Kimberley Underground Mining Railway history is a fascinating tale of more than a hundred years in the making.
The first part is the story of the famous Sullivan Mine, discovered in 1892 in a highly mineralized area of the Rocky Mountain Trench, the deposits of which had been formed through an ancient sea bed. It is in this area the city of Kimberley is located.
Over the lifetime of the Sullivan mine, more than 150 million tonnes of ore have been mined, including 3 billion ounces of silver, 8 million tonnes of zinc and 8 million tonnes of lead. At today’s value, the mine has produced more than $30 billion. These deposits have made the Sullivan mine the producer of about 50% of the world’s supply of lead and zinc and are a major factor in the economy of the province of British Columbia.
Much of the success of the mine can be attributed to the development of a differential flotation process in 1916, one which made it possible to separate the recovery of lead and zinc concentrates during the milling process. The process has, over the years, been used in mining procedures all over the world.
The mine was operational for 92 years before closing in 2001 and reclamation of the land has been ongoing ever since.
The second chapter in the saga, the modern one, lays claim to the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway. Owned and operated by the Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society, the railway, in its various forms, is about 3 decades old and has become a novel tourist attraction in the Kimberley area.
The railway began with an idea of facilitating the transportation of guests to the ski hill at Kimberley Alpine Resort from downtown Kimberley. So the Kimberley Steam Railway and Navigation society was formed in 1978 by a small group of supporters of the idea. They obtained rails for the track of the new railway from an abandoned mine in Salmo BC and named the new 2.5 km railway the Bavarian City Mining Railway. When it was up and running, it carried 4681 passengers. In 1995, the track was extended an extra 5 km to the downtown station.
A few years later, in 2004, the extension to the resort was finished and a year after that, in 2005, the digging of a 750 ft tunnel was begun with the idea of creating an underground interpretive centre. The tunnel was excavated by some of the most experienced miners from the former Sullivan mine.
In 2006, volunteers from the Bavarian City Mining Railway built a new locomotive and 3 new rail cars. The entire project was completed, including the laying of the rails and the construction of the underground facilities.
The latest episode in this amazing history was written in 2009 when the original resort route was discontinued and a looped track through the tunnel and back to the station was constructed to carry tourists to the interpretive centre and back again.
To take a journey backward into the history of the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway, board the train at the railway’s downtown station, located 300m west of the Platzl on Gerry Sorensen Way. Along the way, you will:
- listen to the history of the city of Kimberley and the Sullivan Mine as you ride through the picturesque Mark Creek valley
- learn about the life of a miner, hard rock mining and the different equipment used in the Sullivan mine at the Underground Interpretive Centre
- take a guided tour of the powerhouse to see the giant compressors and generators that powered the operations of the mine
- learn more about Kimberley as you admire the scenery on the return trip to the station and …
- Visit the Orpheum Theatre, the North Star schoolhouse, the miner’s cabin and the caboose.
The “Sullivan Mine & Railway Historical Society” is a non-profit organization formed by the merger of the “Sullivan Mine Interpretive Centre Society” and the “Bavarian City Mining Railway Society.”
KUMR is now open daily and will continue daily operations until early in September. The Downtown Station opens at 10:30 weekdays and 9:30 on weekends (closes at 5:00pm). For more information about schedules, etc., visit the website at KimberleysUndergroundMiningRailway.ca