Last week my family and some friends went on a weekend camping adventure (Sorry, not going to tell you where we camped cause it is top secret!) and while we were there, we decided to check out a Ghost town! Honestly, it wasn’t as spooky as it sounds, but it was really interesting.
Considered as being one of the true classic ghost towns of west, Sandon is the focal point of B.C.’s famed Valley of the Ghosts. At one time boasting a population of 10,000, Sandon was the prime mineral (silver, lead and zinc) mining community in the valley, five miles off the main Highway 31A.An unusual feature of the town was that its main street was the boarded over flume of Carpenter Creek, eventually crushed and washed away by devastating floods. The last major flood was in 1955 and the town was essentially destroyed and never fully recovered again. Today, mangled piles of timber, once the main street, are still littered all over. Besides scores of hotels and saloons, the town once boasted a city hall building, opera house, library, community hall, post office, which closed in 1962, leaving Sandon a ghost town.In recent years, the town — which now has a permanent population of 15 residents —has made a slow recovery after receiving provincial heritage protection. Scores of old abandoned houses and buildings, as well as mine machinery and parts, are still visible everywhere in the valley, including many tucked in nearby woods. Today, visitors can also visit a well-stocked and fascinating private museum, a souvenir shop and the Tin Cup Cafe; all immensely popular with tourists and ghost towners. ~ SOURCE
What’s with the old Buses?
For close to 40 years, around 300 Brill trolleys drove the streets of Vancouver, powering the city’s transit system, before they were taken out of commission in the mid 1980s.
So why are eight of them in the ghost town of Sandon, 700 kilometres away?
“I’ve been involved in a lot of heritage projects,” says Hal Wright, who is the caretaker not only of the buses, but of the entire town.
Wright and his family moved in 20 years ago, and since then he’s preserved the town’s original city hall, fire station and hydro-electric plant – the oldest continually operating one in Western Canada. (See more about the plant below!)
But back to the trolleys. In 2001, hundreds of them were slated for a scrap heap in Richmond after the auto parts yard they had sat in was sold.
A group of transit enthusiasts knew the buses would be vandalized and stripped for parts if they were unsupervised in the Lower Mainland. And they also knew that Wright enjoyed refurbishing old vehicles.
Eventually, 13 of them made their way to the Kootenay town. Visit Sandon, and you’ll see signs on them reading Main, Granville, Broadway and Alma.
“We were in a position to look after them for the people of the country in a way that couldn’t happen in Vancouver, where they would be wrecked by copper thieves,” said Wright.
“We brought them up thinking they would be sort of a halfway house.”
Instead, the majority of them have sat in Sandon for 13 years. While Wright has sold a few to museums over the years, he’s been unable to convince Translink or any other organization to take on the cost of refurbishing and housing them.
“Every one of them could be refurbished,” says Wright.
“It conforms with all the ideals of reuse and sustainability. My object is to keep that opportunity alive until it happens, and I sincerely hope that it happens. I hope one day a politician will say that’s a great concept. It doesn’t have to be Vancouver, there’s no reason why another community that’s green energy conscious and historically conscious couldn’t do exactly the same thing.” ~ SOURCE
Our kids and their friends had a blast checking out these interesting parts of Canadian history.
Next up, we toured the Silversmith Powerhouse “Western Canada’s oldest continuously operating plant”
The Silversmith Powerhouse
In it’s heyday in the 1890s, Sandon was a city with all the modern conveniences: theatres, stores, 29 hotels, 28 saloons, factories and mills. A large red-light district thrived due to the predominance of men, and several churches did their best to bring morality to this wild boom town. Electricity was “state of the art” and Sandon became the first place in BC to have an electrical utility where every citizen could obtain electrical service. With an abundance of water and steep mountains Sandon was ideally suited to the generation of hydroelectricity. In all, eight hydroelectric systems operated in the Sandon area during the peak years. In 1897, the finest of them all, the Slocan Star plant, later renamed the Silversmith, went into operation to supply electricity and compressed air to Canada’s wealthiest mining company, ancestor of today’s global mining giant Goldcorp. It is still operating today providing 100% green, modern AC electricity for BC’s smallest regulated utility, Silversmith Power & Light. ~ SOURCE
All in all it was a wonderful excursion and I encourage you to check out Sandon if you are in our part of the world. I also encourage you to take your kids out and explore your own “backyard” this summer. Whether you plan an epic cross-country voyage, or just explore the world around you, there are so many interesting places to discover and to share with your kids and they will learn from it and appreciate it.
Please pin this image for later and remember to check out this fun piece of Canada’s history.