"Bob's pure magic to those who've ships and trains in their blood." -- Charles Lillard.

Having written 19 books on railways and steamships, Robert (Bob) Turner is considered the foremost authority on transportation history in British Columbia. He was born in Victoria on July 10, 1947 and received his BA in Geography from UVic and an MA in Regional Planning from UBC. Having gone to work for the Provincial Parks department, he transferred to the Provincial Museum in 1973 to prepare exhibits for the Museum Train that began operation in 1974. He eventually became chief of historical collections. He received the Award of Merit of the American Association for State and Local History for the "continuing excellence" of his books in 1983. He has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Railroad Historical Association.

Three of Turner's books, including The Skyline Limited co-authored with Dave Wilkie, have won the Canadian Railroad Historical Association's Book Award. Logging by Rail: The British Columbia Story is into its fourth printing. Turner is Curator Emeritus at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria.

Those Beautiful Coastal Liners: The Canadian Pacific's Princesses concerns the liners that broke all the intercity speed records between Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle. The Princess Victoria, Princess Kathleen and the Princess Marguerite, the last of the coastal liners, are among the ships recalled. The S. S. Moyie: Memories of the Oldest Sternwheeler recalls the last passenger-carrying, sternwheeled steamboat operating in western North America, in the West Kootenays. The Moyie is a National Historic Site and a Provincial Historic Landmark. The Sicamous & the Naramata Steamboat Days in the Okanagan recall when the Sicamous was the epitome of elegant, efficient travel in the Okanagan in 1914. For 23 years this Canadian Pacific sternwheeler carried passengers, mail, express and the prized fruit of the Okanagan. The Naramata served the Okanagan for 53 years and is now the last surviving steam tug in the Interior of British Columbia. The Skyline Limited: The Kaslo & Slocan Railway chronicles the Great Northern's narrow gauge line through the Slocan Mountains during the 1890s and early 1900s. It received the Canadian Railroad Historical Association's Book Award. Steam on the Kettle Valley is about the Kettle Valley Railway. Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs is about the CPR's lake and river service that connected mining camps, boom towns and settlements, featuring the Stikine River service. Spanning 125 years, The Thunder of Their Passing profiles one of the finest preserved steam railroads in North America, from its origins as the Denver & Rio Grande's San Juan Extension in the 1880s silver mining boom, to its present-day operations as the spectacular Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Vancouver Island Railroads traces railways from the 1860s, including the narrow-gauge coal lines, the Esquimalt & Nanaimo line and Canadian National Railways. West of the Great Divide has been revised in updated version to provide a complete history of the CPR in B.C., including more than 400 vintage photos. The intense competition between the CPR, Great Northern and Kettle River Valley Railways in the southern mountains of B.C., during the copper mining boom of the late 1890s and early 1900s, is the focus for Steam Along the Boundary. Mines and smelters at Grand Forks, Greenwood, Phoenix, Castlegar, Keremeos, Hedley and Republic all arose during this lively period.

Turner teamed with the late Don F. MacLachlan, a lifetime E&N railway worker, whose father and brother were also railway engineers on Vancouver Island, for The Canadian Pacific's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway: The CPR Steam Years, 1905-1949 (Sono Nis $39.95), a fascinating and comprehensive history of the railway that was started by the Dunsmuir coal mining family in the late 1800s. With almost 500 photos and 304 pages, this handsome companion volume to MacLachlan's 1986 history of the E&N in the Dunsmuir era is a splendid tribute to the remote, westernmost end of the Canadian Pacific system and the lifeline of southern Vancouver Island. CPR replaced E&N's steam engines with diesel in 1949, giving rise to a third and final era of the railway. The lavish volume on the steam era of E&N was a project of the B.C. Railway Historical Association.

"Bob Turner was the first author my father signed on when he bought Sono Nis in 1976,"; said his current publisher, Diane Morriss of Winlaw, in 2013, "and here we are thirty-seven years later still publishing beautiful books together. His books have been the bread and butter of the press, helping sustain us through lean years that have felled many other small and large presses. The E&N history is his 16th on transportation history. Already we have many readers looking forward to volume two, coming out later this year. We have a huge list of people waiting to buy it.";

"Bob has the rare ability to write in a style that is accessible to a broad readership. Consequently he has a huge number of devoted fans all over the world-railway and steamship lovers and historians alike. He spends countless hours looking for unusual photos and studying archival sources from all across the country Our understanding of our province's history would be much poorer without Bob Turner's dedication and considerable skills not just as a historian but as a storyteller. His books are also beautifully designed are thoroughly researched, referenced and indexed. That's why they are critically acclaimed and win awards.";

With more than 600 photos, Robert D. Turner's The Klondike Gold Rush Steamers: A History of Yukon River Steam (Sono Nis $49.95) must surely rank as one of the most comprehensive studies of the remarkable Yukon River vessels and their vital services, as well as those who built and ran them.

Turner understands the importance of B.C. and Yukon history to the general public and it's a catalyst for his work. "Recently I did a talk on the E&N Railway for the Cowichan Valley Historical Society in Duncan,"; said Turner in 2013, "and it was once again so rewarding to see the impact of my books at a personal level for people whose families and community histories are portrayed in the text or photos. I've met so many people whose parents or grandparents featured in my books. And when someone such as retired conductor Eddie Lee, who is now in his 90s, comes out on a stormy night to share the evening, that is really special."

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Canadian Pacific's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway: The CPR steam years, 1905-1949
Vancouver Island's Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway: The Canadian Pacific, VIA Rail and Shortline Years, 1949-2013
West of the Great Divide: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia 1880-1986


Vancouver Island Railroads (San Marino, California: Golden West Books, 1973) ISBN: 1550390775 $34.95

Pacific Princesses: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific's Princess Fleet on the Northwest Coast (Sono Nis, 1977) ISBN 0-919462-04-9 $34.95

The Princess Marguerite, Last of the Coastal Liners (Sono Nis, 1981)

Railroaders: Recollections from the Steam Era in British Columbia (Crown Publications, 1981)

The Pacific Empresses: An Illustrated History of the CPR's Trans-Pacific Ocean Liners (Sono Nis, 1981)

West of the Great Divide, An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia, 1880-1986 (Sono Nis, 1987)

Logging by Rail: The British Columbia Story (Sono Nis, 1990) ISBN: 1550390651 $39.95

SS Moyie, Memories of the Oldest Sternwheeler (Sono Nis, 1991)

The Skyline Limited, The Kaslo & Slocan Railway (Sono Nis, 1994) with David S. Wilkie ISBN: 1550390406 $55.00

The Sicamous and the Naramata: Steamboat Days in the Okanagan (Sono Nis, 1995)

Steam on the Kettle Valley, A Railway Heritage Remembered (Sono Nis, 1995; 2008) ISBN: 1550390635 $24.95

The Thunder of Their Passing: A Tribute to the Denver & Rio Grande and the Cumbres & Toltec Railroads (Sono Nis, 2003) ISBN: 1550391291 $44.95

Sternwheelers & Steam Tugs: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific Railway's British Columbia Lake & River Service (Sono Nis, 1984; reprinted 2007).

Steam Along the Boundary: Canadian Pacific, Great Northern and the Great Boundary Copper Boom (Sono Nis, 2007). With J.S. David Wilkie. 978-155039-158-9 $49.95

The Canadian Pacific's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway:The CPR Steam Years, 1905-1949 (Sono Nis, 2012) with Donald F. MacLachlan. 978-1-55039-204-3 $49.95

Vancouver Island's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway: The Canadian Pacific, VIA Rail and Shortline Years, 1949-2013 (Sono Nis, 2013) with Donald F. MacLachlan. $39.95 978-1-55039-213-5

The Klondike Gold Rush Steamers: A History of Yukon River Steam (Sono Nis 2015) $49.95 978-1-55039-242-5

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015]