Please Note: The supervised gate at Carolin Mines Road does not restrict Trans Canada Trail users to access the rail grade through Jessica.
From Silver Creek in Hope to Brookmere, it is quite an adventure that takes about two days to complete on a bike. Those continuing on the Trans Canada Trail should stock up in Hope for three to four days of travel involving at least three nights of camping to get them to Princeton. If you have a shuttle vehicle, it is possible to meet with the vehicle at many intervals.
Hope is the true western terminus of the Kettle Valley Railway, which is responsible for the outstanding Othello Tunnels on the edge of town. The route from here to Brookmere does use pieces of the old railway, but much of it has been abandoned or built over by the highway.
A Special Note about the Stó:lö ('people of the river' in the Salish language) and the Fraser River:
The Stó:lö people can trace their heritage back between 9,000 and 11,000 years relating to their life on the Fraser River. The river, as well as a source of food and transportation, was and still is integral to their ceremonies and rituals. In the summer they lived in plank-built houses and pit houses in winter. Good places to see examples of their tradition of excellent basket-weaving and other traditional information can be found at the Telte-Yet Campground Gift Shop, the Muskwa Gallery & Indian Crafts and at the Hope Museum at the Information Centre.
From BC Parks' description of the Coquihalla:
In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided a route was necessary to link the Kootenay region with the British Columbia coast by rail. Andrew McCulloch was hired as the chief engineer in May 1910. He had been involved in many CPR projects, including the Spiral Tunnels near Revelstoke.
McCulloch took on the challenging task of building the railway over three major mountain ranges. The Coquihalla subdivision included 38 miles from the Coquihalla Summit to the junction with the CPR mainline across the Fraser River from Hope. This section boasts the most expensive mile of railway track in the world: $300,000 in 1914. The construction was done almost exclusively by hand with the assistance of a few horse drawn scrapers and some black powder. His assistant engineers nick-named the railway "McCulloch's Wonder".
The greatest challenge of this route was the Coquihalla gorge, just east of Hope, where the river had cut a 300-foot-deep channel in solid granite. Other engineers had suggested a mile-long tunnel by-passing the gorge, but McCulloch chose to build directly through it. Hanging in the gorge in a wicker basket, McCulloch surveyed the canyon for a straight line of tunnels that could be dug simultaneously. Cliff ladders, suspension bridges and ropes allowed workers to complete what is, to this day, regarded as a spectacular engineering feat. The tunnels are known as the Othello Tunnels.
McCulloch was an avid reader of Shakespearean literature and he used characters such as Lear, Jessica, Portia, Iago, Romeo and Juliet to name stations of the Coquihalla subdivision. The tunnels in the Coquihalla Canyon were near the Othello station – thus, Othello Tunnels. Many of the passengers on the Coquihalla line came expressly to see and photograph the station boards and to send postcards from the stations’ post offices as a souvenir. This added an ironic touch of gentility to this adventurous journey.
The Kettle Valley Railway was officially opened on July 31, 1916. The line operated both freight and passenger service between Vancouver and Nelson, but the operation was plagued with snow and rock slides. In a two year period in the 1930s, the line operated for only a few weeks.
On November 23, 1959, a washout was reported just north of the tunnels. The 400-foot washout was too large to be filled in one day, and numerous other washouts added to the troubles of the maintenance crews. The line was closed and never reopened. It was officially abandoned in July of 1961. The tunnels and surrounding area became a provincial park in 1998.
Much of the modern four-lane Coquihalla Highway is built upon the original rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway. Travelling at modern highway speeds it is difficult to imagine the formidable task of constructing a rail route through this rugged section of British Columbia. As you drive along the highway (or indeed hike or bike along the Trans Canada Trail), you may notice some small signs in the shape of an old steam locomotive, with Shakespearean names. These signs commemorate the approximate locations of the KVR stations along today's Hwy 5.