The Crow Route Today  
     
 

The Crowsnest Route no longer extends through the Boundary District and southern Interior to the Pacific coast via the Kettle Valley Railway and the tracks now reach only as far west as Castlegar and Trail. The Canadian Pacific has defined the area west from Yahk to Trail as a separate operating unit, called the Kootenay Valley Railway, with considerable autonomy from the rest of the railway. Usually, one train a day runs from Cranbrook west to Nelson and Trail and return. A switching service handles traffic to the Celgar pulp mill north of Castlegar. Little traffic remains in the once busy yards at Nelson. Some lumber is trucked to the yards there where it is reloaded for rail shipment to eastern Canada and the United States.

There is no longer a British Columbia Lake & River Service and Canadian Pacific has no water-borne services in the British Columbia Interior. The final operations of the last tug and barge operation, which was on Slocan Lake, ended in December 1988.

The railways in North America have gone through many changes in the last decades. Government deregulation has permitted the sale or abandonment of branch lines, more freedom in rates for shipping commodities, the elimination of subsidies for grain shipments (for years tied to the original Crow's Nest Pass Agreements), and the merger of many companies. For the Canadian Pacific this period has seen a much closer coordination of operations between the CPR and its Soo Line in the United States. The Soo Line remains a key connection for Canadian Pacific with traffic centres and rail connections in the American mid-west. The impact on the Crowsnest Route is seen in the Soo Line diesels that frequently operate on trains throughout the region and the traffic passing through the Crowsnest en route to Portland and other points in the US via the old Spokane International at Kingsgate.

Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific trains interchange traffic near the international boarder crossing of Kingsgate, B.C., and Eastport, Idaho. Potash from Saskatchewan, destined for export through Portland, is the major commodity carried. General merchandise is also transported on the route and the line usually sees several trains a day.

From Cranbrook a train runs as needed to Kimberley and return to move the dwindling traffic from the Sullivan Mine at Kimberley destined for the Trail Smelter for processing. Freight trains, which picks up and drops off cars for local shippers, operate eastward along the Crowsnest Route to Lethbridge, west to Creston and Nelson (via the CPR's Kootenay Valley Railway) and another runs north to Golden as required by traffic.

Coal trains from the Crowsnest mines are still the major source of traffic for the route. These operate from the mines near Sparwood in the Elk Valley and run north to Golden on the CPR mainline. From there they are taken west to the coal port of Roberts Bank south of Vancouver. Coal is also shipped east and recent contracts have been signed for the shipment of coal via the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway to Mexico.