Riding the KVR After the Rails are Gone

On June 11, 2017 We set off on an amazing journey. Our Destination? A Story Begun 102 Years Ago...

Our Mission? To retrace the route through one of the most challenging sections of railway ever built. The KVR's route through Myra Canyon was a vital link in the quest to link the rich gifts of the BC Interior with the ports on the Pacific. But before this dream could be realized, the canyon had to be tamed.

Here is an excerpt from the official site of the Myra Trestles:

It is a deep, steep and wide chasm , carved out by two main creeks (today’s KLO and Pooley creeks). To tackle these constraints McCulloch hung his railway on the sides of the canyon, using nearly seven miles (eleven kilometres) of track to reach around something less than one kilometer wide. It took 19 wooden trestles of various lengths and heights to do it. (Today’s 18 trestles come about because one was later filled in, one was by-passed, and a new one built to span a problem gulley). The line is at an elevation of 4100 feet (1430 metres) or 3000 feet (915 m) above Kelowna and includes the highest section on the KVR.

Your Guides and Hosts

G.O. Cycling Adventures was thrilled to be selected as your guides on this journey:

Your Host: Gord Hotchkiss
Your Guide and KVR Expert: Kevin Witzke

Exploring the K.V.R. Trail

Through Rock Cuts and Forest...

A Quick Look Backwards

The kiosk just past the first trestle is a chance to get your bearings and learn a bit more about the history of the trestles, their restoration and rebirth after the Okanagan Mountain Fire of 2003
The railway wasn't the only thing hung on a cliff. These wildflowers find a precarious foothold on a wall of rock close to the first trestle.

All Aboard!

A good view of the trestles from the other side of Myra Canyon

A Stunning Setting

At an elevation of 4000 feet, the Okanagan Valley stretches out below the rail bed.

Creating Memories: One Trestle at a Time

There was an amazing view around every corner, as we rode through forested trails, across thundering creeks and over the carefully restored trestles. One could literally hear the echoes of the steam trains as we rode high above the Okanagan Valley.

Of Tunnels and Trestles

The challenge was awe inspiring: cut a path through solid rock, maintain a fairly flat grade, follow a line around a rugged twin fork rock canyon. This would be one of the biggest challenges of engineer Andrew McCulloch's career.

One Kilometer Across, but 2000 feet down...

It must have been frustrating. You felt like you could almost reach out and touch the other side of the canyon. But between the two walls lay an unbridgeable gap. The only alternative was to go around, creating a chain of trestles and tunnels that hung on the sides of the canyon.

A Dream to Last a Lifetime

By the time McCulloch was done, he had fallen deeply in love with the land he had helped bridge with twin rails of steel. He would spend the rest of his life here, managing the KVR until his retirement in 1933. He lies buried in a cemetery in Penticton, a stone's throw from the route of the railway he built.

Myra Canyon: An Experience that Stretches from Horizon to Horizon

The Echoes of History...

There is natural grandeur on the KVR, but there is also a deep and fundamental connection with our history as a province and nation. As we rode along, you could feel that the work of these individuals, who toiled a century ago, would be remembered.

Riding Through History

The very first train on the Kettle Valley Railway pulls into Penticton on May 31, 1915. The entire town comes out to greet it.
As construction continues on the climb out of Penticton above Naramata, a construction engine pushes a hastily build "passenger car" (a flatbed trailer with benches installed) of Penticton's notable citizens up the grade to check out the view from Little Tunnel (about 45 kilometers south of our turn around at Ruth). This would have been in 1914.
A KVR engine at Penticton's station
A train crosses one of the Myra Trestles

McCulloch's Wonder

He was brilliant. He was an irascible Scot with a deep and abiding appreciation for Shakespeare (which is why you'll still see signs for Othello, Portia and Juliet on the Coquihalla Highway). He was cuttingly sarcastic. He was deeply loved by his employees and friends. He was a man who will always be remembered. Myra is a suitably impressive monument to a man like Andrew McCulloch.

Andrew McCulloch by a trestle in the Coquihalla Canyon.
A portrait of Andrew McCulloch, circa 1945, shortly before he died
Lakeview Cemetery in Penticton, close to where McCulloch's grave can be found. You can see the rail bed of the KVR just below the cemetery.
Andrew McCulloch's Grave Marker

Thousands of men were involved with the construction of the K.V.R., but it will always be most closely associated with one man: Andrew McCulloch.

The Men Who Built the KVR

Stopping at the scene of a worker's camp where a rock oven was used to bake bread.
A rail worker's camp from 1914.
The men who built the rail line came from many places: Italy, Eastern Europe, China. Through their efforts, they forged a new nation.

Return Ticket To Myra

After our round trip to Ruth Station, we returned back to where we began. The K.V.R. was always intended to be a first class rail line in every way. At G.O. Cycling Adventures, we try to respect that with a snack choice that represents the best the Okanagan has to offer. It was also a chance to reminisce about the ride we had just completed.

A Chance to Reflect on the Ride

And Enjoy some Great Baking!

Thank you Okanagan Grocers Artisan Bakery!

Thank You!

We hope you took away fond memories of your tour on the KVR and we hope to see you again on another cycling adventure with us soon. If you enjoyed the experience, please take a few minutes to let us know at any of the following:

Happy Riding to You All!


Photos: Gord Hotchkiss and Kelowna Centennial Museum

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