Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway

From Canyon
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway(N&FS) was a railway in the interior of British Columbia between the city of Nelson and the United States border. It was taken over and operated by the Great Northern Railway in 1898.

The railway was built by Daniel Chase Corbin, an American financier. In 1888, he built north from Spokane, Washington with his Spokane Falls and Northern Railway(SF&N) to Little Dalles (near modern Northport) in the United States by 1890. The British Columbia government resisted granting him a charter to build across the border into Canada because of concerns the government was concerned that the railway would only be a feeder railway to the American interests in Spokane, especially the Great Northern Railway. With the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company provider boat access along the Columbia River to his railway he had indirect access to the rich mining areas of the Kootenays. Concerned with this development, the Canadian Pacific Railway reacted by building the Columbia and Kootenay Railway(C&K) between Robson (near Castlegar) and Nelson in 1891 along the unnavigable section of the Kootenay River between Kootenay Lake and the Arrow Lakes.

In 1891, Corbin received a charter from the Canadian government for the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway by promising to connect the railway to the coast and by using a group of Canadian businessmen as a front for the railway. The connection to the coast was never built but the railway did reach Nelson in 1893. The railway's name comes from the former Hudson's Bay Company fort, Fort Shepherd, on bank of the Columbia River on the United States border, even though the spelling is different. With an all rail route to the United States and the Great Northern, the N&FS could provide more direct access to markets than the CPR could with its C&K.

The railway was taken over by the Great Northern(GN) in 1898, later known as BNSF and operated for many years. The track was been abandoned piece-meal starting from Nelson as far as Salmo during the 1990s. The only traffic on the line is wood products. The abandoned section is now owned by the government and is used as a multi-use trail.


Map showing Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway

From south to north, the railway started at the United States border on the Columbia River at Waneta. The railway climbed out of the Columbia Valley past the community of Fruitvale to Salmo. From Salmo, the railway went north up the Salmo River valley to Ymir and then began the descent to Kootenay Lake. The line passed Nelson to the east as it descends along the hillside. It reaches lake level at Troup Junction (also known as File Mile Point), about 6 km east of Nelson and returned at lake level to the city. When the Canadian Pacific Railway built along Kootenay Lake in 1900, the section between Nelson and Troup Junction was sold to the CPR and GN was given trackage rights.


  • Salmo-Troup Trail
  • Sanford, Barrie McCulloch's Wonder: The Story of the Kettle Valley Railway