When Trains Ruled the Kootenays

A Short History of Railways in Southeastern British Columbia

By (author): Terry Gainer
ISBN 9781771604017
Softcover | Publication Date: April 26, 2022
Book Dimensions: 5 in. x 7 in.
240 Pages

About the Book

A popular history of late 19th and early 20th century railways as they blasted their way into southeastern British Columbia.

When Trains Ruled the Kootenays is the story of how the railways established an extensive and convenient transportation network to haul ore from the mines, move people, and service the communities during the early years of the 20th century in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.

Terry Gainer’s latest book documents sixty years of change in the railway industry of British Columbia. The evolving transformations of life and landscape noted in the text and photos also reflect a period of rapid change in Canada. Threaded through the narrative are anecdotes from Kootenay pioneers recounting their experiences and the means of transportation of the times.

As prominent Kootenay author and historian Tom Lymbery noted, “Many books exist about the construction and maintenance of Kootenay railways. Few, if any, have been written about the people who rode them.” From that, Terry took Tom’s cue and began to write this book.

About the Author(s)

Terry Gainer’s family arrived in Banff in 1948 when his father, Frank Gainer, was transferred there as station agent. From their arrival until 1955 the family lived in the residence atop the station itself. During those years, Terry explored every nook and cranny of the station and the surrounding grounds. From 1957 he worked summer jobs there, initially as a porter in the baggage room and then as a redcap through the summer of 1962, which was the bonanza year of the Seattle World’s Fair and the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway but unfortunately also the beginning of the end of train travel to Banff. Largely influenced by his upbringing, Terry has enjoyed a career that has been an amazing fifty-year adventure in tourism. Though he retired in 2005, he has stayed involved in the industry as a marketing consultant. Terry’s books include When Trains Ruled the Kootenays, When Trains Ruled the Rockies: My Life at the Banff Railway Station, and The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada (Fall 2023). Terry lives in Nelson, British Columbia.


“Powerful personalities, massive egos, corporate machinations, subterfuge and violence on the rails, the battles between railway giants and giant railways… and that’s just the first chapter! Engage with Terry Gainer’s magnificent work, loaded with research and fascinating rail tales. The people, the places, the valleys, the roadbeds, the lakes and the rivers. The sadness and gladness, the triumph and tragedy. Word pictures abound, bringing to life the dynamism of high iron and Kootenay railroading.” —Brian Antonson, co-author of Whistle Posts West: Railway Tales from British Columbia, Alberta, and Yukon

“Few authors can claim Terry Gainer’s closeness to their topic: as a youngster he lived upstairs at the train station he writes about. He’s also a gifted storyteller—he makes good train stories great, and great train stories terrific. Take a seat with Terry at the Banff station and watch the world of trains as no one else gets to see it.” —Rick Antonson, author of Train Beyond the Mountains: Journeys on the Rocky Mountaineer