Nicola, Kamloops, and Similkameen Railway
In the 1870s, while George Dawson and other geologists and surveyors were surveying the area around what is now Merritt for the new Canadian Pacific Railway, not only did they discover new routes for transportation, they also discovered coal. In those days it was Nicola, and not Merritt (known then as Forksdale), that was the major centre in the region. Forksdale was named after the fork between the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers and was the underdog in status to Nicola until the early 1900s.
With the discovery of coal came the need to transport it around the southern interior for local use, as well as the need to move it to the larger markets on the west coast. In 1891, two railways were awarded charters to build rail lines into the area. Backed by the CPR, the Nicola Valley Railway proposal involved a line being built from the CPR mainline at Spences Bridge to Nicola. At the same time, an independent railway, the Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Coal & Railway Company(NK&S) was founded to build lines from Kamloops, to Nicola, south to Princeton and then on to Osooyos. Neither railway started construction and both charters lapsed.
In 1903, the coal beds around Nicola inspired William Hamilton Merritt, a local entrepreneur, to revive the charter for the NK&S. Merritt, born in 1855, was among other things, a mining engineer with big plans. Merritt had prospected for coal in the area in 1891. Finding it, he organized the NK&S railway plan to transport the coal out of the valley and, after considerable delay, the independent company started construction on the railway from Spences Bridge in 1905. Seeing the value of the initiative, the CPR leased the charter in 1905. Using its more significant resources, the CPR increased the pace of the work so that the line was completed in 1906. A year later, in 1907, the railway extended across the Coldwater River and connected to the other major lines. The first coal left on a train on January 22, 1907. As the hunger for coal grew, the NK&S Railway was eventually bought out by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
In recognition for William Hamilton Merritt's tireless efforts to bring the railway, and therefore access to a world of suppliers and customers to the town, the name Forksdale was changed to Merritt in 1906.
Starting in 1915, the NK&S Railway operated as part of the CPR's Kettle Valley Railway, and later becoming part of the CPR's Princeton Subdivision. As passenger rail-use declined and the smaller lines began to compete with the new Hope-Princeton Highway, the KVR, and therefore the NK&S Railways, were abandoned in the 1980s. The track was removed in 1991.