Destination: Kamloops Heritage Railway
Kamloops Heritage Railway has a lot going for it, and I encourage you to plan a trip to experience this for yourself. You will not only enjoy seeing and riding on the train, but you will also find the city and surrounding countryside to be a place worthy of spending several days. The major industries in and around Kamloops have historically revolved around forest and mining products. The city is a regional medical, education, and transportation center in this part of British Columbia.
There is terrific community support here for the Kamloops Heritage Railway and locomotive 2141. The locomotive has been a great source of pride for the the citizens of this city in south central British Columbia. After 33 years of display outdoors in a city park, weather and vandalism began to turn 2141 into an eyesore. There was discussion about selling it to a group in Alberta, but local pride and determination inspired the 2141 Steam Locomotive Restoration Society to form in 1994 for the purpose of restoring and operating the engine.
The small number of initial volunteers stuck to their plans, often providing their own tools. The engine was modernized as well as restored. With the support of the community and city government, the volunteers managed to move 2141 under its own power just eight years later in 2002. Indeed, the city of Kamloops has built a secured area with storage tracks and a modern building for servicing and housing the locomotive. The tracks connect with Canadian National.
Locomotive 2141 was built as a coal-burning engine in 1912 in Kingston, Ontario for the Canadian Northern Railway and is the only survivor of the 25 constructed. The 2-8-0 originally hauled freight, passenger and mixed trains on the prairies. It was converted to burn oil in 1948 and spent its last years of service on Vancouver Island until 1958 when it was retired by the Canadian National. The railroad was going to scrap the engine, but was saved when the city of Kamloops paid $2000 to deliver it for public display.
My Kamloops Heritage Railway experience
I visited the Kamloops Heritage Railway on Canada Day to see the annual late evening fireworks special depart, and again the following day for the inaugural run of the regular season. I arrived by car early in the afternoon after driving from the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland, BC. Being Canada Day I enjoyed walking around the downtown area of Kamloops and watching the holiday festivities in Riverside Park. I stopped to visit with Sally Berry, General Manager/Railtour Operations of Kamloops Heritage Railway. She and a number of volunteers were quite busy getting last minute tasks done ahead of the evening Fireworks Train. The Fireworks Train is a popular Canada Day event in Kamloops, leaving Station Plaza at dusk to bring passengers away from the city lights and into the countryside where they can enjoy a fireworks display. It is also the first event of the Kamloops Heritage Railway’s short operating season.
Before 2141 could begin making up its consist, another train would be arriving and departing Kamloops. The Rocky Mountaineer makes regular stops here on its Vancouver/Banff/Calgary and its Vancouver/Jasper expeditions. The Rocky Mountaineer is a privately owned luxury tour provider. Passengers enjoy the daytime hours exploring Canada’s beauty and relax overnight in hotels along the way, including Kamloops. I was impressed by the length of this passenger train as it made its way across the Thompson River and stopped in front of the classic downtown depot, which is now a restaurant. A long line of luxury busses lined the platform to meet the train and carry the passengers to overnight accommodations. The whole process didn’t take too much time, and soon the long train backed across the river toward CN’s large facility north of downtown. The train would soon be cleaned, serviced and restocked for the next day’s journey.
As soon as the Rocky Mountaineer cleared the platform, Kamloops Heritage Railway 2141 began shuffling cars on its tracks across the CN main from the depot. First it shoved aside a few cars that would not be used for the evening train. Then it grabbed the coaches, open cars, and Westwold caboose. After a few forward and backward movements, the locomotive and train was on the main and moving toward the handsome large brick depot.
A large crowd was on hand, and a few were dressed in historic costumes. There was time for some station platform socializing, and a chance to get close to the locomotive and perhaps pose for some photos in front of it. It was a warm comfortable evening and soon the passengers were all aboard. It was quite dark when the 2141 whistled off and began the journey across the river.
I attempted to drive out to the location where the train would stop for the fireworks, but driving along the narrow road in the pitch black was not something I was comfortable with. There were throngs of people of all ages on foot, and a private car driving through the crowds was not a good idea. I decided to forego the fireworks.
The following day I visited the engine house in the early morning. The Kamloops Heritage Railway volunteers I met were a nice group, and we shared conversation, some tall stories, coffee and pastries before bringing 2141 out of the shop. Once again the locomotive moved some cars around before getting the train lined up on the main for the move to the platform. The early day sun illuminated the locomotive and cars as I shot video of the movements.
This was the first day of the regular operating season for Kamloops Heritage Railway, and a ribbon cutting took place on the platform prior to departure. Since this was the only trip of the day, I wanted to capture the train as it was moving forward past the historic St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The white clapboard building was built in 1870 and is the focal point in the rural portion of the train’s trip.
After passing the church, 2141 approaches the CN yard, then reverses the the train back to Kamloops. The train slowly backs across the Thompson River Bridge then through the curve leading to the station. Passing the handsome brick depot, the train continues to back under the historic “Red Bridge” where a train robbery is acted out by riders on horseback. Following the excitement, the train slowly returns to the depot platform.
The volunteers of Kamloops Heritage Railway operate the train on a regular, but short, schedule during July and August, with seasonal trips near Halloween and Christmas. Be sure to schedule your visit soon.
Kamloops Heritage Railway on DVD
My video program about Kamloops Heritage Railway can be found on the Heritage Steam in Canada: Four Western Railways DVD. In addition to our story about Kamloops Heritage Railway, other chapters on this DVD include stories about the Prairie Dog Central, Alberni Pacific Steam Railway, and Kettle Valley Steam Railway. See a preview of this DVD here.
Thanks, Steve Mitchell, Yard Goat Images