Riding the Hotshot from Nelson to Trail!

Well folks, I’ve been meaning to get this up for a while. Part 2 of 3 of this series… a few days after chasing the hotshot from Nelson to Trail, and a 90km bike ride on the old Nakusp and Slocan from Nakusp to Rosebery and back (few photos, I’ll tack it onto part 3) I made my way to Nelson at 4 in the morning yet again. This time, I was to set out on a cabride on the hotshot to Trail. Before you go alerting the proper authorities, signatures were placed onto paper and there would be no recompense for any limb severing encountered.

Let’s start the previous day: As I’ve gone over in my Kootenay division operations post, the hotshot is brought from Cranbrook to McConnel (east of Creston) by a CPR crew, then is handed to a KVR crew that takes it into Nelson in the wee hours of the morning. A second crew takes it from Nelson to Trail and back to Nelson, leaving at 0630 and arriving back between 1600 and 1900. From there, its third crew takes it from Nelson to McConnel, where they swap trains with the CPR crew that brought another hotshot in, and the third KVR crew takes the hotshot back into Nelson. See the cycle?

Okay. Good. That’s the only thinking you’ll have to do reading this.

The previous night, one of the units on the hotshot coming to Nelson from Cranbrook died and they tied up at McConnel. This meant that on this particular day, it was a double length train, with double the work and (nearly) double the locomotives. As luck would have it, the same locomotive was on the point as the previous adventure.

The day started out with some ‘fun’. Nelson yard these days is basically being used as an extension of (or staging for, if you are a modeller) Trail yard.  What you see to the left are concentrate cars, as well as some empty acid tanks and various other cars. We had to fish out some cars from near the far end of there to add to our own train, so we departed much later than we would have liked.

At long last, we were off. I was falling asleep because, after the aforementioned 90km bike ride, I got to sleep at 2am. I had to leave for Nelson at 4. Whoo!

Now, I was pretty excited when we got to Taghum. Nothing like riding over the bridge you’re in the process of modelling.

The sun soon came out to show off how beautiful the Kootenay river can be.

The Boundary sub’s speed limit was 15MPH instead of 20 due to the derailment at Cora Linn dam in the spring, so we just enjoyed the ride.

Just before 9, we came into Castlegar. The train is about to cross the Columbia river, which it will follow all the way to Trail.

Coming up to what should be a familiar scene to my readers…

After we dropped off the empties in the yard to be taken to Celgar by the Kraft switcher, we paused at the crossing at the south end of the yard.

At the time on the Rossland sub, the first 10 miles were restricted to 10MPH. That was a damn long hour.

Leaving Castlegar, the line climbs up a light grade, and between Kinnaird and Blueberry Creek is high above the Columbia river on a glacial bench.

Surprising me, Matt Robson was still in the area, filming his video that will be released soon. Here here is at Poupore, the siding at the top of the 3.6% grade that brings the line off the bench.

A mile from Birchbank (See that sign over there that I definitely didn’t cut off?) a washout occurred in the spring. If it’s starting to sound like CP had a lot of problems in the spring, and you weren’t paying attention, they did. 2 derailments and a washout in series, closing the line for much of 2 weeks.

Just before Tadanac yard in the Trail smelter, the line crosses Stoney creek and immediately hits the north switch.

Stopped in Trail yard:

Photography isn’t allowed inside the complex, so I’m afraid there’s a lack of cool industrial photos. The Trail switcher was in the yard with 2 GP38-2s when we pulled in, they’re the ones who do all the hard work, switching the cars from the hotshot and going up the 4.1% grade to Warfield.

The yardmaster is hard at work:

Here we are, having coupled onto the train for Nelson.

…And this is when more fun started. After some calculations, we realized that because of the number of units we had there were problems with the marshaling of the train. Rather than actually worrying about it, since it was already an extra-long day, we just set out the first few cars that were the problem and got on our merry way.

Funny things happen when you combine lack of right-of-way maintenance with predictable consists.

Anyways, all units online for Poupore hill!

Oh yeahhhhh.

Actually, the last photo contains a bit of a problem.  It’s a looong way down to lower China Creek on the other side, and the bank is being seriously undercut feet from the roadbed. Trees are going down, and the CPR’s putting large rip-rap to try to stop the problem. There’s a definite worry that the entire bank of unstable glacial till might just go, taking the railway with it.

Anyway, back through the hour of yawn…I can’t even remember it.

Here’s Castlegar station in its current location outside of the wye.

We picked up over 40 loads from Celgar at Castlegar, making our train about 4500′ long – longer than the siding at McConnel! Saw-by time. Luckily for us, we got word from the RTC that while we were on the Rossland, the speed limit on the Boundary sub had been raised to 20MPH for the first time since the derailment. Small blessings! It felt like warp speed.

Here, we can see the tail end of the train as well.

Passing the Cora Linn dam…

…and the site of the derailment in spring. One of the concentrate gons nearly hit the lunch trailer.

Oh hey it’s that bridge I’m modeling.

All aboard the creative caption train!

About halfway between Taghum and Nelson, we met a grizzled friend.

Along the CP mainline, far too many bears are struck by trains. They eat fermented grain spilled from grain cars, in effect getting them drunk, them stumble around in the wrong direction while the train comes through. However, down here, there are no grain cars and the trains are moving half or a third as fast as on the mainline…this guy got away with room to spare!

Mmm, beautiful Kootenay river.

Here’s a view of Nelson and the city’s surroundings.

Now how did this end up there?

And, a final shot.

All told, it was a long 12 hour day, and we all slept well that night. I’m very grateful to the crew and management for letting me do this!

Part 3, biking the C&W and N&S…coming…eventually.

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8 thoughts on “Riding the Hotshot from Nelson to Trail!

  1. Nicely done, Matthew. Chased the AAPRCO from Kingsgate to Trail early this year. Upto that point, it had been a very long time since I was in the area.

  2. nice job Matthew! How many feet between the tracks and the sloughing bank at China Creek. I got some photos from the bottom but didn’t check out the rail line up on top.

  3. Hey, stumbled upon this post. I’m from the UK and have spent the winter here in Nelson. Lovely town, one of my favorite things about it being this train that passes through on a regular basis. It fascinates me the scale of the trains here. Compared to the UK they are huge! I was thinking the other day, whether it would be possible for a member of public to catch a ride on one! Cool to see you did it 🙂 Thank’s for the interesting post.

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