“The Rail Line is an Amazing Piece of Canadian and British Columbia History” – Yale Historic Site Management
We thought we knew about B.C.’s rich, historic life line until our road trip to Hope, Boston Bar, and Yale. The drive from Vancouver was rapturous; urban life slowed to a tranquil pace as we moved closer to our final destination. The road we travelled had long stretches of windy roads, surrounded by mountains. There was no need for music playing in the car as the trip played to its own scenic symphony. One of the highlights was discovering the drinking water in Yale was, without exception, the best that we have ever tasted.
The word ‘Yale’ can be found in two different locations — Yaletown, which is one of Vancouver’s trendiest neighbourhoods, and plain old Yale with its less than burgeoning population of 150 that was once a boomtown of 30,000 gold miners during the gold rush of 1858. It was one of the most popular places in Canada, with 17 saloons, a tent city that offered a general store, a dentist, medical doctor and barber, along with a gold panning site, a bath house, court house and of course, a jail. Once reality set in that most folks were not going to strike it rich, many followed the train out west for jobs in what became known as Vancouver’s Yaletown. Yale is known for playing a vital role in the growth of B.C. and Canada and was once the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. Yale was established in 1848 as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post.
Our first stop was to ride the Hell’s Gate Tram which opened in July 20, 1971 by Habegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland. It carries about 530 passengers per hour and is known as the steepest fully suspended air tram in North America. It is called Hell’s Gate for a reason – as they say on the Hell’s Gate website: “Simon Fraser’s voyage in 1808, stating in his journal that “no man should ever pass through here it was truly like passing through the gates of Hell!”
Despite being afraid of heights, it was worth it! While most gondolas ascent upon boarding, the entrance to Hells Gate tram is at highway level, far above the raging Fraser River, taking enthralled visitors on a breathtaking, if not steady plunge to the viewing platforms, which also has a restaurant and what might be the biggest fudge store in Canada. What motivated me was hearing my partner, John, rave about the world class fudge. During the descent, I enjoyed every minute, taking in the views of the mighty Fraser and Cascade Mountain range.
Ward’s Tea House – Part of the Historic Yale Site
“We heard that train-a-comin’- it was rolling around the bend!” Actually, it thundered around the bend within 20 feet or so of our first stop at Yale, Ward’s Tea House.
As we ate our delicious lunch served by Jacquie dressed in period costume, we were told that trains pass on a regular basis through the town. For both of us, myself being from a hobby farm in Richmond and John from rural North Burnaby, this just brought back childhood memories and sleeping was not a problem, even with trains whipping by close enough to see the conductor’s face. The Ward’s Tea House is a charming place, serving home style hot meals such as my favourite, Chicken Pot Pie. The tea house went through a facelift recently and now has a new kitchen, sitting area, and patio.
We learned that Yale helped to build Canada’s national railway in the 1880’s.
Another fun fact: In the 1860’s, with the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road, Yale became the main terminal for one of the largest paddle wheeler routes in North America. The 1880’s saw the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway with construction headquarters housed in Yale. A National Historic Site monument to Chinese railroad workers is the first monument in Canada to be inscribed in English, French, and Chinese.
1870s Creighton House:
The manager, Deb Zirvini, gave us a tour of the museum, including gift shop, archives, and the Beth Clare garden. Their indoor exhibits include artifacts and photographs that showcase the diverse history of Yale. A collection of First Nations baskets, Gold Rush, Chinese and Pioneer artifacts, piano, railway exhibits and the first-ever revolver produced by Smith and Wesson that was used by Ned Stout in the late 1850s.
If you have always wanted to try gold panning, this is the place to be! It was fun and we gave it a try with a little assistance from Crystal, our tour guide, who showed us how it works. It was an interactive experience and is for all ages. I did find gold, but just a tiny spec.
1880’s Ward House:
We were warned that trains pass through day and night and we were supplied with earplugs. We were privileged to experience a night in the Ward house, which was built in 1863, burned to the ground in July of 1880, and rebuilt by Johnny Ward in August, 1880. It was like time-travelling. The house was fully furnished in period décor, beautifully restored to original condition. Looking at pictures on the wall, heavy pans that weighed a ton, added to the authenticity. I wondered what it would have been like cooking in these pots on a wood stove. The bathroom had the toilet tank high on the wall, requiring a tall person, which neither of us is, to flush. John was able to reach from his toes.
We were the first journalists to ever be invited to spend a night at the Ward House, which is quite an honour. The heritage home is just steps from the historic Pacific Railway line that was built in the 1880’s. We enjoyed our overnight stay and were treated to a healthy breakfast. The orange juice was delightfully served in jam jars.
Yale Historic – walking Tour:
We took in a bit of exercise for the day by doing the 45-minute walking tour of Yale. We went down to the Fraser River and walked along Front Street, heading past some truly historic places like the property where the original Hudson’s Bay Company store was located, the Post Office, Chinatown, the Jailhouse, and then made our way back to the Ward House.
Blue Moose Coffee Shop:
We had dinner at the Blue Moose Coffee Shop right in the heart of Hope, which offered gourmet sandwiches. With its trademark stuffed Moose to greet visitors, the coffee shop also sells craft beer.
During the summer holidays, you will love the charm of the locals and will appreciate the rich, important contribution to Canadian history from Yale. So why not come by, ride the Hell’s Gate tram, spend a day at the Yale Historic Site, and stop in Hope for lunch. You won’t regret it.
By Christine Blanchette and John Moe
Thank you to Destination B.C. for your support.