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Castlegar and Robson by train, plane, auto, and ferry

Updated: 3 days ago

Three interesting images that sold on eBay today combine to tell the story of transportation in the Castlegar area.

The first, a snapshot that fetched $60 US ($81 Cdn), shows a woman in front of the train station in the 1930s or ‘40s. Written on the back: “My sweetheart.”

The original train station was built in 1902 but burned down in 1907 due to an overheated basement furnace. Station agent W.H. Gage made it out with his life but lost all his belongings. It was soon rebuilt.

The City of Castlegar bought the building from the CPR in 1987, long after passenger rail traffic had ceased, and turned it over to the Castlegar and District Heritage Society. Thanks to funding from the city and BC Heritage Trust, it was then moved across the tracks to its present location. It’s now the Station Museum. It’s likely the oldest building within city limits and one of its most historically significant.

This rare postcard of the Castlegar-Robson ferry from probably the 1930s went for $24.35 US ($33 Cdn). While there are lots of postcards of the ferry, this one is spectacular for a couple of reasons. First, the way it has been cropped makes the Lion’s Head bluff in the background look absolutely massive.

Second, I don’t recognize the four buildings on the Robson side at all. The first building has an illegible sign. Next to it is what looks like a barn with a billboard in front for Sweet Caporal cigarettes. Then there’s a building with an amazing art deco marquee that advertises Buckingham cigarettes (with the slogan “Throat Easy”!), plus a small store with another Sweet Caporal sign on it.

One of those buildings was Magee’s store, operated by David and Rose Magee, and in business since at least 1933. The Magees sold to Ernest R. Reid, who in turn sold in 1944 to Joe and Edna Marshall, who renamed it Marshall’s store.

Another store at the ferry landing, Zibin’s, operated for 40 years (including 1948 to 1966). According to Marilyn Verigin in Sprit-Wrestlers’ Voices (Koozma Tarasoff, ed., 1999), p. 100: “Nicholas S. Zibin ... established the Zibin General Store in a strategic location near the Columbia River ferry dock in Robson. At one point during its 40 years of operation it was taken over by Nicholas’ sons Philip and Moses.”

The Marshalls sold in 1959 to Paul and Sheila Thederham, who kept the name but expanded the business, adding a garage next door around 1963 called Paul’s Esso Service. The store was also home to a snack bar and Greyhound depot while Paul ran a towing, bulldozing, and excavating business on the side.

Nelson Daily News, March 25, 1961

Nelson Daily News, Feb. 22, 1963

The Thederahns sold in 1967, but I don’t know to whom. The old store is now the Jagged Edge Salon at 2623 Broadwater Rd. while the former garage is now the Robson-Raspberry Improvement District office at 2619 Broadwater. They are seen below. One of these buildings had an upper storey that was lopped off following a fire around 2001, but I can’t remember which.

I think John Holuboff bought the Zibin store. At least he was running a store at Robson as of 1962. Around 1965, he built Johnny’s Grocery a few lots east at 2593 Broadwater. The photos below show Johnny’s in the background in August 1973 and today.

The ferry itself operated from 1919 until 1988, when it was removed much to the dismay of Robson and Raspberry residents, who had to wait until 1994 for a new bridge to open.

The last of the three images sold today shows the brand-new Castlegar airport terminal and went for $80 US ($108 Cdn). The back reads: “Ralph West Airport, Castlegar. I am standing on the platform. Taken last summer 1953.”

The Canadian Pacific Airlines sign announces Castlegar’s elevation as 1,624 feet. The Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History has a cropped version of this photo that omits the waiting Chrysler at left from the Nelson limousine service.

The airport terminal, whose construction coincided with a runway extension to allow larger planes to land, was a triumph for some, but a tremendous affront to others, for it involved the demolition of several Doukhobor homes and eviction of occupants who were deemed squatters. Despite their protests, they were forced to leave and watched sadly as bulldozers razed the buildings.

When the new airport had its grand opening on May 31, 1954 organizers were not prepared for the turnout: an estimated 15,000 people, representing perhaps the largest mass gathering the area had seen. (At the time Castlegar and Kinnaird combined only had a population of about 2,600.) The Robson ferry was backed up for two miles. Jim Sadler sent me the photo below from that ceremony.

Not represented by the three photos that sold online are two other key forms of transportation, including the co-op that owned a fleet of vehicles to take workers to the smelter in Trail. Two of their garages are still standing. Below is one of them, seen in 1948 and 2000.

(Cominco Magazine/Selkirk College Regional Archives)

Here are a couple of rare images from my collection of the CPR-owned SS Minto at West Robson, perhaps in the 1930s, alongside the tug Columbia. The Minto was in business from 1898 to 1954, connecting communities on the lakes and carried passengers, mail, fruit, and other goods. The Columbia operated from 1922-48.

Updated July 20, 2024 to add the images of the Minto and Columbia.

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Ferry photo is #3 which ran between 1938 and 1946...this photo was taken by V Lamphier who took a lot of local photos..He was stationed at Coykendahl beginning 1913.


So cool! I live in Castlegar ( just a freshman - moved here from the coast in 2006) and love seeing and knowing this history. Thanks for another great injection of local history awesomeness!

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Yes their was plus a few cabins

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