Here are three sets of then and now pictures taken along the CPR tracks in Fernie BC. Each original is from the early 70s, with my corresponding same-spot, or almost same-spot equivalents taken in August 2012. Unfortunately, it was hard to duplicate the first two “then” images since trees were planted along the tracks here, blocking the view. This meant I had to line the shots up differently – but you still get the idea.
First up is train station, now located back from the tracks a bit. My shot was done through trees which grow there now. Not much is know about the building, other than it miraculously managed to survive much longer than many others. Beaten up and dilapidated, it was moved in the early 1990s and became the arts centre we see today.
The next shot was taken a bit further west down the tracks and shows a train passing some old buildings and we do our best to duplicate it. The one building seen, is today the home to the Royal Canadian Legion Fernie branch.
Next up we see yet another train passing some houses, all of which still exist to this day. They are now mostly blocked by trees but a straight on shot confirms they are the same structures as seen in the original.
In doing these then and now shots, it’s clear how much things differ from what they were, yet much can be counted on to stay the same. It’s an interesting mix of change and no change.
Of interest to train geeks, here’s a brief history of CPR locomotive 4053 clearly seen in one of the pictures. Built by the Canadian Locomotive Company of Kingston Ontario, this Fairbanks Morse designed model CPA16-4 was constructed in 1952. Originally built as a dual purpose engine, with steam generators to allow it to pull passenger trains, this locomotive instead spent most of its life hauling freights.
Like most other CLC units, this example worked in southern BC and Alberta for its entire service career. This engine was involved in a mishap (exact details unknown) in 1975, in Dalmead Alberta, and burned. Presumably it was written it off at that time, although by this date, all CLC units were being retired anyway regardless of condition. Either way its fate was sealed.
This information was culled from the book “Constructed in Kingston” by Donald McQueen and William Thomson. This book by the way is the bible of the Canadian Locomotive Company and it documents every single engine the company produced from its start in 1854 to the end in 1968.
Other locomotives seen here include General Motors of Canada (GMD of GMDD) F and “Geep” units. Also seen is a Canadian Locomotive Company H16-44, an engine model that could often be seen in the region. In fact CLC locomotives dominated the southern BC lines and lasted well into the 1970s, long after other railways had since retired similar units. They were know for being real pullers but were temperamental and a bit of a maintenance nightmare.
Hated by their crews (so I am told) the CLC locomotives were retried en masse not longer after these pictures were taken. Only a few were preserved, like our old friend 4065 (mentioned in this blog many times), its home being at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa Ontario. This locomotive likely passed through Fernie more times than could be counted.
The one train shown passing in from of the station (and heading eastbound), by virtue of the ore cars in the consist, meant it originated in Trail BC. There was a large smelter there, the largest of it’s kind in the world and ore from various mines in Canada and the US was brought in to be smelted into metal. The cars here would be headed back empty.
The other consists appears to be a coal train and this would likely be headed to the Crowsnest Pass, not that far away. At that time, an early unit coal train was running between Coleman AB and the west coast, supplying metallurgical coal to Japanese steel mills. A unit train – meaning a dedicated run hauling a single commodity consigned to a single customer.
This was a new and fairly novel idea in the early 1970s but now a days, numerous trains are unit trains – you’ve seen endless coal trains coming out of the Sparwood BC area for example. At the time this picture was snapped this sort of train was still kind of experimental. This train is east bound and would be empty.
Fernie owes its existence to coal mining. Now of course, the town is known for it’s ski hill and is an especially busy place in winter.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August 2012
Location: Fernie BC.