Visiting Sparwood in the Elk Valley, British Columbia: home to the Titan, the largest truck in the world

Provincial flag of British Columbia
Provincial flag of British Columbia | Source
Terex Titan 33-19, on display at Sparwood, British Columbia
Terex Titan 33-19, on display at Sparwood, British Columbia | Source

A mammoth truck dumped by its success?

General Motors, specializes of course in mass production, but in 1973 the Terex division of General Motors produced a prototype of the Titan 33-19, which received the accolade of being the world's largest truck.

An accolade the Titan may have received.

But not many orders.

Only a few Titans were ever produced. The truck depicted is the Titan 33-19.

But put to work it certainly was. The mining industry in the Sparwood area in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, used this huge example of a dump truck for several years. Then the truck's work ceased: it was simply too big to continue to use economically; its years of service included significant periods of under-use. A victim of its own success as the world's largest dump truck?

Three Sisters, Elk Valley
Three Sisters, Elk Valley | Source

Anyway, though it had outlived its viable, practical use, the Titan was donated instead for its historical value to the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce, near the Visitor Centre of which it has stood on permanent display since 1994.

Its height is 6.88 metres; its length is 20.35 metres; its width is 7.8 metres; its wheelbase is 9.12 metres. (Imagine trying to park this creature in Downtown Toronto?) Its weight is in excess of a massive 500 tonnes. Powered by a guzzling, 169.49 litre V16, the diesel-electric Titan seems in some ways more to recall a railroad locomotive rather a road (or off-the-road) vehicle. Whatever its economic deficiencies, its title as the world's largest dump truck from 1973 until 1988 stands secure from an historical perspective.

In its years of service, this Titan 33-19 was used at an iron mine in California from 1975-1978, then it was used by Kaiser Steel mine, Sparwood, and then by Westar Mining, which eventually retired the vehicle in 1991.

I, with scant knowledge of engineering, was certainly impressed by the display of the Titan.

This Titan 33-19 is located at the aptly named Titan Park, 141 Aspen Drive, Sparwood, British Columbia, off Highway 3.

Trucking, mining and logging remain important, local industries in the Sparwood area. At the time of writing, former Mayor of Sparwood David Wilks represents the local Federal Riding of Kootenay-Columbia in the Parliament of Canada. The town's population of 4,200 is swelled in the summer months by tourists seeking out the camping and hiking opportunities of the Elk Valley (2).

Sparwood is located in British Columbia's Regional District of East Kootenay.

March 10, 2015

Notes

(1) Named for 'Sparky' Sparson, a local, 19th century lumberyard owner, the town was first known as Spar's Woodton, but the form 'Sparwood' had replaced the earlier form of the name by the fourth quarter of the 19th century.

(2) Let me relate an interesting piece of trivia: when visiting Sparwood, coffee-lovers devoted to Tim Horton's — among whom a huge proportion of Canadians is surely included — will have to travel to neighbouring Fernie to assuage their taste buds. This was true near the time of writing; but — who knows? — maybe some enterprising, local townsfolk are even now negotiating a franchise with Tim Horton's! The absence of a Tim Horton's in Sparwood underlines the isolated situation of Sparwood in the Elk Valley of the BC Rockies! But my fervent hope is that this (maybe temporary?) lacuna will not dissuade anyone from visiting the town! Maybe one day this part of the Regional District of East Kootenay will even catch up with Niagara County, New York, in its provision of these quintessentially Canadian coffee shop outlets!

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Sparwood, British Columbia
Map location of Sparwood, British Columbia | Source

Also worth seeing

Sparwood, British Columbia, on the Elk River in the Rockies, is also known for its large murals depicting life at the former mining communities of Michel and Natal; the local area has various campsites popular among summer visitors.

Fernie, British Columbia (distance: 30 kilometres), like Sparwood, attracts many campers and hikers, notably to the Fairy Creek and Mount Proctor trails; there is a Fernie Museum and a nature centre. The Three Sisters Mountain is a local landmark in the Elk Valley in which Fernie, like Sparwood, is situated. Many of Fernie's attractive Downtown buildings, executed in brick, date from the early 20th century. Interestingly, in this strongly Anglophone Province, Fernie has a Francophone school operated by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.

How to get there

Air Canada flies to Cranbrook / Canadian Rockies International Airport (distance from Sparwood: approx. 125 kilometres), via Vancouver, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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