BC Highway History Alert! More Snapshots in Time Revealed

Are you a BC Highways history nerd? If so – GET READY!

We promised you more amazing historical images after our first historical snapshots blog  and we are delivering on that promise.

Don’t consider yourself a highways history nerd?

Don’t worry – you will be after you take a look at some of the images below.

As some of you might already know, we’ve been going through our old photos and sharing our favourites with you. These pictures were taken between the years 1965 and 1975 and capture a slice of the wide range of the work that has been done by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure across this beautiful province.

So pull up a chair, settle in and take a tour down memory lane – Department of Highways style.

It’s called a pavement burner and it looks like it’s doing a great job living up to its name. Just looking at this shot makes us feel the heat. Once the pavement was burned, it was scooped up and replaced with new material. Did you know we now have a machine that does this whole process on the spot?
When we post a sign, we mean it. Looks like someone agreed with us on this one and added an additional sign saying so. Taken at the top of Kootenay Pass, looking westbound.
This amazing image feels like it could have been taken during the dust bowl days or the depression era, doesn’t it? It’s actually a candid shot of one of our staffers repairing a machine in the Nelson area in the late 60s.
Who says Vancouver Island doesn’t know snow? This shot of two staffers in a ministry truck was taken near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. And that is a LOT of snow.
Half men – half mountain goats. A slippery slope near Revelstoke didn’t stop this survey crew from scrambling down to get the specs.

Early “Garbage Gobbler” looking sharp in his tux and ready to be deployed roadside. These litter bugs have taken many shapes over the years, but they still remain an iconic part of the BC roadtrip.
Taken on top of Tabor Mountain, this amazing shot shows some of our staff helping to place a protective dome over a radio repeater dome. Our radio repeater system is still an important tool for communication in remote areas.
Don’t mess with this snow plow! This minstry staffer stands proudly in front of his grader which is mounted with a V plow. These plows work best on side roads, and were in use until the early 80s, when modern wing plows arrived on the scene. Pretty impressive looking isn’t it?
If you look closely at this picture you can see a man standing in front of a huge boulder. This is the foot of the Hope Slide. In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 9th, 1965 nearly half of Johnson Peak collapsed and descended into the Nicolum Valley, approx. 20 km east of Hope, destroying nearly four kilometres of Highway 3 (the Hope-Princeton Highway) and filling up the bottom the valley with rock and mud up to a depth of 200 feet. Department of Highways crews worked tirelessly for 13 days in order to re-establish the highway connection and in this photolog video you can actually see the path they cut through the debris to reconnect the road. In the early 1980’s the highway alignment was rerouted around the base of the slide debris field, instead of through it. Visitors to the area today can pull off the highway and visit a monument dedicated to the event.
This photograph of a ministry engineer and foreman was taken on site in the early days after the Hope slide occurred and gives you a real sense of the seriousness of the situation which had unfolded on BC Highway 3.
Strangest picture of the bunch. A member of the Kelowna Scuba Diving Club helps a ministry staffer collect signs from Okanagan Lake. We’re guessing Okanagan teens used to chuck road signs off the dock and into the lake for fun?
How about that for perspective? This worker is scaling rock high above Dry Creek Bridge in the Golden area, just like it’s no big deal.
Look out CHiPS! BC had it’s own brand of highway patrol! The Department of Highways Traffic Patrol kept traffic moving safely in the Lower Mainland between 1958 -1988. Patrolmen were responsible for controlling traffic at ferry terminals, on and approaching local area bridges (such as the Lion’s Gate, Second Narrows and the Port Mann) as well as acting as reserve constables for local police detachments and BC RCMP.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? We thought you would like it. And don’t worry, there’s more to come. Let us know what you think of this or anything else we do in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 47 comments on “BC Highway History Alert! More Snapshots in Time Revealed”

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  1. The pictures are great. I worked with a mobile gravel crusher crew in 1968-69.
    Do not remember last names. Forman Jim. Dozer opearater Graeme, crusher operator
    Dick, driver Marvin, welder Eric, Wally crewman Gary Cosby me, Allan driver I replaced was off with injuries. We travelled lower mainland and Vancouver Land making stock piles of gravel for the roads. Would like any pictures , full names of my friends as I want to make a history of my time in British Columbia.

    I’m 77 years old with my fond memories. Was hard work and lots of laughs.

    Any help would be greatly appreciative.

    Gary Edward Cosby

    • Hello, Gary.

      Thanks for connecting with us and sharing your memories with us. We are glad you enjoyed these photos. Unfortunately, we are unable to search through our historical images for specific people like this.

      Thank you for your work on BC Highways!

  2. Hello from Calgary. Spring always reminds me of our family road trip to the Okanagan. As a boy I was always excited to hit the British Columbia border it seemed different the BC Ministry of Highways always was at work somewhere entertaining me with heavy equipment, signs, flag men. The highways were prestine. The employees were dedicated as sign posts were painted with white paint and green backs and bases. Trucks had eye catching orange and white paint. Maintenance yards decorated with flower beds and flag poles. Everything in its place. It was a great experience. Thank you for these memories. Arend.

  3. A friend Pete chaprun just passed away. Pete was a heavy duty mechanic who ran department of highways in prince Rupert 1960s. A most awesome character. He managed to get a 1930 sixty cat out of the Portland canal flats back to DOH refurbished it to running condition. It was later trucked to the grand opening of the coqihalla. It had a underplow and wings. Which are used on present days equipment. My father another HD mechanic helped provide history and mechanical. Great stuff for teen. The sixty cat is now in a open building complete with roof on display in Rupert on park avenue. Near to BC ferrys. This is for Pete. What a man

  4. My Dad worked for the Department of highways through the late 50s right through the 60s,70s,80, retired in the early 90s. He was a Electrician, worked the street lights, intersections etc. Orange and white vehicles they used. Be nice to see more photos of those. The yard he worked out of was in Burnaby.

    • We’ve found a couple of vintage electrical images from that era in our files, Dave. Stay tuned to our social channels for those. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I worked a short career with BC Highways (1972-4) out of Richmond Yards (by Oak St. Bridge) doing maintenance on Deas Tunnel, Hwy. 99, Hwy 17 , and UBC Endowment lands and later took a posting as a Wrecker Operator on Lions Gate Bridge. I worked with the Patrolman pictured with the Scout was wearing high boots as they had Harley Davidson Police Motorcycles at L.G. Bridge as they could also stop people for Traffic Violations and investigate Crashes. They had a fellow at Richmond Mech. Yards named “Motorcycle Bill” who did a top notch job looking after the fleet. My stepfather worked years on the tolls there and later operated the console board that controlled the overhead land control lights as well as process paperwork. They had Highways Dept. wreckers on all the bridges prior to contracting out the jobs.

  6. Wow…love the article on the BC Highways Patrol. My father was with them and retired from them in 1988 (when they disbanded). Your few sentences were the most accurate information that I have found on the patrol. I remember in 1973, when they became reserve officers for various policing agencies around the Lower Mainland. It was about that same time that policing could cross borders. So if bad guy robbed a bank in Vancouver and made it all the way out to Surrey, a Vancouver police officer would have to give up the chase and hand it over to Burnaby RCMP, then New West and finally to the Surrey RCMP. After this happened, the first agency could follow the bad guy into any city and take the lead. Dad told me that if he was up north and someone (like a bank robber) ran in front of him, he could legally go after him, even if he was not on duty. Even though he was in the Lower Mainland. My father retired out as Acting Sargent.

  7. The fellow in the 3rd pic down is LeRoy Cote, from Nelson, he was, along with my dad part of the Highways Construction crew, he is working on the Bucyrus Erie 1/4 yard shovel. LeRoy was the shovel operator and my dad drove one of the Euc’s S-2023. One of the other Euc drivers was Bruce Casemore, that was back in the days when they had the construction crews with the 1/4 yard shovel, Euclid dump trucks, Cat’s and scrapers, despite what most think these days, it was the Department of Highways that BUILT the roads in B.C. As another tid bit of info, my dad lost his pinky finger on his left hand when he was helping re-rig the cable over the top shiv of this shovel, his glove got caught as they were rolling the cable into place…..

  8. Love the pictures you have posted here. Have you any of the Rogers Pass before or during construction. I travelled this route many times for work based out of Revelstoke during the 70s. Particular interest is road location, right of waying, and surveying. Great job here BTW.

  9. I would love to see some photos of the Fraser Canyon in the early years, before the tunnels and the new Alexandra Bridge was built. They would be an awesome addition to the really interesting photographs you already have. Also, I’ve heard that there’s a big hill on the way to Bella Coola. Do you have any old photographs of that monster? Thanks for posting these photos, and keep up the good work.

  10. Thanks so much for posting the photos, it is always really amazing to see history through pictures. It puts some perspective on the challenges faced then and some of the solutions today. That being said living in the mountains was and remains to be a huge challenge always to the highways department I am sure. I for one am always grateful for your department for stepping up to the challenge, thanks again for the reminder..lots more pictures would be great..

  11. Love the pictures of the past. I was Highways mechanical for about 21 years throughout the province. I had a great career and met a lot of great people throughout the province it is nice to reminisce those days through pictures like this especially when they have info with them.

    • Thank you for sharing with us Tim. It makes us happy to know they are appreciated and even more when folks have a personal connection with them like you. Ministry staffers (past and present) sure are a great bunch of people. 🙂

  12. I remember my dad getting a call to go to the hope slide that morning he was the highways manager for Chilliwack or was in the transition from being being the bridge patrol Sargent to transfer to Chilliwack there is some pictures in the website link feel free to use

    • Wow! That is an amazing connection to the event and those are wonderful photographs of the Highway Patrol. We would love to use them – in fact, we have put a Highways Patrol blog on our to do list. Thanks Doug!

  13. Dear tranbc Editor,

    My memories of travel on B.C. Highways,
    the Fraser Canyon in particular, go back
    to to my childhood in the 1950’s.

    I was terrified of the Canyon, wedged into
    the cliff face, or hangin’ out high above the
    Fraser on wooden stilts, with no guard

    In places it was too narrow for opposing
    vehicles to pass. In fact, I can
    remember The Old Man havin’ to back
    our little Austin A50 up tight against the
    rock face to make room for a mare
    and her foal to slip by.

    Crossing the Fraser on the old Alexandra
    Bridge was an event, crawling down the
    West side with overheatin’ brakes,
    rumblin’ across the ice deck, and shiftin’
    into bull low to manoeuvre up the switch
    backs through the stalled vehicles, with
    steam pourin’ out of their rads, on the East
    side. Today, one might not even notice
    crossing the Fraser on the “new” Alexandra

    Later, when tunnels made drivin’ a little
    less hair-raisin’, it was still beyond some
    drivers comfort level. Stuck behind a
    Cadillac with Prairie plates, stopped in the
    middle of the road, The Old Man walked
    forward to see if the driver needed help.
    He did. He was too scared to drive around
    the bend and through the tunnel. The Old
    Man drove the Caddie through for him
    and then hiked back to retrieve our

    Still, compared to the Caribou Gold Trail
    from the previous century, it was an
    engineering marvel!

    B.C. highways and byways have certainly
    certainly improved in my lifetime, and
    continue to do so. Can we say the same
    about drivers?

    There is no such thing as “safe driving,”
    but thanks, folks, for making it safer
    with both infrastructure, education, and

    Happy and Safe Trails!

    Ramblin’ Ryan Lake.

    • Wow! That’s a beautiful story/book unto itself right there Ramblin’ Ryan 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your slice of BC memories with us here. We love to hear these stories – they make it all worthwhile. Safe travels out there.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the feedback – we think they are pretty great too (but we are partial). We are asking around on the end of the Highway Patrol. We know that they were brought onto the CVSE as mobile officers in 1988 but don’t know exactly why.