It’s the spring of 1989 (I think) and after working for months on end without break, I take a couple days off from my job in Vancouver BC to visit the sunny Okanagan. I spend one afternoon in Kelowna where I explore the railway in town. What, no relaxing on the beach? Nope, I like trains and so that’s where you’ll find me, preferring that gritty industrial environment over the touristy side of things.
Staring at the east side of town, I take some time to check out an old passenger car found sitting on a siding. For some reason I did not take down its number and oddly I only took a couples pictures, all from far away. While I may not have done so at the time, I now wonder who owned it, where it came from and so on. Does it exist to this day? All these questions could have been answered if I only documented it better (see update below).
I do know one thing, by its appearance it’s an 1910s or 1920s era passenger car, buy beyond that, there is not much else to say. Currently, I am researching the subject, but I am not holding out much hope that anything will turn up. Without that car’s number I will likely be stumped.
Making my way to the small rail yard near the waterfront on the north side of town, I wander around snapping a few pictures here and there. I am sure I could have taken many more, there was after all a lot to see as I recall, by perhaps a strict film budget prevented me from documenting more. I was always short on money.
This yard by the way, as was all the track in the Kelowna area was shared between the CPR and CNR. The former came in from Sicamous, the latter Kamloops before each entered the joint track at Armstrong just north of Vernon.
On entering the yard, I make an attempt to shoot artistically, cheesy but fun with flowers in front and boxcars in back.
The first rail car I shot is a Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) boxcar. It’s just a plain freight car so, what makes it so interesting? Well…at the time, the NAR company no longer existed, it having been bought out by the CNR some years earlier. Plus it would be a rare car to see anyway, given there were only a hundred in the series (the only cars that company owned in fact). Collectively all the railways in North America together rostered well over a million cars, so coming across one of a hundred is quite cool.
These boxcars were built by the National Steel Car Company of Hamilton Ontario in the late 1970s. Today, I understand that perhaps half the fleet, give or take, is still in service, all still painted for that long forgotten railway. This car, #050142, is a lumber boxcar (designation “XP”), specifically for plywood, OSB or any wood that needs protection from the weather and was likely in town to pick up a load at a local mill. It was/is an “international service only pool car” which could be loaded anywhere in Canada at any mill, not just those along the owner’s line, as long as the wood cargo was US bound.
The Northern Alberta Railways, by the way, travelled to various towns north of Edmonton. CNR bought the NAR line in 1981 or so.
Also seen in the yard is an old CPR “insulated” boxcar, #450243. It would have been used to transport fruit for example, which as you may know in the Okanagan is grown in great quantity. In the summer the car would keep the shipment cool and in winter, it would maintain a temperature just above freezing. A small heater provided the warmth needed to keep the latter from happening. By the time I saw it however it was not being used in that capacity, the transport of fruit having been taken over by trucking companies many years earlier.
The faint words “ice service” can be seen on its side, so maybe at one time it also transported that commodity.
I have not been able to find the lineage of this car and its number does not come up in any CPR records that I have found. Based upon its appearance however, we know it was built in the 1950s or thereabouts. I was also able to find a photo of it online showing it in Calgary in the early 1980s. Interestingly, it’s still in Kelowna today, owned by an historical society and it sits on a industry track not far from where I photographed it, presumably awaiting placement somewhere else.
You’ll notice the car retrains it’s as-built roof walk and high brake wheel. By 1989, these could not be used on an in-service car, further suggesting that it was in retirement at this point.
The lettering on the car is called the CPR script, which was used from the early to late 1960s.
The yard in which I explored was pulled up sometime in the 1990s and the area is now full of condos. In fact most of the track in Kelowna, which is at the end of the line, is now gone. Both the railways mentioned also left, around the start of the twenty first century, selling their respective holdings to two private short line companies. Both of these eventually bit the dust, one recently, which caused a shut-down on the lines left operating.
Coming full circle, the CNR bough back almost all of the track in the Okanagan and trains are now running again (on most lines). The section between Vernon and Kelowna may be on the chopping block however as it’s in bad shape and the customer count is low. That’s quite a change from the time I visited when the yard was full of cars and it was quite a busy looking place. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future.
For fun I parked my giant land barge of a car, a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88, at the Kelowna train station. The building was empty on my visit as I recall and while I shot my vehicle next to the tracks in front of it, I failed to include that very building in the frame, save for one small section of the roof overhang. Why didn’t I include it? Who knows what I was thinking. I did however get the railway’s Kelowna sign in – geez! The station is still there, but the tracks in front are long gone.
I can’t help but laugh thinking that my massive car was a near equal to the locomotives that operated here. It was big and powerful after all and while a monster on gas, fuel at the time was el-cheap-o.
Another picture, really unrelated to this article, taken the following year, shows the same car waiting to be scrapped. The engine blew and I took a picture of it as it sat in a pile of other cars awaiting a similar fate. The spelled my name wrong – and note the Pinto and Gremlin! That car, as I recall cost me a few hundred dollars, of which I got back one third at the scrap yard.
These pictures were scanned from 35mm slides.
Update: January 2014. A reader, Glen Haasdyk of Kelowna via Jim Spurway, sent us a couple undated (early 1990s?) pictures showing that passenger car while it was still in that town. It’s an ex-CPR sleeper, Rosemere, built in 1929 by Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F). At the time of my visit it was owned by a local church organization called “Youth with a Mission” and was to be converted to some kind of bunk car, but I guess that never happened. It had moved from the location where I saw it to another spot in town by the time Glen captured it.
After being retired from CPR service in the early 1970s it was used by a different US based youth group before finding it’s way to the Central Western Railway (date unknown), an operator of tourist trains, out of Stettler AB. After Kelowna, it travelled to the west coast for a time and was in the hands of a railway historical society there, before finally ending up at Three Valley Gap (a museum/hotel complex), near Revelstoke BC, in the early 2000s. It’s still there today. Thanks to Glen, Jim and Earl Roberts for helping round out this story.
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Date: Spring 1989.
Location: Kelowna, BC.