Life on the railway surged in Abbey’s blood

Growing up in the 1930s the rail yards and hobo jungles were Bob Abbey’s playgrounds.

Curator/manager Dennis Oomen (left) of the Penticton Museum and Archives and Maury Williams of the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society look over one of the field diaries written by Andrew McCulloch the chief engineer during the building of the Kettle Valley Railway. The society recently purchased the 20 volumes and donated them to the museum. Mark Brett/Penticton Western News

Growing up in the 1930s the rail yards and hobo jungles were Bob Abbey’s playgrounds.

The youngest of seven children, Abbey’s father worked for Canadian Pacific Railway most of his life and not surprisingly coal was in his son’s blood as well.

As a young man, Abbey was the only one of the children who decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps, eventually finding his way to Penticton and a job with the Kettle Valley Railway.

So it was fitting Abbey joined members of the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society (MCTRS) at a special donation by the group this week to the Penticton Museum and Archives.

The artifacts included 20 original volumes (starting in 1902) written by Andrew McCulloch who was the chief engineer for the Kettle Valley Railway during its construction from 1910 to 1917.

He stayed with the railway after its completion, until retiring in 1933. He died in 1945 at the age of 81.

“I worked for the KVR and for me the donation of this material is very important, it is a part of history,” said Abbey, 89. “My father was a railroader before I was born so personally for me it’s just a way of life, it is one of my very first memories and even now when I visit my youngest daughter in Spokane, (Wa.) when I hear that train whistle in the middle of the night it brings back all those memories.”

Making the donation to museum manager/curator Dennis Oomen was MCTRS member Maury Williams who is a history professor at the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

Williams is also the author of Myra’s Men: Building the Kettle Valley Railway Myra Canyon to Penticton, proceeds from which were used to help purchase the diaries from a private collector.

“We’re donating this to the museum because this is more or less the main repository for anything to do with the KVR and we’re happy that these are here,” said Williams. “From a Penticton point of view, without the KVR Penticton would just be a little community at the southern end of Okanagan Lake. Penticton’s reason for being is because it was the main headquarters for the Kettle Valley Railway.”

“We have a fascinations with railways and this was the hay day of the railway and from the Canadian history perspective the real establishment of Canada as a national country was done in the late 19th and 20th century through the transcontinental railway.”

He added another part of the historic importance of the documents is the fact the building of the railway with its 18 wooden trestles hundreds of feet above the valley floor, is the fact it kept this part of B.C. part of Canada.

“There was very serious concern that it would become part of the economic and political structure of the United States,” said Williams. “So by building the Kettle Valley line it made certain that the ties would be east-west rather than north-south and now to have the diaries about how that line was constructed adds immeasurably to our knowledge about how we got to be where we are.”

Oomen was particularly appreciative of the decision by the society to have the materials donated.

“This is a really significant donation for us,” he said. “Every archive wants to have the original documents and that’s what we’re getting here. We’re getting the notebooks carried around by McCulloch as he worked on the KVR.

“If you know your history you can apply it to the future and we have the raw materials of history right here.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton photographer publishes book showcasing resilience of Okanagan people

Okanagan Strong showcases the bravery of many during crisis; from COVID-19, to floods, and fires

Summerland steam train to begin operations

Reduced schedule, physical distancing planned for Kettle Valley Steam Railway beginning July 18

Summerland to hold meeting on solar project

Event on July 13 at 1 p.m. open to comments from the public

LETTER: Land for Summerland’s solar project site was designated for growth

Site represents close to 20 per cent of land marked for future growth

South Okanagan RCMP member speaks out against criticism

Police have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Kelowna taxpayers could pay $90K for losses caused by cancelled Memorial Cup

$135,000 would be put aside for a potential bid for a future opportunity to host the tournament

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Motorcycle rider seriously injured in collision with vehicle on Highway 97 west of Pritchard

Chase RCMP report that motorcycle was attempting to pass when crash occurred

Predator mutilated cats in Kelowna: BC SPCA

The BC SPCA confirmed a mutilated cat was killed by a predator

LETTER: Former Summerland mayors speak out on solar project

Five former Summerland mayors sign name to short letter

Emergency crews conduct CPR on unresponsive person in Okanagan Lake

West Kelowna emergency crews are on scene at the shores of Jubilee Mobile Home Park

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Most Read