The geography of the Coquihalla proved impossible to circumvent, so, Andrew McCulloch, the Chief Engineer, chose to instead carve these tunnels by hand into the granite of the canyon.
British Columbia's railway history is integral to understanding how British Columbia came to be. In the fledgling years of Canada's democracy, many of the provinces and territories that exist today were fragmented - in 1871 British Columbia became a part of Canada on the condition that the country would build a railway from Montreal to the Pacific coast within 10 years. The real roadblock to this task was the mountains of British Columbia which provided a unique challenge especially when the railroad reached the Coquihalla Canyon. After the construction of the Trans-Canada railway, separate sections of railway were created to access other parts of the Province such as the Kettle Valley Railway. When the employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the 300 foot granite canyon of the Coquihalla Gorge - there was no way to go around it so the Chief Engineer, Andrew McCulloch made the decision to tunnel through it.
The construction of five tunnels, named the Othello Tunnels (which are also referred to as the Quinette Tunnels), was done exclusively by hand with some help from horse drawn scrapers and black powder. This section of railway is the most expensive mile of railway track in the world - costing approximately $300,000 in 1914 - $5.8 million today.
Today, visitors can hike the short distance from the parking lot of the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park's entrance across the old railway bed and trestles to the Othello Tunnels and along the rushing waters of the Coquihalla Gorge (the trail continues further along the CPR Kettle Valley Railway bed past the tunnels). You may want to take a flashlight as the tunnels can be quite dark and it will help you appreciate the effort it took railway workers to carve these tunnels by hand.
Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park and the Othello Tunnels near Hope, British Columbia have also been featured in many popular movies such as Rambo: First Blood, Shoot to Kill, and The Adventures of Yellow Dog. Don't miss this British Columbia gem, a piece of Canada's railway history.
Use the interactive map below to locate and explore the areas around Othello Tunnels at Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park - Hope, BCFrom the Coquihalla Highway (5) turn onto Othello Road and follow the signs until you reach the parking lot.
Click the brown GEMS on the map to navigate to the other activities within this region