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A complex and convoluted history ...

The early railway history of Grand Forks and Phoenix, and indeed that of the whole West Kootenay-Boundary District, was a complex and convoluted one, as it was tightly integrated with simultaneous developments in local mines and smelters. Furthermore, there were numerous competing American and Canadian railway business interests and charters involved, with a bewildering assortment of names and acronyms. And because cross-border railroads were under different jurisdictions, each segment on either side of the international border required a separate charter and unique name, even though they may have been owned by the same parent company.

SF&N - Spokane Falls & Northern Railway (US)
N&FS - Nelson & Fort Shepherd Railway (Canadian)
C&RM - Columbia & Red Mountain Railway (US)
RM - Red Mountain Railway (Canadian)
VV&E - Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern Railway (Canadian)
W&GN - Washington & Great Northern Railway (US)
C&K - Columbia & Kootenay Railway (Canadian)
C&W - Columbia & Western Railway (Canadian)
KRVR - Kettle River Valley Railway (Canadian)
KVR - Kettle Valley Railway (Canadian)
CPR - Canadian Pacific Railway
GN - Great Northern Railway (US)

A detailed comprehensive account of these matters would be a daunting undertaking and far beyond the scope of a simple web page. Readers would be encouraged instead, to visit their nearest library and look for the Robert D. Turner and J.S. David Wilkie book, Steam Along the Boundary, which is considered by many to be the definitive work on these subjects. Aside from the following "shortish" historical overview, which includes the West Kootenay, this web page will primarily focus only on a number of maps, photographs, newspaper clips and a few links to other online resources, with an emphasis on Grand Forks and the Boundary.

Railway charters, land grants and subsidies ...

Government charters were an essential aspect of railroad construction. A railway needed a charter to give it the power to expropriate right of ways across private property in cases where the owner refused to sell at a reasonable price. If necessary, the courts would then intervene to settle a price, and construction could begin. The railways could later also appeal for government assistance, which often took the form of cash grants per mile or free public land, which could be used to back railroad company bonds, to raise construction money. The crown-granted lands themselves could be chosen by railway officials, even though the lands were not necessarily adjacent to the tracks. However the property titles would be transfered only after the rails were down and inspected by government inspectors.

BC Government regulations regarding railway incorporation, charters, land grants and subsidies were seemingly constantly in a state of flux or revision (Link to Orders in Council). UBC history student, Robert E. Cail attempted to untangle some of this confusion in his excellent 1956 Master of Arts thesis, Land, Man and the Law. He tragically soon died in an automobile accident while working on his Ph.D. dissertation, but he would have been pleased to know that his original thesis and a more recent UBC typeset version published some 20 years later, will likely remain online indefinitely as a definitive account of these matters. The latest UBC version of his thesis is posted here in book form (Link).

In Chapter 10, on Intraprovincial Railways, Robert Cail was critical of the BC Government's overly-generous policies to freely dispense large tracts of provincial public lands as enticements for railroad corporations to build railroads. In his Conclusion, he claims that by 1913, a total of 22,759,410 acres of provincial lands were granted in this manner. Not surprisingly, the Crown Lands surrounding Grand Forks were not immune from entanglement in these extravagant policies.

Historical photographs - Grand Forks and Boundary railroads

CPR Trains, Stations and Yards - photo strip with cutlines

Great Northern Trains, Stations and Yards - photo strip with cutlines



West Kootenay-Boundary Railways - a brief historical overview ...

The cast of characters.


Transcontinentals and the "Coast-to-Coast" Vancouver Victoria & Eastern (VV&E)
Three North American railroad transcontinentals almost simultaneously reached the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s. The first was the American Northern Pacific (NP) in 1883, the second, a Canadian, was the CPR or the Canadian Pacific Railway, in 1885, and the third was the Great Northern (GN) in 1893. And it was James Hill's Great Northern, that was particularly worrisome to Canadians as it hugged the international boundary westward through Montana, Idaho and Washington state, and posed a potential threat in terms of its geopolitical, industrial and economic influence in southern B.C. The CPR's existence was predicated to some degree on its potential to minimize such American incursions into western Canada, but despite its well meaning intentions, it chose to build its tracks through the Kicking Horse (Rogers) Pass in the Rockies, well over a hundred miles distant from the southern border, essentially making it powerless to fulfill that particular objective. That responsibility was however voluntarily shouldered by Vancouver business interests which began lobbying for provincial and federal charters to build their own " Coast-to-Kootenay" railway across southern B.C., albeit for personal benefit as much as patriotic motivation. Various Vancouver corporate entities were formed to accomplish this task, but had little success until the Mackenzie and Mann contractors from eastern Canada were able to obtain a federal charter in 1897 for a proposed Vancouver Victoria & Eastern (VV&E) railway to be built between Vancouver and the City of Rossland. Unable however to obtain B.C. provincial grants and support, the VV&E proposal languished, and everyone remained content with the status quo for the time being, hoping the problem might somehow resolve itself.

Spokane's Daniel Corbin builds Nelson & Fort Shepherd (N&FS) to Nelson
This lack of enthusiasm was not the case just south of the border where the Spokane "Inland Empire" was experiencing an economic boom, largely inspired by their connection with the Northern Pacific in 1883. From their side, British Columbia's southern interior was envisioned, in a practical sense, as a potential future province of this Inland Empire, with limitless resources of timber and minerals. As it turned out, matters remained rather quiet north of the border until 1887, when rich silver mineral deposits were discovered in the Slocan and the slopes around Kootenay Lake and Nelson, B.C. News of these discoveries quickly reached Spokane, and with frenzied enthusiasm for wealth and riches, reminiscent of earlier experiences during the days of the colonial gold rush, hordes of American miners poured into the West-Kootenays, with easy access to this region across the border through convenient north-south corridors offered them by the Columbia and Kootenay river valleys.

Railways could facilitate the transport of Kootenay ores, and Spokane's Daniel C. Corbin, was the first to seize this opportunity. He solicited other Spokane investors and incorporated the Spokane Falls & Northern (SF&N) railway which would prove to be the first American railway incursion into the West Kootenays. His crews started laying tracks northward through Chewelah and Colville in 1890, and overland to Marcus and the Little Dalles, at the end of his initial contract on the Columbia River. This was a strategic point on the Columbia where he could engineer a landing for steamboats to connect to this SF&N railhead and move freight and passengers northward and southward between Revelstoke and the Little Dalles. Corbin visited Canada to arrange a relationship with the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company which was just newly incorporated in 1890 to serve this purpose from the Canadian side. This would be a seasonal operation, blocked by ice in winter and interrupted with periods of low water in summer. Nonetheless the service was operational for a number of years running several sternwheelers, including the grand S.S. Lytton and Columbia, and the smaller Kootenai and Despatch, over this route for several years until railways became available as a more viable and efficient alternative.

Corbin then looked further northward, seeking a suitable location for his own new railroad townsite, buying 158 acres of bench lands on the Columbia riverside from the federal government for $250, some seven miles north of the Little Dalles. As he made connections with others to survey and initiate the development of the townsite, he made sure it would include space for a downtown siding and depot for his own SF&N railroad. Corbin named this townsite, the City of Northport. This location was also strategic, as a future ferry service or bridge across the Columbia here would put Rossland within relatively easy access by rail through the Sheep Creek Valley. Mission accomplished, he then wasted little time extending his steel rails to the Canadian border near Fort Shepherd. With the assistance of Canadian partners and a Canadian Nelson & Fort Shepherd (N&FS) charter, he finally fulfilled his vision by completing his railroad as far as Nelson and the Kootenay Lakes via Beaver Valley, Fruitvale , Salmo and Ymir in 1893. The objective was to move Slocan and Kootenay Lake ores south by steamboat to the N&FS railhead at Troup near Nelson and then further south of the border to American smelters by rail. The railway was welcomed whole heartedly from both sides of the border, particularly as there were plenty of Americans on either side.

The CPR Columbia & Kootenay (C&K) and the BC Southern
Confronted with what appeared to be the Americanization of southern B.C. in front of their very eyes, provincial regulators and the CPR were forced to develop counter strategies to address Corbin's perceived ambitions in the West Kootenay. The first of these was the construction of the short "Railroad to Nowhere" railway, the Columbia & Kootenay (C&K), in 1891, to bypass the turbulent waters of the Kootenay River to connect Kootenay Lake and Sproats Landing (Robson) on the Columbia River and the Arrow Lakes, hoping thereby to ship silver ores first by rail and then steamer, north to their own Canadian mainline at Revelstoke. But recognizing the longer term unreliability of this strategy, CPR's Cornelius Van Horne and his successor Thomas Shaughnessy, also began investigating the possibility of a far more ambitious and comprehensive alternate "Coast-to-Kootenay" route, not unlike that of the now dormant VV&E, initiating a preliminary survey of the possibilities across southern British Columbia. His survey assessment results turned out to be costly and the idea was ultimately abandoned and fulfilled by a more modest and practical approach to first build a railroad from their Alberta mainline at Lethbridge to the Kootenays via the Crowsnest Pass, while also maintaining steamboat traffic on the lakes. Construction of the BC Southern Railroad via the Crowsnest began in 1897 and their trackage reached Kootenay Landing near Creston in 1898. Nearly simultaneously, the CPR also began surveying a construction route, for their newly acquired C&W charter and railroad between West Robson and Midway, a topic to be addressed in subsequent paragraphs.

Rossland and the Columbia & Western (C&W)
In the meantime, another promising new mineral bonanza was on the horizon elsewhere ... deposits of copper and gold were discovered near Rossland on Red Mountain in the mid 1890s. Once again, news spread quickly across the border and prompted Montana's smelter mogul, Frederick Heinze, to investigate. Satisfied with his findings, he built a new smelter below Rossland at Trail Creek to process these minerals, while at the same time looking ahead to other potential sources of ore to feed his new blast furnaces. Recognizing that he would need railways to make his enterprise profitable, Heinze lobbied the B.C. Government and was granted a railway charter, the Columbia and Western (C&W) in 1896, to build a short track between Trail Creek and Rossland and further north a few miles to West Robson, which was directly across the Columbia River from Sproat's Landing and the CPR's Columbia & Kootenay (C&K). The same charter also gave him an option to extend this track westward over the Paulson Summit to Midway in the Boundary District. As it turned out, however, Frederick A. Heinze was unable to financially sustain his Trail-Rossland adventures and was forced to sell the smelter and charter to the Canadian Pacific in 1898.

Daniel C. Corbin was also fully aware of the developments in Rossland and Red Mountain, and anticipating that Heinze's Trail-Rossland operations would soon be under the control of the CPR, he pre-emptively chartered and began building his own Red Mountain Railway (RM) from Rossland to the American border to compete for access to Rossland ores and the profits to be gained from their transport, ahead of the CPR. This Canadian segment was later extended across the line to his own town of Northport and new Leroi smelter, by his Columbia and Red Mountain (C&RM) Railway which was operational by 1896.

D. Corbin and J. Hill in the Boundary
After Rossland, Daniel Corbin turned his attention westward to the Boundary where the Granby Consolidated Mining Co. had recently begun exploiting the rich deposits of copper ore at Phoenix. Confident in the potential of this region, he personally invested in several mining claims in the Greenwood area. And other deposits were also discovered 35 miles south of the border around Republic, Washington. With news of the proposal to construct a smelter in Grand Forks, and his own interest in the Northport smelter, he envisioned a railway route to connect all three. The route would begin at Marcus, essentially following the Kettle River north across the border to Cascade, then 14 miles west to Grand Forks, where the river and his rails would swing south of the border near Carson to Danville (then Nelson) and Curlew toward Republic. There would be challenges ahead as this northern portion of Washington State was within the Colville Indian Reserve. Yet there were advantages as the route followed easy river valley grades, and railroads would be cheaper to build and more efficient to operate. But the biggest challenge turned out to be the tenacious obstruction to his plan by the province and CPR. Although Boundary communities and residents welcomed his vision, and the federal government originally considered the merits of his application, the BC government, over-ruled its decision, and he ultimately abandoned his quest for a charter for this route in frustration.

Ironically, in spite of his visionary and entrepreneurial skills, his ultimate railway destiny was not unlike that of Frederick Heinze. Daniel Corbin lost financial control of these railways in 1898, and indeed his whole railroad empire to another famed American tycoon, James J. Hill.

James Hill retained Corbin's charters and railroads and resumed his planned foray into the Boundary district, building a rail line from Marcus northward along the Kettle River to Laurier (at the border) under the Washington & Great Northern (W&GN) charter, and westward toward Grand Forks under the Canadian Vancouver Victoria & Eastern (VV&E) charter. This railway played an important role in Grand Forks rail history involving the Granby Smelter and Phoenix, although it also continued south from Danville and Curlew to Republic, Washington, from where it tracked further westward along the Kettle River weaving back and forth across the international boundary before finally emerging in the Similkameen and ending its rails at Princeton.


The CPR Columbia and Western (C&W) Land Grants ...

Having purchased Heinze's smelter and the C&W railway charter in 1896, Thomas Shaughnessy was fully aware that the CPR was eligible under this charter to receive land grants of their own choosing, amounting to 20,000 acres per mile, to subsidize the construction of a railway from West Robson to Midway. By the late 1890s, his CPR surveyors had already undertaken a construction survey over the Paulson Summit and the Kettle River prairie lands to Grand Forks and beyond, plotting a precise route for an anticipated railroad and staking the boundaries of vast tracts of public land they could set aside for their own benefit along the way. Receiving word that James Hill was also building westward to Grand Forks, the CPR was forced to act quickly to gain advantage. Now, with charter in hand, land grants, and an extra bonus of $3200 per mile from the federal government assured, it immediately began building its railway from West Robson. CPR Columbia and Western (C&W) tracks reached Grand Forks only a year later in 1899, over what proved to be very difficult terrain.

Most provincial land grants were however repurchased by the B.C. government in 1912, in response to public outrage regarding excessive railway land grant giveaways throughout the province. An astounding 1,514,832 acres of lands were repurchased from the C&W.

The following composite graphic depicts the C&W-CPR Land Grants 2698, 2699, 2700, 2701, 2702, 2703 between Christina Lake and Midway . (Map Link)

James Hill's American Great Northern (VV&E) rails also reached Grand Forks in 1902, not long after those of the CPR. However it should be noted ... they paid their own way, purchasing their own right of ways. That aside, the ultimate main objective of both railways, was in reality, to connect the Phoenix mines and the Grand Forks Granby Smelter. CPR tracks reached Phoenix first, in 1899, entering the city from the east, up a steep 3.4% grade from the Eholt interchange. Having done so, the CPR, essentially monopolized the shipment of ores to the smelter for the next 5 years before James Hill was able to build his competitive Great Northern railway branch line connecting Phoenix with Grand Forks.

The Great Northern (VV&E) versus the Hot Air Line ...

It seems that historians and writers tell the story of the confrontation between James Hill's giant Great Northern and a lesser known small local player, the "Hot Air Line", with a little bit of satisfaction or even amusement. A brainchild of Tracy Holland, a local business manager of the Grand Forks Townsite Company and short term mayor, the Hot Air Line was conceived as a cross-border collaborative initiative with the Americans, namely the wealthy lawyer W.C. Morris from Republic, Washington, to cash in on the transport of Republic ores to the Grand Forks smelter. Initially viewed with skepticism by local critics as nothing but hot air, the Hot Air Line in time proved to be a worthy competitor and a pesky, persistent obstacle to James Hill's GN railway expansion into Grand Forks. Despite a slow start, and to everyone's surprise, Holland was able to get charters in 1900 for all four cardinal compass directions leading out of town, the most significant of these in the long term being, the charters enabling the Hot Air to build north to the mines at Franklin Camp and a short railroad line west to the border at Carson where it would cross the border south to Republic. The bewildering array of Canadian and American charters lumped together under the term "Hot Air Line" would likely defy comprehension for many casual readers and some clarity from experts may first be in order.

Confusion ... surrounding the Kettle Valley Lines and the GF&KR, KRVR and the KVR
Robert D. Turner (Steam Along the Boundary) summarizes it this way:

The joint Canadian-American holding or operating company for Tracy Holland's Kettle River Valley Railway and the Republic & Kettle River Railway, the latter subsequently known as the Spokane & British Columbia Ry.

GRAND FORKS & KETTLE RIVER RAILWAY, GF&KR - From Grand Forks area to B.C./Washington border at Carson City; this railway name was used in the original charter secured in 1900, but was superseded by a federal charter in 1901 as the Kettle River Valley Railway.

KETTLE RIVER VALLEY RAILWAY, KRVR - From Grand Forks area to B.C./Washington border, and north of Grand Forks to Lynch Creek. The Canadian Pacific acquired control of this line in 1911, and it subsequently became known as the CPR's Kettle Valley Railway, (KVR).

REPUBLIC & KETTLE RIVER RAILWAY, R&KR - From B.C./Washington border at Carson to Republic; in 1905 this railroad was renamed the Spokane & British Columbia. Sometimes the people of Grand Forks preferred to call the R&KR the Republic & Grand Forks, or the Grand Forks and Republic, to indicate the relative importance of their city, but this was not an official name. (Note - an example of this notion is Roger Burrow's use of the term Grand Forks and Republic in the original naming of Cuprum as the R&GF Junction)

SPOKANE & BRITISH COLUMBIA RAILWAY, S&BC - From B.C./Washington border to Republic. This was a renaming of the Republic & Kettle River Railway in 1905.

With its GF&KR provincial charter granted in 1900, the Hot Air started grading their new line through downtown Grand Forks in 1906, constructing a small passenger station on 3rd street (now 4th), and a railway bridge and tracks across the Kettle River south to Cuprum in the Ruckle Addition. The fledgling company constructed a small engine house there to service its new single locomotive, and their track interchanged with the existing CPR line west by means of a small wye. The Hot Air then tracked west, somewhat parallel to the projected route of the Great Northern which was just then grading their rail roadbed and laying tracks between Cascade and Grand Forks. The remainder of this short three mile stretch to Carson appears to have been under a 1901 federal charter, the Kettle River Valley Railroad (KRVR), although where and how the transition actually came into effect is not clear.

James Hill and his Great Northern finally did reach Grand Forks in 1902 soon after Tracy Holland's new trackage was spiked down, but the task was not an easy one. The story of their subsequent competitive drive across the border to Republic, and then back to the Granby smelter, reads somewhat like a movie script. It involved a protracted series of legal battles, jurisdictional and right-of-way court injunctions, and even fisticuffs between loyal workers. Although the Hot Air was a smaller player, with apparent financial difficulties and hardly able to compete with the GN on its own resources, it was in fact quietly subsidized by the CPR which was itself at odds with the Great Northern. The final confrontation between the two was at the "Diamond Crossing" where the GN needed to cross Hot Air Line tracks on its way northward across the Kettle River into Grand Forks proper and the smelter. Interested readers might want to read Bill Laux's detailed account of this incident and the Hot Air Line in an excellent online version of his story below.

The Hot Air Line struggled to stay afloat after its entanglement with James Hill, but Tracy Holland, its original driving force, ultimately resigned from the KRVR and his mayorship in frustration. Other investors continued its operation, extending the KRVR tracks further northward along the North Fork River as far as Lynch Creek, though far short of their charter's original intention to reach the Franklin Camp 50 miles north. An account of the arrangement between the City of Grand Forks and the KRVR dealing with the terms and conditions of the railways trackage through the city along 3rd Street, appeared in the March 23, 1906 copy of the Evening Sun, as a detailed word-by-word description of By-Law 36 (Link). A small new passenger station was also built downtown in 1907 to replace the original one. This new station burned in 1908, and was in turn rebuilt, enlarged and shared with the CPR in 1913 as the "Union Station". (More on the Union Station or Depot is to follow below).

The CPR eventually took control of the KRVR in 1911 and morphed it into the Boundary's most celebrated railway, renaming it the Kettle Valley Railway or KVR. It continued operating it as a subsidiary between Midway and the Hope well beyond the 1980s.

Bill Laux's "Steep and Crooked" manuscript ...

The research and manuscripts of Bill Laux, a former resident and local historian of Fauquier B.C., are an excellent source of information on West Kootenay-Boundary mining and railroad history. He was recognized by the B.C. Historical Association with an award for his article, "The Great Le Roi Hoax", published in the January 2005 issue of their British Columbia History magazine (Link). But his own life story is in itself quite unique and interesting. A 1960s American expatriate, batik artist and castle builder, Bill Laux died in Fauquier before completing the second of two extraordinary historical manuscripts on the celebrated mining bonanzas of the West Kootenay-Boundary. Before he died, he bequeathed the manuscripts and much of his complete collection to the local Fauquier Communication Center. His manuscript working files were fortunately preserved intact on old "floppy discs", and were recovered by another local resident, Peter Klopp, who, with some trepidation lest he damage them, carefully extracted the contents and posted Bill Laux's life story and both of his otherwise unpublished historical documents, on the Klopp family blog (Link). These are lengthy documents, but online visitors with electronic ebook readers can easily transfer the text of these documents to their devices for offline reading.

His "Steep and Crooked" manuscript reads like an entertaining narrative on West Kootenay-Boundary mines, smelters and railroads, with fortune-seeking prospectors, investors and famed railroad tycoons as the central cast of characters. Chapter 11 largely focuses on the aforementioned confrontations with the Hot Air Line and the wannabe tycoon Tracy Holland and the actual railroad mogul, James Jerome Hill of the Great Northern.  (Link to Chapter 11)

But Bill Laux introduces this chapter with a reference to R.A. "Volcanic" Brown. Volcanic was an interesting "down to earth" sort of local old prospector who was apparently affected by the recent euphoric anticipation of prosperity in his town. He envisioned Grand Forks as the next new "Spokane" of the Boundary Country, though he suggested the town should become "a new type of city; one without any schools, churches, or banks". Aside from his curious socioeconomic perspectives, and actually of more relevance here, Volcanic Brown also predicted that his new city would one day be "served by four railroads running in from all four cardinal directions” of the compass. At the end of the chapter, Laux reminds us that R.A. Brown's railway prediction did indeed become a reality, expressed in the form of Tracy Holland's original railway charters, years before he himself, died an unexplained "prospector's death" in the Pitt Meadow mountains.


Mapping Grand Forks railroads ...

Two maps have been created for this web page to visualize the location of "Volcanic's historic railroads", most of which have now been long abandoned, their rail beds no longer immediately visible or simply "hiding in plain sight". We can however try identifying them on the following two maps relative to other nearby familiar landmarks, streets or roads.

Map 01 - Historic Grand Forks Railroads (Link to full size pdf)

This map focuses on the city of Grand Forks itself, in which the KRVR , VV&E and C&W-CPR railroads are plotted over a layer of historic Crown Grant land parcels and a layer of current streets and highways, in a sense, comparing the situation "then and now". The KRVR was renamed as simply the KVR in 1910 by the CPR, but it's original acronym has been retained on this map. The configuration of the railways on this map has been generally adapted from an R.D. Turner map in his book, Steam Along the Boundary, with fine-tuning adjustments made with reference to Roger Burrows' map of Railroads in the Grand Forks Area as well as J.A. Millican's map (which also appears on this web page below). It is interesting to note that the stretch of CPR/KRVR rairoad between Westend Junction and Granby Junction further north, under the GN trestle, is combined or shared on Burrow's map, while being shown as two distinct tracks for that segment on Turner's map.

Map 02 - Spencer to Phoenix Railroads (Link to full size) >

This map plots the rail routes of the GN-VV&E and the CPR-C&W railroads to Phoenix, marking the location of train stops and stations along the way. The map also identifies the locations of significant mines, rivers and streams as well as old government roads and trails.


The Downtown Grand Forks KRVR-CPR Union Station ...


The CPR's quiet involvement with Tracy Holland's KRVR was supportive, but not always overly generous. It had rescued the struggling Hot Air Line on occasion, but its generosity seemingly went only so far when it came to sharing smelter access beyond Cuprum and the City of Grand Forks. Bill Laux claims that the CPR did not permit the Hot Air to lay a diamond crossing of its tracks at Cuprum. Instead, it required the Hot Air trains to switch onto its rails, run for a few yards on them, and then switch off to the south. That ensured that the CPR could charge each Hot Air train crossing its rails a switching fee, and Republic ore would thus be hauled on its own rails the last few miles to the Granby smelter.

But in the end, after the CPR assumed ownership of the Hot Line (KRVR) in 1911, the two railways set aside their differences and integrated their Grand Forks railroad facilities. The CPR had originally chosen to locate its passenger depot in Columbia, two miles distant from downtown, making it inconvenient for potential incoming or outgoing passengers to travel between the Westend and downtown. The KRVR on the other hand had just upgraded and enlarged their downtown depot to handle a good deal more traffic, but it lacked a decent roundhouse or adequate yard facilities of its own. The CPR however had just recently migrated a good part of the Eholt infrastructure to the Westend and also built a large new six stall roundhouse. So they agreed to share these resources, and the large downtown passenger depot was thus henceforth shared as the "Union Depot". The city of Grand Forks welcomed this arrangement, even offering the railways tax benefits as an incentive to implement it.

Roger Burrows describes the resulting effects of this arrangement with these words, "... Prior to the station's opening in May 1913, Canadian Pacific passenger trains stopped at the CPR station outside the city limits, but after that date CPR trains diverted off the main track at either Cuprum or City Junction and into the city centre. The station was also used by KVR trains operating on the North Fork line and to Republic. In 1921 the bridge over the Kettle River between Cuprum and the downtown station was damaged by high water. Thereafter CPR routed passenger trains to and from the downtown station only via the trackage from City Junction at the west end of town (near current CPR Station pub). Eastbound trains headed into the station and westbound trains backed in. This awkward arrangement continued until 1952 when CPR trains reverted to using the original station".

The Union Station appears in the upper right hand corner of this aerial view, with three freight cars parked alongside. There is no evidence of the station or the tracks today, although we can safely say that the station and its siding occupied a good portion of what is now the Buy-Low Foods block on 4th Street. While here, we can also locate Winnipeg Avenue stretching horizontally across the top of the photo. The railway tracks from the Union Station cross Winnipeg Avenue to a fruit storage and transport facility and continue northward out of the picture toward the West end of town. We can see the old hospital on the north side of Winnipeg Avenue at the top of the photo and the old court house to its left. The current City Hall appears below. The photographer and the date of this photograph are unknown but could be estimated from the evidence of other buildings with a known history.

We can get at least some idea regarding the "big picture" of downtown from Rosalie Moore's excellent panoramic view of the Grand Forks valley in 1932 published elsewhere on these web pages. (Link to panorama)  A close up of the relevant portion of the panorama appears below. We can see the Union Station at lower left along 3rd Street, tilting to the right and leading upward to the railroad bridge across the Kettle River and Ruckle Addition (Cuprum) on the other side. Curiously, in this photograph, this bridge is clearly visible, despite Roger Burrow's description of its demise in 1921. But it is possible that it may not have been actually dismantled until 1932. The old CPR/KRVR railroad bed can be faintly seen crossing the CPR tracks which span the photograph from side to side. 


The Great Northern (VV&E) Pheonix Branch ...

The construction of the Great Northern 27.8 mile stretch of railroad to Phoenix was delayed somewhat by local landowners, competition with the Hot Air Line and resistance by the CPR, but was finally completed in 1904 at an enormous cost of $1,339,014.96. It required some impressive trestles, including a 700 foot long and 165 foot high trestle (Bridge No, 66) spanning Deadman's Gulch (Glenside Creek), another across Dominion Avenue in Phoenix, and a large 572 foot trestle on the Coryell Ranch, where some serious blasting was required to engineer the railbed below the rock bluffs. The railway gradually wound its way around the Coryell bluffs, further west beyond Spencer Hill, and northward along July Creek to the BC (Coltern) Junction, from where it once again turned west and upward on a gradual slope to Phoenix, reaching the city townsite and the GN yards and depot in "Lower Town" from the west. A map was prepared for the Phoenix Pioneer to illustrate this route as well that of the CPR, appearing on page 97, of the 1907 BC Mining Record. (Link)

The Great Northern VV&E connection to Phoenix was anxiously awaited by its citizens and its progress was routinely reported in the local newspapers of the time. You can read a sampling of clippings by clicking the following link or graphic below. Be aware that these clippings have been digitally restructured somewhat to include a dated page header.

(Link to VV&E newspaper clippings)

Great Northern (VV&E) Phoenix Branch Railway Timetable

Railway Timetable - Marcus Division, October 31, 1909 - Sixth District >

This is one of a number of Timetable Sheets from the GN Archives for train schedules with connections between Spokane, Marcus, Rossland, Nelson, Grand Forks, Phoenix, Curlew, Republic and Keremeos. Researchers can use source documents such as these as a sort of time capsule from which bits and pieces of specific railway history can be extracted. We can find the following information specific to Phoenix and Grand Forks (Sixth District) on page 6 and 7: :

1. A listing of stations ... Grand Forks, Weston, Copper Junction, Spencer, Hale, Denoro, Glendale, Jordan, Phoenix
2. Train Number
3. Train composition (Mixed-Passenger-Freight etc)
4. Daily time of Departure or Arrival
5. Car capacity per siding
6. Distance from Grand Forks in miles
7. Distance from Phoenix
8. Services at station or siding (Water, Coal, Scales, Tables, Wyes)


1.Trains will date from time due to leave terminals. Grand Forks and Phoenix will be considered terminals for trains 389 and 390.
2.Trains will be governed by Pacific Standard Time. Clocks regulated to Standard Time are located in telegraph offices at Grand Forks and Phoenix.
3. Bulletin books are located at Weston.
4. No train must leave Phoenix or Grand Forks north bound, until service test of air brakes has been made and brakes found in proper working order.
5. Conductors in charge of freight trains descending Phoenix hill must see that their brakemen are on top of trains at all times, to assist engineer in controling trains; at least two stops of fifteen minutes each must be made to cool wheels, when conductor and brakemen must examine train carefully to discover cracked or broken wheels.
6. When freight trains ascending Phoenix hill are provided with two engines, the helper engine must be kept in the rear of all cars except the caboose.
7. Trains descending Phoenix hill must  keep  at least twenty-five (25) minutes apart
8. All trains must reduce speed to fifteen (15) miles per hour over Deadman's Bridge and around Coryell rock bluffs.
9. Switches at Junction of Phoenix line with smelter spur must be kept set and locked for smelter line.
10. All wye switches in Phoenix must be set for yard tracks and locked so that cars getting away cannot get on main line track south of wye.
11. South wye switch Phoenix must be kept set for main line to passenger depot
12. Switch on switchback to Tunnel No. 3 must be kept set and locked for high line.
13. Safety sidings are provided just south of Spencer and three-quarters mile north of Deadman's Bridge. Switches must be kept set and locked for safety tracks; all trains must come to a full stop before reaching these tracks, sending brakeman ahead to set switches for main track, and set switches for safety track before leaving.
14. All trains crossing bridge on smelter spur over North Fork Kettle River must reduce speed to fifteen (15) miles per hour.

On passing tracks at Spencer, Hale, Denoro and Glenside and on house track, ore loading track and Victoria spur at Phoenix.

Grand Forks to Phoenix.- Passenger - 15 miles per hour; Freight- 15 miles per hour. And trains should reduce speed to fifteen miles per hour over Bridge No. 66, and around rock bluffs above Weston.

Of interest to local researchers ... Dr.S.(Sherry) H.Manly was the designated surgeon on call at Republic - he moved to Grand Forks to join his brothers and other members of his family in later years.

Also ... although not shown on this schedule, A.D. Morrison, a Grand Forks jewelery store operator and watch repairman was designated as the official Grand Forks GN Time Inspector in previous years after 1905.

Great Northern (VV&E) Phoenix Branch Mileposts ...

  From Roger Burrows “Railway Mileposts: British Columbia, Volume II

Grand Forks Junction (M0.0, km0.0) Known locally as Coopers Wye, the branch diverged from VV&E's main line, now mile 47.0 (km75.6) of BN's Republic Branch. The wye remains in operation as a part of BN's interchange with CP's Carson Spur.

Kettle River Valley Railway Crossing (M0.3, km0.4) This crossing was the site of an altercation between the railways in 1902 when the KRVR parked a 4-6-0 locomotive on the newly completed VV&E diamond. Columbia Junction (M1.0, km1.6) Wye to GN's VV&E

Columbia Junction (M1.0, km1.6) Wye to GN's VV&E Grand Forks passenger depot.

PASSENGER DEPOT SPUR 0.6 miles (1.0 km)
< Columbia Junction (M0.0, km0.0) Wye and junction with the main line.
< Grand Forks (M0.6, km1.0) Site of the passenger depot.

Weston (M1.1, km1.8) Yard and locomotive facilities, including an engine house, water tank and coaling tower. The yard had 5 main tracks, each about 1/2 mile long, and crossed the site of present Highway 3.

Copper Junction (M2.0, km3.2) Wye and junction with the Granby Smelter Spur.

GRANBY SMELTER SPUR 3.3 miles (5.3 km).
< Copper Junction (M0.0, km0.0)
< CPR and KRVR Crossing - Bridge 5 (M0 6, kml.0) 1013 feet long, frame trestle and Howe truss span (later removed), crossed over both CPR's Boundary Section and KRVR's North Fork line.
< North Fork Kettle (Granby) River-Bridge 8 (M2.3, km3.7) 658 feet long, including deck truss, through truss and frame trestle spans, this 1902 bridge also crossed over CPR's Granby Smelter Spur.
< Granby Smelter (M3.3, km5.3) End of spur.

Bridge 13 (M3.4, km5.5) 572 feet long, frame trestle.

Bridge 14 (M4.1, km6.6) 72 feet long, frame trestle.

Bridge 15 (M4.4, km7.1) 41 feet long, frame trestle.

Bridge 17 (M4.7, km7.6) 41 feet long, frame trestle.

Bridge 19 (M5.4, km8.7) 41 feet long, frame trestle.

Safety Spur (M6.8, km10.9) 1450 feet long.

Spencer (M7.1, km11.4) 2022 foot siding and water tank.

Bridge 28 (M9.1, km14.6) 351 feet long, frame trestle.

Fisherman Creek - Bridge 45 (M14.2, km22.8) 98 feet long, frame trestle.

Hale (M14.3, km23.0) 2022 foot siding and water tank.

Denoro (M15.9, km25.6) 1095 foot siding. This station was named for the Oro Denoro Mine.

CPR   Interchange  (M16.0,   km25.7)  Connected   with CPR's spur to the B.C. Copper Mine at B.C. Junction, later named Coltern and CPR Denoro. Mile 2.4 (km3.9) of CPR's Phoenix Branch mainline overpassed at this location.

Glenside (M17.7, km28.5) 1394 foot siding named for the nearby creek.

Water Tank (M18.0, km29.0)

Deadmans Gulch (Glenside Creek) - Bridge 66 (M18.1,km29.1) 672 feet long and 195 feet high on a 14 degree curve, this frame trestle over Glenside Creek was the largest trestle on the Phoenix line.

Safety Spur (M18.8, km30.2) 1500 feet long.

Bridge 72 (M19.5, km31.4) 168 feet long, frame trestle.

Bridge 73 (M19.6, km31.5) 420 feet long, frame trestle.

Providence Creek - Bridge 77 (M21.4, km34.4) 294 feet long, frame trestle on a 14 degree curve.

Jordan (M23.4,  km37.6) 1993 and 1775 foot sidings. This station is believed to be named for a partner in Burns & Jordan, railway bridge contractors.

Wye (M24.1, km38.8) CN's engine house was located within the wye, and trackage continued from the tail of the wye through four switchbacks  to  Cranby's Victoria Mine.

Phoenix (M24.2, km38.9) Yard, wye, water tank, coal lower and passenger depot.


Railroad evidence in the Hardy Mountain view photograph ...

Closer inspection of the composite photo on this web page (Link) and below, also reveals additional features or landmarks of interest to railroad enthusiasts.

We can vaguely see the new CPR infrastructure, the coal chute, water tank and possibly the engine house and station, just below and to the right of the foot of Observation Mountain. Several historical railroad books describe a long 1000 ft Great Northern (VV&E) railway trestle near Ward's Lake. This bridge-trestle can be seen here as a long fuzzy dark line stretching left (north) from Copper Junction, between the lake and the north-western flank of Observation Mountain. And although it's difficult to determine its structural form in this photograph, this may be the only visual record we have of its existence. The trestle overpasses the tracks of the CPR/KRVR here as they both proceed north up the North Fork of the Kettle River, while the short spurs of the CPR and GN reach left (beyond the edge of the photo) and then wind their way back into the photo around the back-side of Observation Mountain to the smelter. The tracks of the Kettle River Valley Railway can also be seen in the photo as a solid straight line below Observation Mountain, as they leave the downtown Union Station and intersect the CPR tracks at City Junction. The routing of these railways is defined in a map of Grand Forks from a previous webpage. (Link)

Railroad evidence in other historical maps ...

Map 01 - Historic Grand Forks Street Map, date unknown >
The following image links to a scan of a detailed paper map of Grand Forks showing district lot numbers, street names, landmarks and the CPR, Great Northern and Kettle River Valley railways clearly marked. The date of the map and its cartographer are unknown, although the map is initialed "J.A.M" at lower right, presumably having been drawn by B.C. Department of Public Works, District Engineer, J.A. Millican, of Grand Forks in the 1940s or 1950s. Students at the Grand Forks High School may remember this gentleman as their French Class teacher in the 1960s. The transprovincial highway on this map crosses the Granby River to Bridge Street by way of the old Yale Bridge, which may give us a clue as to its actual date.

Map 02 - 1897 CPR Map Kootenay Okanagan 1897 >

Map 03 - 1913 Border Commission topo map including GN and CPR railways - Cascade to Osoyoos >
This map, a segment of an ambitious set of survey drawings across Western Canada by the International Boundary Commission in 1913, includes rail routes within a narrow band along both sides of the border within the Boundary District between Osoyoos and Christina Lake. Great Northern tracks are seen here weaving back and forth across the international boundary ... from Carson to Danville across the border, then back to Midway and Canada along the Kettle, and from Bridesville across the border to Molson and on to the Okanagan on the American side, demonstrating the GN's strategy of locating routes wherever possible along waterways or by other means in order to avoid steep and costly mountain grades.

Map 04 - 1978 topographic map of West Kootenay-Boundary and Okanagan >
This is a beautifully rendered 1978 Canadian Department of Energy Mines and Resources topographic map of the B.C. West Kootenay-Boundary and Okanagan including a portion of Washington State. The map shows main rail routes in this region as they existed at that time.

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