MBC1887 T:ANE

In 1857 the Britain formed a commission to inquire into the suitability for settlement of the vast area of western North America falling within the watershed claimed as British territory. It also was to report on the advisability of constructing a railway through this territory from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and thus to connect the British colonies of the east with those of the western coast. Since exploration had failed to find a northwest passage suitable for voyaging to the Orient, the railway was thought to potentially provide a more direct means of communication with British possessions in the eastern Asia. The venture came to be known as the Palliser Expedition, named after Captain Palliser who was in charge, and included Dr. James Hector (later Sir James Hector) as surgeon and geologist.

In 1858 Dr. Hector ascended the Bow River to a point near Castle Mountain east of Laggan (present-day Lake Louise), then west crossing Vermillion Pass to the headwaters of the Vermillion River, and north down the Beaverfoot River, which flows into the Kicking Horse River near Leanchoil. He then travelled east up the Kicking Horse River to become the discoverer of the Kicking Horse Pass, also known as Hector Pass.

Dr. James Hector’s route (in orange) to the discovery of the Kicking Horse Pass. Dr. Hector left the Bow River Valley at Castle Mountain, passed over Vermillion Pass, down the Kootney River, then the Beaverfoot River to the Kicking Horse River, then up the Kicking Horse River, following the eventual route of the railway (red), to approach the Kicking Horse Pass from the west.

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In honour of Dr. Hector, the siding just west of the summit was named Hector. In addition to the siding there was a wye to turn helper locomotives ascending from Field. Today the siding is long gone but there is a cairn at the summit commemorating Sir James Hector’s exploration and discovery of the pass.

Hector wye. Helper #312 a Baldwin 2-6-0 sits waiting to help a west-bound train down the 4.5% grade of the “Big Hill”. Helpers were used not only for extra power on the ascent but also for extra braking on the decent.

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Posted:

Updated:

September 4, 2016

September 4, 2016

Hector Siding