Photo 2337.0078: Two Rossland couples enjoy a ride in an early automobile, circa 1900. Names unknown.

Photo 2337.0078: Two Rossland couples enjoy a ride in an early automobile, circa 1900. Names unknown.

Automobiles in Rossland

First in use around 1915, automobile travel immediately proved to be problematic in Rossland. The mountainous terrain of the town led to many brake failures as well as accidents known to locals as ‘turtle tipping’, wherein the entire vehicle would flip over. Nevertheless, the new machines were embraced by Rosslanders, and by 1919, a freight train loaded with automobiles arrived at the city. As time passed, cars became a common part of Rossland life, especially as the main street doubled as the Trans-Canada highway, drawing in travellers and commercial vehicles.

The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society

Although the Canadian Pacific Railway offered passenger service to Trail up until 1937, the creation of the highway resulted in increased automobile transport, especially bus transport, for Rosslanders working in the Trail smelters by the 1930s. Many workers at the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company (later Cominco, now Teck Trail Operations) smelter in Trail chose to live in Rossland and commute to Trail by bus.

When the Great Depression hit, the smelter workers found their hours and pay cut, yet the transportation costs to get to the smelter remained the same. By 1932, most Rossland workers found themselves earning 4 dollars a day, yet paying 40 cents in transportation costs just to get to work each day. These Rossland workers pleaded to both the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company as well as the City of Rossland to help them find a more affordable way to get to work but neither felt they could take on the responsibility of finding a solution. With rumours that the bus fare was soon to increase to 50 cents, a group of workers decided they had had enough. On May 2nd, 1932, the Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society came into existence with 15 members. The members agreed to each pay 5 dollars for a down payment on an automobile, which ran three shifts a day, with members assessing themselves 30 cents a ride. By their second month of operation, membership had jumped to 40, and another automobile was purchased.

Photo 2293.0074: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society 1957 picnic, at King George Park in Patterson. The co-op was as much a social community as it was a solution to a transportation problem.

Photo 2293.0074: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society 1957 picnic, at King George Park in Patterson. The co-op was as much a social community as it was a solution to a transportation problem.

Photo 2318.0051: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society’s first fleet of automobiles, in 1933.

Photo 2318.0051: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society’s first fleet of automobiles, in 1933.

Photo 2318.0052: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society’s Bus Fleet, circa 1952.

Photo 2318.0052: The Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society’s Bus Fleet, circa 1952.

The support for the co-op was overwhelming, so the group decided to open up the membership to any Rosslander that wanted to take advantage of the service. Securing two lots from the city, a 40 by 55-foot garage was built with volunteer labour and one paid carpenter to house the vehicles. By 1933, membership was at 200 and counting, and the garage was in need of expansion. Striking a deal with the local garage, the co-op moved to the lot across from the Post office in 1934, now the Nelson & District Credit Union. The success of the group was undeniable by 1939, with over 600 members, 25 cars, and $60,000 in assets. The coop lasted well into the 1990s and is thought to be an integral organization that allowed Rossland to continue to thrive through the Depression and onwards, as people were able to remain living in the city while working in Trail.