Aug 292012
Shelter Bay marine railway

The government of British Columbia oversees the operation of a number of ferries across the province. When large bodies of water block progress, these become essential links in the highway system and all the inland fresh water routes are free. The one seen in this report in on the Upper Arrow Lakes and connects Shelter Bay near Revelstoke on the Trans Canada Highway to Galena Bay. From there you can go into the remote Lardeau area in the east or south to the town of Nakusp.

Two ships ply the route, the aptly named DEV Galena and the MV Shelter Bay. The Galena is the larger of the two and is used all year. The smaller Shelter Bay is used only during the busier summer months and in the winter is kept moored near its namesake bay. Today’s trip would have us on the Galena.

Being mechanical things, these two hard working ships occasionally require heavy maintenance. This is where the marine railway seen here comes into play. Simply, it allows the vessel to be taken out of the water to be worked upon.

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The system comprises two sets of two parallel tracks which go deep into the water. On these tracks is a cradle which supports the ship when it’s in for maintenance. Ahead of that is a complex pulley system, which easily allows the cradled ferry to be pulled out of the water and up the steep incline to the maintenance area. At the hoist house, a good sized electric motor provides the power to do all this.

When needed, which is probably not very often, the cradle is lowered down deep into the water (I am not sure what they do with the vehicle loading ramp – it’s in the way), the then ship floated over until it rests on it, then gently and slowly the two are pulled up the hill to the flat area where it can be worked on. When done, they just reverse all the steps.

I am not sure how often it us used, but when needed I am certain it’s highly appreciated by the repair crews. Judging from some papers in the hoist shack, they test and lube the unit quite regularly to make sure it’s always in good working condition.

I am not sure when this marine railway was installed, but I do recall it as a kid in the early 1970s. Presumably it came on line around the same time as the current ferries (1968 for the Galena).

A new large ship is being built for this route, to come online in a couple years, and it will replace both the current ferries. I am not sure how it will effect the marine railway.

On our visit a large turbine was being prepared for shipment to a nearby dam. It came off a barge and was being transferred to a special highway trailer.

For more information about these ferries click here.

For a news article on that turbine unit click here.

Another piece of interesting engineering…
Kootenay Lake power lines.

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

Date: August 2009.
Location: Shelter Bay near Revelstoke BC.

Shelter Bay marine railway

The Marine Railway at Shelter Bay BC.

Marine railway cradle

The cradle that supports the ferry.

Marine railway pulley

A close up of the pulley system.

Marine railway hoist

The hoist house.

Marine railway shackles

Massive shackles.

Marine railway track

Details of the track.

Shelter Bay ferry ramp

The ferry loading ramp.

Shelter Bay ferry

On to the ferry. The rails for the cradle are on either side of us.

Power turbine Shelter Bay

A large turbine, presumably for one of the hydro dams nearby.

View Larger Map
Shelter Bay where you can make out the marine railway (zoom in). The MV Shelter Bay is moored in the bay and DEV Galena is seen heading in.


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2 Comments on "Arrow Lakes marine railway – interesting engineering"

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Loraine Love
Loraine Love

Rode that ferry yesterday!