The History of the Vancouver and Nicola Valley Railway

Significant events:

New Westminster Southern Railway Company

The New Westminster Southern Railway Company (NWSR) was chartered in 1887 (S.B.C. 1887, c.36) to build from Brownsville on the Fraser River (across the river from New Westminster) to the 49th parallel. At the US border it joined the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad, another GNR controlled Railway. Construction was completed in early 1891 and the first official train to the border was run on February 14, 1891. In 1905 it was sold to the VV&E. In 1916 part of the line from Port Kells to Brownsville was sold to the Canadian Northern Railway (CnoR). (Hist)

Nicola Valley Railway

The Nicola Valley Railway (NVR) was chartered in 1891 to build from Spences Bridge to the coal deposits near Merritt. Originally backed by the CPR due to a coal strike on Vancouver Island, the railway charter was abandoned when the strike ended. (Hist)

Bereft of the CPRs financial support the original charterers forged on. Money was found, rails and equipment were scrounged from used equipment dealers across the continent and a rickety line of track was built along the Nicola River valley to Merritt. Coal was the reason the railroad was built and coal was its main source of revenue. Lumber soon became the second major source of income. Coyle shipped copper concentrate. The branch to Brodie was built to supply logs to the Canford mills. The branch to Nicola was built to service the cattle ranches in the area. The money ran out before the line reached Quilchena and the railway stopped construction at what is now its current size. The NVR settled down to a life of genteel poverty as a CPR feeder line.(Fict)

Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Railway.

The Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Coal and Railway Company (to use its full chartered name)(NK&S) was also chartered in 1891. (Hist)

Coal was again the lure and the rumours of vast copper deposits near Princeton. The railway built from Kamloops east along the South Thompson then south to Stump Lake, thence along the south shore of Nicola Lake (finally bringing service to Quilchena) and terminated at the end of the line of the NVR Nicola branch. Finances were equally as rickety as those of the NVR and the line to Princeton remained a dream. As with the NVR coal was the main source of income, with lumber and cattle the secondary sources. Along with the NVR the company settled down to a life of genteel poverty as a CPR feeder line. This changed somewhat when the Canadian Northern Railway reached Kamloops but not much. There was now a choice of being a CPR feeder line or a CNoR feeder line. (Fict)

Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway and Navigation Company

The Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway and Navigation Company (VV&E) was chartered in 1897 (S.B.C. 1897, c.75) to build from Vancouver to New Westminster across the Fraser River and easterly through the Hope Mountains to Rossland with various branches. After the GNR obtained control the eastern lines were built first. The Valley lines were finished by 1916 and other lines were acquired by purchase (VTR and NWS). (Hist)

Vancouver & Nicola Valley Railway

The Vancouver & Nicola Valley Railway was a GNR supported line chartered in 1908 to put pressure on the CPR dominated Nicola region. The CPR was charging high freight rates on all shipments to and from the Nicola region. The threat of a second railway into the area put pressure on the CPR monopoly. After the desired effect on freight rates (The freight rates dropped for everything but coal. The CPR wanted the coal for itself.) was obtained the charter was discarded. (Hist)

Victoria Terminal Railway and Ferry Company

The Victoria Terminal Railway (VTR) was chartered in 1901 (S.B.C. 1901, c 85) to build a rail line from Port Guichon (now Ladner) to the New Westminster Southern Railway at Cloverdale. The ferry service to the Victoria and Sydney Raiway was from Port Guichon to Sidney on Vancouver Island. In 1905 control of the line was obtained by the Great Northern Railway and in 1908 the line was purchased by the VV&E. (Hist)

Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway

The Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway (V.W.Y.) was chartered in 1901 (S.C. 1901, c.87) to build from Vancouver to New Westminster and various other routes (Vancouver to Squamish to Lillooett, Quesnel, Hazelton, Teslin Lake, Dawson City, etc.). The Vancouver to New Westminster line was built. In 1905 it entered into an operating agreement with the V.V.&E. And in 1908 it was sold to the VV&E. (Hist)

Completion of the Coquihalla Line

After much posturing between the CPR and the GNR; (The GNR had the first route surveyed through the area on the East side of the canyon and the best route through the lower canyon. The CPR had the second route through the area on the west side (the better side) of the canyon but a poor route through the lower canyon) the two railways came to an agreement. In July 1916 the CPR line through the Coquihalla from Hope to Brookmere was completed. The GNR exercised its running rights by running a train through the line to the coast on September 27, 1916. (Hist)

GNRs Problem

The defeat of the Laurier Government in 1911 and the death of their free trade bill with the defeat of the government no longer made the GNR lines as profitable as they could have been. With the death of J.J. Hill on May 29, 1916, the GNR lost interest in the VV&E lines in BC. The GNR was paying a lease of $150,000 a year for the rights to use the Coquihalla line and another $ 50,000 to the Canadian Northern Railway for the rights from Hope to Cannor. What to do? (Hist)

The Vancouver and Nicola Valley Railway rises again

The original charterers of the VNV were still dreaming about their railway.
Did the GNR ever have a deal for them! The VNV charter was dusted off and revived. If the VNV would buy the VV&E lines in the Fraser valley (Port Guichon to Cannor with the branch to Huntingdon, and the old New Westminster Southern line) the GNR would transfer their running rights on the Coquihalla line and the CNoR from Hope to Cannor (and the payments due for them) to the VNV and grant the VNV running rights into its Vancouver station and to Princeton (for a fee of course).
Not recognizing a pig in a poke the VNV jumped at the offer. The generous GNR even threw in some equipment and the railway buildings for free. (Fict)

The CPR was not amused

Of course the CPR objected to the deal. A new railway was being allowed into its' territory. Its' monopoly on Nicola Valley coal was being broken. Much brou-ha-ha ensued. The lawyers got rich (!) The VNV won(?), and the GNR sold a liability and turned it into an income source as well. J.J. Hill would have been proud of his son. (Fict)

What did we buy?

Reality has a way of intruding on dreams and this happened fast to the VNV. "We bought the VV&E, a line from nowhere to nowhere by an indirect route, what now?" (Fict)

Coal, lumber and cattle to Vancouver supplied the income. Dairy products from the valley, bricks from Kilgard. Copper from Coyle to the smelters at Bellingham. Anything from anywhere to anywhere to make a buck. (Fict)

The lease payments for the Coquihalla to the CPR were onerous to the new railway. Winter closures of the line brought a surcease. We (the VNV) only pay to use the line, you (the CPR) have to keep it open and maintained. If the line is closed there has to be a rebate and you (the CPR) have to provide an alternate route. The VNV won that battle. It was a grand sight to see VNV steamers on the CPR mainline in winter. (Fict)

The Good Years.

There were good years when the money came in faster than the debt grew. When locomotives were shiney and new, trains ran on time, passengers and share holders were happy. There were even a few small dividends.(Fict)

The Debt catches up

Debt never goes away unless it is paid off. Mature bonds were replaced with new issues at higher interest rates. Mine closures, equipment upgrades, lumber mill closures (no trees), depression, automobiles, all contributed their share to the VNVs problems. Eventually the end was in sight. It was time for Action. (Fict)

The Nicola Valley Lines. (Creative Financing 101).

Enter the Nicola Valley Lines, an amalgamation of the NVR, NK&S and the VNV. The railways had been running as a group for many years under control of one group of joint shareholders, now it was time to make it official. Combine all the assets, roll all the debt into one pile, give it a new name and sell the idea to who ever will bite. It worked! (It is amazing what you can do on the Vancouver Venture Exchange). Thus was born the NVL. (Fict)

The Coquihalla alone. To Princeton at last

After years of high expenses the CPR grew tired of keeping the Coquihalla line open for the NVL. $150,000 a year (less rebates) and train fees were not paying for the line. The CPR tried to cut a deal. We will sell you the Coquihalla line and give you the old GNR (VV&E) line to Princeton. (Fict)

The operators of the NVL were smarter now. Dealing with the CPR forces you to become a fast learner if you want to survive.(Fict)

No replied the NVL. You will give us both lines, rights to buy the lines through Penticton to Midway, and pay us for the privilege of doing so. Faced with a maintaining a money losing proposition the CPR gave in. A reasonable price was negotiated and the CPR left the Coquihalla Valley forever. (Fict)

The Future of the NVL

What does the future hold for the NVL? Does it take over the rest of the Kettle Valley Railway? Does it die an ignominious death due to lack of traffic? Who knows. That is in the future of my Model Railway and I haven't got there yet. (Fict)

Notes to the History:

V.N.V. Railway Page - V.N.V Railway Charter - The Route of The V.N.V. Railway

Bill Dixon's Railway Pages

Last Modified: May 9, 2008. Copyright 2003-2008 W.R.Dixon.
Contact Bill Dixon