Spokane International

Spokane International Railway

The Spokane International Railway, the "SI," was built between Spokane, Washington, and a connection with the Canadian Pacific southwest of Cranbrook near the border crossing town of Kingsgate. The SI, which is now part of the Union Pacific Railroad, proved to be a key link in the CPR system and gave the Canadian Pacific access to the Inland Empire centre of Spokane and its many railroads including the Union Pacific which in turn gave direct connections to Portland, Oregon. This became the route of the Soo-Spokane Train DeLuxe.

The SI was built by Daniel Chase Corbin, a businessman and railroad builder from Spokane. In the 1890s, he had built railroads from Spokane to Nelson and Rossland in British Columbia and in 1898, these lines were acquired by the Great Northern. The SI, was completed in 1906 to the Canadian/American border at the towns of Eastport, Idaho and Kingsgate, British Columbia. From there, a short branch line connected with the CPR's Crowsnest Route at Curzon and later at Yahk. See Map.

The railway was built following an agreement between Corbin and the Canadian Pacific. In the agreement, the CPR funded much of the construction and held the railways bonds as security. The agreement also gave the CPR the option to acquire a majority of the stocks of the SI by January 1917. This the Canadian Pacific did but later a half interest in the line was acquired by the Union Pacific.

The significance of the SI was based on several considerations. The Canadian Pacific controlled the Soo Line (the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Sainte Marie Railway) in the mid-west states which gave the Canadian railway access to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago. These cites and the surrounding industrial and agricultural areas were key sources of traffic for the American transcontinentals built across the northern states to Puget Sound: the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern which connected eastwards with the Burlington. All three railroads were controlled by James J. Hill of the Great Northern. With the completion of the SI and its access to the Union Pacific controlled by the Harriman interests, the CPR was able to compete with the Hill railroads for traffic between the American mid-west and the Pacific coast. The CPR was quick to capitalize on this situation and soon introduced express passenger service over the route. This was the Soo-Spokane Train De Luxe.

In 1941, the SI was reorganized following financial difficulties and a period of receivership during the Depression years. As a part of this restructuring, the line was renamed the Spokane International Railroad. In the 1950s, the SI was taken over by the Union Pacific and it is still in operation as an important connection between southern British Columbia and the Northwest States.

The Spokane International Today (Photos)

Union Pacific diesels prepare to leave Kingsgate with a train of grain cars destined for Portland in November 1992.

Canadian Pacific train with grain cars at Cranbrook about to leave for the Spokane International connection with the United States at Kingsgate, B.C. and Eastport, Idaho.


Curzon, the junction of the old Spokane International with the CPR's tracks west of Yahk.


Curzon junction sign.


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