Myra Canyon - Part of the Kettle Valley Railway
Written February 2005 (started Sept 2003, nothing like hurrying along)
Many people, including native BCers are unaware that the Kettle Valley Railway, is in a large part responsible for British Columbia being part of Canada rather than the USA. Building it, was a largely political decision in order to ensure BC stayed in confederation.
Joe Smuin, whose opinion and knowledge I highly respect, has a slightly different and well reasoned take on this and he allowed me to you use it here. Please click HERE to read his full note.
By nature, most of the valleys in BC run north - south, making access from the US quite easy. All the economic wealth, investment and development came from the US at the turn of the century. To keep this economy in BC, a transportation link had to built, close to the US border (49th parallel), but cutting across 3 large mountain ranges, a very difficult task. As is well documented, Andrew McCulloch was assigned this task by then CPR president Van Horne and he, in fact, designed and built the KVR from Midway to Hope between 1910 and 1915. At the time it was one of the great engineering feats of all time, and included such notable features as the Quintette tunnels near Hope, the Coquihalla Canyon line (all of it), the Belfort (or Jura) loops, the Ariwana Loops with the longest continuous grade in the United Kingdom at the time from Penticton to Chute Lake, as well as the Trout Creek Bridge near Summerland and of course the Myra Canyon section which included 18 trestles and 2 tunnels in extremely rugged country.
Last use of the rails in Myra Canyon was in 1973 for the filming of Pierre Burton's "National Dream" by the CBC.
I started my discovery of the Myra Canyon in the early 80's and on through the 90's.
The Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society was formed in 1993 with the aim of making a hiking trail along the railway grade and familiarize people with the history of the railway and its importance at the time. The objective was to make the 12km trail, trestles and tunnels safe to use for the general public. With a great deal of community support, and volunteer labour, all 18 trestles were decked and equipped with guard rails. The trail was improved by clearing out rocks and underbrush on the sides. A couple of washouts were filled in. One tunnel was made safer by the addition of a wooden portal at one end, designed after the original which had been burned by vandals. The society was comprised of about 50 members, 12 of whom sat on the board of directors. The president was/is Denis Frie, vice president Bob Buchecker, treasurer Karen Merwin, and secretary Ian Hooson. The official opening dedication took place on September 15th 1995, which was just one day ahead of the official opening of the Kettle Valley Steam Train in Summerland. for which I produced an official video. There is an address and e-mail address on the Trails BC site (www.trailbc.ca)
My discovery of Myra Canyon began in the late 80's. I spent many days driving up Chute Lake Road, June Springs Road and Little White Forestry Road to reach the Right of Way. I distinctly remember one weekend in 1988, when I went up for 2 days, camped up there, hiked the canyon twice and never saw one other person the whole time, though there was a car parked near the old site of Ruth. When descending to Kelowna and talking to people there, I mentioned the trestles and how there had once been a railway "up there". Looks I received were as if I had just recently arrived from the moon. Not one person I talked to at the time knew anything about it. Well, everybody's on the bandwagon now.
I have numerous other railway interests but topping the list are other rights of way, extremely similar to Myra Canyon. Milwaukee Road's Adair Loop (I have a website dedicated to "Lines West" of the Milwaukee Road), now the Hiawatha Trail in the Bitterroots of Idaho and Montana as well as Camas Prairie's Lapwai Canyon in Idaho ("The Railway on Stilts" for which Rick and I have produced a video, see my website for details).
Some pictures I took over the years:
My drive into Myra.
Trestle No 1 (18) nearest Myra.
Trestles 2, 3, 4, 5 (17, 16, 15, 14)
Trestle No 12 (7) S shaped, pretty unique
Pooley Creek Bridge Trestle No 13 (6)
Trestle No 14 (5)
Trestle No 15 (4) grand design
Abandoned trestle at Mile 86.6
Trestle No 18 (1) in various states of repair over the years.
Grand Opening September 15th 1995
The extreme fires of the summer of 2003 have burned 12 of these trestles, damaged 2 more. Only 4 remain intact. A fund drive began almost immediately. The provincial and federal governments realizing the historical significance of this piece of Canadian history have come along with several million (13 I believe) to restore these trestles. CPR has lent a couple of engineers along with the original blueprints for these trestles to help in the reconstruction. They will be rebuilt to look similar to the originals, but not nearly as heavy duty. As of this date (February 2005) Trestle No 1 (or 18 as it is now known) has been completed and work is starting on the others soon with completion projected for 2006.
I was up on the Right of Way in 2004, but was not able to access a lot of locations. Locations such as the Bellevue Trestle were completely untouched, but heading east of Ruth it was touchy.
At all times Roger Burrows' book, British Columbia Railway Mileposts, Vol. 2 was my guide and bible. (still available at Central Hobbies in Vancouver)> I basically used just the one map with the mileages and numbers for this project. Joe Smuin's book goes into much more detail of course than Roger's book for anybody who reaqlly wants to know.
A Bibliography as well as recommended reading