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2022 Nelson BC Canada
Combined GNRHS & CPHA Convention
by Lindsay Korst
gngoat@gngoat.org


Welcome to the first GNRHS Convention held in Canada!  Following is my write up of the events and experiences of this joint convention in southern British Columbia.


Friday, September 16th


The drive from Post Falls, ID to Nelson, BC

Three days previously, I had filled out that annoying ArriveCan form to get me into Canada -- only to discover I had to cross the border by 10:22 am today or else!  Idaho?  That's right.  As of May 2022, Baolu and I have relocated to the Gem State.

Thus, I was up at the crack of dawn heading north on US 95. Coming up on Cocolalla, I overtook this eastbound empty grainer. The weather turned cloudy and wet as I reached the Pend Oreille bridge into Sandpoint. Just eyeballing the 2nd railroad bridge being constructed, I can see that almost all the spans are in place, ready to lay track.



I STILL don't see how they're going to squeeze the 2nd main track past the Sandpoint depot. ;p  Update:  BNSF says they're gonna chop back the platform...and that the bridge project should be finished the end of November 2022!

I had planned to get a ground level shot of the Naples GN depot, but the weather was just too sucky. I pressed on towards Canada.

In search of a former GN depot, I crossed the border at the tiny hamlets of Porthill, WA/Rykerts, BC. This crossing is so small (how small WAS it?), it is only open 8:30am to 4pm and is a one man operation. My conversation with the guard went something like this.

me - Good morning. (all truck windows rolled down - hand over passport)
him - Where you from?
me - Post Falls, Idaho
him - Purpose of your trip?
me - Attending a historical society convention in Nelson
him - Bringing anything you're going to leave in Canada?
me - No.
him - Do you have any guns with you?
me - No.
him - Do you OWN any guns?
me - No.
him - Have you EVER owned any guns?
me - No.
him - Have you ever had a gun in this truck?
me - (suppressing a laugh) - No, sir.
him - What does GN Goat stand for?
me - It means Great Northern Goat. It's also my domain. Here - (I give him my business card) this will explain all about GN GOAT.
him - (hands over passport) Have a good trip.
me - Thank you.

Those wacky Canadians. They are CONVINCED that every American is bristling with firepower including those icky guns that are practically outlawed in the Great White North.

When I related this encounter to a buddy of mine at the convention, he suggested the agent saw GN as shorthand for GUN. Maybe so.

Anyways, on to Creston, BC (original home of Kokanee Beer!) and up highway 3A to little Kuskanook, BC on the shores of Kootenay Lake. It was here, as late as 1993, stood a two story GN (former Bedlington & Nelson Ry.) depot. From here, passengers would catch a steam ship to sail up the lake to Kaslo, BC.

  

Well, the depot is long gone and appears to have been replaced with a rest area and boat launching facility. The black and white photo was taken by Roger G. Burrows and comes from page 56 of his book, "Railway Mileposts: British Columbia, Volume II: The Southern Routes from the Crowsnest to the Coquihalla".

Backtrack to Creston and over the mountains on Highway 3 to Salmo, BC. Still standing in the middle of town is a pristine Great Northern depot.

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Between Salmo and Nelson, the former GN right-of-way has been turned into a walking path aptly named the "Great Northern Trail".



Nelson! After a hasty late lunch at the historic A&W, I'm off to the Prestige Lakeside Resort to check in and register for the convention. Paperwork taken care of, it's off to the local grocery to buy snacks for tomorrow's tour. Later, I met up with good friends Scott and Jan Tanner. Thanks for the Kokanees, guys! ;p
 

Saturday, September 17


The "Silvery Slocan" tour

It's an all day bus tour today - featuring the former silver mining district from Kaslo to Sandon. OK, we're all ready to go. Where's the bus? Oh, there's one -- that's full already. Let's get on the second bus, then. Here we go.



The first stop is...right here in Nelson, at the old two-story CP station (also once used by GN). It is now a visitor center and features two Fairbanks-Morse locomotives out front!



Our second stop was at the Kootenay Lake Historical Society at Kaslo, BC. Here we found many exhibits, a CP caboose and the S.S. Moyie sternwheeler being restored for its 150 year Jubilee in 2023. Despite all the scaffolding, we were able to get onboard and see some of the beautiful interior work.



Kaslo was the home terminal for GN's narrow gauge Kaslo & Slocan Railway which ran from the lakeside to the mines at Sandon. About all that is left of the railway is this section of dockside track which ran railcars onto barges.



A wonderful lunch was provided by the Kaslo Legion Ladies Auxiliary. Greg Smith pounded out rousing airs on the upright piano for our enjoyment.



Views from the bus on the road to Sandon.



Sandon!  Starting with the Frankenstein-like power house interior and ending with a genuine GN caboose (X-241), there's something for everyone in this former silver-lead mine boomtown.

You can just hear the electricity buzzing as the flywheel and generators turn.



The Slocan Mines, old Vancouver BC trolley buses and "a bunch of the boys were whooping it up" beside Canadian Pacific 0-8-0 steam locomotive #6947



The BN 11244 frame number confirms this is GN X-241 under the tarps. This caboose was recently (2021) moved from its location in Langley, BC. Also (GASP!), they are planning to remodel this GN artifact into a CP caboose to add to their display train.

From Sandon, it was a looong ride home to Nelson.  Supper tonight was with the Tanners at Jackson's Hole & Grill!

 

Sunday, September 18


Meetings, presentations and clinics (Oh, my!)

Lots of things to see and do today, so off to the hotel breakfast buffet. 

Because of several bus tours leaving early during the course of our stay, GNRHS arranged to have the restaurant open much earlier than normal. We soon discovered the hotel retaliated by serving everything COLD. Lots of decent pre-made food in stainless steel warming trays sure, but they didn't bother to put Sterno cans underneath to, you know, keep the food WARM.

Cold eggs. Cold bacon. Cold potatoes. After five days of this, McDonalds started looking really good. Unfortunately, Nelson doesn't have a Mickey D's :(

Anyway, starting off the agenda was the GNRHS Board meeting...

AND the CPHA Executive and Members meeting!



Open at 9am was the all-day Model / Photo Display exhibition.



Morning Presentation:

Dave Maracek "A Virtual Representation of SF&N / GN Ry 1902."



Lunch today was at Cantina Del Centro.  We all wanted to try their burritos or enchiladas.  It being the Sabbath, they were only serving brunch (eggs in the burrito).  Oh well, it was still good.  And it was warm.

After lunch, a bunch of us took a Nelson streetcar ride.  Scott and Jan say, "Go Cougs!".  



When we got back from the ride, a model of the "S.S. Nasookin" sternwheeler was on display.

Afternoon Presentations:

Ed Mannings "Rare Historic Ephemera of the Kootenay Railways."



Doug Phillips "CPR Lightweight Streamlined Passenger Cars"



Bob Kelly "PNW Archives."



Paul Clegg "CPR's Golden Years 1899-1914".


Oh, how about Finley's Bar & Grill up on Vernon Street for supper? 

 

Evening Presentation:

John Langlot "From Kettle Falls, WA to Nelson, BC."



 

Monday, September 19


Putzing around Nelson

Today's highlight was a bus tour of Nelson culminating in a visit to the Touchstones Museum downtown (since re-branded as the Nelson Museum Archives & Gallery).

But first, I managed to get in one of the morning presentations before the tour.

Adrian Kopystynski "GNR in Grand Forks & Phoenix."



Hop on the bus, Gus.  First view as we left, is of the runway of Nelson's airport...which shockingly, is perfectly aligned with our hotel. Saw several small aircraft (landing/taking off) just barely clearing the roof of our lodgings. Yikes! 



The old 1908 stone Court House is pretty cool.



They us took past the CPR station -- which we had already seen on Saturday's tour.



We had a stop under their highway bridge which connects Nelson to the north shore of the lake. Just behind our bus, there's at least one guy "living in a van down by the river!" They're also very proud of their original Dairy Queen -- and the nice baseball field on the hillside donated by the Toronto Blue Jays.



After lunch break, they gave us a ride up the hill to drop us off at the museum.



Museum tour completed, I walked back down the hill to take some rustic and informal views of the street cars trundling back and forth along the shore. Beautiful spot, eh?



Afternoon Presentations:

Mac McCulloch "Marcus Division Operations."



Tom Lambrecht (red shirt) & Adam Meeks "CP's Heritage Locomotive Fleet."



And maybe a candid out in the lobby:

Dinner tonight?  It's the "Burger Bar" at the hotel!  Not too shabby for a buffet and "build-your-own" set up. 

 

Tuesday, September 20


Railfanning the old Great Northern - including a train ride!


Another all day bus tour awaits. This time we'll be following (more or less) the former Great Northern line from Nelson to Waneta (the Canada/U.S. border) and back with a side trip to view the Golden City Railroad Modelers at Trail, BC.

First stop today is Ymir (pronounced Why-mer):



Second stop is for a snack at the nicely preserved and intact Salmo ex-Great Northern Railway depot:



Third stop (YOWZA!!) is a train ride on former GN track from Fruitvale to Columbia Gardens courtesy of the Nelson & Fort Sheppard Railway!   

Being fired up is International Railroad Systems (IRRS) #4519, an ex-GTW GP9 from 1957.  The coach it pulls is an ex-Long Island built 1955-56 by Pullman Standard.  On our trip, we stopped at a couple trestles for pictures.  Note the "graffiti" on the large rock -- an advertisement for the Sayward Hotel in Salmo (Meals 35 cents). 

Coming into Columbia Gardens, there is a bustling re-load yard where the N&FS interchanges with the St. Paul & Pacific Northwest Ry.  The SP&PN is the rail link to the outside world at Kettle Falls and eventually Spokane.  Group shot!!  As we left in the buses, a SP&PN freight had just pulled in with a quartet of FURX geeps.

P.S.  Thanks for snapping my picture, Andrew!



Fourth stop is/are the two bridges (both ex-GN) crossing the Pend Oreille River where it meets the Columbia River at Waneta.  John Langlot poses with the newer of the two rail bridges.  John was a Conductor for GN-BN-BNSF and worked this line from Kettle Falls to Nelson.



Fifth stop was in Trail, BC at the Waneta Mall -- location of the Golden City Railway Modelers layouts. The club was selling old books as a fundraiser and I purchased a classic as my trip souvenir, "Nicholas Morant's Canadian Pacific" by J.F. Garden.



Sixth and final stop was lunch at the Salmo Valley Youth & Community Centre. Wow, did they put on a delicious spread. The pulled pork sandwich was outstanding. I went back for seconds once everyone had eaten. Awards were awarded!



Just a big shout-out here to the Mayor and citizens of Salmo.  They really showed us a good time, and made sure we were fed and watered, before sending us on our way.  THANK YOU!

Thus, back on the buses and home to Nelson.  I'd say that calls for a drink! (Special Thanks to "Hail fellow well met" Scott Tanner who shared his fine Irish Whiskey later that evening.)  Stand fast, Craigellachie! (Yes, I know that's Scottish, not Irish.  It's also a very famous moment in the history of Canada.)



 

Wednesday, September 21


Wrapping things up

 

Today is the last day of convention. More entertaining clinics and a marvelous lunch in town.  Did someone say banquet?

Morning Presentations:

Gerry Doeksen "Videos - 1. Railway from Nelson to Nakusp including barge service & 2. CPR on the Carmi Sub, by velocipede and motorcar."



Rich Mahaney "Following the tracks of the Great Northern Railway from Skykomish WA to Shelby MT."



Steve Eckman "Did Jim Hill save the Dominion of Canada?" Short answer, "Yes, from a certain point of view..."



During the lunch break, I tromped uptown to the Hume Hotel and the cozy Mike's Place Pub for some French Onion Soup and a club sandwich washed down with a glass or two of Cabernet Franc. Yum! (I'm a sucker for F.O.S. and their's was top drawer.)

Lunch concluded, I took a drive through Nelson to some of the places Monday's tour didn't reach. Nelson is a beautiful place, built on a hillside with commanding views up and down the lake from Gyro Park:



GNRHS - CP Banquet:

Chow Time! Round up the usual suspects...



Our guest speaker tonight was Bob Turner, Curator Emeritus of the Royal BC Museum with his presentation of, "Tales Along the Boundary with Beaver and Rocky."



Finally, awards were presented to Tom and Francina Carr who persevered for many years and went above and beyond the call of duty to bring our GNRHS convention to Canada.

Well done, Tom and Francina! You pulled it off, and we had a great time at your party! Many, many thanks.


 

 

 

Thursday, September 22


Epilogue

 

Since I'm here in the Great White North, why not visit my brother, Mark, over there in Langley, BC? I could follow the route of the old Kettle Valley Railway and VV&E (G.N.) and maybe spot a depot or two. Let's see. How far is it? Google Maps sez 620km. What is that in American? Roughly 385 miles. Piece of cake. I can drive that in one day.

Up at the crack of dawn, I check out and take the road westward. At Castlegar, I hit McDonalds for a hot breakfast and eventually find my way out of town on BC Highway 3, the "Crowsnest Highway".



The section between Castlegar and Grand Forks is way WAY out in the boonies. My truck's display says "No Service" (cell phone) most of the drive and I sometimes go 15 minutes without seeing another car.

As I come into Greenwood.....what the heck is that thing?



It's something called, "Tunnel of Flags" (there are better pictures than mine and an explanation at the link). Pretty oochie, I reckon...

At Midway, BC, I stopped at a little museum (closed, unfortunately) which had both the town depot and a CPR caboose #436715. This was Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Railway building westward.



The road west into Osoyoos is an incredible series of white knuckle hairpin turns as you spiral down into the Okanogan River valley. One hairpin actually goes straight out over the edge of a cliff, then does a 180 at the last moment. It's got to be a 1,000 foot drop from that point. What a view!



West of Osoyoos, I started following the Similkameen River north towards Cawston. I was looking for an old Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern (VV&E) GN Ry depot that had "collapsed in a field south of town", but all I saw were apple orchards. I suppose that station is long gone.

Leaving Keremeos, you come upon their big claim to fame, the "Red Bridge" formerly built by the VV&E/GN in 1907.



"It's not Hedy, it's HEDLEY. HEDLEY Lamarr!!" As a huge fan of the movie, Blazing Saddles, I could NOT drive the Crowsnest WITHOUT getting my picture taken here. "Would you care for another schnitzelgrubben?"



Princeton! They should have a nice G.N. depot in town. And they do...now masquerading as a Subway where I took a late lunch. Also on hand is a former CPR caboose (number unknown). Where the tracks used to run is now a footpath.



The section of line from Princeton to Coalmont to Tulameen and Brookmere was built by the Great Northern (VV&E). Rumor had it Tulameen still had a GN depot, so after lunch I took a detour off the Crowsnest Highway in that direction. First you have to cross this boonie bridge and wow, what a view of the old R-O-W below!  That's the Tulameen river.



Coalmont is an odd little town as demonstrated by this sign (one of several).



Coming up to the Tulameen town limits is this rather substantial plate girder railway bridge (with concrete abutments). Mile marker or bridge 85.9 perhaps? I looked, but could find no builder's date stamped in the concrete. Might have been installed later when Kettle Valley Railway (CP) took over the line.



I drove the length of town and didn't see anything that looked like a depot. Then I started hitting the side streets over by where the tracks used to run. Bingo! At 4th and Strathcona, there it was. It's painted in CP mineral red, but was, indeed, originally built by GN.



And that's the way it was! From Tulameen, I backtracked to Princeton, drove Hwy 3 through Manning Park (past several smoky forest fires) onto Hwy 1 at Hope, finally reaching my brother's place about 7pm that evening. What a trip!
 

THE END





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