Repairs to the restored KVR trestles should keep them going for decades to come | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Repairs to the restored KVR trestles should keep them going for decades to come

Image Credit: Submitted/Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society
July 07, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Repairing Kettle Valley Railway trestles is not for the faint of heart or the impatient.

But work on the historic trestles had to be done. It's more than a decade since they were rebuilt following the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire and 43 structural timbers were since broken. They were replaced on 14 trestles last month.

“The way they were replaced was by people on ropes who were scaling the trestles and then the timbers are attached to winches and lowered over the edge down to the crews that are working on them,” Dave Richmond, B.C. Parks’ facility program section head for the Kootenay/Okanagan region told iNFOnews.ca.

The Kettle Valley Railway was built in the early 1900s and connected Midway with Hope by 1916. The last train ran on the tracks in 1964 and it slowly fell into disrepair until the early 1990s when volunteers with the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society started restoring the structures in the canyon, only to have most of their work destroyed by the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire.

Image Credit: Submitted/Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society

The last of the burnt trestles was rebuilt in 2007. In 2018, they were thoroughly inspected both from the deck above and from the ground below through binoculars, Richmond said.

It then took almost a year to coordinate the materials to replace the 43 broken beams.

Since they ranged in size up to six by 10 inches and 35 feet long, special Douglas Fir trees had to be selected, cut and shipped for the custom order.

To be historically accurate, the beams have to be treated with creosote, which is now only used on railway ties. This work was done at Koppers in Ashcroft, the only creosote preserving plant in Western Canada, Richmond said.

There was a set time period for the timber to be cut, milled and treated so they all had to be done at once.

The KVR was closed through Myra Canyon from June 8 to 29 in order to do the repairs. Since the timbers were already snapped apart there was no concern about the structural integrity of the trestles while the work was being done. Crews just had to unbolt the old ones and secure the new.

Much of the damage was likely caused the by original preservation treatment.

“The creosote treating process is quite violent on the wood so the wood is prone to cracking,” Richmond said. “Some of the breakages were just historic cracks that got worse in time through freeze-thaw and the heat of summer.”

Beams that were cracked but not broken were “stitch bolted” in an effort to keep them from cracking more.

Others were broken by rock falls, a couple by falling trees and some, potentially, could have been vandals pushing rocks down onto them, Richmond said.

Most of the trestles were built to historical standards so they are strong enough to carry trains and are expected to last about 100 years. The old trestles were built between 1912 and 1915 so they were close to 100 years old when they burned.

Image Credit: Submitted/Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society

Some trestles that cannot be viewed easily were built to a lower standard as a cost saving measure, Richmond said. They’re strong enough to hold safety vehicles but not trains.

The trestles will go under a similar review in 10 years. The decking and rails are inspected annually but this fall will undergo a more in-depth inspection to determine how badly they are worn. They are expected to last 15 to 25 years.

The project cost a bit more than $125,000 with $80,000 for the actual repairs, $25,000 for materials and $25,000 for engineering work.

B.C. Parks have no plans to do any other work on the trestles but the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society is waiting for provincial approval for an enhancement project.

“Our society has plans to develop a trail to the original Morrissey Camp site and rock ovens with educational signage for school groups,” society secretary Tom Kuntz wrote in an email.

While the society was formed in 1993 and still does maintenance and other works, the trestles became part of the Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park and Protected Area in 2001.

For more about the trestle society, go here.


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