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Nicola River Community Trail Bridge - Merritt, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 50° 06.905 W 120° 48.233
10U E 657006 N 5553735
Quick Description: This bridge was built by the Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Railway (NK&S) sometime between 1905 and 1907, remaining in use until about 1991, when the railway was abandoned.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 9/9/2014 11:32:26 PM
Waymark Code: WMMEVR
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member CM-14
Views: 1

Long Description:
The railway was built between Spences Bridge and Merritt specifically to haul the riches of coal that were discovered in the Merritt area to the CPR mainline at Spences Bridge. Initially chartered in 1891, the charter was allowed to lapse, later to be renewed by William Hamilton Merritt III, the father of Merritt, the town, who immediately leased the charter to the CPR.

The CPR constructed the line, and eventually connected it with its historic Kettle Valley Railroad. Little by little over the years traffic and service on the line was curtailed. Total abandonment came about with the pulling up of the tracks in 1991.

In 2005 the city of Merritt undertook to create the Nicola River Bridge Community Trail Project, incorporating the bridge into the project at a trailhead which heads west from the end of Quilchena Avenue. The project was undertaken in partnership with the Rotary Club of Merritt. It was done as a centennial project, celebrating the centennial of what we're not certain. The city was incorporated in 1911 and received its name (it was originally named Forksdale, for the forks at the confluence of the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers) in 1906.

The trail, a hiking and biking trail, is part of the Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Rail Trail, a 73.6 kilometre trail leading from Merritt to Spence's Bridge. Along the trail there is a campground at km. 32 and several trestles and tunnels to pass over and through.

Bridge Bridge
Bridge Bridge
NK&S Railway

Early History
The region around what is now the town of Merritt and especially north along the Nicola River and Nicola Lake had been used for ranching since the mid 1800s. The Douglas Lake Ranch, the largest operating ranch in Canada is still operating in the area. Cattle could be herded north toward Kamloops and easy access to the Hudson Bay post there or to Cache Creek and the Caribou Road. Logging was also an early industry in the area. Coal had been discovered in the area in the 1870s during the CPR Surveys.

In the early days, Nicola was the major centre of the region and was not surpassed by Merritt (originally Forksdale, named for the fork between the Nicola River and the Coldwater River) until the early 1900s.

In 1891, two railways received charters to build into the area. The Nicola Valley Railway, back by the CPR, was to be built from the CPR mainline at Spences Bridge to Nicola, just north of what is now Merritt. An independent railway, the Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Coal & Railway Company(NK&S) was founded to build from Kamloops, to Nicola, south to Princeton and then on to Osooyos. Neither railway started construction and both charters lapsed.

First Construction: Coal
In the early 1900s, the province was looking for cheap sources of coal. A major strike on Vancouver Island was limiting the availability from that source. In 1903, the coal beds around Nicola inspired William Hamilton Merritt, a local entrepreneur to revive the charter for the NK&S. He started construction on the railway from Spences Bridge in 1905.

The construction received a major boost when the CPR leased the charter in November of 1905 and put its significant resources to work. Because of its coal locomotives, the railway required a reliable low cost supply of coal. The CPR also talked of connecting the railway through to Midway, the western terminus of its lines built west from the Kootenay mines (built in 1900 by CPR's Columbia and Western Railway). Construction to Merritt was completed by 1906. And in 1907 the railway crossed the Coldwater River to the major colliery - the first coal was shipped out on January 22, 1907 with full operation starting in April. At this time the line was a branch line off the CPR mainline at Spences Bridge.

Connections East: The KVR
Through the early 1900s, the Great Northern Railway and the CPR jockeyed for the dominant position in southern British Columbia. By 1910, the Great Northern had built its line west to Princeton by meandering back and forth across the Canada/United States border. The CPR was still only at Midway but was about to start building.

On May 10, 1910, Andrew McCulloch was appointed chief engineer of the CPR's KVR with orders to connect Midway to the coast. Construction started at both Merritt south toward Princeton, from Midway west toward Penticton. In 1914, the CPR has built west to Princeton and south from Merritt to Otter Summit. A track sharing agreement with the GN connected Merritt to Princeton. The KVR was officially opened in 1915 and the CPR transferred control of its Nicola Subdivision to the KVR's operation.

The Coquihalla Comes and Goes
In 1916, the KVR opened the Coquihalla Pass between Brodie and Hope. This meant through trains from the Kootenays would bypass Merritt by going through Brookmere, about 40km south of Merritt.

The extreme conditions on the Coquihalla line, including steep grades and incredible quantities of snow (average of 39ft per year) led to frequent closures and detours of trains through Merritt and Spences Bridge to the CPR's mainline.

The Coquihalla was finally closed in 1959 and abandoned in 1961 which meant Merritt was on the southern mainline.

Fade Out
Competition from the Hope Princeton highway (completed 1949) and fewer passengers led to a generally decline in rail traffic throughout the southern system. In 1964, the last passenger train operated on the KVR and in 1973 all trains were suspended between Midway and Penticton, severing the line. The industrial spur to Nicola, the original purpose of the line to Merritt was abandoned in 1980.

In 1988, the Merritt train station was abandoned and in 1991 the rails between Spences Bridge and Penticton were pulled up.
From Alam Macek Dot Com

Trail Name: Nicola River Bridge Community Trail

Approximate Length of Bridge: 90

Obstacle: Nicola River

Trail Type: Earthen/Packed Dirt

Visit Instructions:
Photos are encouraged, but not required.
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