Train Wreck in Whistler
How an accident turned into a tourist attraction in Whistler
|GPS Coordinates are 50.079989, -123.055148.|
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When an accident becomes a tourist attraction. That's the "Train Wreck" near Whistler BC.
In 1956 a train derailed close to the Cheakamus River, about 10 km south-west of Whistler BC. Some cars were recovered, but seven of them were cleared from the train tracks and left in the forest to be forgotten. You can find more detail about the accident in the Whistler Museum.
The mountain bike community in Whistler discovered the forgotten cars. They built ramps to catapult the riders on top of the cars. This happened in the last century as Whistler became the Mekka for mountain bikers. Symbols and words were spray painted on the inside and out. The location was not published and shared by word of mouth.
The Internet changed the place. Pictures and video clips of the ramps and jumps got published. The colourful cars eventually attracted the attention of tourists and it was no longer a hidden gem. The place got so many visitors that a suspension bridge was built in the summer of 2016 and the Train Wreck Trail became an offical tourist attraction.
Getting to the Train Wreck
The packed gravel vs the off-road trail.
Both trails are well documented in the travel guides. We took the packed gravel trail to the Train Wreck site, and the rugged trail on the way back. It took us 30 minutes to get there and 90 minutes to get back. It's not that we are exceptionally slow, but there were so many things to see.
We parked at the Interpretive Forest Trail and walked to the trail head. There is a closer parking area as we found out.
On the way back, we took the rugged trail that starts immediately at the suspension bridge. The trail follows the Cheakamus River with several side trails to the big boulders that constrain the river. There are roots and rocks and some moderate steep sections. If you are there after a rainfall, it will be slippery and possibly muddy.
Click the image to see the forest in a deep green along the rugged trail. We were fascinated by the mosses, lichens and young trees with leaves that are still green and the roar of the Cheakamus River.
The Cheakamus River begins in the Garibaldi Provincial Park then flows into the Cheakamus Lake and continues to Daisy Lake. We were looking for information about the river and found several trails and documents.
The Garibaldi Provincial Park offers several trails. Another trail leads to the Cheakamus Lake. Just off Hwy 99 is the Brandywine Falls Trail Head. And of course the Train Wreck Trail.
The derailment in 1956 was not the only train accident along the Cheakamus. In 2005, a train derailed and a tank car spilled Sodium Hydroxide into the river. The fish population was wiped out. According to a Vancouver News channel, the fish were back again five years later.
Suspension Bridge to the Train Wreck. The bridge was built in the summer of 2016
The cables for the bridge are held by an interesting train wheel lookalike.
Mountain bike ramps
Before there were tourist, there were the mountain bikers. Some remnants of the ramps are still there.
The ramps may not be used by current generation of mountain bikers, but the kids are enjoying the constructions as well.
Click on the following images to get a closeup view of the art work and some of the interieur 'wall decor'.
The first evidence after crossing the suspension bridge are these two cars hanging on to the trees.
The left car may look suspicious at first. You are looking at the bottom of the car. Click the image to see the full placement of the cars.
These two cars are not in the limelight. They are just a few steps downstream. Remember where downstream is before you search for them
When you visit the site, you may find new art work. We noticed a faint smell of fresh spray paint. Looking at the cars, it is difficult to find a spot where the original colour is still visible. Many of the graffiti is covered by new ones. It is unlikely that rust can damage the metal sidings, the paint is like a protective armour.
During our visit in 2020, the ladders and catwalk on top of the cars were still in good condition. It is a kids paradise, the only restraint are the sometimes worrying parents. The site is a hands-on display of damaged cars, it is well worth the time. The biggest problem may be the visitors that make a clear shot difficult at times.