As we drove from Lake Louise to the Yoho National Park we drove through the Kicking Horse Pass and took the opportunity to stop and see the unique Spiral Tunnels which allow trains to move through this steep incline.
The Big Hill on the Canadian Pacific Railway main line in British Columbia, Canada, was the most difficult piece of railway track on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s route. It is situated in the rugged Canadian Rockies west of the Continental Divide and Kicking Horse Pass.
Even though the Big Hill was replaced by the Spiral Tunnels in 1909, the area has long been a challenge to the operation of trains and remains so to this day.
The essential problem was that the railway had to ascend 1,070 feet (330 m) along a distance of 10 miles (16 km) from Field at 4,267 feet (1,301 m) climbing to the top of the Continental Divide at 5,340 feet (1,630 m). The narrow valleys and high mountains limited the space where the railway could stretch out and limit the grade (hence the later decisions to bore extra mileage under the mountains and lower the grades).
It was fascinating to watch the very long goods train enter the tunnel and then after completing the spiral inside the mountain appear out of the higher tunnel and continue up the mountain. At this point you could clearly see the train entering one tunnel and exiting the higher tunnel and going directly back on itself.
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