Slocan Valley Rail Trail

kettle valley express - slocan valley rail trail

The Slocan Valley has a rich industrial history, told by the 261 documented mine sites still in existence throughout the region. The forest industry and farming also played an important role in the economy of the Valley and still do so today, though to a lesser extent. Throughout the Slocan Valley there are abundant signs of Aboriginal occupation and ancient forests dating back thousands of years. Massive railroad development flourished in the Slocan Valley region through the 1880s and 1890s as the drive to access huge deposits of gold, silver, lead and copper drove competing rail companies to jockey for the prime positions.

Rivalries persisted along the rail routes and American Daniel Corbin, who built the Spokane Falls and Northern (SF&N) Railway in 1890, just 24km south of the Canada/US border at the Columbia River, intensified competition by building his railroad further north into Canada. In 1893, Corbin’s trail was completed with the Nelson and Fort Sheppard (N&FS) Railway, created an uninterrupted rail line from Nelson to Spokane and allowed American interests to take the rich ore out of British Columbia. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reacted swiftly by obtaining charters for several railways to enable ore to be taken out of the Kootenays to the main line of the CPR which lay to the north. One of these charters established the Columbia & Kootenay Railway, which was designed to take the rich ore north from Nelson to Slocan city where it would be barged to Rosebery. From there, the Nakusp & Slocan Railway would carry the ore to a smelter in Revelstoke. Unfortunately, the smelter could not be maintained and was eventually closed. This made the railway ineffective in reversing the flow of ore to the United States and resulted in the CPR’s acquisition of the Kootenays to Coast Railway via among others – the famed Kettle Valley Railway. The Columbia and Kootenay Railway soon became known as “a railroad from nowhere to nowhere”. The last train travelled the Slocan Valley rail line on September 14, 1993. The CPR then abandoned the line. The corridor was gifted to the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, which in turn transferred ownership to Tourism British Columbia.