September 19, 2016

October 2, 2017

The Mountains of British Columbia

The Mountains

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The mountains of British Columbia are divided into three groups. The most easterly are the Rocky Mountains, in the middle are Columbia Mountains and along the Pacific coast are the Coastal Mountains. Each runs north to south, have several ranges, and presented obstacles to the building of the railway.

The mountains of British Columbia, Canada. The Rocky Mountains are shown in blue, the Costal Mountains in violet. The Columbia Mountains are shown as their ranges; the Purcell Mountains in orange, the Selkirk Mountains in green and the Gold Mountains (later called the Monashee Mountains) in turquoise (a forth range, the Cariboo Mountains, lie to the north and are not shown). The route of the Canadian Pacific Railway through British Columbia is shown in red. The Mountain Subdivision (outlined in yellow) lies between Field in the Rocky Mountains and Revelstoke on the Columbia River between the Selkirk Mountains and the Gold Mountains.

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The Rocky Mountains are the highest and contain the Continental Divide, the height of land which separates the parts of the continent that are drained by rivers running east or west. The Canadian Pacific Railway traverses these mountains through the Kicking Horse Pass.

The Coastal Mountains lie west of the Fraser River Valley, which drains into the Pacific ocean at Port Moody, the original western terminus of the railway near present day Vancouver. The railway skirted these by following the Fraser River Canyon.

The central Columbia Mountains had three ranges that needed to be crossed or skirted. The Purcell Range, which lies along the Columbia River west of Golden, was skirted by following the Columbia River north from Golden to the Beaver River Valley. The Selkirk Range was crossed through Rogers Pass and the Gold Range (also known as the Monashee Range) was crossed through Eagle Pass.

The Canadian Pacific Railway’s Mountain Subdivision incorporated the western decent from the Kicking Horse Pass in the Rocky Mountains from Field to Golden BC, the skirting of the Purcell Mountains west of the upper Columbia River north of Golden, and the crossing of the Selkirk Mountains through Rogers Pass to Revelstoke. The Gold Mountains (Monashee Mountains) and Eagle Pass lie west of Golden and are traverse as part of the Shushap Division of the railway.

Illecillewaet River Valley on the Mountain Subdivision 1887. The western slopes of the Selkirk Mountains are the only inland rain forests in the world.

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Gravity, Steam and Steel: An illustrated Railway History of Rogers Pass. 2009. Graeme Pole, Fitzhenry & Whiteside.