Columbia and Western Railway

Columbia and Western Railway

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When F. Augustus Heinze, the Montana Copper King, built his little smelter at Trail Creek Landing he planned a mule-powered tramway with a grade of 8% to bring ore down from the Rossland mines. It was to be called the Trail Creek Tramway.

He soon abandoned the idea in favour of a fourteen mile narrow gauge railway that climbed 2000 feet with a 4 ½% grade, from Trail Creek Landing to the Le Roi mine at Rossland, under the charter name of Columbia and Western. It was completed in 1896. The narrow gauge equipment was purchased from the Mormon group in Utah and Brigham Young’s ornate private car served as a passenger coach on the Rossland hill.

Heinze’s Columbia and Western charter gave him the right to build from Trail west to Penticton over a route that was surveyed west from Rossland via the Sophie mountain summit.

He was given a charter from the provincial government to construct a line, also a grant of 10,240 acres per mile of narrow gauge or 20,000 acres per mile of standard gauge line on completion of the line.

In 1898 the Canadian Pacific Railway was engaged in a race with the Great Northern to build a line west through British Columbia to the Pacific coast. To do this the Canadian Pacific needed Heinze’s Columbia and Western charter.

Heinze sold the C&W charter to CP only on the condition that they purchase his Trail smelter as well.The purchase price was $1,400,000.00.  The smelter ultimately developed into the world-wide Teck complex that it is today and Canadian Pacific soon discovered that it had been forced into making the most profitable deal of its existence.

Canadian Pacific did not follow Heinze’s original route west of Rossland but instead built from Robson bordering the Arrow Lakes to Dog Creek down to McCrea Creek to Grand Forks and then to Midway via the Farron summit. This route followed an easier grade than the first proposed C & W Railway line through Rossland.

In 1898 Canadian Pacific converted the Rossland hill to standard gauge and operated the line until its abandonment in 1966.


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