Mile 53 Ghost Town

Description:

A short walk to view the ruins of a short-lived railway construction town. Well-made stone and concrete fireplaces mark the sites of houses built for higher-up officials of Foley Bros. Welch & Stewart who contracted to build the entire BC section of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, now part of the Canadian National system.

Beside the tracks is the six-sided concrete base of an old railroad water tower. Along the shore of the Fraser River nearby, wooden pilings still stand from the wharves where barges were built to float supplies down the river to various railway construction points. There are still houses in Prince George built from the wood of these craft after their dangerous one-way trip was completed. The sternwheelers "BC Express, "Operator" and "Navigator" stopped here at the head of steam navigation on the upper Fraser. The latter two steamships were assembled at a long-vanished shipyard a few km upstream. Not long after steam navigation began on the river, it came to a sudden end. A dispute between the BC Express Co. and the Grand Trunk Pacific railway resulted in the GTP deliberately building two trestles across the Fraser too close to the water to allow steamboats to pass. The lift span on the GTP's magnificent Fraser River trestle at Prince George was raised occasionally for a few more years, to let steamships access docks just upstream. Then this lift span ceased operation, although the bridge itself carried Highway 16 over the Fraser River for decades and still carries CN Rail's Prince Rupert line. Its giant counterweights and rusted machinery remain in place, as a reminder of the age of steam navigation on the Upper Fraser River.

Railway builders Foley Bros. Welch & Stewart had big warehouses on the docks at mile 53, as did one of their subcontractors, the Siems Carey Company.

Walk up the road away from the tracks for about 75 metres, with the sound of Shelter Creek on your right. Watch for a footpath on the right, which crosses Shelter Creek on a footbridge. Use caution crossing this bridge as it is beginning to deteriorate. Do not lean on what remains of its railings. The bridge and an unmaintained trail beyond will take you to the main street of Mile 53 where faint ditches mark the routes of the town water system, later dug up by people salvaging the wooden 4 inch pipe.

On the right side of the "street" - now little more than a forest trail - a few old fireplaces can be found. Up another "street" branching to the left was the residential area reserved for FW&S Officials. Some fine stone work using small oval river rocks can be seen in the fireplaces here. The old houses have disappeared except for the fireplaces and part of the square-timber walls of one residence.

Getting There:

From Valemount travel north on Highway 5 to Blackman Road, and turn left. Follow Blackman Road to Old Tete Jaune Road and turn left again. Follow Old Tete Jaune Road until you cross the CN tracks and signs indicate that the road has become a forest road. Watch for signs indicating active logging, which means you may meet logging trucks. The gravel road passes a marsh area and then turns left up the hill and away from the tracks. At this point you may wish to park, as there is ample space at the bend in the road.

Hiking Time: Allow 15 to 45 minutes depending on how much exploring is done.