May 2016 – Golden, British Columbia Our day started in Jasper, Alberta and our destination was Kelowna British Columbia. We planned a two day adventure knowing that we were to stop in Golden, British Columbia overnight. We drove down the Icefield Parkway, through Kicking Horse Pass, the Great Divide into Yoho National Park, by the spiral tunnel, by the town of Field, and then Golden. The drive was not disappointing. We saw deer, big horn sheep and a black bear. We were lucky enough to see a train pass through the spiral tunnel to negotiate the mountain pass.
Kicking Horse Valley descends almost 300 m in six kilometres. The terms of the CPR’s agreement with the government required that the grade of the railway line could not exceed 2.2 percent. The descent to the valley dictated a grade twice as steep. William Cornelius Van Horne came up with a “temporary” dangerous condition to keep the railway in operation, using a straight rail line down the Big Hill. The temporary solution rectified the problem and in 1909 the Spiral Tunnels were built.
In 1807, David Thompson, first crossed the Rocky Mountains, searching for the Columbia River and ultimately a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Thompson’s travels took him to the junction of the Columbia River and Kicking Horse River. It wasn’t until 1882 though that there was the first settlement, to the area. The town of Golden began as a base camp for a survey crew searching for a route through the Selkirk Mountains for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Transcontinental Railway.
The railway was completed in 1885 and Golden soon became a prominent stop on the line. The CPR also paved the way for the Trans-Canada Highway, which helped to transform the area from a forest outpost to a community. Golden’s fortunes have been linked with the forestry industry; sawmills have come and gone, been burned down and rebuilt. The forest industry was initiated with the building of the CPR Railroads, which required 3000 railroad ties per mile. There was also demand for buildings, bridges, trestles and snow sheds, all requiring large quantities of timber.
The drive through the mountains had amazing views, and at each bend we wondered what it must have been like to survey the route. On the road into Golden, and as we headed on our way towards Kelowna, we could see evidence of the lumber industry, ski hills in the distance, trail head markers along the road and the railway lines.
In Golden we discovered a recreational area with a covered wooden bridge, and a museum which had a heritage railway station on the grounds. The structure is no longer in use and appears tohave been moved from the original location along the rail lines.