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British Columbia \ Dolly Varden Mine Railway.

Dolly Varden Mines Railway.

By Walter Reid.

S ilver was discovered along the Kitsault River valley at the site of the Dolly Varden Mine in 1910. The mine contains some of the richest deposits of silver ore ever discovered, bearing up to 2200 ounces of silver per ton of ore. In 1915 the mine was sold to financiers in Chicago who began improving the property. Among these were the construction of a railroad to move the ore 18 miles down the mountain a wharf outside Alice Arm.

The Dolly Varden Mines Railway was railway was contracted to the Taylor Engineering Company, which began consturction with 35 pound rail with several second hand locomotives. These were fine for construction, but caused excessive wear on the sharp (up to 39 degree) curves and didn’t handle the 5% grades very well. The railway purchased a new 30 ton Climax locomotive, as well as a used Baldwin 2-4-2t and a Brooks 2-6-0(which was totally unsuitable for the sharp curves). The Climax could push 4 empty ore cars up the 5% grade, and bring back 4 cars under braking downgrade.

Wandering through the dense hemlock forest, clawing to the sides of canyons, sharing the path in stretches with the Kitsault River and finally, grinding upgrade to its final terminus at Camp 8. The rugged nature of the railroad is evident even in its structures: The ore tipple at Camp 8 was constructed primarily of logs, the mining company office construction included the use of a tree trunk to support one corner, even the turnouts were built using standard tie lengths, interlaced between each other to provide extra length. The skill and ingenuity of the pioneers at using what is available on site.

The dormant railroad was used for logging on the Kitsault flats between 1924 and 1928. Two camps were established, with nearly 6 miles of logging track laid. A downturn in the price of lumber doomed the operation and the logging lines were pulled up in 1928. In 1929 the property came under the control of the Britannia Mining Mining and Smelting Company, but the Great Depression halted development. The railroad sat idle until it was replaced with a truck road in 1940. After being operated by several subsequent owners, the property was sold to the Dolly Varden Silver Corporation in 2011.

Revised: February 25, 2015.
Muralt, Darryl "Steel Rails and Silver Dreams". Mountain View: Benchmark Publications, 1985. ISBN-13: 978-0961546700

Reference Material Available Online:


Dolly Varden Mine (ca. 1928) - City of Vancouver Archives Film Collection.

Other Sites.

Dolly Varden Mine Railway Website..
Compiled by Walter Reid and dedicated to information about the Dolly Varden Mine Railway including maps, photographs and descriptions of holdings in several institution. The site also showcases efforts to model the Dolly Varden by Chuck Faist / Larry Ife, Frank Godde MMR, Bruce Peachey, Walter Reid, Carl Sparks and more.

British Columbia \ Dolly Varden Mine Railway.
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