Historic Photos from the Rogers Pass area in BC

In 1881 Major Albert Bowman Rogers, then working for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, first suspected he had found a passage through the impenetrable Selkirk Mountains where a railroad could be built. A year later he returned to the area to confirm his suspicions that the high mountain pass did exist. The Silkirks feature deep gorges and steep mountainsides, complete with avalanche paths, that all needed to be navigated. To gain access to the pass, the CPR utilized engineering solutions that were considered groundbreaking for Victorian times.

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Falls near Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1886-1894

As we all know, the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completed in the fall of 1885 and was subsequently shutdown for the winter to observe avalanches. In response to these observations, a total of 31 snow sheds were built along the railroad in an effort to protect this important transportation artery spanning the country. During those early years, however, unexpected avalanches caused major loss of life and property for the railway. In an effort to avoid avalanche problems, the railway constructed the Connaught Tunnel in 1916. The Mount Macdonald Tunnel was completed in 1988, which increased capacity by operating one tunnel in either direction and decreased the grades for trains approaching from the east.

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Selkirk Range, British Columbia, 1885

After Banff National Park was established in 1885, the CPR urged the Canadian Government to create Glacier and Yoho in 1886, making them this country’s second and third national parks. Today Rogers Pass is the heart of Glacier National Park and is immensely popular for mountain sport enthusiasts year-round. Avalanches are still paramount throughout the pass, so modern-day solutions are required. Parks Canada, in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, deploy the largest mobile avalanche control program in the world. Working together, they keep the highway safe for motorists on the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as for trains along the CPR’s mainline.

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Snowshed, Selkirk Range, 1886-1888

I hope you enjoy this collection of historical photos that feature Rogers Pass and surrounding area. You’ll see the railroad, snow sheds, and tunnels in various stages of construction, as well as incredible amount of snow that can accumulate in a single season.

Illecillewaet River Valley just west of the Rogers Pass summit, British Columbia, 1886
Construction crew working on Canadian Pacific Railway line near The Summit, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1884-1886
Summit city, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1886
Canadian Pacific Railway engineers’ camp at Summit, British Columbia, 1885
Engineers at Canadian Pacific Railway camp near summit of Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1885
Canadian Pacific Railway engineers’ camp near Summit, British Columbia, 1885
Canadian Pacific Railway snowshed under construction east of Selkirk Summit, British Columbia, 1886-1888
Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive 73 and train, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1887-1889
Interior of snowshed, British Columbia, 1887-1889
Mount Caroll and station, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1887-1889
Bird’s eye view of Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1909
Canadian Pacific Railway wing snow plough, British Columbia, 1887-1889
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Alpine club of Canada camp at Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1908
Canadian Pacific Railway train wrecked by snowslide, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1897
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Snowslide at Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1911
Mount McDonald, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1906
Canadian Pacific Railway station, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1890
The Loop, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, 1916
Construction of Connaught Tunnel, British Columbia, 1913-1916
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Workers with dreadnaught drill during construction of Connaught Tunnel, British Columbia, 1913-1916
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Ross Peak from Connaught tunnel, Glacier, British Columbia, 1920
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Canadian Pacific Railway, Mountain Subdivision, mile 109.4, Rogers Pass area, British Columbia, 1915

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

Tyler Dixon
About Tyler Dixon 125 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.