The Arrowhead Branch Line South from Revelstoke
In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, the rugged West Kootenay District
of southern British Columbia was a remote, sparsely settled area. The
major routes into this vast land were from Revelstoke in the north,
where the Canadian Pacific Railway crossed the Columbia, and from
the south, up the Columbia and its tributaries from Washington State.
In between there were overland trails, but the distances were large
and the routes arduous and difficult.
Early Steamboat Traffic on the Arrow Lakes
Steamboats operating on the major lakes and rivers offered an easier
and more reliable alternative to packing overland, and this service
During construction of the railway over Rogers Pass the railway
purchased and operated a small steam launch, the Alpha. The Alpha
was capable of navigating the Columbia River from Upper Arrow lake
to Farwell (later renamed Revelstoke).
However, the Columbia River was not always navigable, particularly in
later years when larger sternwheelers were built and operated on the
Construction of the Branch
In 1893, the Canadian Pacific constructed a branch line from
Revelstoke as far as Wigwam, a distance of 17 miles (27 km) to
facilitating steamer service between Revelstoke and Upper Arrow Lake
by bypassing shallow sections of the river. Three years later the line,
which became known as the Arrow Lakes Branch, was extended
another 8 miles (13 km) to Upper Arrow Lake, to eliminating the need
for the steamers to navigate up the river beyond the lake.
The Canadian Pacific was now able to provide year-round
transportation between the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline, and
the rich mining districts to the south. Docking facilities at Arrowhead,
the terminus at the northern end of Upper Arrow Lake, were used by
passengers embarking on sternwheelers which plied the Arrow Lakes.
Train cars were loaded directly onto barges for transport south to
branch lines at Nakusp on the eastern shore of Upper Arrow Lake and
Robson at the southern end of Lower Arrow Lake.