Railway history time! And today’s subject, what’s left of Troup Junction along the shores of Kootenay Lake near Nelson BC. The former line, going back to the late nineteenth century, has been abandoned for decades. On a small jut of land, they managed to fit in an amazing array of track, complex but necessary since trains had to completely reverse direction after dropping down from the hills above to reach their final destination, Nelson. Remains found include several bridges, ties, the roadbed itself and many other bits. Fascinating!
To get to this location requires a fair hike in along the Salmo-Troup Rail Trail from a point high above Nelson down to lake level – not a bad thing since it’s a pleasant and scenic outing. One could also arrive by boat. There is no road access however meaning, yes, yes, it’s seldom visited. That’s how we like it! An active Canadian Pacific Railway line bisects the old junction tracks.
The line into Troup Junction was built by the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway (or Railroad in some documents) in the early 1890s. It came in from a point near Trail BC where it connected with a sister railway across the US/Canada border. Troup, or Five Mile Point as it was called then (in reference to its distance from Nelson) was the terminus of the railway for a time, cargo and passengers transferring to a stream boat for the rest of the trip to the “Queen City”.
Early infrastructure here including a “wye” – a triangle arrangement of tracks where locomotives or cars could be turned around – and a wharf track out into the lake. Not much room so that’s it.
They of course had intentions of going further and a couple years in, the line was extended to Nelson (well Bogus Town just outside). The former wharf track was extended further into the lake, on rock fill, forming a loop that doubled back on it self. It appears the wye track was removed at this time.
A few years on the N&FS was purchased by the Great Northern Railway in the US. They were eager to exploit the ore and lumber riches of the area, much to the chagrin of the Canadian Pacific Railway who wanted their share of the action, and political types who saw this “US invasion” as an affront to Canadian Sovereignty. But that’s another story.
The Great Northern was a major player, one of the more profitable trans-continental railways in the US and interestingly, was run by a Canadian (James Hill).
In around 1900, the CPR came on the scene, a line coming in from Proctor in the east, later still extended so as to connect with their Southern Mainline near Creston. Rather than build a line parallel to the N&FS/GN tracks, they elected to share them from Troup into Nelson, where back on their own rails, they continued on to Castalegar, Trail, and many points north and west. They once near-monopolized Southern BC.
At this time it’s suggested the loop track was abandoned (expensive to maintain?) and the old wye, with a new extra long west leg doubling as a passing siding, put back into service. This allowed a locomotive to spin around so its was always facing the right way (not really so important in diesel days but retained anyway) and for it and the caboose to exchange ends, once per inbound trip and once per outbound trip. Sounds easy, but it was time consuming. Given the limited space is was about the best they could do.
The Great Northern (GN) became part of the Burlington Northern Railway (BN) in 1970. At some point after, date yet unconfirmed, the wye was taken out of service, the train simply running backwards the final eight clicks to Nelson (and doing the same in reverse on the return leg). The line through Troup was abandoned in the early 1990s. Most of the former roadbed, since the mid-2000s, has been converted into a rail trail, while some of the mostly southerly section still operates, today as the “new” Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway, which this author visited this same trip.
Train frequency in the early days of the N&FS was daily or more often. While under GN/BN control, a few per week was the norm most of the time, with occasional bursts of additional activity now and then. At the end it was one per week. Trains rarely exceeded a dozen cars in length – which in a way was good, since the passing siding at Troup, where things were reversed, was limited to about that length anyway. Even if business was better, the junction would always be the limiting factor for train length. Passenger service on the line ended in the 1940s.
Today one can hike or bike the line for much of its length. The section we travelled is well packed down and any trestles and bridges made safer with the addition of planks and railings. Some are pretty high.
Interestingly once can find old mile markers and other signs left behind when the track was pulled up. These include flanger warnings. Curious? A flanger is a device that scrapes ice from between the rails. It has to be lifted when passing things like bridges, road crossings, switches and so on or risk catching a blade. As such these warnings had to placed in anticipation of these obstacles. The one we say was before a trestle.
To get to Troup requires crossing the active CPR tracks once at lake level. Watch for trains (a couple per day I’m told). Five Mile Point looks heavily wooded, but if one starts poking around, remains can be found. A number of low wood trestles, one with the check rails still in place (in simply terms – used to keep a derailed car from plunging off a bridge and ruining it). Most of the ties were left behind. Some are completely covered in moss.
The wye/passing track, having been used more recently, is still easy to follow (on Google Earth too). Not so much for the loop track, since it was abandoned earlier and now heavily overgrown. The lake section is most interesting. Much of the track there, recall earlier the wharf, has eroded and either is close to or completely underwater (lake levels depending I guess). Still it’s easy to see where it was. Old wood cribbing used to stabilize the rock can still be seen in places. Rusty spikes litter the ground.
Recall, the CPR runs close by. We hoped for a train, but all we saw pass was a rail-equipment maintenance truck. Better than nothing I guess. A short but heavy rain storm forced us to take refuge under a big tree – seemed like a good excuse to break out the wine (of which we always a have bottle in our pack). We notice signs suggesting bears frequent the area.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2016.
Location: Near Nelson BC.
Article references and thanks: Railway Mileposts – British Columbia Volume II by Roger Burrows, author Robert Turner, Mark Dance, CPR archives, Exporail the Canadian Railway Museum, Touchstones Nelson – Museum of Art and History.