(a brief innovative history)


Chinook Western Railway is a Class 1 railroad operating passenger and freight service between the former town of Chinook, now located in south Calgary, and the Crowsnest Pass near Fernie in eastern British Columbia.  Chinook Western’s mainline runs west from Chinook through Priddis, Bragg Creek, Elbow Valley and Kananaskis Junction, over the Elk Pass into British Columbia, and then south through Pika and Elkford in the Elk Valley to the Crowsnest Pass.  Chinook Western interchanges at Chinook with CP and CN, at Kananaskis Junction with a CP branchline from Morley, and in the Crowsnest Pass with the BNSF branchline from Spokane and CP’s Crowsnest Pass line. 

Chinook Western also has a branchline which runs northwest from Elkford, B.C. to a gravel pit and a styrofoam mine and pellet plant.  This branch formerly also connected with the Burstall & Spray River Railway, a narrow gauge railway operated by Chinook Western under a 999 year lease which serviced logging and mining operations on the west slope of the Rockies, north of the Elk Valley, in southeastern British Columbia.  The BSRR also crossed the Burstall pass to Nakiska in western Alberta, where it interchanged with the CPR Morley branch just north of Kananaskis Junction.  With recent increases in the price of coal, there is speculation of the BSRR becoming operational once again and Chinook Western is currently re-surveying what is left of the right of way. 

Chinook Western was initially formed in the early 1900s as a wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary of the Great Northern Railroad to provide a connection between its branchline from Spokane to the Michel Creek coal mines in southeastern British Columbia with the Canadian Northern Railway (now CNR) which was expanding to the south of Calgary.  Extensive opposition from Canadian Pacific to the new line was settled with each of CPR and CNR acquiring an ownership interest in Chinook Western, and the railway has remained with one-third ownership by each of Great Northern (now BNSF) and the two Canadian railways since that time.

Chinook Western currently operates principally as a bridge line for BNSF between Spokane, Washington and the CP and CN interchanges at Chinook in south Calgary.  Chinook Western also serves businesses and industries along its rail lines, including a refinery, natural gas and propane shipping facilities, a sulphur extraction plant, grain elevators, cattle and sheep ranching, mining, forestry, a limestone quarry and a cement batch plant.  Chinook Western also has extensive industrial switching services in south Calgary and an intermodal facility in the Chinook area.  Chinook Western’s main freight yard, Baker Yard, is located in Chinook and its main engine servicing facilities are adjacent to the yard.

Chinook Western has some of its own motive power, generally older diesel power, however, most of its motive power is leased from its shareholders, in both modern and historical paint schemes.  Recently, Chinook Western has acquired also some used motive power which has not yet been repainted to its own colours.

 Map of the railroad route


(the reality)


Chinook Western is a freelance HO (and HOn3) model railroad owned and operated by Calgary Model Trainmen, a model railroad club in Calgary since 1938.  CMT meets each Wednesday evening (except for Flames games) at the club premises located in Victoria Park around 7:30pm.  The second Wednesday of each month is reserved as our meeting night and the other Wednesdays are set aside to operate and work on the layout.

Layout:  The permanent layout occupies an area of approximately 25’x 85’.   Most switches have been hand laid in place.  As well, the mainline track, staging tracks at each end, the main yard at Chinook and the sidings at Priddis, Bragg Creek, Kananaskis Junction, Pika and Elkford have been hand laid and are fully operational.  The layout operates with Digitrax DCC.  80% of the primary scenery has been completed and work continues on a scene by scene basis. 

Operating Sessions:  Chinook Western operates:

  • ·      passenger trains, including first class overnight sleeper service between Calgary and Spokane, first class coach service and RDC service
  • ·      interchange trains between BNSF in the south and CP and CN in Calgary
  • ·      unit trains to service coal mines, and
  • ·      way-freights and local switchers provide switching service for industries not otherwise serviced


The number and types of trains run in any operating session vary with the number of operators at the session, the experience of the operators, the time available and how congested the railway becomes.  Operating jobs include Dispatcher, Baker Yardmaster, Yard Switchers, Motive Power Foreman, Mainline Engineers, Local Switchers, Conductors and Freight Agents. 

Our emphasis is to have FUN a lot and LEARN a little.  No experience required.

Modular Layout:  CMT members are active participants at SuperTrain in Calgary each February.  CMT also has its own scenic modular layout which it has displayed some years.


Modellers Wanted


CMT is always looking for additional enginemen, conductors, maintenance of way railroaders, civil engineers, industrialists, construction contractors and landscapers, in short – model railroaders!  Come down and visit us on a Wednesday evening.