Flashback to 1989, I am 24, single and living in Vancouver and I’m working hard. In fact for months on end I’d work every single day, sometimes a shift and a half. By the summer, I needed a break. I was burnt out and needed one bad! Time to take a couple weeks off. No, a month. And let’s go exploring back roads and ghost towns. I needed to get away from it all and doing this would afford me adventure and solitude.
And so it started, my great summer of ’89 road trip.
My plans were rather simple, head down back roads and lonely highways until I got to Edmonton where I’d spend some time visiting with friends there. I had no set plans and where the wind pointed me, I’d go (within reason).
Packing up my recently acquired 1989 Pontiac Ventura, I headed out. The vehicle was purchased specifically for this trip – my “regular’ ride would have been too hard on gas – and was sold shortly after returning home. It was an ugly machine, that’s for certain and my co-workers looked at me with amazement that I’d ever consider taking such a junky car on a long and remote road trip. I never gave it second thought (young and stupid?). It turned out to be incredibly reliable, cheap on gas and surprisingly handled rough back roads with ease. I took it “4x4ing” more then a few times. It ran well.
I packed along my trusty Yashica FR2 camera to record the trip. Unfortunately, I lacked the money to shoot too much, I was on a strict budget, and so did not document everything I could (also, many images have gone missing in the years since). None, the less, I recorded lots of interesting places and things. I am sure I missed some too. I was not as focused then.
Let’s hit the road!
1) The Via Rail train station in Hope BC. It’s more like a transit bus shelter, but I guess it’s serves a purpose. This is a flag stop, meaning the train will pass by it by unless notified of a passenger waiting. In the old days, you’d wave a flag to stop the train (hence the name). Today, you call an 800 number to let them know you’ll be boarding at this spot. Via Rail still lists a station in Hope but it’s not clear if it’s the same building.
2) This 1930s era car was found in the bush near Princeton BC.
3) The Princeton rail yard and the tunnel that ducks under the highway. This is a former CPR line, abandoned only a few months before my visit. They had yet to pull the rails up at this point. There is a link at the bottom of this text to a more detailed article on the yard.
4) The Princeton BC train station. This plain structure was originally built in 1909 by the Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern Railway, a subsidiary the US based Great Northern Railway, This line came in from Washington State to tap the riches of the area (lumber and ore). The CPR also eyed up Princeton and arrived 1915. Rather than build its own station it would share this building with its rival, along with the yard. The last passenger trains to pass here were in the 1960s. The building today is a Subway fast food outlet and the old rail line can be hiked or biked.
5) My junky 1976 Pontiac Ventura, a real road warrior, reaches 99999.9kms. It was probably the second time it did that. It looked like hell and only cost a couple hundred bucks, but it was reliable and served me well. People who saw it were surprised to hear that I planned to use to to explore remote back roads, but it never let me down. I bought it just for this adventure. Later in the trip, I decided it needed to be painted.
6) Remains of the Mascot Mine high on a mountain side above Hedley BC.
7) A closer look. The mine operated in the 1930s and 40s (some say it lasted until the 1950s) and given its lofty, hard to get to location, it was decided to house the workers at the site. This accounts for all the buildings seen – it was a self contained town if you will, with an amazing view. At the time of my visit the mine buildings were abandoned, but they’ve been saved and you can now tour the complex. Access is via an amazing switch back road (aka The Corkscrew Road).
8) Remains of the Mascot Mine mill. This is where the ore was concentrated down before being sent to a smelter.
9) My ride on the Needles ferry, which connects the town of the same name with the highway that travels in from Vernon. This gives one access to Nakusp and the Silvery Slocan. It’s a short ride across a narrow section of the Arrow Lakes. A cable is used to guide the craft and propulsion is via a winch-type system acting on it. Except when the ferry passes, it is otherwise submerged, an arrangement that allows other boats to cut across the ferry’s path without interference.
10) The remains of a CPR railway bridge in Nakusp BC. This isolated line (connected to the system by a barge) was pulled up the year before my visit. The track here turned left after the bridge to serve a pole yard, which was the last customer on the line.
11) The railway barge slip at Rosebery BC. It’s here where trains travelling in from Nakusp would be loaded on to barges to be taken down the lake to connect with the CPR’s Kettle Valley network. The last time a train used this Rube-Goldberg looking device was in 1988. It was removed, as I understand it, not long after my visit. The slip rests on some rails that head into the water. This allowed them to adjust its position in relation to the always fluctuating lake levels. What an interesting piece of equipment. There is a link further down documenting it more.
12) The ghost town of Sandon BC with Carpenter Creek in front, which the town was partially built over.
13) Once a rip-roaring mining boom-town served by two railways, Sandon was virtually abandoned by the 1950s. Today it’s being restored slowly. I hope to return sometime soon.
14) Sandon’s City Hall, built in 1900. A fire swept through the town early that same year, almost wiping it off the map. This building and all others seen today, date from after that event.
15) An nearly collapsed bridge along the old Kaslo and Slocan Railway line. This company lasted for less than dozen years operating in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It was a narrow gauge line, the tracks being 3ft wide instead of the normal 4.8 1/2”, and this allowed it to be constructed cheaply. The main product transported was ore from mines in the area, which was brought down to Kaslo, loaded onto boats and taken down Kootenay Lake, where it would transferred back onto a train for eventual forwarding to a smelter. The CPR bought the line in 1912, standard gauged it, rerouted much of it and operated it until the 1950s. I believe this bridge was bypassed when the CPR took control.
16) Retallack BC (mistakenly called Zincton earlier), a former mining camp and now a ghost town. You can see my junky car in the image.
17) Some old railway wheels found in Kaslo. These were used to support a barge slip, much like the one we documented earlier in Rosebery. Freight cars would be brought up to Kaslo by barge to be loaded with lumber. There was only a short spur here, the stub end remnants of the old CPR (earlier K&S) line into town. This short section of track was abandoned in the 1970s.
18) A closer look at the wheels. Some had dates on them as far back as 1906.
19) This old Case tractor greets visitors to the ghost town of Lumberton BC. It’s still there today. The buildings in back belonged to the BC Spruce Mills sawmill which operated from the 1920s to the early 1940s. There is a link below to another post we did on the place.
20) The mill ruins are made of concrete, thick concrete and could probably last forever if left alone. They are located just west of Cranbrook BC.
21) This old street sign was located in the former residential section of Lumberton. Things have come full circle and there are some houses located here again and it’s not known if the signs survived. There also used to be some fire hydrants nearby.
22) A friend of mine, an auto-body type by profession, and myself got into the beer and soon decided that my car should be painted. We did it in a dirt floor single car garage (in Edmonton, behind his crash pad) using Tremclad Rust paint that we found lying around. In spite of being a little bit inebriated and our questionable technique and materials (we did have a professional spray gun at least) the end result was pretty good. I sold the car upon return to Vancouver.
Returning to the coast, I continued to work my butt off. The money was good, but the cost of living was so high that in 1990, I left.
These images were scanned from 35mm slides.
To see a full report we did on the ghost town of Lumberton BC, check out this link…
Lumberton ghost town.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: Summer, 1989.
Location: BC and Alberta.