Wednesday 3 September 2014


Typical Ponderosa Pine Tree near Brookmere
When the early settlers came to British Columbia they soon turned to harvesting the trees that grew in abundance all over the province.  While the logging operations of the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island received a great deal of attention from photographers and historians, there was not much coverage of the Interior Forest Industry.  This is unfortunate as these loggers of the early days had/have a fascinating story to tell.
For the model railroader, there is much that would be of interest for both model building and railway operations.  It took a good deal of digging to track down people and resources about the interior logging industry and to see just how they interacted with the railway.  Being a modeler, my inquiries usually had a practical nature: "How did they do that?  What did the it look like?  How long was it?"  Eventually, I was able to get enough information to incorporate some of the forest industry into my layout.  
Today we begin to take a look at this most valuable part of the economy of British Columbia starting with the more recent history.

The trains of the 80's were almost exclusively carrying dressed lumber and chips from the mills of the Similkameen and Okanagan.  This was in evidence to me through the kindness of a former CPR dispatcher and the train crew, who arranged a ride on one of the last revenue trains on the Princeton Sub in 1989.  Here is a shot taken from the cab of the Princeton Turn as it skirts the shore of a Otter Lake near Tulameen.  We are pulling a string of empty centrebeams destined for the mill at Princeton. 
By the time of the photo, the CPR had long surrendered the transport of woodchips by rail to the truckers so there are no chip gons in our consist.  Neither were there cars for the mill at Okanagan Falls as the CPR had also persuaded them to go to trucks.  The train crew commented that before those decisions, the Princeton Subdivision originated, on average, 80 carloads a week from the mills in OK Falls, Princeton and Merritt.  If one rail carload equals 2 1/2 truckloads, then 200 trucks and drivers were given gainful employment but at no small cost to the environment and the public highways of BC.  One wonders about the long term economics as well.

On our return trip we brought with us the lumber loads which are seen here trailing the locomotives as we cross the half-deck girder bridge at Brodie.  This bridge still sits in its original location as part of the Trans-Canada Trail.  A model and the details of its construction will be provided in a post one day.

Weyerhaeuser Ltd. is the current operator of the large sawmill in Princeton which is carrying on despite the ravages of the Mountain Pine Beetle.  If you are interested in a job there they are looking for a Certified Millwright.  

The mill in Okanagan Falls eventually closed and here is a bulletin of 2007 where the company explains its decision and current operations:

The mill site is quite large and when served by the railway had a very interesting complex of trackwork including a switch back to enable a train to access the site through a fairly steep grade.  Looking at the ariel view, one can discern where the trackage entered the mill site.
Here is a link to the Google maps view of Weyerhaeuser's sawmill complex:,-120.492041,3a,75y,108.37h,87.13t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1stjWqJcZLA_I_iCrk1qjamg!2e0

Princeton as you may recall, is the nearest town to the various and famous Copper Mountain Mines as well as other mining and forest activity.  The current iteration of the copper mine may be of interest to the readers:  This is a huge operation.
When it was served by the railway, it was a very profitable source of revenue for the KVR until its closure in 1957.  

About this we will have much to say for the modeler in later posts.  As modeled on our layout, Princeton is a town with extensive switching opportunities which can occupy a two-man crew for most of an operating session.

To return to the Cab Ride of 1989, we see here a view of the crew switching the mill in Merritt.  This activity was performed on the return leg of our journey and we are lifting loads from the mill yard and will soon spot the empties.  The Chip Loader is seen in the distance.

Merritt is another interesting town for the modeler and we can provide some good detail for the those who might like a switching layout of the late steam/early diesel era.  Besides three sawmills, there were four bulk oil dealers, general freight, coal and mineral traffic and large seasonal movements of stock from the Nicola spur.

Well, this post is finished except to say that our summer of research was most enjoyable and informative.  Many interesting topics for discussion and details for modeling were nailed down including some additional photos and measurements for our current project which is a model of the Skew truss bridge west of Princeton.  Our trip to that town also provided us with the final details we needed to finish our model of a logging truck of particular interest to us.  And here it is: the start of the modeling portion of our next post or two concerning the loading and transport of logs, lumber and ties on the Kettle Valley Railway.

A miniature version of a GMC truck that hauled logs in the Princeton area for shipment to sawmills in Penticton and Oliver.  The prototype is being nicely restored at the present time.  Till next Wednesday...

Coquihalla Man


  1. wonderful photos Anthony...may I ask, what did you use to make the load loads on the truck?

  2. To be described soon in our present series on logging and the KV.