A Record Beginning

Gold! It turned Rossland into a boomtown in the 1890s. About 7,000 people set up residence in the alpine city along with 42 saloons, 17 law firms and three breweries. More than 52 billion dollars worth of gold and other ore was produced and processed at the foot of the mountain. This kind of prosperity provided West Kootenay Power and Light an opportunity to serve its first customers.

When the Dam at Lower Bonnington Falls was started a 20KV transmission line had to be built to service the booming gold town of Rossland.

Concurrent with the development of Lower Bonnington Falls, cedar poles were being raised to connect the Kootenay River supply to Rossland. At 32 miles long and 20,000 volts the line would set new Canadian transmission records and would be the first in the world through alpine terrain.

Fifty holes per mile were pick-axed out of the harsh mountain terrain (100 feet apart); the poles raised by hand. It took a small army of men and horses.

Atop each pole was mounted a cedar roof, insurance against the then-unknown effects of snow and ice on insulators.  From start to finish, the Bonnington-Rossland project took just one year and a day, and on July 15,1898, 500 lights were shining in Rossland.

No one had ever done it before, and many believed it impossible, but the early pioneers of West Kootenay Power and Light were determined to make it work.

The little roofs were removed in 1912. The insulators in this photo of the linemen setting a pole are U-935 Imperial Porcelain. The photo was taken in the late 1890's.

Linemen Setting a Pole

Photo credit: West Kootenay Power archives

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