2012, I wrote and published my first book, it is a tour guide of the Canadian Rockies. Sorry, I thought about doing one on the Kettle Valley Railway, but there are a few more things I need to do, before I can write one on this topic. However, if you are planning a trip to the Rockies, or like to see stunning pictures of the Canadian Rockies, then this book is for you. You can view parts of it for free to get a feel for it. Click on the book cover below to learn more.