The unification of Canada happened from east to west at least in part because of the transcontinental railway. The essential condition for British Columbia to join the Canadian Confederation was the promise of a railroad. The first passenger trains of Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) leaving Montréal arrived in British Columbia on July 4th 1886 in Port Moody and on May 23rd 1887 in Vancouver.
The railway was instrumental in developing Canada through the transportation of goods and people. As the only means of transport for many years, it created communities and facilitated the communication between urban centres, as well as the moving of population. It made possible the expansion into the West, selling immigrants the dream of a new life in a new country. It was also indispensable during the two world wars to send troops and goods across the country.
– Florence Debeugny
What’s left of the network of railways that built the Canadian nation with its railroads, train stations, bridges and tunnels? To barely brush the surface of such a subject, I documented remains of the largest railroads of the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National from Hope to Field, British Columbia.
While doing research, I first looked at a 1886 map from CP which had very few train stops. I got really inspired by the next discovery of a 1932 map with many more stops and attractive names such as Toketic, Basque, Squillax, Notch Hill, Canoe, Malakwa and Illecillewaet. I then decided to travel there and look for their remains. The stops in the major localities such as Boston Bar, Kamloops and Revelstoke still exist. But most of the stops from the map had disappeared as they became useless. For these, I looked for ways to identify the last reminders of their existence, such as finding their names appearing on road or business signs. For example, when looking for the Chaumox stop, I only found a road sign for the road named Chaumox in North Bend.
With the photographs and interviews brought back from the trip, I produced a 5-minute video of the following railways’ subdivisions: CP Cascade & CN Yale (Hope to North Bend / Boston Bar), CP Thompson & CN Ashcroft (North Bend / Boston Bar to Kamloops), CP Shuswap (Kamloops to Revelstoke) and CP Mountain (Revelstoke to Field).
Along the way, I interviewed a few people whose voices I used in the video soundtrack along with railway sounds. In the Revelstoke Railway Museum, I visited with Ernie Ottewell and Les Handley, two retired CPR engineers in their 80s who volunteer extensively at the museum, and the executive director Marjorie Somerton. At the Bowie stop, I encountered Sheldon Ready who lives close to the train tracks and later on met the Jordans at Walhachin crossing, a couple watching trains along the Fraser River Canyon with the book “Canadian Trackside Guide 2013”.
A journal written by me and my assistant kept traces of this unique experience of discoveries and often romanticized impressions while looking for traces of railways from the past.
All the elements which make up the railway such as trains, stations, platforms, bridges (Cisco and Stoney Bridges), tunnels (Spiral Tunnels), crossings and even hotels built and/or bought by CP and CN are important contemporary components of the Canadian landscape. They are the footprints of the land’s history and a reflection of commercial and cultural exchanges between populations.
All photographs, videos and soundtracks in this website are the intellectual
property of Florence Debeugny.
Please contact Florence Debeugny by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Florence Debeugny 2013-2020