Washington & British Columbia Railway

From Dominion of British Columbia
Washington & British Columbia Railway
BC Headquarters 100 Braid Street
New Westminster NW2 3PD
AAR reporting mark WBC
Locale BC; Idaho, Washington
Track gauge 4' 8½" standard gauge
Route length 758.6 miles total (453.7 in BC)
190.1 miles double-tracked
19.8 miles passenger only
69.1 miles freight only
95.5 miles closed
Electrification 25kV 60 Hz AC, 175.4 miles
Predecessors Great Northern Railway
Burlington Northern Railroad

The Washington & British Columbia Railway (AAR reporting mark WBC, commonly abbreviated W&BC) is the second-largest British Columbian railway company, owning and operating 758.6 miles of railway in BC and the American states of Idaho and Washington. The W&BC provides extensive passenger and freight service throughout its network.


The W&BC is a public-private partnership, with the BC government holding 45%, and the Burlington Northern & Gulf Railroad (BN&G) owning 55%, but it functions like any other Crown corporation in BC; responsible for it is the Ministry of Labour, Industry and Railways. All rights of way and infrastructure in BC are owned outright by the Dominion government; the lines in the US are held with the same 55-45 split as the company itself, to satisfy American law. However, all operations fall under the responsibility of the Ministry, including the US operations; in addition, the Ministry is also responsible for all maintenance and upkeep costs over the entire system. The Ministry also covers losses at the end of the fiscal year if losses exceed revenues by 10% or more.


When the Great Northern Railway started considering abandoning some of its lines in the southern Interior in the early 1930s, the Dominion government countered by threatening to nationalise all GN lines and operations in the Dominion. This led to negotiations between the GN and government, which resulted in the establishment of a joint-venture company between the GN and the government. The Washington & British Columbia Railway was created in 1937, with the GN holding 60% and the Dominion 40%, under the terms described above.

The arrangement was initially expensive for the government, but over the long term it has proved advantageous to both sides, as the government encouraged the construction of new industries and businesses in areas served by the W&BC. And, unlike in places in the north-west US where the railways were allowed to abandon lines, there has been far less loss for communities due to the railway leaving town.

When the Great Northern became part of the Burlington Northern Railway in 1970, its share passed on to the new company. In 1974, the Dominion government bought a further 5% of the BN's share of the W&BC, and also took over ownership of the Nelson–Spokane Spokane Falls & Northern Line, which had belonged to the Northern Pacific Railway prior to the formation of the BN.

Most of the W&BC network was built prior to its creation, but some expansion did take place in the subsequent years.

An important amount of this expansion took place in Greater Vancouver. Firstly, a 6.1 mile branch from Boundary Bay on the Victoria Terminal Line to Tsawwassen was opened in 1959, and was later extended by 1.6 miles after the opening of the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. In 1960, the 4.5 mile Tilbury Line was opened to serve the Seaspan Coastal Intermodal facility opened on Tilbury Island, Richmond that year; this spurred further industrial development of the area. The first new development was a rail-served industrial park inhabited by several food processing and cold storage facilities; later, a fertiliser factory and a liquefied natural gas plant were opened there, as well. Despite how short it is, this line provides the W&BC with a great deal of revenue. The industrial branches of the Victoria Terminal Line were then further extended, with the opening of a branch to the Guichon Auto Terminal in 1970, and another to the the Deltaport coal and container terminals in 1984.

Motive power and rolling stock

Although the W&BC does own its own extensive fleet of diesel and electric locomotives and multiple-unit trainsets, it's not uncommon to see locomotives of the BN&G or the British Columbia Railway on working W&BC trains.

Steam locomotives

The W&BC inherited 68 steam locomotives from the Great Northern in 1937. These were reclassified and renumbered according to the BCR's system of classification and numbering.

Throughout the steam era, the W&BC locomotive fleet was supplemented by engines from both the BCR and the Great Northern, with shunters and, often, power for short freight turns being supplied by the former for use in BC and by the latter for use in Washington; W&BC steam locomotives occasionally turned up on Kettle Valley Railway lines between 1937 and the late 1940s. W&BC class Hm2a number 3619 holds the distinction of being the last steam locomotive to pull a revenue train on a Class I railway in the United States, a through freight from Addy, WA to the Kaiser Magnesium plant at Mead, WA on 17 May 1975.

Class Wheel arr. Road numbers Total Built Retired Notes
Ee2a 4-6-2 2600–2606 7 1906 1960–1963 ex Great Northern class H-2
Ef1a 4-6-2 2610–2613 4 1926 1962–1965 ex Great Northern class H-5
Gg2a 2-8-0 3500–3511 12 1901–1902 1960–1964 ex Great Northern class F-8
Gg2b 2-8-0 3520–3526
19 1905
1959–1968 ex Great Northern class F-8
Gg2c 2-8-0 3540 1 1908 1961 ex Great Northern class F-8S
Hm2a 2-8-2 3600–3624 25 1911–1917 1964–1975 ex Great Northern class O-1

Electric locomotives

The biggest task undertaken after the establishment of the W&BC, by order of the Ministry of Railways, was the electrification of its lines in the Lower Mainland; in 1938 and 1939, 119.5 of the 147.6 miles of W&BC lines in the Lower Mainland Region had been put under wire. Post-war expansion of electrification has led to only 3.4 miles of line in the Region being non-electrified; however, none of the W&BC's lines in the Interior areas have been electrified. As with steam locomotives, classification and numbering of W&BC electric locomotives follows the BCR system.

Class & numbers
Class & numbers
Wheel arr. Total Built Retired Notes
EBb2a 5500–5514 EA02 501–515 C 15 1938–1939 1969–1974 Shunters; improved version of class EBb1b
EFc1a 5600–5619 EB01 501–520 D 20 1943–1944 1977–1981 Shunters; rebuilt to class EB11 between 1977 and 1981
EPj1a 6000–6004 --- F 5 1929 1961–1963 First class of freight locomotives, box cab; transferred from BCR in 1938
EPj1b 6005–6019 --- F 15 1930 1968–1973 Freight locomotives, very similar to class EPj1a; transferred from BCR in 1939
ERk1a 8500–8509 EC61 501–010 B-B 10 1939 1969–1975 Freight locomotives
--- EB11 501–520 D 20 1978–1981 1994–1997 Shunters; rebuilt from class EFc1a/EB01 between 1978 and 1981
--- EC11 501–536 B-B 36 1992–1994 in service Shunters and light freight locomotives, very similar to MÁV class V46
--- EH72 501-524 B-B-B 24 1973–1976 2018–2020 Universal locomotives; BC-built standard gauge variant of Japanese class EF66
--- EC91 501–521 B-B 26 2017–2019 in service Siemens Vectron type universal locomotives

Diesel locomotives

Unlike the BCR, the W&BC followed the lead of the Great Northern in its dieselisation plans, for the most part using the same locomotive types as well, though a significant number of BC-made locomotives were purchased as well - both for the W&BC and for the GN. Classification and numbering follows the BCR system.


Class & numbers
Class & numbers
Wheel arr. Total Acquired Retired Notes
DRe1a 1500–1509 DC01 501–510 B-B 10 1939 1955–1957 Shunters; sold to industrial users
DRh1a 9800–9829 DC02 501–530 B-B 30 1946–1947 1976–1981 Shunters and light freight
DRh1b 9830–9859 DC02a 531–560 B-B 30 1949–1951 1977–1980 Shunters and light freight
DSg1a 2500–2519 DE41 501–520 C-C 20 1959–1960 1977–1979 Passenger locomotives
DSg1b 2520–2539 DE42 501–520 C-C 20 1959–1960 1978–1982 Freight locomotives
DSg2a 2540–2579 DE43 501–540 C-C 40 1961–1963 1980–1984 More powerful version of class DSg1b


The W&BC has a network of 758.6 miles (453.7 miles in BC) which, like the British Columbia Railway, is divided into 3 operating areas called Regions; responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the lines and infrastructure within a given operating area is the responsibility of the Region in question. The numbering of regions and lines is coordinated with those of the BCR.

In the listing below Secondary Lines (i.e. branchlines) are listed below the Trunk Lines (i.e. mainlines) to which they are officially attached. Only terminal stations and stations connecting to other lines are indicated.

1. Lower Mainland Region (HQ Brownsville)

181.4 miles (145.1 miles in BC), 182.0 miles electrified, 116.6 miles double tracked, 19.2 miles passenger only, 48.5 miles freight only; 35.2 miles closed.

  • Line 14 Semiahmoo Line: 46.4 miles (23.8 miles in BC), electrified, 43.2 miles double tracked, 13.2 miles passenger only
Vancouver Pacific Central (BCR)–Grandview Jct (BCR)–Brunette (BCR)–Sapperton (CP)–Brownsville (BCH)–Nordel JctMud BayBlaine Jct, WACuster, WABellingham (BN&G, NWP) (Brownsville–Bellingham double tracked, Mud Bay–Blaine Jct passenger only; Pacific Central–Brunette owned by BCR, W&BC has running rights)
Line 141 Burrard Inlet Line: 1.4 miles, electrified, double tracked, freight only
Grandview Jct-RaymurBurrard Inlet Ferry Dock
Line 1411 Vanterm Branch: 0.8 miles, electrified, double tracked, freight only
Raymur–Ballantyne YardVanterm (CP)
Line 14111 Ballantyne Pier Branch: 1.1 miles, electrified, freight only
Ballantyne Yard–BC SugarBallantyne Pier
Line 14112 Grain Pier Branch: 0.7 miles, electrified, freight only
Ballantyne Yard–Alliance Grain Pier
Line 142 Tilbury Line: 4.3 miles, electrified, freight only
Nordel Jct–Tilbury
Line 143 Neptune Beach Line: 10.1 miles, electrified, freight only
Custer, WA–BA JunctionNeptune Beach, WA
Line 1431 Cherry Point Branch: 2.1 miles, electrified, freight only
BA Junction–Cherry Point
  • Line 15 New Westminster Southern Line: 26.4 miles (25.3 miles in BC), double tracked, electrified; Cloverdale–Blaine Jct (9.8 miles) freight only
Brownsville–Liverpool (BCH, BCR)–Cloverdale (BCH)–Blaine Jct
Cloverdale (BCH)–Mud Bay–Boundary BayGuichon Auto Terminal (Cloverdale–Boundary Bay double tracked, Boundary Bay–Port Guichon freight only
Line 161 Tsawwassen Branch: 8.0 miles, electrified, 2.0 miles double tracked, 6.0 miles passenger only
Boundary Bay–Heron BayTsawwassen Ferry (Boundary Bay–Heron Bay double tracked, Heron Bay–Tsawwassen Ferry passenger only
Line 1611 Deltaport Branch: 3.6 miles, electrified, double tracked, freight only
Heron Bay–Deltaport Triage
Line 16111 Deltaport Branch Coal Spur: 5.1 miles, electrified, freight only
Deltaport Triage–Deltaport Coal Terminal
Line 16112 Deltaport Branch Container Spur: 3.5 miles, electrified, freight only
Deltaport Triage–Deltaport Container Terminal
Line 162 Auto Terminal Spur: 2.5 miles, freight only
Port Guichon–Guichon Auto Terminal
  • Line 17 VV&E Line: Cloverdale (BCH)–Abbotsford (BCH, NWP)Chilliwack, 44.8 miles, electrified; Cloverdale–Abbotsford (25.5 miles) double tracked; W&BC has running rights over BCR line from Chilliwack to Hope; Atchelitz–Hope (35.2 miles) closed 1939
Line 171 Sumas Crossing Line: Abbotsford (BCH, NWP)–Sumas, WA (BN&G, NWP), 3.4 miles, electrified

4. Similkameen Region (HQ Princeton)

220.9 miles (196.5 miles in BC), 1.6 miles freight only, 25.7 miles closed

Hope (BCR, CP via BCR)–Princeton (BCR)
Princeton–Oroville, WAOroville Jct (CSCD)–Rock Creek (BCR)–West Midway (BCR)–Curlew, WA (Princeton–Rock Creek (BCR Junction) 106.6 miles, West Midway–Curlew 14.7 miles; Rock Creek–West Midway owned by BCR, W&BC has running rights)
pre-1939 route Bridesville–West Midway 25.7 miles
Line 441 Sooyoos Lake Line: 7.5 miles (4.9 miles in BC)
Oroville, WA (CSCD)–Sooyoos (BCR)

9. Kettle Falls Region (HQ Kettle Falls)

358.9 miles (114.7 miles in BC), 73.5 miles double-tracked, 0.6 miles passenger only, 55.0 miles freight only, 34.6 miles closed

Republic, WA–Curlew, WA–Coopers Wye (BCR)–Kettle Falls, WA
Line 901 Grand Forks Branch: 3.0 miles
Coopers Wye (BCR)–Grand Forks (BCR)
Line 902 Phoenix Line: 25.2 miles
Grand Forks (BCR)–Columbia JctCopper JctPhoenix
Line 9021 Granby Smelter Spur: 3.3 miles, freight only
Copper Jct–Granby Smelter (BCR)
Troup (CP)–Salmo (NWP)–Northport, WA–Kettle Falls, WA–Spokane, WA (BN&G, NWP, SI, UP) (W&BC has running rights over CPR line from Troup to Nelson)
Line 911 Red Mountain Line: 14.8 miles (6.3 miles in BC), freight only
Northport, WA–Rossland West
Line 912 Magnesium Spur: 2.2 miles + 1.3 miles spurs, freight only
Mead, WA–Kaiser Magnesium
Line 99 Bedlington & Nelson Line: 33.4 miles (7.4 miles in BC), freight only
Kootenay BaySirdar Jct (CP)Creston (CP)–North Bonner, ID (SI)–Bonners Ferry, ID (BN&G, SI)
Kootenay Bay–Sirdar Jct (34.6 miles) closed 1978; Sirdar Jct–Creston owned by CP, W&BC had running rights

Passenger services

The W&BC operates passenger trains in the full range of service types from Limited Express trains making very few intermediate stops down to RailBus services run under contract to local transit agencies. Many W&BC trains offer international service; the W&BC is one of only three Class I railways in the US that operates its own passenger trains, rather than delegating them to Amtrak (the North Western Pacific Railroad and the Gulf & Atlantic Railway are the others). Tickets for W&BC trains can be purchased at BCR stations, and vice versa.

The various categories of passenger service are defined by the Ministry of Labour, Industry & Railways in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport & Communications; these categories are applicable to and used by all railways providing passenger service in British Columbia.

Like all other railways in BC, ticket prices for W&BC passenger trains are based on the Ministry's Schedule of Railway Fares.

Limited Express

The W&BC operates two Limited Express making very few or no intermediate stops. One of these, the Columbia Limited, runs year round; the other, the Hozameen Limited, is seasonal, and is the only one of the W&BC's Express or Limited Express trains to operate entirely within BC.

The Columbia Limited features full-service dining cars open to first and second class passengers, sleeping cars (first class) and sleeperette cars (second class), as well as baggage handling, free of charge for first class passengers, or for a surcharge for second class passengers. It may be used for domestic travel, but for travel between three or fewer domestic stops a surcharge is applied. The short-trip surcharge is not applicable to the Hozameen Limited


  • 911/912 Columbia Limited (W&BC/VIA Rail/Amtrak): Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Portland, Oregon, USA
Daily service with a morning departure from each end. Two consists are used: in one, chair cars (first and second class) are supplied by CP, baggage cars, the dining car, sleepers (first class), sleeperettes (second class), and staff are supplied by VIA; in the other, staff and all stock other than second class chair cars (supplied by Amtrak) are supplied by the W&BC. This train runs over the trackage of the Canadian Pacific between Calgary and Nelson, of the W&BC between Nelson and Spokane, and of the Burlington Northern & Gulf between Spokane and Portland. Between Calgary and Creston, VIA Rail locomotives work the trains; the W&BC has running rights for this train between Creston and Nelson, its locomotives being used for the bulk of the trip, between Creston and Spokane. Between Spokane and Portland, Amtrak provides the locomotive.
Intermediate stops:
Alberta: Lethbridge
BC: Summit Lake, Fernie, Creston, Nelson, Salmo, Fort Sheppard (BC customs checks)
Washington: Boundary (US customs checks), Kettle Falls, Deer Park, Spokane, Pasco, Wishram


  • 431/432 Hozameen Limited: Vancouver (Pacific Central) – Manning Park
One return trip daily Friday through Sunday, summer timetable only. First and second class chair cars with a cafeteria car, baggage service free of charge to both classes.
Intermediate stops: Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope


Due to the nature of its trunk lines, all of the W&BC's Express trains are international services. The short-trip surcharge is not applicable to travel occuring entirely inside Washington state on trains other than the Bitterroot Mountaineer.

  • 141/142 Cascades (W&BC/Amtrak): Vancouver, BC (Pacific Central) – Eugene, Oregon, USA
Two daily return trips with special Talgo consists jointly owned by the W&BC and Amtrak and painted in a distinctive Cascades livery; second class chair cars only, with cafeteria car, no baggage service.
Intermediate stops:
BC: White Rock (BC customs checks)
Washington: Blaine (US customs checks), Ferndale, Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Everett, Edmonds, Seattle, Tukwila, Tacoma, Olympia-Lacey, Centralia, Kelso-Longview, Vancouver
Oregon: Portland, Oregon City, Salem, Albany
  • 171/172 Coast–Kootenay: Vancouver (Pacific Central) – Nelson
Daily service with a morning departure from each end. First and second class chair cars only (no sleeping accomodations), with a cafeteria car; baggage handling free of charge to first class passengers, and available to second class passengers with a surcharge. This train does not stop anywhere on the section between Bridesville and West Midway.
Intermediate stops:
BC: Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Manning Park, Allenby, Princeton, Keremeyus, Chopaka (BC and US customs checks)
Washington: Oroville, Molson, Curlew
BC: Carson (BC and US customs checks), Grand Forks
Washington: Laurier (BC and US customs checks), Kettle Falls, Boundary (US customs checks)
BC: Fort Sheppard (BC and US customs checks), Columbia Gardens, Salmo
  • 441/442 Bitterroot Mountaineer: Penticton, BC – Coeur d'Alene, ID
Daily service with a morning departure from each end, using an Amtrak consist (second class chair cars only, with a cafeteria car) pulled by a W&BC locomotive. Between Penticton and Sooyoos this train runs over BCR trackage, between Sooyoos and Oroville, Washington over W&BC trackage, and between Oroville and Spokane over BN&G trackage.
Intermediate stops:
BC: Oliver, Sooyoos (BC customs checks)
Washington: Oroville (US customs checks), Okanogan, Chelan, Wenatchee, Odessa, Spokane


Local trains are passenger trains that make scheduled stops at all stations and halts along the route they serve. Most are second-class only with seat-side drink and snack service, but some trains covering longer distances have first class chair cars and a cafeteria car; none of the domestic Local trains do not have baggage handling. Local trains do not have official names, instead they have only numbers. Train numbers with no letter suffix are locomotive-hauled; the suffix 'D' denotes trains operated by diesel trainsets (called "diesel cars", or "DC" for short, by the W&BC). All local trains run at least twice daily in each direction to allow for trains to be useful for passengers making day trips.


  • 1401.1-3/1402.1-3: Vancouver, BC (Pacific Central) – Bellingham, Washington, USA
Three daily return trips, second-class only with seat-side drink and snack service.
  • 4401.1-2/4402.1-2: Princeton, BC – Oroville, Washington, USA – Sooyoos, BC
Two daily return trips, second-class only with seat-side drink and snack service.
  • 4403.1-2/4404.1-2: Sooyoos, BC – Oroville, Washington, USA – Grand Forks, BC
Two daily return trips, first and second class with a cafeteria car.
  • 9001.1-2/9002.1-2: Republic, Washington, USA – Grand Forks, BC – Kettle Falls, Washington, USA – Spokane, Washington, USA
Two daily return trips, first and second class with a cafeteria car.
  • 9101.1-3/9102.1-3: Nelson, BC – Spokane, Washington, USA
Three daily return trips, first and second class with a cafeteria car.


  • 1701.1-2/1702.1-2: Vancouver (Pacific Central) – Princeton
Two daily return trips, first and second class with a cafeteria car.
  • 4301D.1-2/4302D.1-2: Hope – Princeton – Keremeyus
Two daily return trips operated by DC, first and second class with a cafeteria compartment.
  • 9021D.1-2/9022D.1-2: Grand Forks – Phoenix
Two daily return trips operated by DC, second-class only, no drink/snack service.

Commuter services

The W&BC operates several special services dedicated to commuter traffic in Greater Vancouver under contract to the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority: the West Coast Express service between Pacific Central Station and White Rock, and RailBus services between Cloverdale and Tsawwassen Ferry, and between Cloverdale and Abbotsford. Fares are fully integrated into the GVTA fare structure.