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  • Writer's picturePaul

Kootenay Road Trip 2020 Scenes: Sandon’s Ghost Town Buses

Imagine our surprise when we visited one of BC’s genuine ghost towns and discovered…a fleet of trolley buses?

That ghost town was Sandon, BC. It’s located in the mountains a few kilometres off the highway between Kaslo and New Denver. In silver-rush days, Sandon was a going concern: at its peak it had more than 5,000 residents, two railways, brothels and a booming economy. Like other settlements in the area, the town faded when the silver rush ended. Sandon found use as an internment camp for Japanese-Canadians during and after the Second World War (as detailed in my New Denver post a few days ago), but was all but destroyed in 1955 when the creek that cuts through the town flooded. (An even-larger flood in early 2020 threatened to remove what was left of Sandon, but through heroic efforts most historical items were saved.)

Today Sandon is a ghost town, drawing tourists curious to visit its museum, single store and small hydroelectric generating station. A steam locomotive and some train cars remain, but the tracks they rode upon have been torn up and the roadbed is used for hiking.

So how did the buses get there? It’s a long story; the short version is that transit history buffs are storing the collection of Canadian Car Brill Electric Trolley buses in Sandon in hopes they will one day be restored and returned to revenue service. The collection, drawn from several Canadian cities, consists of three trolley models built between 1946 and 1954 and identified by the Transit Museum Society of Vancouver as most historically important for restoration.

It takes a little effort to get to Sandon, including a drive on a rutted gravel road, but if you have the time it’s a worthwhile detour, if only to see the old trains and trolley buses parked there. Be sure to check out all the photos!

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