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Trail Blazers: Railway integral to industry and culture

Weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Train No. 954 on Rossland Avenue. (Trail Historical Society)

For those living in the city who don’t think twice about buzzing up to Rossland within minutes, or over to Nelson for the day, the aim of this week’s Trail Blazers is to encourage locals to pause for a moment to reflect upon what these trips were like in the early days.

“From the beginning, trains carried passengers into and out of Trail daily,” began Jesslyn Jarvis, collections coordinator for the Trail Museum and Archives.

“It took Scouts and Guides to their annual summer camps, transported hockey fans to games in Rossland or Nelson, and took music lovers to the Kootenay Music Festival in Nelson,” she said.

“The passenger train route was from Rossland down to and along Rossland Avenue and then into Trail.”

The train also carried many new residents into Trail from other parts of Canada and from other countries, making this mode of transportation critical in growing the city’s population in those early days.

The top photograph specifically shows locomotive No. 954 on Rossland Ave, just outside the doorstep of Canada Billiards and other shops and residences in the old Trail Gulch.

These tracks were removed in 1963 and the road widened.

Another early image (middle) shows a passenger train at the Trail CPR train depot in 1940. Originally located on the bank of the Columbia River, beside Trail Creek, the CPR Station was moved to Cedar Avenue and Farwell Street in 1902 due to continual flooding.

The building was demolished in 1965.

Of course, the railway was integral to early mine operations as well.

The bottom photo shows workmen laying track from the Columbia River bank towards the smelter and Rossland.

“To connect his new smelter to the mines in Rossland, and provide easy transport of ore, F. Augustus Heinze constructed a narrow gauge tramway in 1896,” explained Jarvis.

Heinze sold his railroad holdings and the Trail smelter to the Canadian Pacific Railway soon after, in 1898, for $800,000.

The CPR then widened the track to a standard gauge.

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Trail train depot circa 1940. (Trail Historical Society)
Smelter workers laying tracks. (Trail Historical Society)

Sheri Regnier

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