Cranbrook, British Columbia


It was a few kilometers out of the way, but I decided to pay a visit to Cranbrook anyhow.  I had been driving for hours in sloppy, rainy conditions, and I needed a diversion.  So, I drove into downtown Cranbrook to see what was there, before heading on up Highway 93/95.

Highways 3 and 95 run together through town, providing the main road through Cranbrook’s business district.  Just a block away from the highway, this mural gives an important clue to the town’s history — the railroad (which is on the opposite side of Highway 3/95) played a critical role in allowing the town to boom, when it arrived around the turn of the 20th century.

I stopped for a look around at the corner of Baker Street and 8th Avenue South — a spot that’s marked with a statue of a young elephant.  The pachyderm is Cranbrook Ed — an escapee from a traveling circus, back in 1926.  Ed survived in the nearby wilderness for six weeks, before finally being captured.  He was slightly thinner, but still in good health, and he quickly became a celebrity around town.  They held a parade, and even changed his name — officially — to Cranbrook Ed.

Across the highway from Ed’s permanent home, you can’t help but notice the old, octagon-shaped water tower.  It was built in 1946, and moved across the tracks to its current location in 1994.  The tower’s wooden walls provided insulation, while the huge pipes inside allowed for water to quickly fill steam engines.

Next-door to the water tower, there’s a small old railroad station.  It’s not the original Cranbrook station, though — this one was brought here from nearby Elko, British Columbia.  It was used from 1901 to 1985, and then saved from demolition in 1987 and moved to Cranbrook, to serve as part of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel.  If I had done a little more research before arriving in Cranbrook, I would have known that the railroad museum would have been a good place to spend an hour or two, on a rainy/snowy afternoon.

But, I still had a long way to go, up 93/95 to Radium Hot Springs, and I knew it was going to be a slow-go, thanks to the weather.  So I left Cranbrook behind, and hit the road again.

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