Do You Know The Difference

One was actually designed to save lives and one for saving time, yet both of these are sometimes referred to as tunnels.

The one on the top is called a “Snow or Avalanche Shed”. The concrete construction deflects falling snow and water runoff allowing it to pass over top while traffic continues to flow underneath.

Between Golden, and Revelstoke, British Columbia, the Trans Canada Highway #1 winds through “Glacier National Park”. You’ll be much safer today, than in years past, traveling through its mountain range with a deadly history. Five snow sheds have been built on a stretch of this highway called the “Rogers Pass”.

Discovered in 1881, the “Rogers Pass” was first used by the railroad in 1885.

Weather conditions can change drastically and quickly on the pass with a summit elevation of 1,330 meters/ 4,360 feet. Add, roughly 10 meters/32.81 feet of heavy snowfall per year to the sheer height and steepness of the Selkirk Mountains and you get perfect avalanche conditions.

Even with 31 wooden snow sheds over the rail tracks, for 30 years deadly avalanches plagued the railroad. In 1913 they began digging the 8.083 kilometre/5.022 mile tunnel called the “Connaught Tunnel” under Mount Macdonald. Once completed in 1916 trains quit going up and over the “Rogers Pass”. 

In 1988 the railroad also opened the 14.7 kilometre/9.1 mile “Mount Macdonald Tunnel” to supplement growing freight traffic. Trains now travel east through the “Connaught Tunnel” and west through the “Mount Macdonald Tunnel”.

Sections of abandoned rail line ground over the pass were later used for the current Trans Canada Highway #1 finished in 1962 and called the “Rogers Pass.” It replaced the older (1940-62) “Big Bend Highway” which followed the Columbia River for 305 kilometres/190 miles through the Selkirk Mountain valley. It was a seasonal, perilous, and gravel highway always closed in the winter because of heavy snowfall. The pass also shorted drive time between Golden and Revelstoke by 5 hours.

Tunnels like in the bottom picture are designed as shortcuts, or in the least a simpler path. The pictured one is 1 of 7 on the Fraser Canyon highway (the Gold Rush Trail) between Hope and Boston Bar. They were constructed in 1957-64, and range in length between 57 meters/187 feet to 610 meters/2000 feet.

Did you know the design differences of these tunnels before this post?

Have you ever encountered tunnels or snow sheds on a highway?

Since reading Stephen Kings novel “The Stand” years ago, I can’t help thinking of situations from that book when traveling through tunnels.

Has anyone else read “The Stand” and knows what I’m talking about?

22 thoughts on “Do You Know The Difference

  1. The tunnels along the Fraser route were always a highlight for me, even when I wasn’t a kid any more. There are snow sheds on the Coquihalla highway; not as exciting as tunnels but definitely necessary. We used to drive between Saskatoon and Vancouver Island in the ’80s, several times in winter.

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  2. I lived in Seattle for three years. I’m familiar with avalanche sheds and the benefit they provide. I like tunnels, too. I’ve driven along the Frasier River canyon twice (once on a motorcycle) and I think it’s one of the most beautiful rides I’ve ever taken. Thanks for the memory jog.

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  3. An engineering wonder, we watched the train go through the Cunnuck tunnel, as we enjoyed a journey from Edmonton to Vancouver one xmas. Of course we spent a lot of time visiting with past train employees, listening to their stories of the railroad and enjoying the bar car. The highway one route is much better now with all the tunnels and snow sheds being illuminated.

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  4. Okay, don’t think I am traveling by train in the winter. LOL!
    While going by train this past summer to British Columbia we did go through tunnels and I would have the thought of what if we get stuck in here! I was always glad to get back out and see the light of day. 🙂

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    • Yeah, we’re not real big fans of winter travel anymore. I’ve never done it by rail, but I’ve had my share of road trips where you can’t wait until you enter a mountain road tunnel just so you can step on the brakes to slow down without being on the ice and snow outside.
      Where did your summer train trip take you? Did you enjoy it?

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