A trails user group is attempting to preserve a bit of West Kootenay/Boundary heritage. After learning that the Limestone Tipple in Fife, near Christina Lake, is going to be torn down, user groups including the Grand Forks ATV Club (GFATV) have made plans to build a replica.
The tipple site in Fife is along the Columbia Western (C/W) Rail corrider and dates back to the early 1900s when the discovery of gold, silver, copper and other precious metals led to expanded rail lines. At one time, Fife was home to a siding, post office, general store and a boarding house. Many prominent West Kootenay families can trace their roots to Fife.
Doug Zorn, president of the GFATV Club, said the club has been partnering with the Columbia Western Trails Society (CWTS) for many years on maintaining the area of Fife to Laferty and beyond toward the Paulson Bridge.
“They’ve been doing a lot of work on their site which is basically up to Farron,” he said. “This spring we applied for stewardship from Cascade west to Fife. If we accomplish that we’ll probably extend it to Farron or the Paulson Bridge to make it more reasonable for them because its a long way for them to come up the hill and down to Fife.”
Zorn said the Columbia Western Rail Trail goes from Robson (near Castlegar) all the way to Midway.
The Limestone Tipple was built in 1920 after a second limestone quarry was opened. It was made from large columns placed around the 21X25 foot bottom supporting its 75 foot (22 metres) height. Rail cars would be spotted on the siding and the large bin doors would be rotated to allow the limestone to fill the rail car. Over 52,000 tons (47,000 metric tonnes) of ore was mined from this site from 1911 until the third quarry closed in 1957.
An engineer’s report from April of 2015 stated that the whole tipple structure is unsafe and represents a liability of the area.
“Teck Cominco is the owner of the property and the building,” said Zorn. “It’s on their property and it’s become a liability because it’s about 100 years old. With it being so old it’s basically decaying and rotting. When you look at the engineer’s report you see there’s not much there to save. It’s getting to be a danger. It’s about 125 feet tall and if the wind blows anything off it the rail trail sits right below. It’s a hazard for people going by. They want to bring it down in the spring.”
Zorn said the Columbia Western Trails partners would like to build a smaller 12X16 foot replica of the top structure, where the ore cars would travel over top of the bins and dump their loads into the bins.
“It would be the same as what’s sitting there now but a newer shape and newer condition,” he said. “Beside the model we would be building a 6X12 foot interpretive centre similar to what the top looked like. It would have open sides on the north, south and west. On the east side would be photos and hopefully write-ups because there are lots of Italian families such as the Ferraros (from Ferraro Foods) and Tedescos who can trace their roots back to Fife.”
Zorn said they are in preliminary studies to determine where the structure will be located, how much it will cost and where the money would all come from. “We hope to be able to coordinate it, building and dedicating it, with all the partners involved which includes the RDKB Area C/Christina Lake, CWTS, Grand Forks Community Trails Society, and Trails to the Boundary as well at Teck Cominco, Rec Sites and TrailsBC. It would be awesome if we could get Columbia Basin Trust to be involved. We’d also love to see some of the families that trace their roots back to get involved.”
Zorn said another reason to create the replica is to help the Columbia Western Rail Trail from Castlegar to Midway to become more of a tourist destination. “We want to draw people in and make it as multi-use as possible so we can all share the responsibility on the trail,” he said. “We also want to recognize all the heritage sites
on the way through. When you think about the early 1900s and the mode of steam trains, every 20 or so kilometres they had to fill up with water or coal. It wasn’t until they went to diesel engines that they started to abandon all the stations on the way.”