All photos (4)Spiral Tunnels
Spiral Tunnels
Spiral Tunnels

Spiral Tunnels

8.03 reviews
Sights and Museums, Landmark
Ranked #5 in Field things to do
Popular with:
  • 9.8
    History Buffs
  • 9.4
    Outdoor Enthusiasts
  • 7.3
    Family Travellers
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Whispering Wood Ln, Field, BC V0A 1G0, Canada
250-343-6783
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Vancouver

This significant stretch of the CP railway was a great feat of engineering. Unfortunately, there's no schedule for you to be able to see the trains.

Recommended for:History Buffs
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Sydney

The spiral tunnels are an engineering marvel and fascinating to visit. To see a train go into the tunnel, pop out the other end and also turn below you is great.

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Pleasant Hill
First to Review

When British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, it was on the condition that Prime Minister John A. Macdonald would build a railway to link the province to the rest of the country. Building a railway across such a large continent was a major undertaking and one of the most serious obstacles was the Rocky Mountains. Several passes were considered for the route and despite its rugged terrain, Kicking Horse Pass was chosen because of its proximity to the US border and its shorter distance to the Pacific Coast. This choice was so significant to the history of Canada that Kicking Horse Pass was designated as a National Historic Site in 1971.

The steep grade in Kicking Horse Pass posed a serious challenge. The first decent allowed for a 4.5% grade and the first attempt in 1984 resulted in a derailment and the tragic death of 3 workers. Various spurs and extra engines were then tried, but more incident occurred anyway. Although the mountains were a complication for CP, they were an inspiration to the many tourists who started to arrive by train. In an effort to preserve the landscape and encourage tourism, CP prompted the creation of Mount Stephen Dominion Reserve in 1886. The park was renamed Yoho in 1901.

The solution for a more gradual grade came from J.E.Schwitzer, one of the railway's Assistant Chief Engineers. He modelled the Spiral Tunnels after a system used in Switzerland. In 1909 the Spiral Tunnels were completed and after 25 years of use, the Big Hill grade was abandoned. With a gentler grade, descents became safer and slower, spur lines and rear pushers were no longer necessary, and scheduling delays and operating costs were reduced.

An eastbound train leaving Field climbs a moderate hill, goes through two short, straight tunnels on Mt. Stephen, under the Trans-Canada Highway, across the Kicking Horse River and into the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden. It spirals to the left up inside the mountain for 891-m and emerges 15-m higher. The train then crosses back over the Kicking Horse River, under the highway a second time and into the 991-m tunnel in Cathedral Mountain. The train spirals to the right, emerging 17-m higher and continues to the top of Kicking Horse Pass.

As a Railroad buff, I make it a point to see this engineering marvel whenever I'm in the area. They truly are an engineering marvel and the trains going through them are a sight to behold. There are two viewpoints where you can safely watch the trains:

- From the viewpoint 7.4-km east of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden.

- The Upper Spiral Tunnel in Cathedral Mountain can be seen from the pull-off 2.3-km up the Yoho Valley Road.

Recommended for:Family TravellersHistory BuffsOutdoor Enthusiasts
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Spiral Tunnels

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