Aug 272012
Nelson BC rail yards 2012

Here’s another Nelson BC then and now series. In this set, we are at a spot just off of downtown near the location of the CPR’s rail yard and former Nelson shops – just behind me and only recently demolished.

The position of this short train has been matched and much of what is seen in the first image is still there. The retaining wall survives, now it’s brown instead of white and it sits behind the heavy tree growth. And even some bits from the stairs are there, again hidden by the brush. I even lined up the switch well!

The train seen in the “then” image is returning from the sawmill that used to sit at the east side of town. The Nelson switcher seen here would be make regular trips to out that industry to drop off or gather up cars.

The engine, #7109, is a Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) model S4, built in 1952 and it would spend it’s day working the yards, or making short excursions to nearby industries. This S4 was one of only a handful the CPR restored, although did have a good number of earlier and somewhat similar looking S2 models built by both MLW and it’s US parent company American Locomotive Company (Alco).

It’s not clear how long the locomotive spent in Nelson, but it’s likely it roamed the system over the years. It was not retired until the 1980s. Yard locomotives from MLW were quite popular with the CPR, and the fleet comprised many models. The similar looking, but less powerful model S3 was the most common switch engine from that maker on the entire CPR roster.

The train seen is comprised exclusively of wood chip hoppers which may be destined for the huge pulp and paper mill in nearby Castlegar. The cars would be added to the next through train headed in that direction.

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

As mentioned, the old CPR Nelson shops are right behind me. Demolished at the time of my visit there was not much to see. In times past however, it was the CPR locomotive maintenance base for the region. While the shops were able to do most work needed, very heavy maintenance was consigned to Ogden Shops in Calgary. Following the Nelson Shops into history, Ogden is due to be demolished over the next few years.

The line here was once a busy hub but today is comparison is fairly quiet and now only a few trains a day pass though. These freights head to and from the busy smelter in Trail BC, and that aforementioned pulp mill in Castlegar. Outside of these two large customers, there is now precious little online business in the area.

This summer 2012 visit to Nelson was to do some research on my mother who was born there. As it turns out, research shows as a young child she lived not far from where this picture was taken, just being that large building seen in back.

Nelson was not only home to the CPR southern mainline, it also was the end of a branch coming in south from the US. This line, passing through Trail (actually somewhat east of Trail), Fruitvale, Salmo, Ymir and then finally into Nelson, was originally known as the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway. This line and it’s successors mentioned below, shared the yard seen here, with the CPR.

Early on the N&FS was taken over by the Great Northern Railway which later merged with other companies to become the Burlington Northern. The last trains to use the line into Nelson were in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Today that carrier is known as the BNSF or Burlington Northern Santa Fe, not that it matters for this line.

Today, this abandoned rail bed is long distance linear park and can be hiked or biked for some distance. There are some neat trestles high above Nelson that are worth a visit.

To see another Nelson then and now we did, click this link…
Nelson then and now (3).

To visit the nearby town of Ymir, mentioned in this post, follow this link,
Old buildings Ymir BC.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: August 2012
Location: Nelson BC.

Nelson BC train 1970s

The Nelson BC rail yards in the 1970s.

Nelson BC rail yards 2012

The very same location in 2012.


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8 Comments on "Nelson then and now"

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It so sad that they tore down the old Nelson shops. They should have been saved for a museum.


Stumbled on to this website. Nice pictures from Fernie, Yahk and Nelson. I worked for the CPR in the 50s and 60s as a telegrapher, at every station from Crowsnest to Farron. Also on the mountain sub from Revelstoke to Field. Have a number of pictures from those times. Nice to see the ” then and now “.