Aug 282012
Nelson train station 2012

It’s wonderful that the Nelson train station is being saved. Finally! After sitting boarded up, empty, and vandalized for what seems like many years, actual work is being done in 2012 to stabilize and renovate the structure. Thank goodness!

A large divisional point station, it was built around the turn of the twentieth century. Serving passengers when passenger trains still plied the rails (the good old days), it also was home to the dispatch office for the area. However, as time passed the importance of the station diminished. Passenger trains stopped running and dispatching was transferred to another region, so that by the early 1990s it was no longer needed. Unwanted by the CPR, but historically significant, it languished and sat vandalized for some time…but it still managed to hang on.

Fast forward to today and we see working being done on the structure.

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The rail line in front of the station still sees a good number of trains but not nearly as many as in the past, since many of the lines in the area have been abandoned or truncated. From the east, the railway comes in from Cranbrook and heads west for only a short distance past Nelson. The major industries in the area served by the CPR include a large pulp and paper mill in Castlegar and the huge smelter in Trail which is at the current end of the line.

The two original pictures were both taken over forty years ago, and I’ve done my best to duplicate the exact layout of them. Of course that is near impossible but I think I got pretty close.

Interestingly, locomotive #4053, a Canadian Locomotive Company FM designed model CPA16-4 seen in the “then” picture was also seen in another report I did, the Fernie then and now article. See that post for a brief history of that unit.

The white flags flying on the locomotive means the train was an “extra”, or that it was non-scheduled and did not show on any time tables. These trains were called only when enough traffic accumulated to demand it. Now a days, most trains are considered extras (giving the railway more flexibility) and the practice of flying white flags has long since been eliminated. Some older locomotives however still retain their class lights, which accomplished the same thing as the flags.

Unit #8724 is a Fairbanks Morse designed model H16-44, built under licence by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston Ontario. Constructed in 1957, this was one of the last of this model purchased by the CPR. Leading mostly an uneventful life it spent most of it’s career in Southern BC and Alberta. The unit was retired on June 20th 1975, that being the very last day any FM designed locomotive were in service on the CPR. Thanks to the book “Constructed in Kingston” for this information.

The yellow CN ore car seen to the right of #4053 is particularly interesting as it is either headed to or from the large smelter in Trail BC. These cars travelled all the way from the huge lead and zinc mine in Pine Point NWT. While ore still travels to the Trail Smelter, none comes from Pine Point any more, that mine having shut in the 1980s.

To see some other then and now reports we’ve done, check out these links…
Silver Streak movie then and now – walking the tracks.
Blairmore then and now.

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

Date of adventure: August 2012
Location: Nelson, BC.

Nelson train station 1970s

The Nelson train station in the early 1970s.

Nelson train station 2012

The same place, forty years later.


Nelson BC station 1970s

On the platform, again in the early 1970s.

Nelson BC station 2012

The same place (or almost the same given the fence), in 2012.


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2 Comments on "Nelson then and now"

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Leigh Smith
Leigh Smith

The station looks good now.