The West Kootenays is uniquely blessed with rivers, lakes, hydro power dams, and vast forests of high quality timber. Unfortunately, we also have some serious mountain passes and considerable challenges for future transportation.

The first settlers to this area used the water bodies for heavy and long distance transportation options, coupled with railways. Many of the old rail beds are still visible, including impossible trestle bridges across canyons and up narrow inclines. Several lines are still in use by heavy industry, particularly the line from Teck in Trail to Castlegar and from Castlegar to Nelson. Interestingly, this line follows the pattern of settlement along the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers.

As part of our presentation for the Selkirk College Professional Development Day, I reviewed the population density along this length of rail and estimated the number of stations that could be constructed to facilitate a passenger service. Through trail services could be scheduled from the main centres to coincide with peak demands, with slower all-station trains, operating earlier or later, but still conveniently providing connectivity for these residents.

The Google Earth map I created with the stations is available here, a screenshot is shown below.


These lines are not electrified, so the technologies available include coal, diesel, or newer hybrid trains, as showcased by General Electric, and mentioned in this post – Reviving the Railways. The feasibility is tough to justify while we are still all driving around in single passenger occupied motor vehicles. But as times get tougher and possible fuel shortages or price increases start to bite – options like this will have looked like a dream come true. Unfortunately, at the time when we realize that the train is a suitable answer to many of the impending transportation woes, we will be so far in the hole that we won’t have the cash or energy to make our dreams come true.

Rather than widening roads, why don’t we start investing in more fuel efficient modes of transport?

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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