Monday 25 September 2017


The Kettle Valley Railway's Coquihalla Station at Mileage 18.0 was the highest point on the subdivision of the same name at 3656 feet above mean sea level.  Understandably, in the great white north that would mean that snow would characterize the winters and here we have a photo of Coquihalla summit looking (railroad) east down the mainline.  The passing track is on the left and a box car sits on the back track.  Note the bulldozer sitting close by on the right-of-way ready to be deployed for snow-clearing of which there would be considerable need.  On the left is seen a log building which is the Lil - Joe Fishing Lodge.  The Coquihalla Lakes which offered fine fishing to the lodge guests are on the right down a steep bank and out of sight in this shot.  The photographer would have been standing at the approximate co-ordinates of 49°38'21.0"N 121°00'13.7"W on the present day Coquihalla Lakes Road adjacent to Highway 5.  Readers can copy and paste these co-ordinates into the Google Maps search box to visit the site on-line.
This photograph was taken by the late Bill Vanderburgh in the mid 1950's who freely gave out what records and information he had.  For some time he worked at Brookmere as Agent and later on the east side of the KVR.  He was also a model railroader and we viewed his G scale layout some years ago. 

The snow is light so it must be early in the season judging by the footprints along the track in what seems to be fresh snowfall.  As the winter progresses and the snow accumulates, Joe will have to access his fishing lodge by climbing through the upper storey window.  By this time Lil had fled the scene.  According to some reports from the early years, total snowfall in the Coquihalla was as much as 50 feet!  But this area is still renowned for its hostility toward the intrusions of man as witnessed by its reputation as the Highway Thru Hell promoted by a television series now in its sixth season.

The other two summits of significance on the KVR are found near Osprey Lake at Mileage 39.4 to 40.3 on the Princeton Sub where the track reaches 3,594 feet and near Myra at Mileage 85.9 on the Carmi Sub which at 4,178 feet is the highest elevation.  This data is taken from Joe Smuin's excellent book Kettle Valley Railway Mileboards.  These passes are high at close to 4,000 feet but they pale in comparison to the famed narrow gauge lines of Colorado which reach considerably higher elevations topping out at over 10,000 feet in the case of Cumbres Pass.

First of all we present a drawing of the track alignment from the condensed profile of the Coquihalla Sub showing its original configuration.  One thing to note here is the mileage callout of 125.9 which denotes the distance from Penticton.  This was the practice until 1940.  After that the mileages were calculated from Brookmere.  Throughout the siding the right-of-way extends 200 feet on either side.

The next drawing shows a stake across from the section house denoting the 1940 mileage of 18.0.  It shows a few developments from the previous iteration, notably in the buildings.  There is a Shelter and another House which presumably is a railway house for workers in addition to the cottages in the upper left.  The telephone line is indicated as well including the actual location of the poles.  The telephone drop to the Shelter is indicated so there would have been a telephone installed here for the Operators who were intermittently stationed here as well as the Section Foremen who would need to obtain their daily line-ups from the dispatching office.  The measurements of the various buildings may be a little hard to discern here but they are more legible in other drawings which will be presented in part two.

Here is the grade profile of Coquihalla showing that the track was level for the length of the siding.  The grade is represented by the level line in the middle of the drawing where the "wiggly" line of the original ground contours crosses and recrosses it.  The track actually crested from the east at the east siding switch.  This drawing is dated 1939 with an update in 1944 and the new mileage callouts have been inserted. Note that the old mileage callouts have been crossed out but not erased.  No doubt this would have been necessary for the engineering staff in cross-referencing everything.

Here is the west end of Coquihalla in a drawing dated July 1955.  The siding switch is noted as a #11 switch whereas before this date they were the standard #9.  Other siding switches in the Coquihalla were also being upgraded to #11's around this time according to drawings in our collection.  The Lil-Joe fishing Lodge is not represented on the drawing probably because it is off the right-of-way as well as being a non-railway enterprise.  Most, if not all, of the guests of the lodge would have travelled there and back by train.

And the east end.  Note the extended passing siding which bypasses the wye.  Presumably this was done to accommodate longer trains after dieselization.  In steam days this passing track was listed as having a car capacity of 48 cars.  In Timetable No. 104 of September 1954, the siding is listed as having a capacity of 70 cars.  Othello's siding capacity had also been extended about the same time and was listed as 70 cars in the same Timetable No. 104.  This was an upgrade from 50 cars in earlier days.

Part two of the Coquihalla Station will provide more detail on the structures of this lonely out-post on the Kettle Valley Railway along with some photographs of the prototypes and our miniatures.

Coquihalla Man