Lucerne (railway point)

British Columbia. Railway point
CNR, W end of Yellowhead Lake
52°51’00” N 118°33’00” W — Map 83D/15 — GoogleGeoHack
Official in BCCanada
Boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Office of the Surveyor-General, 1924

Boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Office of the Surveyor-General, 1924
Internet Archive


Boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Office of the Surveyor-General, 1924

Boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Office of the Surveyor-General, 1924
Internet Archive


The Canadian Northern Rail yard in Lucerne, circa 1917

The Canadian Northern Rail yard in Lucerne, circa 1917
Parks Canada


Grand Trunk Pacific railway station at Lucerne, 1917

Grand Trunk Pacific railway station at Lucerne, 1917
Parks Canada


Japanese Canadian men sitting in front of former railroad station at Lucerne, 1940-1949

Japanese Canadian men sitting in front of former railroad station at Lucerne, 1940-1949
UBC Library Digital Collections

“Presently a gigantic mirror flashed through the trees. We were rounding the eastern arm of Yellowhead Lake, which from its idyllic situation, clear, transparent hue, and reflection of snow-capped battlements and pinnacles, may be aptly described as the Lucerne of British Columbia.” So wrote Frederick Talbot, who passed through the Yellowhead Pass in 1910 in advance of the railroad. Talbot’s party included Robert Chamberlain Westover Lett (1870-1957), passenger and colonization agent for Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.

Lucerne station was built on the south side of Yellowhead Lake by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway in 1913. The Grand Trunk had laid its track north of the lake the year before.

Lucerne was a divisional point on the Canadian Northern and provided the nucleus of a town. After the two railroads were nationalized in 1921, Jasper was chosen as the divisional point of the new Canadian National Railway. At the time both towns had populations approaching 300. By the end of 1924 almost everyone had moved to Jasper, the rails of the yard had been taken up, and Lucerne became a whistle stop on the Canadian National line. The Lucerne railway station, as big as the Jasper station, was demolished after World War II.

During the Second World War, about 100 Japanese nationals were interned at camps at Lucerne, Rainbow, Moose River, Fitzwilliam, and Red Pass. As forced labor, they cleared a new right-of-way on sections of the Yellowhead Highway. In different groups they cut the timber off much of the road toward Tête Jaune Cache and along the river toward McBride on the one hand and toward Blue River on the other. As a diversion from their other activities, they built a tea house in the Lucerne camp and for several years it remained as a curiosity shown off by the few local people.

The Lucerne Station post office was open from 1914 to 1926; less than ten cancellation marks are known in collections. A post office was also open at Lucerne from 1942 to 1945; no cancellation marks between those dates are known to exist.

References:

  • Talbot, Frederick Arthur Ambrose [1880–1924]. The new garden of Canada. By pack-horse and canoe through undeveloped new British Columbia. London: Cassell, 1911. Internet Archive
  • Gray, Alexander Torrence. “Lucerne, British Columbia 1913–1924. Notes from a slide show.” (1913–1924). CN Pensioners Association
  • MacGregor, James Grierson. Overland by the Yellowhead. Saskatoon: Western Producer, 1974. Internet Archive
  • Whyte, Jon [1941–1992], and Cavell, Edward [1948–]. Rocky Mountain Madness: a Bittersweet Romance. Banff: Altitude, 1982
  • Topping, William. A checklist of British Columbia post offices. Vancouver: published by the author, 7430 Angus Drive, 1983
  • Valemount Historic Society. Yellowhead Pass and its People. Valemount, B.C.: 1984
  • Bradley, Ben. “Lucerne no longer has an excuse to exist: Mobility and Landscape in the Yellowhead Pass.” BC Studies, No. 189 (2016):59-75

3 thoughts on “Lucerne (railway point)

  1. les kozma

    You’ve got everything backwards. The Grand Trunk Pacific ran along the north side of the lake. The Canadian Northern ran along the south side. The station and facilities shown are all Canadian Northern.
    The CN station at Lucerne looked nothing like either of the two GTP stations at McBride. [These corrections have been incorporated in the text.]

    Reply
  2. Leanne

    Does anyone know of a map of this rail yard of Canadian Northern? That foreman’s house was my great grandfather, Thomas Young. We hiked in once and found the brick foundation, stairs and outhouse!

    Reply
  3. Keith Sketchley

    Leanne:
    I may have something, my mother lived there as a child, before moved to Jasper.

    You should check with the museum in Valemont, they may refer you to a small one near Blue River. I was unable to visit either last time I was through the area with time to spare.

    There were a couple of very old buildings on the south side of the tracks, occupied. I did not traipse into the forest where the main settlement was. (Bring bear spray.)

    Reply

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