The Okanagan Steamfest is a project being spearheaded by the Penticton Museum in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Kettle Valley Railway and the launching of the steam-driven paddle wheeler, the SS Sicamous. In providing background information on these two significant historic events the Okanagan Steamfest website recounts:
“At precisely 2:15pm on Tuesday May 19th, 1914, a giant splash greeted the launch of the Okanagan's latest steam-driven paddle wheeler, the SS Sicamous. The graceful ship represented a long line of transport vessels that ran up and down Okanagan Lake since the 1890s, and for the next 23 years it connected small communities on the water to the commercial hubs of Vernon, Kelowna, and Penticton. Just over a year later on May 31st 1915, KVR Locomotive #4 and three passenger cars arrived at Penticton Lakeshore Station to officially open the newly completed Kettle Valley Railway. More than 1500 people were on hand to greet the start of the age of steam rail travel in the area, and connecting the Okanagan to the outside world.”
It’s incredible to consider that it took over 20 years to construct the Kettle Valley Railroad and less than 75 years later the railway was abandoned completely in 1989. While the addition of the Rails to Trails initiative has helped to keep the rail grades public, the loss of this incredible piece of transportation infrastructure will become greater as time marches on. As we look for greener modes of transportation and for ways to increase tourism this resource would be the envy of the western world and would have gone a long way to helping move people and merchandise throughout the southern portion of British Columbia and connecting us to the rest of North America and it all was already in place.
In considering the role the railway has historically played Canada in terms of “Nation Building”, one can’t dispute the cultural, social, economic and environmental impact the railway and inland steam ships have had on the landscape, its original inhabitants and the flora and fauna adversely impacting and altering them forever. It’s also largely a European driven history, save for the thousands of Chinese migrant workers who lost their lives doing the work no one else wanted to do. These railway companies were also granted huge tracts of land by the Crown which superseded the rights of our existing First Nations communities and are still the subject of countless lawsuits and settlements.
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - Sunday, May 10, 2015