iN VIDEO: A railway lover's passion lives on in photographic treasures of the Kettle Valley Railway - InfoNews

Current Conditions

10.4°C

iN VIDEO: A railway lover's passion lives on in photographic treasures of the Kettle Valley Railway

A train makes its way up the steady grade of the Kettle Valley Railway line beteween Penticton and Naramata in the 1950s.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie
February 08, 2020 - 8:30 AM

The late Dave Wilkie was a steam train enthusiast who understood the historical value of what he was seeing and recording.

Dave took hundreds of photos and 8 mm movie film of North American steam trains in their final heyday, including some priceless photos and video of British Columbia’s Kettle Valley Railway.

His son, Mike Dunham-Wilkie, has been making an effort to bring those historical treasures to a wider audience, recently putting together an album of his father’s photos and videos taken of the Kettle Valley Railway in the Coquihalla and Carmi subdivisions.

One of the last passenger trains to travel the Coquihalla Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway in 1957.
One of the last passenger trains to travel the Coquihalla Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway in 1957.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

The Ladner Creek highway bridge on the Coquihalla Highway. Many motorists are completely unaware of the canyon's storied railroad past.
The Ladner Creek highway bridge on the Coquihalla Highway. Many motorists are completely unaware of the canyon's storied railroad past.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

“He tried to capture stuff before it stopped running, tried to capture events as they happened,” Mike recalls of his father’s photographic works.

Living in Victoria, a lot of Wilkie’s work centred around the end of the steam era on Vancouver Island.

“The steam locomotives ran on the Island until the late 1950s. He tried to capture their last days. He did a lot there, not as much on the Kettle Valley, but in the later years he captured some of the last runs on the section of the line between Spences Bridge and Penticton,” Mike says.

One of Dave’s videos is a home movie taken of a “fan trip on the CPR Coquihalla subdivision,” a fascinating look at the railway through the formidable Coquihalla Canyon in 1957, two years before the last train ever to run through the canyon was made in November, 1959.

(The video is shown below.)

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writing was on the wall for the Kettle Valley Railway following the opening of the Hope-Princeton Highway in 1949.

Passenger rail traffic was cut in half within months of the highway’s opening. The fact Dave’s photos were taken near the end of the railway’s transportation dominance in southern B.C. is another thing that makes them special.

The Ladner Creek railway trestle, in more modern times.
The Ladner Creek railway trestle, in more modern times.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

A snowshed on the Kettle Valley Railway in the Coquihalla canyon.Date unknown.
A snowshed on the Kettle Valley Railway in the Coquihalla canyon.Date unknown.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

The last views of a train passenger’s slow journey on the historic railway are now the first views for new generations. Many people today see the journey mostly as an inconvenience as they zip through the canyon at highway speed, largely oblivious to the fact trains ever ran through the pass.

Mike says his father had a particular passion for the steam era of trains. He says there is a gap in his father’s photographic history of about five years between the end of steam and the continuation of his photographic collection with diesel powered trains.

“I guess he finally accepted the fact they were here to stay,” Mike laughs.

He remembers family trips to U.S. western states like Colorado, where his dad continued to film and photograph steam era trains after they had disappeared from tracks in Canada.

Dave also has a national legacy in the form of a mural in the senate building in Ottawa.

“He had taken a photo of the Koksilah trestle (Kinsol) on Vancouver Island in the 1950s. Someone from an architecture firm saw it on Flickr, and asked for a digital file of it,” Mike says.

The Falls Creek trestle on the Kettle Valley Railway through the Coquihalla Canyon.
The Falls Creek trestle on the Kettle Valley Railway through the Coquihalla Canyon.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

This photo, believed to be from 1989, late March or very early April,is one of the “last trains” heading to Penticton.  It is crossing the Trout Creek bridge near Summerland.
This photo, believed to be from 1989, late March or very early April,is one of the “last trains” heading to Penticton. It is crossing the Trout Creek bridge near Summerland.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

"Squamish Museum has most of dad’s stuff. They scanned it and I sent it to the firm. They used it to build a big mural in the new senate building in Ottawa,” Mike says.

He says his father’s interest in trains was life long. Dave Wilkie died of cancer in 1998, but Mike says he was actively pursuing his passion until about six months before he died.

“He also co-authored books on local railways. He helped Barrie Sanford with his work, “McCulloch’s Wonder,” and co-authored with others,” Mike says.

These days, Mike is happy to post his father’s photos, introducing new generations to the Kettle Valley Railway and other railways that have only recently been lost to time.

Ladner Creek Tunnel, west portal, Coquihalla Canyon.
Ladner Creek Tunnel, west portal, Coquihalla Canyon.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dave Wilkie

“If he was alive, he would want as many people as possible to see these photos. There is some great stuff he took that wouldn’t be seen otherwise,” Mike says.

“That film of the fan run - that’s priceless. We’ve shown it in our living room on dad’s old 8 mm projector. Up until YouTube, only a handful of people would get the opportunity to see it,” Mike says.

A passenger trip on the Kettle Valley Railway through the Coquihalla Canyon just before service was canecelled through that part of the line in 1959.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.

News from © iNFOnews, 2020
iNFOnews

  • Popular penticton News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile