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How 120 years of industry shaped Revelstoke.

Cover photo: Revelstoke Museum and Archives

One of the things that makes our little mountain town so special is that we’ve never forgotten where we came from.

Revelstoke has been a dream holiday destination since the Canadian Pacific Railway made it accessible in the 1880s. People come to experience the big landscapes and enjoy big adventures but the secret to what makes Revelstoke so great isn’t in the huge mountains, or even in the sweet trails, it’s in the town itself. The town is a special blend of playground and industry. Even though it’s a wonderland that attracts people to its beauty, it’s still a real working town.

On the rails

The original town was built on the back of the railways in the 1880s and remains a railway town to this day. Revelstoke was named by the Canadian Pacific Railway in appreciation of Lord Revelstoke who saved CPR from bankruptcy in the summer of 1885 allowing the railway to reach completion.

Our rail heritage even inspired the new Tourism Revelstoke brand (see if you can spot our new logo below).

CPR Station circa 1930s. Photo courtesy Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

The importance of the railway in building the town is celebrated at the Revelstoke Railway Museum, where you can learn about every step of the industry’s journey from Major Rogers’ discovery of a pass through the mighty Selkirk Mountains (Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park) in the 1800s to the modern day Canadian Pacific operations in our town.

Revelstoke Railway Museum. Photo: Keri Knapp

In the forests

The railway isn’t the only industry that shaped our landscape and helped create our town’s character. The logging industry also changed Revelstoke’s environment and continues to play an important part in our community today. The forest service roads that access areas of logging on our mountain sides form the basis of the recreational trail systems that we love so much and service many of our recreation sites. The giant old growth forests that surrounded Revelstoke when it was first settled were a rich resource for the people who lived here and the skills needed to harvest, work, and steward the forests are still very much alive in town today. The BC Interior Forestry Museum is the place to go to learn more about how forestry shaped Revelstoke.

Photo courtesy of Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

Seeing the sights

Of course, the call of the mountains has always been strong and the industrial history of our town wouldn’t be complete without mentioning tourism.

Climbers on the Illecillewaet Glacier. Photo courtesy of Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

The industry is much older than most people might guess. Vacationers have flocked to the dramatic landscapes and picturesque vistas of the area since the 1880s, when the fashion for mountaineering holidays was at its peak. The old Glacier House Hotel in Rogers Pass became one of Western Canada’s most fashionable getaways, with people staying to take the air and climb the mountains. You can still see the remains of the old Glacier House on the 1885 trail in Glacier National Park and the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre contains a glimpse of the kind of glamour the early tourists would have experienced.

The old Glacier House, Rogers Pass. Photo courtesy of Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

The past has made Revelstoke what it is today and the people who live here are rightly proud of that. Tourism Revelstoke was keen to acknowledge the rich and storied industrial history of our town when we rebranded in January this year. Choosing the railway sign, with its period at the end of the name, seemed like the perfect choice to reflect what Revelstoke is really about; it’s bold. it’s unusual, and it shows how essential the industrial past of Revelstoke is to its future.

Photo courtesy of Revelstoke Museum and Archives.

7 Comments

  • My Great Grandfather was Station Master in Nakusp came across with the Train settled and lived and raised Our Family in this beautiful country!

    • mm

      What a cool story you have! Nakusp is such a special little community.

  • I was a 5th generation railroader in Revelstoke. My great great grandfather was a supervisor in 1885 in Revelstoke.

    • mm

      Your family must have so much interesting history from here!

  • My Great Grandfather was a pioneer of the area. David Upp-Woolsey was a silver miner and had claims in the Albert Canyon area. He sold his pack team and delivery service for a general mercantile- still have some of the receipts!

  • This article misses another important part of the Revelstoke story. The town was also the beachhead for some very significant infrastructure development in B.C…..the transCanada highway over Rogers Pass to eliminate the Big Bend highway, the Mica and Revelstoke Dams, the new RR tunnel through Rogers Pass to name a few. Because of these projects many people were introduced to Revelstoke and had children here. I know because that is how my love of Revelstoke began.

    • mm

      Absolutely, thanks for bringing that piece of history to the story.

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