August 27, 2014 - 5:00 AM
VERNON - It once brought growth to the region, but now the railway linking Vernon with Kelowna is being erased one rail tie at a time.
Since the last spike was laid in 1925, the nearly 50-kilometer stretch of track has carried many passengers and untold quantities of freight. But its glory days are long gone. In summer 2013 its most recent operator, the Kelowna Pacific Railway, announced bankruptcy on its network stretching from Kelowna to Kamloops.
The Canadian National Railway took over the line and resumed operations on most sections but deemed the Vernon-Kelowna portion unfeasible. CN is currently in the process of selling off the line and work has begun dismantling the tracks.
Greater Vernon Museum and Archives volunteer Ken Ellison says a piece of history is being ripped out with the rail.
“The town developed because of it,” Ellison says. “Vernon was the centre of the valley because you had the (railway) going to the south, another going to Kamloops, one to Armstrong, one to Lumby. It was like the centre of a wheel.”
Growing up right next to the railway in Oyama, Ellison recalls how trains roaring by would shake the whole house.
According to an old CN schedule kept in the archives, the run between Vernon and Kelowna took about an hour. Multiple trains left each day during the rail’s peak. With the rise of the rail network in the region, passenger and freight boats were pulled off the lake, transforming the way people and products were moved around the valley.
The first CN passenger car rolled along the tracks in 1926 and the last in the 1960s.
“Times are changing,” Ellison says. “Who ever thought this day would come? You could say that even up until a couple years ago.”
Now that the future of rail service between Vernon and Kelowna has hit a dead end, a local group is promoting the idea of preserving the corridor as a recreational trail. Local government has formed an acquisition team to negotiate a deal with CN to buy the land, pegged at $50 million.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014