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Kamloops Heritage Railway's Armstrong Explorer ~ September 24th, 2005

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The chance to ride behind the restored Canadian National Railway 2-8-0 2141, the last Canadian National steam engine to work on Vancouver Island, occurred late September 2005. The Kamloops Heritage Railway introduced 'The Armstrong Explorer', a 112.8 mile round trip, which would depart on four dates and the last run of the year, September 24th, was the one that Bob and I chose.

Arrangements were made and I took a unique way to get to Vancouver. Living in Victoria on Vancouver Island, the only way to get off the island was by ferry or airplane. Rather than take West Jet or Air Canada Jazz (the regional counterpart to the national airline), I chose Pacific Coastal Airlines. They provide scheduled charter and cargo services to destinations a variety of small airports in British Columbia. Established in 1987, they operate nineteen-seat propellor-driven aircraft. My flight from Victoria International Airport to the south terminal of Vancouver International Airport was a fun one and there were only seven other people with me. A shuttle bus took me to the main terminal of YVR, where I waited for Bob to arrive from Seattle. We then picked up a rental car, had a late dinner and drove to Kamloops, 223 miles northwest.

After a short night, we arose at 06:00 hrs. and drove to Campbell Creek just east of Kamloops. A buffet breakfast was offered at the Agri-Centre where the boarding area was located.

Kamloops Heritage Railway History

The Kamloops Heritage Railway Society is a registered charity under the Societies Act. KHR has a mandate to operate the steam engine 2141, the "Spirit of Kamloops" for the public, on behalf of the City of Kamloops.The engine and tender are owned by the City and the Citizens of Kamloops. The rolling stock is owned or leased by the KHR. Any profit earned by the society through the operation of scheduled railtour programs goes toward the maintenance and upkeep of the engine and consist, operation of the tours, operation of the, maintenance facility, salaries of minimal paid employees, as well as to pay back the City of Kamloops for the Society's "start up" loan.

2141 is one of a group of 25 engines (numbers 2130 to 2154) built by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston, Ontario for the Canadian Northern Railway. Her classification is "Light Consolidation" because of her 2-8-0 wheel configuration. She is "light axle loading" 114 tons in working order. Her official class is M-3-d and she is the only survivor of this type. From 1913-1919 she carried passengers between Calgary and Saskatoon for the Canadian Northern Railway. From 1919-1948 she carried a mix of freight and passengers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for the Canadian National Railway. From 1948-1950 she operated with freight in B.C., near Smithers. In 1950 she was moved to Vancouver Island to finish her working days hauling logs and other freight between Victoria and Youbou/Cowichan Bay. Her last trip was July 4th 1958 from Cowichan Bay to Victoria. She was then slated for demolition.

On October 28th, 1961, after three years of trying, Mayor Jack Fitzwater of Kamloops persuaded City Council and the CNR that selling the locomotive to Kamloops was a better choice. After a payment of $2,000.00, CN operations manager T.A. Mainprize presented the refurbished engine 2141 to Mayor Fitzwater and the City of Kamloops. She became a static display in Riverside Park. The locomotive sat on display in the park for 33 years and was maintained by the city. In 1993, the city was approached by a private enterprise seeking to restore and operate a steam locomotive to pull a tourist train in Alberta. When news of this was circulated to special interest groups associated with railroading, an emergency meeting was held to explore ways to keep the engine in Kamloops.

On February 11th, 1994, the 2141 Steam Locomotive Restoration Society was formed (now the Kamloops Heritage Railway) to restore and operate the engine on behalf of the City of Kamloops. The Society completed the restoration over a period of 8 years and 80,000 hours of labour. On January 15th, 2002, under steam and her own power for the first time since 1958, the 2141 was moved to her new home at 600 Lorne Street. The City of Kamloops provided a new 5,000 square foot building to house and maintain the steam locomotive. At the same time, over 2,000 feet of track and switches were built to connect the the backshop to the CN Okanagan Subdivision line at mile 3.0. On June 26th, 2002, the Kamloops Heritage Railway carried the first passengers on the "Spirit of Kamloops" railtour.

The KHR relies heavily on volunteers to maintain the equipment and run the railtour program. It would not be possible to operate without them, the support of the City of Kamloops, and the gracious assistance of both the Canadian National and the Kelowna Pacific Railway.

Our Trip

Our first view of Kamloops Heritage Railway 2-8-0 2141, nee Canadian National Railway 41, in the morning sun.

KHR 2141 preparing for the day's excursion.

The two-sided ticket. We boarded the train at took our seat in coach 406, formerly a Canadian Naitonal solarium lounge, but would spend most of the trip in the open cars.

The announcement of the Armstrong Explorer with accompanying pertinent information.

We departed twenty minute late and passed Kelowna Pacific Railway GP38-2 2602 in Locomotive Leasing Partners (LLPX) livery. It is formerly CSX GP38 1963, exx. Conrail 7719, nee Penn Central 7719.

KHR 2141 climbing the grade as it leaves Campbell Creek bound for Armstrong.

KHR 2141 climbing the 2.3% grade between Campbell Creek and Monte Lake.

We stopped at the Pringle Farm in Westwold to take on water.

Scenery from the train while stopped at the tiny, unincorporated community of Westwold.

The track ahead of us as we get ready to leave Westwold for Amstrong.

The Armstrong Explorer steams toward its destination.

Crossing the Sweetsbridge trestle (MP 52.4).

A creek near Sweetsbridge where either the Thompson River or Fraser River ends. The pole was in the wrong place!

Views from the open car as the train made its way to Armstrong.

Looking toward the rear of the train.

Grain cars on the Canadian Pacific tracks at Armstrong.

The steam train waits at the junction of the CNR/CPR line at MP 71, Armstrong, to get clearance.

We passed CNR GP40-2 9566 which is used for local switching. We arrived at Armstrong and had two hours to ourselves. The obligatory pictures of the train and its consist were taken before we went to the Anchor Inn for lunch.

The cab of Kamloops Heritage Railway 2141.

City of Kamloops Heritage Property emblem on the steam engine.

KHR cafe-lounge 402 "Monte Lake" (ex. Kelowna Pacific 755 2004, exx. Funtrain 755, exxx. VIA 755 1999, exxxx. CN 755 1978, exxxxx. CN cafe-coach- lounge 3007 1968, nee CN coach 5592 1963). Built 1954.

KHR open car 301, built from Milwaukee Road flat car 60143 in 2002.

KHR open car 302, built from Canadian Pacific flatcar 302935 in 2002.

KHR coach 406 (ex. private owner 4893 2001, exx. VIA coach 4893 1990, exxx. VIA parlour car 577 "Lake Couchiching", exxxx. CN parlour car 577 "Lake Couchiching", nee CN solarium-lounge 406 "Georgian Bay" 1936). Built 1930.

WCXX coach 5596 (ex. BCOL 155960 "Chasm" 2002, exx. VIA 5596 1994, exxx. CN 5596 1978, exxxx. CN 3231 1969, nee CN 5596 1964). Built 1954. On loan from West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, British Columbia.

WCXX coach 5652 (ex. WCRA 5652 "Paul D. Roy", exx. BCOL 156520 "Capilano" 2002, exxx. VIA 5652 1994, nee CN 5652 1978). Built 1954. On loan from West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, British Columbia.

"Royal Hudson 25 Years" herald on WCXX coach 5596.

Rear of WCXX 5652 with marker lanterns.

The steam train being switched at Armstrong.

The steam train reverses up to the station area for the return trip.

Welcome to Armstrong sign in front of a Canadian National caboose on Smith Road.

Canadian National caboose 78451 (ex. CN 78451, exx. CN boxcar 343808, nee Grand Trunk boxcar 23608) on display along Smith Road in Armstrong.

Everyone reboarded and the steam engine was facing the train so this is the view from the front coach.

Kamloops Heritage Railway 2-8-0 41 rounding the 163 degree curve of the 600' radius as it leaves Armstrong en route back to Campbell Creek. This steam engine certainly had a good 'bark' to it.

Canadian National caboose 76577 on the Falkland Heritage Society Museum grounds.

Monte Lake as seen from the train. Upon our arrival, we drove to the Canadian National yard and Rocky Mountaineer yard to see if there was anything of interest we could easily photograph.

The Kamloops North VIA station.

Canadian National GP9 72362 (nee CN 4283).

Canadian National Yard Booster Unit 2023 (nee CN 460) accompanying GP9 72362.

At the Rocky Mountaineer yard were two former Waterloo-St. Jacobs coaches that the company had purchased.

One of the Rocky Mountaineer coaches painted for the new Whistler Mountaineer excursion which would start up in May 2006. With that, we returned to town and had dinner at the Keg Restaurant housed in the former Canadian National station. Tomorrow, a bit of railfanning then the drive back to Vancouver.

September 26th

Before we left Kamloops, there were some things to see. The former Canadian National Kamloops station and division ofices, now the Keg Restaurant

Kamloops Heritage Railway caboose 76058 (ex. CN 76058, exx. ICR 8778 1923, nee Canadian Government Railways 8778).

KHR stock car 172473 (ex. CN 800042, exx. CN 172473, nee Grand Trunk Railways boxcar).

KHR baggage car - either 201 (ex. CN work service car 59120 2002, nee CN 9155 1976) or 202 (ex. CN work service car 59350 2002, nee CN 9067 1974) on a siding.

KHR baggage car - either 201 (ex. CN work service car 59120 2002, nee CN 9155 1976) or 202 (ex. CN work service car 59350 2002, nee CN 9067 1974) on a siding.

KHR snow plough 55499 (nee CN 55499 2002).

A water tank (?) on KHR flat car 303 (nee CN 661900 2002).

KHR caboose 1882 "Westwold" (nee BCOL 1882). We started the drive and stopped at Savona. I had been working for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for several years and knew all the municipalities' names and locations in the province, as well as a form of local government unique to British Columbia and Alberta known as improvement districts. In municipal terms, Savona is one of those. On the railway, it is the Canadian Pacific's Thompson Subdivision, MP 26.2.

The Canadian Pacific Savona station on July 28th, 1968. Photograph from Dave Shaw at Railway Memories Collection.

At Steelhead Provincial Park was former Canadian National caboose 79440, nee CN boxcar 1971.

Also here is Canadian National crane idler 58113 (ex. CN 58113 1996, exx. CN combination car 7199 1980, exxx. CN colonist car 2772 1956, nee Canadian Northern colonist car 7772 1920).

We took the Fraser River canyon route back to the Lower Mainland and stopped at Gold Creek Campground between Yale and Lytton for a few shots.

A two-unit Canadian National stack train heading south along the Fraser River, as seen from Gold Creek Campground. We continued the drive back to Vancouver Airport and I flew back to Victoria.

This had been a marvellous weekend with perfect weather for a steam excursion. Living in Victoria, it was quite something for me to ride behind a steam engine that had been the last Canadian National engine on Vancouver Island, whose operations were based out of Victoria.