Castlegar Community Album: People From the Past

Castlegar Community Album: The Canadian Pacific Railway in Castlegar

Driven by mining exploration transportation efforts began to focus on the West Kootenay region in the later stages of the nineteenth century. The joining of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers made Castlegar a natural transportation hub. First were the river boats – the ‘Forty-Nine’, then the ‘Kootenai’, ‘Marion’, ‘Dispatch’, ‘Lytton’, ‘Rossland’, ‘Bonnington’ and a host of others. They made it possible to get the ore out to smelters and supplies in for further construction.

In 1889 mining expansion fueled construction of Columbia and Kootenay Railway which connected Nelson with Sproat’s Landing (just across the Columbia River from the future Castlegar). Within the year the CPR bought control of the Columbia and Kootenay and began expanding it east and west.. They secured land at Robson and built a station, turntable and docks for the accommodation of barge traffic across to West Robson. This allowed for connection with the CPR main line at Revelstoke through the use of paddlewheelers.

With the Canadian Pacific Railway completing the Crowsnest Pass railway through to Kootenay Lake in 1898, rail traffic began to increase. At the same time the Columbia and Western Railway, owned by Augustus Heinze, linked the mines of Rossland with the Trail Smelter and pushed through to West Robson. Seeing a serious competitor the CPR bought the Columbia and Western in 1898.

This network put pressure on the system to do away with the barges at Robson, connecting the railway systems. In response the CPR began plans in 1900 to construct a train bridge across the Columbia River at Sproat’s Landing. The 700 foot long bridge included a 120 foot long swinging span to accommodate riverboat traffic. Completed in 1902 the Canadian Pacific Railway immediately built a beautiful station at Castlegar, bringing the town into focus as the new transportation hub, in fact really creating the town. It also constructed a boarding house for its workers, creating the first fulltime jobs in town.

The station burned in a catastrophic fire in February of 1907, leaving only the huge chimney standing. It was replaced with a new station, using the same plans. That station is now the Castlegar Station Museum. Castlegar immediately became a railway town, then a lumber town feeding on the transportation facilities. After the bridge the future of Castlegar was assured, and the city has never looked back.

Castlegar CPR Station
The Castlegar CPR station looking west and showing the Y in the railway yard. One source identifies the house at…
Castlegar CPR Railway Bridge
A view of the Columbia River and the CPR railway bridge at Castlegar - c. 1940. Waldie's sawmill can be…
Castlegar CPR Station
An early view of the Castlegar CPR railway station.
Vick Landfear, C.P.R. Operator
Vick Landfear, C.P.R. Operator, possibly Castlegar.
Castlegar Overview with CPR Station
A view of the CPR station from the back side of the Castlegar business district, looking across the valley.