The railroad was built primarily in a mile-for-mile battle with the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railroad (VV&E). The VV&E was actually owned by Great Northern Railway. The competition between the KVR and the VV&E during constructions of both railways was intense and resulted in many areas within the Southern Interior being serviced by two railways. Eventually, the hatchet was buried between the KVR and VV&E, as they were forced to collaborate when building through the Coquihalla Valley.
The Kettle Valley Railway between Merritt and Midway was opened for service on May 31, 1915. On that date, the first two passenger trains commenced service. The Kettle Valley Railway was its own entity, however, the Canadian Pacific Railway eventually took over operations of the KVR at the beginning of 1931.
Rail service on the KVR consisted of both passenger and freight trains. Passenger service over the line consisted for many years of the Kettle Valley Express and the Kootenay Express, which carried passengers between Vancouver, BC and Medicine Hat, Alberta. Freight carried on the KVR consisted primarily of ore from the Kootenay region of British Columbia, as well as forestry products and fruit from the Okanagan. Finished goods were primarily brought into the Southern Interior on trains heading Eastbound. During the Kettle Valley Railway’s lifespan, on numerous occasions it was called upon to act as “The Second Mainline” when washouts, avalanches and rock slides closed off the main CPR line through the Fraser Canyon. CPR recognized the benefit of having a second railway transiting through British Columbia, so in the 1950s, they set off on an upgrade program that saw the weight-bearing strength of the rails increased, as well as bridge and trestle improvements, which brought the railway up closer to mainline standards.
All rail service stopped from Midway to Penticton (including Myra Canyon section) in May 1973, with the track officially being labelled as abandoned in 1978. Rails along this section were removed in 1979 as the result of a grant of abandonment from the Canadian Transport Commission. Due to the loss of fruit traffic to trucks by 1977 the CP abandoned part of the Osoyoos Subdivision from Okanagan Falls to Osoyoos. The remainder of the KVR was doing quite well. There were 3 trains a week serving the various saw mills. This all ended in the mid 80’s when there was a downturn in the forest industry, and as a result the CPR lost all woodchip traffic to trucks. From this point the KVR quickly demised. The final abandonment was in spring 1990.