Passenger Trains (8 of 12)

Passenger Services

After the completion of the Kettle Valley Railway between Midway and Hope in 1916, a direct service became possible between Vancouver and the communities along the Crowsnest Route. At first passenger trains ran three times a week, but soon operated on a daily schedule in each direction across the southern Interior. These trains were the famous Kootenay Express and Kettle Valley Express.

By the 1920s, road systems were being expanded and people could drive from Cranbrook or other towns in the Kootenays to Spokane. Although still an adventure, such trips became more and more routine. Increasingly, people travelled by road and railway passenger services began a slow decline that eventually led to reduced services and finally to abandonment.

Passenger trains also carried mail and express cars on the major routes. The Post Office provided subsidies to the Canadian Pacific to carry the mail and these subsidies helped keep the passenger services operating. On some trains, including the Kootenay Express and the Kettle Valley Express, the two main passenger trains operating over the Crowsnest Route, railway post office services were provided. Mail was sorted en route by postal employees on the trains. However by the late 1950s, air mail was becoming more competitive and trucks were more efficient for carrying regular mail and express; the trains had lost their competitive edge and with it the mail contracts.

The Canadian Pacific upgraded its passenger equipment regularly. In the early years of passenger service on the Crowsnest Route all rolling stock was built of wood. After about 1910 steel equipment, or at least passenger cars with steel underframes, increasingly were used. Early passenger cars had open platforms and passengers had to walk outside onto the platforms to pass between the cars. In the early 1900s, vestibules, or enclosed platforms became the standard and these were found on most trains.

Sleeping cars used on the Crowsnest Route usually had "sections" which during the day were seats and at night were made-up into upper and lower berths. At night, the berths were screened off from the central passageway by heavy canvas curtains. Women's and men's washrooms were located at opposite ends of the car. After the Second World War, streamlined passenger cars were introduced and coaches of this type with air conditioning were commonly used on the trains in their last years.

Another popular service provided by the railway was the excursion. In the early years of the 1900s, few people owned private automobiles and roads were rough at best. Canadian Pacific offered frequent excursions on its railway and steamship lines. Often these were sponsored by community organizations, church groups and businesses. Excursions could be operated for special events such as parades and celebrations on national holidays or simply to provide an outing, a dance or a community picnic on a hot summer evening. The frequency and popularity of these trips declined by the 1930s but they continued to be operated through the 1940s.

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