The story about Nelson’s railways, the people who built them, and how the railway industry helped turn the town into an economic juggernaut in the early 20th century has taken new form.
On the June 22 at the Touchstone Museum of Arts and History, the people in Nelson will be able to experience of bit of their history at the launch of author Terry Gainer’s latest work, When Trains Ruled the Kootenays.
Gainer was born into a railway family and moved to Banff in 1948 when his father was transferred to the station as an agent. He has been close to the train system ever since he was young. After retiring from the tourism industry (he still works as a marketing and planning consultant), Gainer decided to start writing. He published his first book When Trains Ruled the Rockies in 2019, an account of life at the Banff station and the environment around it.
One of the main inspirations for writing the books came after visiting the former Nelson train station in 2017 after renovations were completed. Despite ownership trying its best to restore the station to its original design dating back to 1901, Gainer believed there was still something missing. No amount of historical paragraphs would suffice, so as Gainer puts it, “a story began to unfold.”
“Although there are many books and stories about the construction and the maintenance of the railways, there was very little about the people who used them. That’s really gist of the book, a history book that talks about the people using the railways and how we got here,” he said.
Another aspect of the history that Gainer wants to tell is how people used trains for public transportation.
“There aren’t many books outlining how people used the trains and boats, how people got around, how the schedules matched with one another, and that’s another major part of the book,” he said.
Everything revolved around the trains, which were key to Nelson’s mining economy. When most of the railways were shut down in the 1960s, Nelson was hit hard. Gainer wants to bring that story back to life.
The book launch event is free to attend and will be happening at Touchstone Museum at 7 p.m.