Steam Train #6947 & Railway Exhibit

Visitor Info

The exhibit is entirely outdoors, and is available for viewing at any time.

It is located along the south side of Slocan Star St. in Sandon, B.C.

History of Steam Locomotive #6947

This beautiful "iron horse" which is now part of Sandon's historic landscape was built for the CPR in September 1908 by the Montreal locomotive Works. Originally numbered #1737, it had a 2-8-0 wheel configuration with 58" drivers and a tractive effort of 37,400 pounds. Classed as an M4H, builders' number 45590, it was built at an original cost of $18,422. It was used in mainline passenger and freight service in its earliest years. After 1913, it was renumbered #3537 and continued its service in southern BC. In mid to late 1920s it was assigned to the Kootenay region and undoubtedly made its appearance in Sandon during those years.

#3537 underwent major modifications in September 1928 to become a heavyweight yard switcher. Its pilot axle was removed, the boiler repositioned and the drivers reduced in size to 52". It was reclassified as a V4A with an 0-8-0 wheel configuration and renumbered #6947. Its tractive effort was increased to 41,700 pounds. It entered into switcher service in 1928 and worked throughout western Canada, primarily in Regina and Winnipeg. In 1959 #6947 was sold to the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Coal Company in Bienfait, Saskatchewan where it worked hauling coal until 1968 when it finally retired.

In 1970 #6947 was donated to the Alberta Pioneer Railway Association in Edmonton where it remained on display until 1998. Prior to its final journey to Sandon it was owned by the Municipality of Cypress, Alberta. In 1997, it was put up for auction and purchased by Wrightway Charter Co. Ltd. of Sandon BC. It was completely dismantled and all of its 262,000 pounds was hauled to Sandon for restoration and reassembly by its new owners. Wrightway Charter wishes to thank the Municipality of Cypress, the Northern Alberta Railway Museum, and the Canadian Council for Railway Heritage for making this acquisition possible. To view our collection of photos of the moving and assembly of this freight train exhibit visit The Prospector's Pick gift shop in Sandon BC.

Porter 104 Mine Locomotive

Porter #104 is believed to be one of only several compressed air locomotives left in North America. These locomotives typically operated in mines to haul rail cars in and out of the underground workings. Working off of compressed air, they didn't emit any exaust fumes harmful to miners. They were also a low risk in creating sparks (Ie. in coal mines where it was essential to avoid igniting the coal dust). The locomotive would have had its big 1" thick riveted receiver tank filled up with air to 800 psi (pounds per square inch) The main reservoir pressure was dropped to 250psi working pressure through a regulator. This model was driven by a double expansion set of cylinders (the air got used twice, in two stages of expansion), a much more efficient machine than the single expansion units. Other compressed air locomotives can be seen at the BC mining museum, Fort Steele, BC, Jaffray BC, Canmore Alberta and Heritage park in Calgary.

Sandon's Railway History

Before 1891 the Sandon Area was an uninhabited wilderness. In the fall of that year, amazing silver ore discoveries were made on Payne Mountain and by 1892 the entire area was swarming with prospectors. News travelled around the world. Financiers and promoters focused their attention on the fledgling community of Sandon. The mining boom which ensued was comparable to the major gold rushes - only richer! One of the world's greatest silver deposits was making history. . . . . In 1892 crude trails were the only lifeline to Sandon and the mines. As the true extent of the ore deposits became known, it was realized that railroads and steamships would be necessary to connect the mines to the smelters. Supplies of every description needed to be brought to the mines and the mining camps. Thousands of people needed basic transportation. In the months following the silver discoveries two railway companies received charters to connect the Sandon area with the outside world.

It was barely 6 years since the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed to British Columbia whens plans were made to build a standard guage line to the Sandon area. This involved a line south from Revelstoke to the Arrow Lakes, a steamship and barge connection to Nakusp and then another rail line to the community Three Forks 3 miles west of Sandon. In the meantime, the giant Great Northern Railway from the United States was preparing to build a narrow guage (3 feet between the rails) from Kaslo to Sandon. This also involved barge and steamship connections on Kootenay Lake to a standard guage line connecting Bonners Ferry in Idaho. The Great Northern believed Sandon would be the up and coming "capital of Silvery Slocan" region. They were right. Sandon soon pased Three Forks in prominence and the CPR was forced to change their plans during the construction of their grades. Another 5 km (3 miles) of grade had to be added to extend their line up the steep canyon to Sandon. This required 6 trestles to be built in order to lengthen the gradient but it still was the steepest track (4.55%)on the entire CPR system. For trains to work on such steep grades, tremendously heavy and powerful locomotives would be required. Sanding the tracks on the way up would be necessary and so would a safety switch and runaway track for the downhill journey.

In 1895 both railways were completed into Sandon. The CPR used the name "Nakusp & Slocan Railway" (N&S) for their subsiduary line to Sandon. Their competitor, the Great Northern, formed a subsiduary called the Kaslo and Slocan Railway (K&S) for their line. A great rivalry between the two lines had developed during the construction period as the two crews (totalling approximately 1000 men each) raced to reach Sandon First. The K&S reached Sandon first with the CPR arriving a few days later. The crowded conditions in Sandon resulted in both railways being somewhat intertwined. In the confusion, the new CPR station was built on K&S land. Shortly afterwards, the K&S crew organized a midnight locomotive ride from Kaslo to Sandon. After they cut the CPR telegraph lines, the K&S men released the brakes on the CPR bunkhouse cars parked on a siding. While the sleeping CPR crews were rolling down the spur and being awakenedby a crash into other parked rolling stock, the K&S gang wrapped a long cable around the CPR station and pulled its shattered remains into the creek with their locomotive. Then in a flash they were on their way back to Kaslo in the darkness!

The need for rivalry proved to be unfounded in the early years of Sandon. With the railways completed, the mines sprang into production and both railways were worked to capacity carrying people and supplies to Sandon and hauling rich ore away to distant smelters.

The heyday of Sandon passed in 1898 and after the devastating fire of 1900 Sandon's fortunes steadily dwindled. In 1910 the K&S was abandoned and the CPR took over its assets and trackbed. In 1914 the CPR completed a a new standard guage line to Kaslo in time for Sandon's second boom during the First World War. The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the end of passenger service to Sandon. Occasional freight trains continued to use the line until 1955 when the catastrophic washout occured in Sandon. The N&S line was washed out in 29 places! The CPR made the decision to Abandon the line and in 1957 the rails were liftedand the remaining rolling stock was removed by truck.

Today, the CPR grade from Rosebery to Three Forks has been restored as a fascinating historic hiking trail (Galena Trail) and some of highway 31A now occupies much of the old trackbed to Kaslo. The 3-mile section of track and the 6 trestles from Three Forks to Sandon are now, for the most part, shattered, overgrown and impassible.

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Email: sandon.bc.canada@gmail.com