Canadian Pacific Railway's Mountain
Subdivision: Field to Revelstoke
British Columbia, Canada 2010 (TS 12)
Winter in the Mountains of British Columbia
The Canadian Pacific Railway, and the prevailing winds from the west, have four
mountain ranges to contend with crossing British Columbia, Canada. The railway
skirted the relatively low Costal mountains using the Fraser and Thompson River
valleys. The westerly wind drop significant moisture along the coast but pick up
moisture again east of the mountains making the Kamloops area arid and, in the
summer, hot. Annual precipitation in Kamloops amount to only 8.5 inches (217
mm) and annual snowfall is 2.5 feet (76.2 cm). East of Kamloops the railroad
crosses the second mountain range, the Monashee mountains (previously known
as the Gold Mountains), via Eagle Pass descending into the Columbia River valley
at Revelstoke then traverses the much higher Selkirk mountains via Rogers Pass.
It is when the prevailing westerly winds encounter the Selkirk mountains that
they drop most of their moisture. Annual rainfall at Revelstoke is 24.3 inches
(618 mm) and snowfall is 13.9 feet (425 cm). Revelstoke holds the Canadian
record for the snowiest single winter. On Mount Copeland just outside town 80.2
inches (2447 cm) fell during the winter of 1971-72. In town, Revelstoke received
25.5 feet (779 cm), enough to bring snow levels higher than many roofs.
At Rogers Pass, elevation 4,360 feet (1330 m), annual rainfall in 24.2 inches (615
mm) and snowfall 30.6 feet (932 cm). To cope with this amount of snow in
Rogers Pass the original route of the railway passed through 31 snowsheds in a
distance of 21 miles (34 km). Several snowsheds were 1,000 feet (333 m) to
2,000 feet (666 m) in length and the aggregate length of all 31 snowsheds was
more than 5 miles (8 km). Avalanches were, and still are, almost a daily
occurrence. in winter.
In the winter of 1899 an avalanche came down from Mount Tupper destroying the
original Rogers Pass station and killing 7 people. The station was moved about a
mile (1.6 km) to the west around the corner of the pass and near the present day
tourist centre. But the big one occurred in the winter of 1910. In February seven
feet (220 cm) fell in the pass in nine days. Sudden warming then caused a
massive slide to come down off Mount Cheops spilling over top of snowshed #17
and completely blocking the rail line. The slide was over 600 feet (200 m) long
and 30 feet (10 m) deep. A rotary plow and a work crew of 63 men were sent out
to clear the slide. While they worked a second slide suddenly came down from
Avalanche Mountain on the opposite side of the valley. Sixty-two men died.
There was only one survivor. Even while the victims were being dug out yet
another slide smashing into snowshed #14. Over the next two years, avalanches
continued to plague the railway with over 100 counted in Rogers Pass alone.
(temporarily) on gun installations positioned at strategic locations along the
The Selkirk mountains, being the first significant barrier strips most of the
moisture from the westerly winds. Golden east of the Selkirks has an annual
rainfall of only 12.3 inches (312 mm) and an annual snowfall of 5.6 feet (170
cm). The Kicking Horse Pass at 5, 331 feet (1625 m), 971 feet (296 m) higher
than Rogers Pass, receives an annual rainfall of only 26 9 inches (385 mm) and an
annual snowfall of 15.1 feet (461 cm).