Snapshots in Time: Who is the “Highways Department”?

If you’ve visited us here before, you probably know that sometimes, we like to kick it old school.
We throw it back here, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with pictures, video and stories about how the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure helped play a role in the development of beautiful British Columbia.

We’re proud of our history.  In fact, some of our older ministry staffers refer to “Highways Department” folks (our old name), as bleeding orange and white – a reference to the days when our crews travelled highways and byways in orange and white trucks, day in and out, “getting ‘er done”.

We recently reviewed some of our old employee newsletter photographs and found some amazing shots we just had to share. These pictures date back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s and highlight the men and woman who worked tirelessly to shape and refine the BC Highway system we know today, as well as some amazing shots of the work they did.


Lions Gate nighttime bridge deck replacement, late 1970s. The power. The action. The pants.


Our sign shop crew made sure all highways were properly signed for the safety of the travelling public (and they looked cool doing it too).


Break time! This snap of a local road crew was taken in in the late 1960s in the Lillooet area.


Sometimes, in order to build a road, we needed to fly there first. This is the plane our staff used in the 1960s to access those hard to reach places. Coolness factor: a zillion.


Road maintenance as seen from the front seat of a grader, circa 1967.


Probably one of our favourites. This shot dates back to approximately 1950, when we were called the Department of Public Works. We became the Department of Highways in 1956 and stayed that way until 1974. A series of variations on the highways theme followed, until Transportation entered the name game in the 1980s.


This is one WIDE LOAD. Our bridge folks informed us that this is a timber truss bridge. This shot shows it being moved to the Revelstoke Area, in the late 1950s.


Back in the day, our traffic engineers travelled BC highways with ball bank indicators attached to the dashes of cars to determine if curve advisory signs were needed. If the ball banked to the left or right past a certain point, a sign was required.


Who me? Oh, not much, just chilling by this curve advisory sign.



Yes, it’s true; we hired Wolverine to survey for us in the late 60s. Just kidding, this is one of our staff surveying a sight line for a new road.


This picture gets points for pure coolness. An engineer drafting – old school style. Located not far from our offices in Victoria today, this engineer is hard at work making sure designs are safe and sound for the travelling public, something which they still do today.


You might want to take a long, hard look at this shot. We sure did. And boy, were we impressed. The sheer scale of this bridge work makes us stand in awe at what those who came before us did.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? We thought you would like it.

And don’t worry, there’s more to come.

And if you can’t wait for more, you can check out our other, cool historic content listed below:

Let us know what you think of this or anything else we do in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 29 comments on “Snapshots in Time: Who is the “Highways Department”?”

Leave a Reply to tranbceditor Cancel reply

  1. Thank You for this series…. The images and descriptions are fascinating and I love your sense of fun. Also the appreciation and respect you have for those who built our highway infrastructure.

  2. I worked 9 months in the Higways Kamloops Design office back in 1979ish… on the Westbank curb and gutter ring road project… Paul Pruden called out the surveyors notes while I did what seems like thousands of Cross sections manually plotted!! Who remembers Leroy lettering and cleaning pens!!! And over my shoulder was Dick Yamoka hard at work picking routes for the Coquihalla highway. I worked the facit… a mechanical multiplication machine, and a vacuum tube desktop computer and yep there were slide rules… with an IBM selectric typewriter attached to it. I actually wrote a program for it… that started a 40 year career in computing…

  3. I have found an older Fargo dump truck, I would think it is from around 1946 and is probably a 5 ton truck. Single axle with with the original unit number decaled on the door. It is in rough shape but it’s all there. I am positive it is an old Dept of Public Works(highways) truck. I was wondering if you have any pictures of your trucks from that era. It was also equipped with a snow plow. The unit number on the door is S-563.
    I am going to try to resurrect the old girl so any information you can give me would be appreciated.

    • Hello Robert,

      Sorry to say but we weren’t able to access this link. Would you be able to share it with us in another way? Perhaps on our Facebook page? Thank you – we would love to see them.

  4. WOW!!!! Thanks so much for doing this! As a records geek myself, I know how many painstaking and mind-numbing hours it can be to “preserve our history”.

    BIG THANK-YOU to our Social Media Team! Love it!

  5. Bigmouth was the river south of Mica Cr not the name of the bridge. It was moved to Greeley to cross the Illicilewaet River. It lasted until CP rail took it out with a hiab that neglected to lower its boom before crossing