Through Nelson and New Denver to Sandon

On Days 18, 19, and 20 of our RV trip – Sunday-Tuesday, May 13-15 – we drove from Greenwood to Nelson for a one-night stay, then to New Denver for 2 nights. Although I have lots to tell you about New Denver, the focus of this post will be Sandon, which we visited on May 15th.

I mentioned on my last post about Greenwood that I wanted to get up for a close look at the Greenwood Smelter chimney. I did take Tucker up there before we left, and it is a very impressive structure. Not just the chimney, but the entire brick structure that provided the draft that powered the many furnaces in the smelter. The larger the circumference and taller the chimney, the more furnaces that air can be provided for.

Greenwood Smelter chimney
Nelson was supposed to be a significant visit for us, but wasn’t, due mostly to our extended stay in Penticton. I was meeting one of my sisters in New Denver, so we only had one night in Nelson – it deserves at least three. We only had a quick look at the city and the area. The next photo was shot on Baker Street, which is the main commercial street.

Baker Street in Nelson, BC
We had a very nice dinner at the historic Hume Hotel across from the former federal government building seen in the next photo – it’s now the museum. Nelson was our first bad choice in places to stay – let’s just say as a mini-review that we won’t be back to Klines RV Park.

The former federal government building in Nelson, BC - now the Nelson Museum

I got a nice surprise on Monday morning while were grocery shopping before leaving Nelson. One of my Facebook friends used to drive bus in Whitehorse and now lives in Nelson. I had told him that we didn’t have time to get together for a proper visit, but said that we were going to be at Saveon. He tracked us down, and we had a mini-visit in the store. Thanks for making the effort, Nick – it was great meeting you 🙂

We pulled away from Nelson at about 11:30, backtracking on Highway 3a, and then heading north on Highway 6. It’s a narrow, winding old-style Kootenays highway, with scenery that ranges from beautiful to spectacular. Although the speed limit signs ay 90 km/h, there are many more signs that tell drivers to slow to 70 or even 50 km/h for corners, so we averaged a bit over 70.

BC Highway 6

BC Highway 6
We reached the Centennial Park campground at New Denver at about 2:00 pm, and got set up in a site beside the one that my sister and her hubby had picked. With power (30 amp) and water, it’s $30 per night – we got it for 2 nights, though Tracy and Warren were going to be there for 3.

Centennial Park campground at New Denver
Centennial Park is wonderful – a wide range of facilities, maintained at a high level, in a stunning location on the shore of Slocan Lake, with a very friendly park attendant taking care of everything.

Centennial Park campground at New Denver
This early, there were only about 10 RVs camped, and the beach was a place for sit and silently soak in the beauty of the place. I expect that very soon, that will not always be the case 🙂

Centennial Park campground at New Denver
There are plenty of places to walk the dogs on-leash, and a very good off-leash beach that I’ll tell you about in the next post. In the next photo, Cathy has Tucker and Bella, and Warren and Tracy have their chihuahua Jilly, and Australian shepherd Nicky.

We hit the road fairly early for the 14-km drive to Sandon, which is at the end of a 6-km side road off Highway 31a which runs from New Denver to Kaslo. I thought that the area was completely mined out, and was a bit surprised to see Klondike Silver Corp. operating at the edge of town.

Klondike Silver Mine at Sandon, BC
We drove to the top end of downtown Sandon to start. Nothing would be open for a few days yet – the Victoria Day holiday weekend is the beginning of the tourists season here. High-grade silver was discovered here in 1891, and although the population reached 8,000, there isn’t a lot left now.

Sandon, BC
There is old equipment laying around everywhere, and a lot of it, like this dumping ore cart, is very high quality stuff that many museums would love to have.

Sandon, BC
There were lots of large patches of snow around, which made Bella in particular very happy. And any time that Bella is happy, Tucker has a better chance of getting her to play, so he’s happy about that 🙂

My dogs Bella and Tucker in the snow at Sandon, BC, in May
A man opened the Sandon Museum door and went in, but it wasn’t being opened yet.

Sandon Museum, BC
I did take advantage of the open door to get a couple of photos of the interior of the museum.

Sandon Museum, BC
This Heritage BC Stop of Interest sign describes the Slocan Mines:
Silver was the key that opened the Slocan. Discovery in 1891 of the rich outcrops of the “Slocan Star” and “Payne” touched off the wildest lode excitement in our history. The silver-lead ore was easily and cheaply mined, speeding development, and the area boomed. Roads, towns and railways remain, linking the present with an era when silver was king.

Sandon, BC
The store in Sandon, the Prospector’s Pick, is in the fire hall and city hall building that was constructed in 1900.

Prospector's Pick store in Sandon, BC
A look through a little window beside the fire hall doors showed the building to be jammed full of interesting stuff. We’d have to come back in a week to see it all, though, and that wasn’t going to happen.

1900 Fire Hall doors in Sandon, BC
Canadian Pacific Railway’s locomotive #6947 was purchased from Alberta by Wrightway Charter Company of Sandon, who is now trying to raise funds for its restoration. Originally CPR #1737, it’s a 1908 2-8-0 Consolidation-class locomotive was worked in many places across Canada, including CPR’s Kootenay Subdivision from 1926 to 1928. I noted to Cathy that the front wheels were missing, but a sign on the locomotive notes that it was rebuilt into its current 0-8-0 configuration in 1928.

Canadian Pacific Railway's 0-8-0 locomotive #6947 at Sandon, BC
A highlight of this visit to Sandon was the collection of Brill trolley buses. I wrote about Vancouver’s Brill buses in March, and had been looking forward to seeing what was here.

Brill trolley bus collection at Sandon, BC
What is now called the Electric Transit Museum is said to be the interim home for these Brill trolleys until they can be returned to Vancouver and possibly other cities for restoration and possibly even return to revenue service. A letter of explanation says that one of these buses, built between 1946 and 1954, can be restored for about $250,000 – about 1/3 the cost of buying a new one.

Brill trolley bus collection at Sandon, BC
Many of the buses have information about that particular unit, and when the season begins, one bus is open to the public, with a Brill trolley display inside it.

Brill trolley bus at Sandon, BC

Brill trolley bus at Sandon, BC
Peeking through windows is okay but I’d sure like to get inside and sit down in that seat. For any fan of old buses, Sandon really is a must-visit. I hope that someday the museum’s vision of having some of these Brills restored and returned to service will come true.

Brill bus at Sandon, BC
After our look at the downtown area, we drove back to the east side of the creek and up to what appears to be the end of town (though they may actually be much more hidden in the bush). The next photo looks back down towards the downtown area.

Sandon, BC
One resident of the upper part of town has an amazing collection of cast-iron pieces attached to a couple of shed walls and a large stump 🙂

Private collection of cast iron at Sandon, BC
The 1900 City Hall is best seen from the east side of the creek, as is the museum.

Sandon, BC

Sandon, BC
Driving back to New Denver, I stopped at the junction of the Sandon road and Highway 31a to see what the Galena Trail is about. It’s the historic route of the Nakusp & Slocan Railway, and it takes about 2 hours to walk from here to New Denver

Galena Trail Rail Trail

We got back to New Denver about , and had a wonderful afternoon of museum and garden touring, and beach play with the dogs. I’ll tell you about that in the next post.


Through Nelson and New Denver to Sandon — 7 Comments

  1. I have enjoyed your blog for many years. I have explored the beautiful Slocan Valley area a couple of times on my motorcycle. There are always plenty of points of interest to explore. Thanks for identifying some new ones.

    • It’s great to hear from you, Gord. Pretty much every day since we’ve left the Okanagan, I’ve commented to Cathy that “this would be such a great road on a bike!” 🙂

    • Thanks. The drive from New Denver to Kaslo today would have been great to spend 3 days on, not just an hour or whatever it was.

  2. I love the Kootenays and since we have a granddaughter living in Robson we make about two trips a year over that way, Love the old mining towns, Sandon Ymir, Trout Lake etc,and love your photos and comments, We will soon be heading over that way too, Happy trails!!!

  3. Wonderful post on Sandon! Loved walking around the area, as an old Lower Mainland person, found the trolley’s particularly interesting. Thanks for sharing. Safe travels.

  4. Interesting. I would have never guessed that there would be a bus museum out there. I will have to pass this along to the guys at Rapido Trains. They have become big bus fans including purchasing a New Look bus from Calgary Transit and having it restored to TTC livery.