STEEP AND CROOKED:
THE MINING RAILROADS
THE CANADIAN BORDER
In the last decade of the Nineteenth Century, the discovery of three successive copper-gold bonanzas along the international border between Washington and British Columbia, brought the railroad builders of the Northwest into a fierce rivalry to get their tracks to the new camps and control the traffic in ores, coal and merchandise.
The mining potential of the Kootenay country in southeast British Columbia had been known since the 1840s. The voyageurs of the Hudson’s Bay Company had been shown the lead deposits on the shores of Kootenay Lake by the local Indians, and for years had melted down those silver-rich ores on wood fires to cast bullets for their muskets.
The Big Bend gold strike of 1864 on the Upper Columbia in British Columbia attracted the attention of Captain John C. Ainsworth of Portland, Oregon and the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company had a near monopoly on steamer transportation on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and Captain Ainsworth was determined that any development in Interior British Columbia should be made tributary to Portland merchants through his steamers. He therefore financed the building of the small sternwheel steamer, Forty Nine, (named for the Forty Ninth Parallel, the international boundary), at Marcus, Washington Territory. By the next year, 4000 miners, mostly Americans, were at work, washing the gravel bars of the Big Bend. All were supplied by Captain Leonard White and the steamer, Forty Nine. The Big Bend boom fizzled out in a few years, and with no one to hire her, the Forty Nine was beached.
The next effort to exploit Kootenay minerals came in the 1870s when Henry Doan, a Colville prospector, claimed to have a deposit of very rich ore on the shore of Kootenay Lake. It was actually that same deposit the Hudson’s Bay fur traders had been exploiting for their musket bullets. Doan sent what he claimed was a sample from his deposit to George Hearst (later Senator) of San Francisco. In fact it was not.; it was high grade silver-lead ore, probably from Colorado. Hearst came north by train, steamer, and stagecoach to Colville, and engaged Albert Pingston, mate of the Forty Nine, to take him, Doan, and an assay outfit to Kootenay Lake by rowboat. Pingston rowed the party up the Columbia from Marcus to the mouth of the Kootenay River. During the long portage around the falls and rapids of the Kootenay, Doan secretly proposed to Pingston that he should “lose” the assay outfit so that Hearst would not be able to make any tests on the deposit Doan was going to show him. Pingston indignantly refused, and brought the two men and the assay kit successfully to Kootenay Lake. Hearst, on testing the ore, saw that he had been duped; it did not resemble the sample sent to him. Furious at having come all the way from San Francisco, Hearst refused to let Doan into the boat for the return. He proposed to abandon the man there on that wilderness lake. Pingston told Hearst, “You can go and thrash him if you like but you cannot leave him here to starve and you must let him come back in the boat to where he can get something to eat.”
Pingston was concerned more for his reputation than for Doan. There was a tradition on the Upper Columbia that one never left a penniless prospector on the beach in that wild and empty country. Hearst went back to San Francisco, damning the Kootenay and its scoundrelly prospectors.
Captain Ainsworth, however, was still interested. The Northern Pacific Railway would be been completed in 1883 putting Kootenay minerals within reach of a transcontinental railroad. Small quantities of rich silver-lead ores were beginning to come out of that country by boat to Bonner’s Ferry and from there by pack-horse to the Northern Pacific at Kootenay Station (a few miles east of Sand Point). A party of his people, including his son, George, made their way into the Kootenay and visited the small mining camps that were springing up on Kootenay lake in 1882. They staked some claims, laid out a townsite called “Ainsworth,” (still in existence), and proposed a portage railway around those falls and rapids in the lower Kootenay River so that a rail and steamer service could link the area via the Columbia River to Portland. To that end, Captain Ainsworth had, the year before, commissioned Albert Pingston to make a survey of the Columbia River from Wallulla to its confluence with the Kootenay, to see if a through steamer service would be feasible. Pingston reported that with three portage sections, boats could navigate the Columbia as far as Rickey’s Rapids (below Kettle Falls) “for 2/3 of the year.” However, a portage railway would definitely be needed around the twenty foot drop of Kettle Falls.
Ainsworth lobbied the U.S. Congress for the navigation improvements Pingston had recommended. Congress sent out Lt. Symons in the fall of 1881 to repeat Pingstone’s survey, and report on what engineering works might be necessary.
To get a charter from the B.C. Government to build the portage railroad, it would be necessary for Captain Ainsworth to present the project as a thoroughly Canadian plan to keep the Kootenay trade for B.C. merchants. Accordingly, Ainsworth went to Victoria posing as a friend of Canada.
Captain Ainsworth’s plan was to construct a wagon road from the head of navigation on the South Thompson River over Eagle pass to the Columbia River at Big Eddy (Revelstoke). He promised the legislators that he would then put his steamers on a route down the Columbia and through the Arrow Lakes to the mouth of the Kootenay River. Here he would build a forty mile portage railway to Queen’s Bay on Kootenay Lake. This “All Canadian route” would secure the Kootenay trade for the B.C. merchants.
The B.C. legislature, alarmed by the rumor that the just completed Northern Pacific was planning to tap the Kootenay Lake trade with a branch from Sandpoint to Bonner’s Ferry on the Kootenai River, gave Captain Ainsworth his charter and a wildly generous land grant of 750,000 acres of Kootenay land. Only when the charter was submitted to the Dominion Parliament for approval, did someone actually look at a map. What the Federal Railway Commissioner saw, was that Kootenay traffic, moving down the portage railroad to the Columbia, could just as easily move south, down the river into Washington and on to Portland via the canals and portage railways Congress was expected to authorize. The Dominion Government therefore disallowed the B.C. legislature’s charter, creating outrage in the Province. In an attempt to resolve the bitter conflict following, the whole affair was thrown into the courts to wind slowly through their procedures for seven years. Eventually the Ainsworth syndicate, getting nowhere in courts, sold their charter to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which satisfied both the Dominion Government and most British Columbians.
The completion of the Northern Pacific in 1883 was bringing the era of steamboat transportation on the Middle Columbia to a close.[ix] Captain Ainsworth sold his Oregon Steam Navigation Company to the new Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. The American Congress took note of this and failed to vote any new river improvement projects for the Columbia. Railroads, not dredged waterways, were to be the new mode of access in the Northwest.
As the new railway era opened in the Northwest, it was Daniel Chase Corbin, a Spokane mining and railroad investor, who was the first to lay tracks toward the Kootenays. The Northern Pacific was receiving ores from the Kootenay Lake mines via a laborious wagon haul from Bonner’s Ferry to Kootenai Station. Corbin’s plan was to run his rails all the way to Kootenay Lake via Colville, the Columbia and Salmo rivers. His survey included, as a branch, Captain Ainsworth’s portage railway for steamer traffic around Kettle Falls, just in case Congress changed its mind. Corbin began building his Spokane Falls and Northern Railway in 1890, and reached Colville that year. The following year he had his rails to Little Dalles, a steamer landing, on the Columbia, seven miles north of Marcus. From Little Dalles he had navigable water all the way to the Canadian Pacific main line at Revelstoke.
Corbin joined forces with a syndicate of Kamloops, B.C. businessmen who had organized the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company to link the two transcontinentals with a sternwheel steamer service from Revelstoke to Little Dalles.
Corbin kept his track layers moving north. In 1893 his rails crossed the border at Waneta and climbed Beaver Creek to a low pass leading to the Salmo River. From the headwaters of the Salmo his graders laid the line steeply down Cottonwood Creek to reach Kootenay lake 5 miles east of Nelson. But her he found himself blocked by William Van Horne ofthe mighty Canadian Pacific.
The CPR was in no position to build a new rail line into the Kootenays from Alberta. It was still paying off its construction debt and was financially cripples by having to rebuild hundreds of miles of line washed out by the great flood of 1894 in B.C. However, it had Captain Ainsworth’s charter for that portage railway around the falls in the Kootenay River. Van Horne believed that by building that portage railway and buying the CKSN steamship company he could control Kootenay traffic by rail and boat service to the main line at Revelstoke. He had also committed to the CPR building at some future time, that rail line in from Alberta over Crowsnest Pass. To secure that right of way and to block Corbin’s line from entering Nelson, Van Horne had the B.C Government declare a “Canadian Pacific Railway Reserve” along the south shore of Kootenay Lake.
Corbin, blocked out of Nelson, simply ran his tracks down to the water where freight and passengers would transfer to a steamer for the five miles to Nelson.
The lure of a substantial mining and coal traffic now brought James J. Hill and his unfinished Great Northern Railway into the contest. His Great Northern was to run through Bonner’s Ferry, from which a boat service down the river to Kootenay Lake would give him access to the new mining districts there at Ainsworth, Nelson and Bluebell.
The entry of J.J. Hill alarmed his bitter adversary, William Van Horne, President of the Canadian Pacific. As Hill had patiently built his Great Northern across the Dakota and Montana prairies, he had run feeder lines up to the border to siphon off Canadian traffic. Van Horne knew he had to preempt the Kootenays for the CPR or lose them to the aggressive J.J. Hill. He sent his surveyors out to locate a line from Lethbridge, Alberta to Hope, B.C. through the mineral-rich Kootenay and Boundary country. They reported back that such a line was possible, but would be difficult and very expensive to build. Jim Hill countered this by incorporating the Bedlington and Nelson Ry. to connect at the border with his American branch, the Kootenay Valley Ry running up from from his main line at Bonner’s Ferry. When built,that line would put Great Northern steel on Kootenay Lake. Van Horne had no choice. His rail steamer service was summer only. When the Arrow Lakes froze each winter, service had to be suspended until spring. Van Horne began laying track through Crowsnest Pass to enter the Kootenays in 1898.
With the three great Captains eying the increasing rich Kootenay mines, and each intent on seizing the traffic for his railroad, a serious clash was imminent. It came in the 1890s when three great gold-copper bonanzas of international importance were uncovered along the border, at Red Mountain and Phoenix in British Columbia, and at Eureka Creek in Washington. Now the railroad wars were on. Daniel Chase Corbin, William Van Horne, James Jerome Hill, and a newcomer, Frederick Augustus Heinze, a 26 year old American mining millionaire, were all determined to put their own rails to the new mining camps. In the ensuing struggle to control the mineral traffic, seven steep and crooked mining railroads were built from the main lines. Each of the now four great captains was determined to put his tracks to the mouth of every substantial mine to freeze out the other three. Engineers were called in and tracks were laid, competing sets of them, switchbacking up dangerously steep grades, over towering wooden trestles, and around cranky curves to mouths of the mines themselves. Mine owners, finding two competing sets of tracks at their loading bunkers, bargained for lower and still lower rates. The railroads, fighting for the ore hauls, dropped their rates to cost. And then to below. At 75 cents a ton, even low grade ores, discarded as uncommercial, could be shipped to the smelters, and the great boom was on.
This is the chronicle of those seven small railroads through their short and contentious lives from 1896 until 1921.
1887 – 1890
From the days of the Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders, the established routes into the Kootenay country in British Columbia had been up the river valleys from the Washington Territory. Six north – south mountain ranges made entry from east or west extremely difficult and impossible in winter. The first prospectors came north from Walla Walla and Colville. They followed the Indian and Hudson’s Bay Company trails on foot or ascended the rivers in boats. There was a good Hudson’s Bay Company trail running up the Okanagan Valley from Fort Okanagan to Kamloops. Prospectors could leave this trail at Osoyoos and bear east to get into the Rock Creek placer grounds. There also existed an Indian trail running north from Spokane Falls to present Sandpoint and Bonner’s Ferry to the Moyie River. This river would be followed on the Indian trail to reach the placer grounds at Wild Horse Creek in the shadow of the Rockies. The Columbia River was the third and easiest route. From 1865 until 1874 when it was laid up, the small sternwheel steamer, Forty Nine, based at Little Dalles, could be hired to carry parties of miners up the Columbia into Canada.
The Victoria, B.C. merchants, frustrated at seeing the Kootenay trade all going to the Americans, lobbied their legislature for a trail to connect the Kootenay mines with the Coast. $80,000 was appropriated in 1865, and Edgar Dewdney was given the contract to build the trail, four feet wide and 400 miles long, from Hope, on the Fraser River, to Wild Horse Creek on the Upper Kootenay. Much is made of the construction of this trail in B. C. histories as the first communication between the Coast and the Kootenays. However, the stretch between Hope on the Fraser and Fort Shepherd on the Columbia was a mere brushing out and improvement with rock walls and bridges of the old HBC fur brigade trail, over which the HBC sent out their furs (and the first placer gold in 1854) to New Westminster. The sole section of the trail which was new, and not an existing trail improvement, was the 50 mile portion between the Columbia at Ft. Shepherd and the Kootenay near Ockonook. From that point the trail followed the old Wild Horse Trail of 1863.
The Dewdney Trail was a laborious scramble over five mountain ranges, and through the notorious bogs and across the six swift running rivers between them. In an effort to compel prospectors and miners to use this trail and keep their trade for British Columbia, the government raised customs duties at the border and tried (with little success) to enforce an export tax on gold.
In 1887, a pair of prospectors, George Leyson and George Bowerman, traveling the Dewdney Trail, found silver bearing quartz at the divide between Little Sheep Creek and Trail Creek, just two miles north of the border. They staked the Lily May claim and took out some tons of ore. Lacking any means of getting it to the Columbia, they left it there on the dump until such time as the Dewdney Trail should be improved to a wagon road.
The Lily May claim lapsed, but it was re-staked by Newlin Hoover and Oliver Bordeaux of Colville in 1889. D.C. Corbin was building his Spokane Falls and Northern Railway through Colville to the Columbia that year, and with the arrival of rail transportation, lapsed mining claims like the Lily May were now of interest. Oliver Bordeaux recruited Joe Moris, another French-Canadian prospector wintering in Colville, to go with him in March of 1890 to do the assessment work on the Lily May. When the work was done, Moris joined with Joe Bourgeois, who had come up Trail Creek to examine the strange, red rock mountain some five miles north of the Lily May. On that mountain the two men discovered a continuous ledge of strongly mineralized ground and located five claims along it.
In Nelson the assays of their samples proved so disappointing that they were unwilling to pay the $12.50 fee per claim to record their finds. Instead, they traded their fifth claim, the Le Roi, to Colonel Topping, the Deputy Mining recorder in exchange for his paying the recording fees on the four claims they kept. Nelson was an American town at this time, and Colonel Topping, an American writer and prospector, was its unofficial postmaster, selling only American stamps. So isolated was the Kootenay from the rest of British Columbia that there was no Canadian mail service. Nelson mail went out by boat to Bonner’s Ferry, to the Northern Pacific at Kootenai Station, and on its trains to American and Canadian addresses.
Moris and Bourgeois returned to Red Mountain, followed by Colonel Topping and others, to dig on these new finds. As they went deeper into the veins the assays of the ore improved spectacularly. The news got out at once. A rush began, largely of Americans from Colville and Spokane Falls. Colonel Topping preempted a townsite at the mouth of Trail Creek, sure that a city would arise there if the mines proved out. The twice weekly sternwheel steamer service between Dan Corbin’s SF&N railroad at Little Dalles and the Canadian Pacific at Revelstoke was bringing miners, prospectors and merchants with every trip, from all over the Northwest, and Topping’s tiny Trail Creek Landing began to grow.
The ore Bourgeois, Moris, Colonel Topping, and others were hauling to the surface on Red Mountain was copper, with gold and silver. Although their best ore contained $300 to $400 in gold for every ton, it could not be milled on the site. Copper ores had to be shipped to a smelter to extract the metals, and the nearest copper smelters were in Montana, 700 miles away. From the mines themselves, 2300 feet above the Columbia, there was only that four foot wide Dewdney Trail winding down Trail Creek Gulch to the river. Sacking the ore and sending it down on horseback was prohibitively expensive. Winter rawhiding was the preferred means of transport. A horse could carry but 400 pounds on its back, but if the sacked ore were wrapped in a green cowhide, hair side out, a horse could easily pull 1500 pounds down a snow covered trail. The best ore was rawhided down the mountain that first winter of 1890-91, and stockpiled on the riverbank to await the opening of navigation in the spring. The Upper Columbia was closed by ice every winter; steamer schedules could be maintained only from Mid-May to December.
Upriver from the Trail townsite, the Canadian Pacific was building Captain Ainsworth’s isolated portage railway around the falls and rapids of the Kootenay River so that Columbia River steamers could connect with Kootenay Lake steamers. The Columbia and Kootenay Railway was put into service in 1891, and ores from the Kootenay lake mines, the Silver King mine above Nelson, and the gold mines of Forty Nine Creek could now be put aboard the steamer, Lytton, at Sproat’s Landing. The Lytton took them down river to the US. and D. C. Corbin’s rails at Little Dalles. The SF&N and Northern Pacific forwarded them to the smelters in Idaho and Montana.
It was as Captain Ainsworth had foreseen ten years before: the compelling topography of interior British Columbia made the Kootenays a logical extension of American commerce with Spokane as its supply and financial center.
In his Trail townsite, Colonel Topping needed money to clear streets of tree stumps, to install a water system, and to put some sort of bridge or causeway across the delta of Trail Creek which flooded his proposed business district every spring. For funds he would have to put up a part of his Le Roi mine. In the fall of 1890, he took some samples of his best ore, and booked passage down river to Little Dalles where he boarded the train for Spokane. On board he met two Spokane lawyers, George Forster, and Colonel William. H. Ridpath. He showed them his samples and described his mine. The men were impressed. In Spokane they introduced him to some investors, including Judge George Turner, Colonel W. W. Turner and Colonel Isaac N. Peyton.
These men were all investors in mining properties in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Peyton, Ridpath, George Forester and Judge George Turner were at that time partners in the Dead Medicine silver mine north of Colville. The Dead Medicine had ceased paying dividends after the silver price crash of 1893 and the impoverished syndicate was looking for a paying gold proposition. Judge George Turner was a well known personality in Stevens County. He had come west from Missouri in 1884 and the next year was appointed Teritorial Judge by President Grant the next year. He held court in Colville until 1888 and later became a U.S. Senator.
Topping, a colonel among colonels, was in his element. He was able to convince the group to take a bond on 16 thirtieths of the Le Roi. This obliged them to spend at least $3,000 sinking a shaft, and gave them the option to buy the 16 thirtieths by June 1, for $16,000. Promising to furnish the money were Colonels Ridpath, Turner, Peyton, and Major Armstrong, plus the civilians, Judge George Turner, Alexander Tarbett, and Frank Graves. With them was the respected and experienced mining man, Oliver Durant, who would manage the mine. As all of the investors owed considerable back rent and board to their host, hotel owner, Bill Harris, they took him in as a full partner as a settlement of their debts. Oliver Durant later confirmed that the $3,000 to sink the shaft had come from him.
Durant put his foreman, Ed Kellie, and four men to work on the Le Roi that winter. By spring they had the shaft down 35 feet and had ten tons of good ore on the dump awaiting the resumption of the Lytton’s runs down the Columbia. When the ice went out and the river rose, the Lytton carried the ore to the SF&N and it was shipped to the smelter in Butte, Montana. The smelter returns were $70 in gold (at $18 per ounce) per ton, and 5 percent copper. Delighted with these results, the Colonels took up the bond and paid Colonel Topping his $16,000. For another $16,000 they bought his remaining 14 thirtieths, and became the sole owners of the Le Roi.[v]
Colonel Topping now laid out and cleared the streets of his townsite, put in a water system,and began a brisk sale of lots. His town began to fill with people drawn by the success of the mines on Red Mountain. Up on that mountain, Ross Thompson had some of the steep ground surveyed and platted another townsite he called Rossland. It too, attracted buyers, as good ore was struck in the Centre Star, the War Eagle and other mines. Still, isolation was hampering the development of the full potential of the Red Mountain mines. Only the highest grade ore would bear the cost of rawhiding down to the Columbia over the snow covered trails, and the costly manhandling of the sacked ore onto the steamer, and then onto the freight cars at Little Dalles. Most of the ore being hoisted from the mines was not rich enough to support the cost of this pioneer transportation. It was stockpiled at the mines, huge dumps of it, worth $20 to $30 a ton at a smelter, but 2300 feet up on a remote mountainside, worthless. Trail and Rossland desperately needed a railroad for cheap, year round transportation. If one were not forthcoming, the spectacularly rich fraction of Red Mountain ore would be quickly exhausted, and the camp, like so many others in the West, would shrivel and die.
THE CRY FOR A RAILROAD
1889 – 1896
Daniel Corbin had from the beginning intended that his Spokane Falls and Northern Railway should enter Canada and reach the shores of Kootenay Lake where half a dozen mining camps needed transportation for their ores. Before his graders began moving dirt, he went to Victoria, B.C. to petition the legislature to grant him a charter for a railroad from the border point, Waneta, to Nelson, B.C. His line was to run up Beaver Creek to an easy pass over to the Salmo River, and follow that stream to its source. From there it would descend Cottonwood Creek to Kootenay Lake at Five Mile Point. Here, it would reverse direction and run along the shoreline into Nelson.
Corbin knew the continuing desire of the Vancouver an Victoria business communities for a direct route through southern B.C. to the Kootenays which had been fermenting ever since Captain Ainsworth’s persuasive plan of 1884. The building of a “Coast to Kootenay” railway had been vigorously urged on anyone thought to have the resources to undertake such a project.[i] Corbin therefore accompanied his request with a second petition for a charter for that “Coast to Kootenay” railway branching off his SF&N line at Marcus, and running up the Kettle River valley into Canada and the then westward to Vancouver. He was intentionally vague about its route for which he had no survey. His proposal stated only that the two lines he petitioned for, “…would form one continuous line of railway from the south (sic) end of Kootenay Lake to the Coast, with a short detour into American territory, rendered necessary by the difficulties of penetrating the chain of mountains on the west bank of the Columbia River.”
For the second time, an American was appealing to the nationalistic sentiments of Canadians to secure a charter and land grants for an American railroad. Nelson, largely American in population, was strongly behind Corbin. But the merchants on the Coast remembered how they had been duped by Captain Ainsworth. It all depended on how you looked at the map. One could read it from the north as a line of railway running from Nelson, on Kootenay Lake, dipping into the U.S. at Marcus, where a branch line ran to Spokane, and then back into Canada to run west to Vancouver. Or, if one turned it around and looked at it from the south, it appeared to be two lines feeding Spokane from Nelson and from the B.C. Coast. After an initial burst of enthusiasm for Corbin’s scheme, the coastal merchants turned distinctly cool, realizing that it was another American effort to capture Kooteany trade for themselves.
Corbin needed a Canadian ally to front for him. He turned to Colonel James Baker, member of the provincial legislature for East Kootenay. Colonel Baker had been promoting his own B.C. Southern Railway to run from the rich coal deposits of Crowsnest Pass to the Coast, but had been unable to raise the money to build it. He saw in Corbin the man with the funds to build his line, and proposed trading his political influence in the legislature for Corbin’s financing of his B.C. Southern. Corbin accepted this partnership at first, but when he saw Baker’s bill, which chartered and gave land grants to Baker’s line, but left Corbin in a distinctly subsidiary role, he quickly backed out. Without any influential support in the legislature, Corbin’s two charter proposals were voted down.
Corbin did not give up. Since both the Dominion and Provincial Governments could issue charters for railroads and grant subsidies, he went to Ottawa to present his charter petitions to the Federal government. But B.C. Premier, John Robson, who feared all American schemes, sent a telegram to the parliamentary Railway Committee, suggesting that his government would support Corbin’s petitions only if Parliament expressly stipulated that both railroads would be built simultaneously. The City of Vancouver made its opposition known as well, stating that it believed the “Coast to Kootenay” line was just a bait to get a charter for a very profitable Spokane to Nelson connection. Final and definitive opposition came from President Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He promised that if Corbin’s proposals were rejected, the CPR would build its own railroad into the Kootenays. This satisfied the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians, many of whom admitted that they had entertained Corbin’s proposals only to force the CPR to commit itself to build into the Kootenays.
Back in Nelson, the residents were outraged at losing a rail connection to the world, and vented their anger by boycotting Canadian goods, and continuing to send their mail out via the U.S.A. In the first year of its operation, one third of the stamps sold by the Canadian Post Office in Nelson were American.
Dan Corbin had learned from his two failures the deep suspicions with which Americans were regarded in Victoria. He therefore allied himself once again with Canadian partners, though this time of more probity than Colonel Baker. A group of Kamloops merchants, John Mara, Frank Barnard and Captain John Irving, had organized the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company to build and operate a fleet of sternwheel steamers on the Columbia River and Kootenay Lake.
Captain Ainsworth’s portage railway between the river and the lake was now the CPR subsidiary, Columbia and Kootenay Railway. Using the rail line as a connection, the CKSN steamers began a very profitable service, moving the Kootenay Lake silver lead ores to the C&K at Nelson, and receiving them at Robson on the Columbia for forwarding to the Revelstoke smelter. But the badly mismanaged Revelstoke smelter proved a failure. During a protracted dispute with the government about who was responsible for stabilizing the eroding riverbank under it, the smelter collapsed into the Columbia River. The ore than began to move the other way, from Robson downstream to Dan Corbin’s railway at Little Dalles. Dan Corbin, even without crossing the border with his rails, had by 1891, much of the Kootenay ore and most of its trade.[vi]
Van Horne had not forgotten his promise. He was determined to shut Corbin out and monopolize Kootenay trade for the CPR. He sent his surveyors out to discover whether the much discussed “Coast to Kootenay” railroad was feasible, and what route it could take. They reported that such a line, though difficultmand costly, could be built. The C&K portage railway would form its center segment. A line in from Alberta could join it at Nelson, and from its terminus on the Columbia, a line could be built west to the CPR main line opposite Hope. Meanwhile, Corbin, with his new allies and their Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company, had his dual charter petitions presented a second time to the B.C. legislature. This time five respected British Columbians asked for the Nelson and Fort Shepherd charter and Corbin petitioned for his Marcus to Vancouver line. The legislators were so indignantly preoccupied with rejecting the American’s request, that they granted the Nelson charter to the five Canadians without a thought. His ruse had worked; Dan Corbin now had his way cleared into Canada.
Corbin at once pushed his graders across the line and began building toward Nelson. But Van Horne moved to block him. Corbin’s line, descending the steep grade out of Cottonwood Creek, had to contour around the bluffs above Nelson to maintain its grade and reached the lake five miles east of town. It was then to run back along the lakeshore to enter Nelson from the east. Van Horne persuaded the the B.C. government to grant the CPR exclusive rights to the foreshore of Kootenay Lake east of Nelson as a right of way for his proposed line from Alberta. When Corbin’s graders reached the lake at Five Mile Point, the found the route into Nelson blocked by the CPR Railway Reserve.
Undaunted, Corbin built a line down beach to the water where freight and passengers could be transferred to the obliging CKSN steamers for the last five miles into Nelson. Corbin opened his Nelson and Fort Shepherd in 1893, and that winter the Columbia froze solid from Revelstoke down the Arrow Lakes, severing the CPR connection until May.. Corbin’s trains, however, ran daily to Spokane, all winter long.
That severe winter of ‘93 -’94, and Dan Corbin’s railway, definitively attached the Kootenays to Spokane.
Van Horne gave order to build a branch line south from Revelstoke along the river to Wigwam to bypass the winter ice blockades, but it was not until 1896 that the line was completed. Continuing ice problems south of that point required the line to be extended all the way to Arrowhead in 1898. There were ice problems farther south in the Arrow Lakes as well, and the wooden hulls of the early sternwheelers were being ripped and splintered by combats with ice. It was not until the Minto and Moyie were built in 1898 with steel sheathing along their waterlines, that the CPR had a pair of sternwheelers capable of breaking ice. Ordinarily, after a freezeup of the Lakes, a sternwheeler would push a wooden barge with steel sheathing along the waterline to break the ice. The barge, wider than the steamer, would make a channel through which succeeding trips could be made with a bare steamer. Using a barge on every trip would have made the trip much too slow to keep the schedule.
Meanwhile, Daniel Corbin was clearly winning. Up at Red Mountain, he had selected for his railroad land grant a tract which included everything north of First Avenue in the Rossland townsite. This land was in a kind of legal limbo until Corbin could finish his N&FS line, whereupon the land would be turned over to him. It was alienated railroad grant land, but still without title or ownership. On this squatter’s paradise sprung up a shabby collection of shacks, nondescript saloons, dance halls, 24 hour restaurants, gambling rooms and used goods emporiums between the town of Rossland and the mines. It was called “Sourdough Alley,” and its dubious attractions lined the muddy trail up to the mines. Beyond the reach of the law, it was a place wholly without authority. The miners, coming off shift, had to pass the music of its dance halls, the cries of its barkers, the boozy smells from its bars, and the inviting plank walks leading to the red curtained windows of Popcorn Kate, Scrap Iron Nell, and Broken Hip Georgia. Few men got home on payday without being waylaid by one or another of the Sourdough Alley hucksters or their female colleagues.
When the grant was turned over to Corbin, he knew he had the key to the Red Mountain mines in his grasp. No railroad, Van Horne’s, or Colonel Baker’s, or the Northern Pacific, could now reach the mines without crossing his grant.
The Le Roi Mining Company built a toll road in 1892 leading out of the west end of Rossland through the shallow pass leading to Little Sheep Creek. It ran down the creek to the border and on to the Columbia River opposite Northport. Forty extra- heavy, 5 ton ore wagons were placed on this road hauling Le Roi ore to the river and supplies back up to Rossland. A small reaction ferry took the wagons across the river to Dan Corbin’s railroad. A reaction ferry was a barge tethered to an overhead cable running from towers on both banks. By angling the barge to the current with a hand winch, the force of the current would push the barge across the river. For the return trip the angle to the current would be reversed.
This road connection to Northport and Corbin’s railroad, bypassing Trail altogether, alarmed Colonel Topping and the Trail merchants. They vigorously lobbied the B.C. legislature for funds to build a Trail – Rossland wagon road up Trail Creek gulch. Funds were appropriated; the road was graded, and a connecting road was built on the east side of the Columbia, south to the N&FS rails at Sayward.
Haulage on the American route down Little Sheep Creek to Northport cost $4.00 per ton. On the Canadian route the cost was $4.25. With wagon haulage at $4.00, mining costs averaging $12.00 per ton, and rail freight plus smelter charges amounting to another $10.00 per ton, $26.00 ore could now be moved from those stockpiles at the mine to the Montana smelters. Still, $26.00 ore only accounted for a fraction of the material in the veins under Red Mountain. A railroad to the mines, hauling ore for something like $1.00 a ton, was required if the mines were to have more than a short life.
Railroad men were interested, but the great depression of 1893 – 1898 had set in and capital was hard to find. Moving B.C. ore to Montana was not the sole attraction. Every ton of ore required roughly a half a ton of coal to mine and smelt it. At Red Mountain the mine hoists, the pumps, the air compressors, the lighting generators were all worked by steam. At that time the all those steam boilers were fired with wood from the surrounding forests (on Corbin’s grant). As the mines went deeper, the machinery got bigger, and the mountainsides around Rossland were stripped of their timber. The woodcutters were having to move farther out and the cost of their wagon haulage increased. Coal for the Rossland mines became a topic of speculation in southeastern B.C. Paper railroads were drawn up from the coal mines of the Nicola Valley, near Merritt, to Rossland. The Canadian Pacific had a profitable business hauling coal from mines on Vancouver Island, and wanted no competition. It saw to it that the paper railroads remained just that. Dan Corbin was bringing coal into Nelson and Northport from the Roslyn mines on the Northern Pacific. The empty Le Roi ore wagons brought some of it up the steep toll road to Rossland at considerable expense. There was also a problem at the border. Canadian law required that only Canadian horses could haul freight in Canada. This meant a change of horses at Patterson, as the American horses could haul empty wagons in Canada, but not loaded ones.
Steamers were still the chief means of transport. Rossland travelers to Spokane took the stage down the steep wagon road to Trail and boarded one of CKSN Company’s sternwheelers. The new steamer, Columbia, was built in Northport in 1891 expressly for this service with dimensions, 152’ x 28’, and 534 gross tons. Under the command of Captain Gore, she left Revelstoke on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:00 AM with passengers and freight off the CPR main line for points south. She arrived at Robson at 6:00 PM the same day where passengers could take the C&K train to Nelson. It was impractical to attempt to make the tricky run down the shallow and twisting Columbia to Trail at night, so she tied up at Robson until morning. A steamer pilot had to be able to see down into the water ahead to identify sandbars, snags and rocks. No acetylene searchlight could give the Captain a view of the bottom of the river ahead.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, at 5:00 AM, Captain Gore would pilot the Columbia down the riffles of the river for an 8:00 AM arrival at Trail. Picking up passengers for Spokane, the Columbia would proceed down river and arrive at Northport at 10:00 AM. This schedule could only be maintained in the good water months. In winter and early spring, low water limited the tonnage a boat could carry downstream from Robson. In extreme low water, runs below Robson were canceled.
When delivery of urgent freight required runs to be made through rapids or over gravel bars, two methods were used to get the vessel through. At Rock Island Rapids, below Trail, at Cottonwood Narrows, opposite Burton, and at Death Rapids, above Revelstoke, iron ring bolts were set in the rock bluffs along the riverbank. The crew would drag out a steel cable, wading through the shallows, and hook the end in the ring bolt. Then, using the steam powered capstan on the foredeck, the Captain would winch his boat up through the rapids or over the gravel bar. This “lining through” was used nearly every winter at Burton until the 1950s.
When a vessel had to cross a sand or gravel bar, and no ring bolt was available, the steamer could be “grasshoppered” through, an heroic method which drastically shortened the life of the vessel. In “grasshoppering,” 8” x 8” timbers were pivoted vertically to the sides of the vessel and let down so that their submerged ends were slightly below the level of the boat’s keel. They were then set pointing forward at a slight angle, and the boat run at the bar at full speed. The lower ends of the timbers would jam into the bar and the inertia of the boat would cause them to pivot, raising the steamer as they passed dead center. This violent “jumping” of the vessel on its “grasshopper legs,” alarmed some passengers and delighted others. Few of the lightly built river steamers could survive many episodes of “grasshoppering.” But in the practice of the day, a river sternwheeler was expected to pay its construction cost in three trips. When, such violent use rendered the hull “hogged” (loose and humpbacked) the boiler and engines would be removed, placed in a new hull, and the old one converted to a scow.
The Columbia burned in 1894, and was replaced on the Robson – Trail – Northport run by the smaller Lytton. The service from Revelstoke down the Arrow Lakes to Robson was handled by the palatial and much larger, Nakusp, at 1080 tons. The big Nakusp drew too much water to navigate the shallows downstream from Robson, so freight and passengers were transferred to the Lytton for the run through Tincup Rapids to Trail, and Rock Island Rapids to Northport. As more and more of the Red Mountain mines came into production, the Trail – Northport business boomed. The Lytton was making the run daily by 1895, leaving Robson at 5:00 AM and arriving at Trail at 8:00 AM. The border point, Waneta, was reached at 9:00 AM, and arrival at Northport was at 10:00 AM. At 1:00 PM she left Northport for the difficult upriver run, not reaching Waneta until 3:00 PM, and finally, Trail at 4:30. In that three and a half hours of churning at full speed, the Lytton had climbed 70 vertical feet in twenty miles, about the same as ascending the Panama Canal without the locks. It was a considerable feat, performed daily. In winter she was often obliged to “line through” Rock Island Rapids, which took an extra hour.
Disaster overtook the North American West in 1893. The nearly unlimited coinage of silver in the U.S. had created a run on gold, as the newly rich Nevada and Colorado silver millionaires rushed to convert their silver to gold. Banks, short of gold, failed, and a general financial panic turned into the most profound and lasting depression the American continent had known. With the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the U.S. Treasury suspended silver purchases, and the price of the metal began to drop. Then, the Government of India, the next largest world buyer of silver, suspended coinage of the silver rupee. Silver dropped to $.62 and ounce and silver mines all over the west closed. Only gold, in short supply, was booming. And Rossland,with its gold mines, was filing up with American miners, turned out of the Idaho, Nevada and Colorado mines.
In Spokane, young Jay P. Graves, who had come from Illinois with his brother, Frank, had invested heavily in city real estate. With the depression of 1893, he found his properties’ values rapidly deflating. With his Spokane business at a standstill, he accepted an offer from a group of Montreal speculators, including former Prime Minister, Sir Charles Tupper, and ex-parliamentarian, Charles Pope. Pope’s Big Three Mining Company, with claims and mines in British Columbia, was headquartered in Spokane, the only location that made sense in those years when ice closed down winter transportation in the Kootenays.
Jay Graves was known to Pope, and although Graves considered mining an objectionably risky venture, his brother, Frank, was making a good thing out of his investment in the Le Roi. Pope asked Jay Graves to take over the management of the Big Three’s B.C. mines. With nothing else doing, Jay Graves accepted, and hired the knowledgeable Yolen Williams from one of the closed Coeur D’Alene mines, as his superintendent. Graves moved his family to Rossland where he took over the California Mine, just 600 feet west of the Le Roi. The Le Roi was turning out $84,000 of gold – copper ore every twenty four hours, and the nearby California, on the same veins, was expected to prove equally rich.
As Jay Graves sat in his frame office at the California mine watching the lumbering ore wagons of the Le Roi Company passing below on their way toward Northport, he was sometimes visited by prospectors from the mountain farther west. Believing he represented some of the richest men in Canada, a fiction Graves blandly sponsored, they showed him ore samples from the Boundary Range of the Monashee Mountains. Copper and gold. Would Mr. Graves interest some of his Eastern principals in buying their claims? they asked. Graves looked at he specimens. His older brother, Frank, had bought into the Le Roi after a similar inspection of Colonel Topping’s specimens. And now the Le Roi was supposed to be the richest gold mine in the world. Jay Graves looked at the specimens and hesitated. The Monashee country was wholly unknown. No roads at all, just that notorious Dewdney Trail. If there should be rich ore there, how could it be gotten out?
Graves thanked the prospectors and put their samples on his shelves. The Second of the Great Boundary Bonanzas had been located, although no one yet knew its value.
Over on the other side of the Le Roi mine, at the War Eagle, the Clark bothers, Patsy and James, also from Spokane, were in charge. They had joined the syndicate which had bought the War Eagle from Moris and Bourgeois, and had found the main vein which previous leasers had missed. The War Eagle had become a bonanza producer in 1895, and now they were visited by prospectors as well. These were American prospectors, displaying their ore samples after swearing the Clarks to secrecy. For the specimens had come from the Colville Indian Reservation where prospecting was forbidden and entry was barred to whites. But, the men hinted, one might venture onto those lands with the perfectly legal intent to trade horses with the Indians, and on the way, might pick up an interesting rock to show the Clark brothers. In fact, the men confided in hoarse whispers, a clandestine mine had already been opened on Toroda Creek. It was the Bodie, and its gold was being smuggled out to the Okanogan River steamer ports. If the Clarks, as important Spokane investors, could bring influence through their congressman, to have that part of the Colville Reservation opened to white entry, they suggested, there was a great mineral potential there.
The Clarks made a note to speak to their U.S. Senator, Wilson. The third Boundary Bonanza had been noted, though for the time being it remained a close secret among a few adventurous prospectors.
Dan Corbin was the first to answer the cry for a Red Mountain railroad by sending his engineer, E. J. Roberts to locate a route in 1894. Canadians will recall Roberts as a former Canadian Pacific surveyor who is shown in the famous Last Spike photograph at Craigellachie, the young man on the right in the slouch hat.
Roberts staked out a line, starting just across the Columbia from Northport, and running up Big Sheep Creek and then its tributary, Little Sheep Creek, into Canada and climbing the pass into Rossland at the White Bear mine. But a serious obstacle had be overcome before grading could begin. The whole line, from the Columbia River to the Canadian border, lay within that same forbidden Colville Indian Reservation. Permission to cross it would have to be obtained from a distant and obdurate Congress.
Down at Trail, the residents worried. Dan Corbin’s application to cross the Reservation lands was before the American Congress. If it were approved, Corbin would build his line, and Rossland ores and passengers would go out to Northport and the U.S.A. Rossland then, and not Trail, would become the commercial center of the Kootenays, and Trail would wither to a dusty steamer landing of no importance. Colonel Topping’s townsite was in jeopardy. Its fate was in the hands of a distant Congress, its residents powerless to affect the decision. They wondered if it were not time to sell out and move to Northport.
There were some efforts to save Trail. Peter Larsen was an American railway contractor from Butte Montana. He had built part of Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Shepherd line in 1893 and become interested in the Red Mountain mines across the Columbia. One of his next jobs was standard gauging the Canada and Great Falls Railway from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana. The completion of that job left him with a great tonnage of light narrow gauge rails. Just right for a line to bring that Red Mountain ore down to the Columbia. Larsen announced on June 1, 1895, that he had otained a Federal charter for his Trail Creek and Columbia Railway Co. This would be a light tramway from Trail up to the Red Mountain mines. He brought a barge load of those used 28 pound rails from the Alberta Railway and Coal Company whose lines he was standard gauging out of Lethbridge. The rails were barged down the Columbia from Revelstoke and dumped on the beach. Someone proposed to supply a horse to pull tram cars up to the mines on these rails if they should be laid.
However, nothing was done; no one would invest in Larsen’s scheme. Dan Corbin was building a real railroad, standard gauge, to the mines whenever he should get permission from Congress. It was doubted that a competing tramway could be profitable. Then A.E. Humphries and Martin King proposed an aerial cable way to bring ore down from their Iron Horse mine above Rossland. Like Larsen’s project, no one came forward to invest.
The situation in Trail appeared grim. At any day, Corbin’s permission might arrive from Congress. Trail would be dead. Rossland and Northport would triumph. Then, precisely at that anguished moment, three young and close-mouthed Americans strode down the gangplank of the Lytton to inspect the Red Mountain mines. They were James Breen, mining engineer, J.D. Farrell, a railroad man, and that same A.E. Humphries of the abortive cable way scheme. Humphries modestly gave his vocation as “Promoter.” The three examined the Red Mountain mines with great thoroughness. Engineer Farrell produced and instrument and began checking possible grades and distances up to the mines. Promoter Humphries engaged Colonel Topping in confidential conversation regarding his real estate. Would the Colonel consider offering them an interest in his townsite, say two thirds? in exchange for the erection of a smelter which would be the making of his town?
The Colonel was ecstatic. Salvation for his town at the last moment ! It was just like Moris and Bourgeois walking into Hume and Lemon’s store in Nelson to make over the Le Roi claim to him five years before! Henceforth, the Colonel would never distrust his luck.
Topping offered 40 acres on the level bench north of town, and one third of the townsite company. Breen, meanwhile, concluded a contract with the Le Roi Mining Company for 37,500 tons of ore and a promise of 37,500 tons more when the smelter should be up and the railroad running. As the signatures dried on the documents,
THE TRAIL CREEK TRAMWAY
1895 – 1896
Rossland was a rough, muddy, woman-less, mining camp of just 75 miners when the year 1895 opened. Then, in January, all over Red mountain the digging began to pay off. First, the War Eagle, under the Clark brothers, struck the main vein. The ore was rich and the mine began to pay monthly dividends starting February First. Soon after, the Centre Star found high grade ore, and it too became a paying mine. Following closely, came bonanza strikes in the Black Bear, the Josie, the Nickel Plate, the Iron Mask, and others. The mining world began to take notice of these remote diggings, and Rossland’s population jumped to 3,000 by the year’s end. It was then a sprawling camp of shingle shacks, log cabins, and canvas tents, stretching across the head waters of Trail Creek, and to the astonishment of Coastal residents, the fifth largest city in British Columbia.
Frederick Augustus Heinze, of New York and Butte, had been invited to come to Trail to duplicate his success in Montana. One of three sons of a prosperous Brooklyn dry goods importer, he had been educated in Germany and the Columbia School of Mines. He had come to the Montana copper camp as a young mining engineer of 19, to work for Boston mining corporation. The Butte copper mines were then the site of a bitter struggle between W. A. (later Senator) Clark, and Marcus Daly for control of the major mines. Operating quietly between these two giants, Fritz Heinze saw that there was an opportunity for a custom smelter, which, using the new cupola furnace technology he had learned in Europe, would smelt the ores from the small independent mines at a lower charge than Clark’s and Daly’s works. With the backing and participation of his brothers, Arthur, a lawyer,and Otto, a financier, the three of them founded the Montana Ore Purchasing Company and built their smelter. Shortly, Heinze’s investigation of inactive and abandoned mines suggested that ore bodies remained in them which had not been developed. The Montana Ore Purchasing Company put a down payment on the Rarus mine and quckly turned it into paying entrprise, feeding their smelter. Heinze’s ability to locate ore bodies in supposedly worked out properties made him famous in Butte; he was either the luckiest or the most knowledgeable of its mining enginers.
British Columbia mining men had heard of his remarkable success in Butte and invited him to British Columbia in 1894. A quiet examination of the Rossland mines persuaded him that here was an opportunity for a smelter. His brothers raised the $300,000 required, largely from the Heinze family, and he approached the Spokane Colonels offering to buy the Le Roi. But when he could not produce the substantial down payment they insisted on, the deal fell through. He then sucessfully negotiated a contract to smelt the Le Roi ore. Using Rossland’s A.E. Humphries as his agent, he secured a site for his smelter and an association with Colonel Topping in the Trail townsite company.
As soon as the agreements were signed, he got underway at once, ordering 25,000 cords of firewood for roasting the ores, and 50,000 bricks to be made locally for the chimney and furnaces. The tramway to the mines had to be built as quickly as possible. If D. C. Corbin should get his rails to Red Mountain, Heinze would have to bid against him for those Red Mountain ores.
Smelter construction got underway on September 13, 1895. With the lack of adequate transportation facilities to bring in smelting coal at a reasonable price, Heinze prepared to roast his ores with cord wood on open piles and then smelt the mix of iron, copper and sulfur in a single furnace with charcoal. It was not efficient, but the ore was rich and the process cheap. Speed was essential, for a month after Heinze began building his smelter, the Hall Mines Syndicate began construction of its copper smelter at Nelson, where coal and coke could be delivered cheaply from U. S. sources on Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Shepherd line.
Quickly, Heinze bought up Peter Larsen’s proposed tramway company with its charter to give him the right to acquire right of way through public lands and give himself uncontested access up Trail Creek Gulch an ownership of Larsen’s pile of rails down on the beach. An once he set his railroad superintendent, F. P. Gutelius, to surveying a scratch narrow gauge tramway up Trail Creek to the mines.[i]
Down at Northport, Daniel Corbin, stalled by the prohibition to enter the Colville reservation, was running out of time. The Canadian charter he had obtained for the 9-1/2 miles of his line in Canada had a time stipulation: construction must commence immediately or the charter would be canceled. He appealed to the government for a time extension. It was denied. He appealed for permission to build his line as a cheaper narrow gauge. The citizens of Rossland protested this niggardly maneuver. Trail was building a narrow gauge line; they insisted on standard gauge, as the charter specified. The government agreed and denied this request as well.
Frustrated and desperate, Corbin sent his engineer, E. J. Roberts, and a grading crew to Rossland in the summer of 1895 with instructions to begin grading out of Rossland down Little Sheep Creek toward the border.[ii]
Heinze was not deterred. By November 9, 1895, the surveys for his Trail Creek Tramway were finished, and and on the 16th grading got underway with Nelson Bennett’s firm of Tacoma the successful bidder. Bennett had built the Stampede Pass switchback line for the Northern Pacific and was experienced in this sort of pioneer construction. He sent Charles King to Trail to take charge of the work.[iii]
As the news of Heinze’s invasion of the Kootenays spread, Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific, had to move, even though the company was short of cash. In September, 1895, just a month after Fritz Heinze had announced his plans for a smelter and tramway, Van Horne proclaimed his railroad’s interest. It was a defensive move for the CPR. His first concern was to keep James J. Hill and his Great Northern feeder lines out of B.C. and strengthen the CPR’s transportation monopoly into the Kootenays.
That monopoly had suffered two defeats, the first in 1893, when Dan Corbin built to Kootenay Lake at Five Mile Point and began serving Nelson and the Toad Mountain mines with his Nelson and Fort Shepherd line. Van Horne bought Colonel Baker’s B.C. Southern charter, the same that Dan Corbin had burnt his fingers on, but with the country in recession, there was no money to build the 200 mile line from Alberta that the CPR needed to secure the Kootenay traffic. Until the CPR could negotiate land grants and cash subsidies for the line, Van Horne had to bluff. To counter Heinze and Corbin at one stroke, he announced a new line, the Robson – Rossland Railway, to be built by the CPR. It would start directly across the Columbia from the Robson docks of the Columbia and Kootenay, and would run down the right (west) bank of the Columbia to Sullivan Creek. From there it would begin a 3 percent climb to Rossland, contouring around the mountains, and entering the town from the east, to link all the producing mines in one, wide loop. As an insulting afterthought, five miles north of Rossland, a minor spur would be run down to Heinze’s smelter to supply his works with Crowsnest Pass coal and coke.[iv] Once the CPR line was built in from Alberta to connect with this line, he would cross Hill’s and Corbin’s lines with his own, and counting on government support, would freeze them out.
The second defeat came sureptitiously in 1894, when the locally chartered 29 mile narrow gauge line, the Kaslo and Slocan, building west from Kaslo to the silver- lead mines at Sandon, obtained quiet backing from Jim Hill. Hill did not want to add the narrow gauge to his Great Northern lines, but he did want those ores to move out of the Kootenays over his Bedlington and Nelson branch to Bonner’s Ferry and his main line. Financial control of the little K&S ensured this.
Fritz Heinze rightly assessed Van Horne’s Robson – Rossland line as a bluff. It would be several years before the CPR could bring a line in from Alberta. But when it did, he knew he would be in a desperate squeeze between two hostile railways, the CPR and Dan Corbin’s SF&N. In a bid to create his own outlet, he announced, on December 21, with his graders at work on the tramway, that he intended to apply for a provincial charter to extend his narrow gauge railway out west from Rossland all the way to Penticton in the Okanagan valley.[v]
Then he went to work on Dan Corbin, whose men were blasting their way around the narrow granite ledges southwest of Rossland. Posing as a sworn enemy of the CPR, Heinze wanted Corbin to abandon his plans for his Red Mountain Railway. The CPR was hostile to them both, he told Corbin. See what it was doing to keep his N&FS out of Nelson. It was in both their interests to combine in order to be strong enough to resist the CPR when it came. If, instead of building his difficult Red Mountain Railroad from Northport up Big and Little Sheep Creeks, Corbin would build a branch from his Nelson and Fort Shepherd Railway at Sayward up the east bank of the Columbia to a point opposite Trail, his cars could be ferried across to Heinze’s tramway. He would three rail his Trail Creek Tramway, Fritz Heinze promised, so that Corbin could supply him with the coal and coke he would need. It sounded eminently reasonable; the Trail Times trumpeted its advantages. Trail would have a direct, standard gauge connection to Spokane and the two transcontinentals there. The smelter would have inexpensive coal and coke from Roslyn on the NP line, rather than the costly CPR coal from Vancuver Island, a supply that could be shut off by the Columbia freezing in winter.[vi]
Dan Corbin was not persuaded. Heinze was keeping the ore haul from the mines exclusively for his own line, he observed. Heinze upped his offer. He would have Gutelius run a 3 rail line down Bay Avenue to a rocky bluff, the best site for a Columbia River bridge (in fact the site of the present Yellow Bridge). Here Corbin could bridge the river, a shorter and easier crossing than at Northport. Corbin still refused.[vii] Well, he would build the bridge himself, Heinze offered. Dan Corbin still refused.
As Corbin continued hostile, Fritz Heinze knew that by the time the Red Mountain Railway and the CPR line from Alberta were complete, he would have to have his own rail connection to coal and to the markets for copper, or his adversaries would crush him. In mid construction, he changed the name of his Trail Creek Tramway to the Columbia and Western Railway and prepared to win the backing of those Vancouver and Victoria merchants who were still agitating for a “Coast to Kootenay” rail line.
In March, 1896, the news came that the American President had signed the bill giving Dan Corbin the right to cross the Colville Reservation with his rails. Corbin at once assembled his crews, and using a ferry to cross the Columbia at Northport until his bridge could be built, he had them begin grading up Big Sheep Creek.
Heinze pushed on. He announced bombastically in the Trail Creek News that,
“The smelter will start up in about a month and and will handle the entire ore supply of this district, taking the whole output from the Le Roi and Iron Mask. We now have 45,000 tons of Le Roi ore on hand valued at $30 a ton and will have 125,000 to 150,000 tons of ore in the smelter constantly. We keep on hand supplies of 100,000 cords of wood and $50,000 worth of coke of which we use three carloads a week. We use from two to three hundred cords of wood daily, the production of which will give employment to a small army of men. We propose to do custom work and the poor man can bring his one ton of ore and have it treated as cheaply as can the rich man with his thousands of tons.” [viii]
After this boast, Heinze had Herman Bellinger, his smelter manager, begin an outdoor roast of Le Roi ores brought down from the mines by wagon. His graders were nearly half way to Rossland. The sternwheeler Arrow brought a barge down from the Canadian Pacific at Revelstoke on March 26, 1896, with a used narrow gauge locomotive and four wooden coal cars from the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. At the mouth of Trail Creek, where Larsen’s rails were lying, the locomotive was carefully levered off the barge and onto a hastily built line of Larsen’s rails and hand hewed ties. A team of horses pulled the fifteen ton locomotive and the cars up to a small yard Gutelius had improvised under the Bay Avenue bridge over the Trail Creek delta.
Before it could be operated, No. 2, a fat boilered Hinkley 2-6-0, had to be converted to wood firing. No. 2 was turned out by Hinkley in Chicago in 1879 as an 0-6-0, with 12 x 18” cylinders and tiny, 31 inch drivers, giving it a tractive power of 13,000 pounds. No 2 was converted to a Mogul by the Alberta Railway and Coal Company with the addition of a pilot truck. It ran on the Great Falls and Canada ern narrow gauge line, hauling Alberta coal down to the smelter at Great Falls, Montana. This line, known as “The Turkey Trail,” was bought by Jim Hill when his Great Northern, pushing west, encountered it. In the 1890s it was standard gauged and its 3 foot equipment was being peddled all over the Northwest to the Kaslo and Slocan, the Trail Creek Tramway, and other narrow gauge lines.
In Trail a big Radley and Hunter stack with its wide spark arrestor netting was applied to No.2 . This was obligatory for all wood burning locomotives to reduce the hazard of sparks setting wildfires along the line. Wood burning grates replaced the coal grates in the firebox, and high sideboards were built on the tender to carry enough wood for a thirteen mile trip up to the mines. The bearings needed to be checked as well, since the machine had been out of service for some time.
In the small yard a section of track was greased and steam was raised in No. 2 by fireman, Sam Stingley. The Hinkley, in charge of W.H. Garlock, former Master Mechanic of the Seattle, Lakeshore and Eastern RR., was then run onto the greased rails and chained securely to two yellow pine tree stumps still present in the townsite.
To the intense interest of the idlers and small boys lining the rail of the bridge above, the throttle was opened and No. 2 spun her drivers on the slippery rails, lunging at the restraining chains and shooting a plume of steam and blue wood smoke high into the pale April sky. Mechanic Garlock bent close to the churning drivers and listened for the pound of a loose bearing. The throttle was closed. He pulled the cotter pin from an adjustment nut and tightened it just a fraction of an inch, then replaced the pin. He signaled for power; the drivers spun again, and Garlock bent to listen. Another adjustment was made. When all was well, he went through the same procedure on the other side. Bearings were tightened, the drivers spun, the valve settings checked, and checked again. In the days before roller bearings, the brass journals of the locomotive axles were coated with a film of anti-friction metal known as Babbitt, a low melting point alloy of tin, antimony and copper. Under load, this soft metal between the steel of the axle and the brass of the journal, formed a nearly frictionless metal film on which the locomotive rode. The bearings needed to be tightened to the point where the Babbitt was snug against the brass of the journal, but not so tight that the soft metal would overheat, melt and throw out. It was a delicate adjustment and could be made only by judging the sound and temperature of the bearing by ear and feel, as the wheels spun.
The tests went on most of the day. Superintendent Gutelius was laying out a steep and crooked railroad, and only a locomotive in perfect condition was going to be able to operate it. By late afternoon, No. 2 had passed all inspections, and the four wooden coal cars had had their coal boxes removed and been refloored by the carpenters as flats. Locomotive and cars were now ready to move ties and rails up the line to the track laying crews.[ix]
On April 1, 1896, after posing for photographs with Colonel Topping, Superintendent Gutelius, Frank Hanna and the Hanna kids, Trail Creek Tramway No. 2, with her four cars, was ready to begin laying track, following the graders up the hill at the rate of a quarter mile per day with Gutelius’ improvised tracklaying machine. A temporary track was first run up into the townsite from the beach where the barges would off-load more rails from Alberta and ties from the tie hackers up the river. From near the present intersection of Farwell and Cedar in Trail, the permanent track was begun, laid with standard gauge ties, and with the rails offset to allow for a third rail to be spiked down later, as Heinze had promised Dan Corbin. The grade ran up the right (south) side of Trail Creek on a 3 percent grade. At a collection of shacks known as Dublin Gulch, the grade of the creek exceeded a practical grade for a railway and the first switchback was laid at mile 0.8. The line reversed across the the creek and climbed its north bank on a 3.9 percent grade until it reached the top of the level bench where the smelter was under construction. Here Gutelius’ crews laid a wye and a small yard at mile 1.5. This was to be the headquarters of the Trail Creek Tramway, now officially the Columbia and Western Railway. An office was begun here with its second floor reserved for accommodations for President Heinze during the one week each month he spent in Trail.
The line reversed at the smelter wye, and now with six foot narrow gauge ties and no provision for a third rail, headed up the north bank of Trail Creek. At Annable, at mile 3.1, the creek rose to meet the little line and Gutelius’ grade crossed it on what has been measured today as a 4.8 percent grade. Gutelius, instructed by Heinze to get tracks up to those mines ahead of Dan Corbin, was building to the limit of his small locomotives’ capacity. The line crossed the creek above Annable on a 25 degree loop, reversing direction to climb out of the creek onto the second bench at Warfield, mile 4. A 25 degree curve is one on which a 100 foot chord along the curve intercepts a 25 degree central angle. This awkward method of designating the sharpness of a curve comes from the way curves are laid out by the engineers. A “hub” or center is chosen and lines of equal length run to every 100 feet of track to ensure the curve will be uniformly circular. Common practice on main line standard gauge railroads is to limit curves to under 5 degrees. A 25 degree curve on a grade severely limited a locomotive’s pulling ability. On a full half circle, and there were three of these 180 degree loops on the Trail Creek Tramway, the outside drivers of the little Hinkley had to turn nine feet, five inches farther than the inside drivers. This meant nine and a half feet of wheel slippage in negotiating the loop. On the following cars, the outside wheels had to slip as well, increasing the drag on the engine. To compensate for this, Gutelius reduced the grade on the sharp curves .04 percent per degree of curvature. This effectively reduced the grade on the 25 degree loops to 3 percent to keep up-bound trains from stalling.
At Warfield bench a second 25 degree loop reversed the line up Trail Creek again and it proceeded as it had from the smelter, up the north bank on a 4 percent grade until the creek rose to meet it at Tiger, mile 6.5. Here Gutelius crossed the creek and laid a switchback on a 25 degree curve. The line then backed around the granite nose of Lake Mountain into Tiger Creek on a 4.6 percent grade. Below the waste dumps of the Tiger and Crown Point mines, another switchback was set at mile 7.5 and called Crown Point. Reversing here, the line swung back around the nose of Lake Mountain again with two levels of track below it, and proceeded up the south side of Trail Creek.
At Carpenter’s, mile 8.8, it crossed Gopher Creek and the old Dewdney Trail, climbing through Joe Moris’ Homestake claim into lower Rossland at the Spitzee Mine, mile 10.5, where a mine spur was laid out. A passenger shelter was to be built here at Union Avenue for the residents of lower Rossland. At Cook Avenue, the line looped across Trail Creek for the last time and climbed east between Kootenay and Le Roi Avenues through the steepest part of town, to curl around Rossland in a counter-clockwise spiral. Author Peter Lewty, former Rossland resident, reports having found 12 x 12 timbers set vertically between the ties to hold the track to a piece of 4.8 percent grade. This may well have been done later by the CPR when the line was standard gauged.
At the corner of St Paul street and Le Roi Avenue, a station site was located on a lot donated by the Rossland Townsite Company. From this point the line had to be blasted through granite bluffs as it climbed into the upper part of town, crossing the Golden Dawn, Paris Belle and Golden Chariot claims amid the squatters of Sourdough Alley. Gutelius’ grade stakes were now marching into Dan Corbin’s land grant, though it is not clear whether Superintendent Gutelius knew this or not. Most likely, he set his stakes and left it to Fritz Heinze to settle with Corbin. Gutelius’ stakes outlined a wye to turn his trains on the small flat on Monte Cristo Street between Second and Third Avenues. From this flat, the stakes made a wide, climbing loop to the east, and then turned west on present Mc Lead Avenue, passing above the Great Western Mine. Continuing west, spurs were staked to the Enterprise, Virginia and Idaho mines. The stakes then turned up Centre Star (Acme) Gulch and indicated a high, curving trestle across it to the lower slopes of Red Mountain and the Centre Star mine at mile 13. The Le Roi and the War Eagle were higher up on Red Mountain, so to reach their ore bunkers, a high line branch was staked out, beginning back at mile 12.7 and climbing into the same Centre Star Gulch on a higher alignment. The gulch was crossed with a second trestle, this time on a 25 degree curve. Parallel to the lower line, but 200 feet higher, the high line reached the War Eagle at mile 13.2 and the Le Roi at mile 13.3, and the end of the grade survey.
The Trail Creek Tramway was engineered to climb 2400 feet in 13 miles with long stretches of 4 percent grade, several climbs of 4.6 percent, and two short pieces of 4.8 pecent. Nelson Bennett’s crews would lay out four switchbacks, Gutelius’ carpenters would have to build eleven timber trestles, and on those sharp 25 degree curves, ties would have to be cut to length and tamped in place to brace the curved rails against the mountain wall. It was a pioneering railroad, steep and crooked, with the prudent consideration that all mines have a limited life and that the railroad might only be needed for five or six years.
Down at the Columbia River, another barge from Revelstoke brought in Locomotive No. 1, an Identical Hinkley 2 -6 -0, from the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, and more cars. With Nelson Bennett’s men well up the gulch, digging and blasting grade, and Gutelius’ home-made track layer following with rails and ties, the little railroad was underway. In Trail, track was laid down the center of Bay Avenue to the south end of town where a sawmill which was cutting ties and timbers for the line. From the south end of Bay Avenue, a track angled down the riverbank with a switchback to keep runaway cars from plunging into the Columbia, and reversed down to the extreme low water level. Here the transfer for passengers and freight from steamers and barges was made. The original scratch line at the mouth of Trail Creek was taken up, since the spring floods would wash it away in any case, and its sole purpose had been to secure Larsen’s rails on the beach at that point.
Fritz Heinze had renamed his Trail Creek Tramway the Columbia and Western Railway to attract support for a rail outlet to the coast which would make his Trail smelter independent of both Corbin and Van Horne’s lines. He had his engineers survey a line running from the Le Roi mine west, contouring around the slopes of Red Mountain and into the head waters of Little Sheep Creek, maintaining its elevation along Mt. Roberts, OK Mountain, and crossing the Rossland Range through the pass between Mt. Sophie and Record Ridge. From there it was to hold its elevation as it contoured to the head of Big Sheep Creek and then back south to cross the 5000 foot Santa Rosa summit, and down to Christina Lake on the Kettle River. The line would have been 55 miles long, most of it snaking around the ridges and canyons of Big Sheep Creek, a fearfully cut up country where railroad construction would be extremely costly. Once in the Kettle River Valley, his line was to use Dan Corbin’s route to Midway, Rock Creek and over the Rock Creek range to Penticton.
The Trail Creek Tramway had been built under Peter Larsen’s Trail Creek and Columbia River charter without land grants or subsidies. But now Fritz Heinze intended a major railroad, and needed a more liberal Provincial charter which would grant him public lands along the right of way to sell or mortgage to provide the funds to build the line. His methods demonstrate his mastery of public relations.
The charter he wanted was nearly the same as that which had been refused Dan Corbin a few years before. Fritz Heinze, however, young, handsome and personable, seemed able to charm the very men that cold, grim, Dan Corbin had offended. Heinze’s campaign opened with an announcement that he would build a line from Rossland to the newly discovered copper-gold deposits above Greenwood, the claims that the young Jay Graves was being invited to invest in. A smelter had been built in Vancouver in 1889, but was languishing for lack of ores. Heinze led the owners to believe, that with his railway, they could bid for those ores. His line would carry them to Penticton where they could be put on the CPR steamers to the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway at Okanagan Landing, and from there they would move to the CPR main line at Sicamous.
The Vancouver press was intrigued but suspicious. Heinze’s proposal sounded to them like Captain Ainsworth’s scheme warmed over. Or Dan Corbin’s proposal under another name. But Heinze’s line did have one thing that the Canadians could approve: it did not have a Spokane connection. Heinze said he would connect his line at Penticton end to end with that “Coast to Kootenay” line if it were built. This would tie the Kootenays to Vancouver, not Spokane. At this enthusiasm built. When public sentiment had swung his way, Heinze flashily presented himself at the Legislature, young, handsome, confident, impeccably tailored, and radiating charm.
In Victoria, Heinze was persuasive. He merely wanted a charter, he told the members, not public money. He invited the members and their wives to a great dinner at the Driard Hotel. There was food and wine and oratory. Fritz Heinze presented himself as a champion against the CPR’s greedy scheme to capture the Kootenay traffic for the hated East . Why, he said, if he got the charter, he would build a copper refinery in Vancouver, and ship his copper matte there for finishing, and not to Montana as he was presently doing.
The combination of provincial patriotism and profit was as persuasive for Fritz Heinze as it had been for Captain Ainsworth. He got his charter, where Dan Corbin had not. Confident they were doing the right thing, the Legislature gave him a land grant as well. Even further, as a sort of trophy, he got Lieutenant Governor Dewdney, the man who had contracted the trail, on his board of directors.
Yet, when the effects of fine wine and patriotic oratory had worn off, the legislators found themselves somewhat embarrassed by the immense tracts of land they were handing to this dandified American. As an afterthought, they required Heinze to post a bond of $50,000 that he would actually complete his railway to Penticton by 1900. Cannily, Heinze gave them a $50,000 mortgage on his uncompleted tramway, now grandly called the Columbia and Western. Much later, Heinze candidly admitted, “I went down there prepared to spend $50,000 among them, and all it cost me to get my bill through was $240 for a good dinner at the Driard.”[x]
Some British Columbians refused to be charmed. They began asking how their legislators had managed to give away such valuable blocks of land for a promise and a mortgage on an uncompleted railway. All admitted that there was a desperate need for a railway across the southern part of the Province, one that would funnel its trade to Vancouver. But once again, their legislature had handed the project to an American. Captain Ainsworth had tried to capture the Kootenays for Portland. Dan Corbin was trying to grab its trade for Spokane. The Canadian Pacific appeared ready to snatch it for Winnipeg and Toronto.[xi] Now here was this glib fellow, Heinze, who said he wanted only a charter, but is already back in town asking for a cash subsidy.
The coast cities of B.C. were outraged by the Federal Government’s Crowsnest Pass agreement with the CPR, which promised a subsidy of $11,000 per mile for the Kootenay line if the CPR would reduce freight rates in Western Canada. This was seen in Vancouver and Victoria as an outrageous reduction in rates to the East, which it was, while rates to Vancouver and Victoria remained unchanged. Obviously, the CPR, in building just half way across southern B.C. to the mines would replace Spokane’s control with Winnipeg control. Vancouver and Victoria would have no share in the bonanzas. In angry response, Mayor Templeton of Vancouver, Dr. Milne of Victoria, and the Mc Lean Brothers, contractors, chartered the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway and Navigation Company in 1897 to build a line from Victoria to Sydney, on Vancouver Island, to operate a ferry service to Vancouver, and then lay rails on the Dewdney Trail route to the Kootenays. These were evidently men who had never seen the notorious Dewdney Trail, or they would not have seriously suggested putting a railroad on it.
The railroad alliance between Vancouver and Victoria would not last. The railroad was known in Vancouver as the “Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern,” while in Victoria, it was the “Victoria, Vancouver, and Eastern.” In the rest of the Province, it was the “VV&E.” Still, it was a B.C. attempt to challenge both the CPR and Dan Corbin with a locally owned railroad, serving local interests. Heinze quickly responded. He would join his Columbia and Western rails to the VV&E at Penticton if they would build east to meet him.
To continue building his Kootenay Empire, Heinze now wanted access to the silver-lead ores of the Slocan and of Kootenay Lake for his smelter. He intended to install lead furnaces and capture those ores which were going to Jim Hill via his Kaslo and Slocan narrow gauge railway, and then by water to his main line at Bonner’s Ferry. But access to the Slocan Mines was by the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay Railway from Robson to Nelson, and the CPR was implacably hostile to him. So, in an effort to persuade the CPR to allow Slocan ores to be shipped to him via the Columbia and Kootenay line, he invented a fictitious railroad, the “Columbia River and Kootenay River RR.” He had the cars being shipped to him from the Alberta Railway and Coal Company lettered, “CR&KRRR,” knowing the word would quickly reach Van Horne. Of course, the CR&KRRR never existed. It was a pure bluff. But Fritz Heinze was a Brooklyn boy with a wild sense of humor and a pugnacious self confidence. He awaited Van Horne’s reaction to this supposed railroad, by its title pretending to parallel the Columbia and Kootenay line. The Pilot Bay smelter on Kootenay Lake had failed. The Hall Brothers were smelting their Silver King copper -silver ore at Nelson. The CPR wanted the coal and coke haul from Vancouver Island, and the smelter matte haul out via the Columbia and Kootenay line to Robson, by steamer to Revelstoke, CPR rail to Montreal, and via ship to Swansea, Wales where it would be refined.[xii] By threatening a rival railroad to bid for the Silver King ores, which being copper with silver, he could smelt in Trail, Heinze seems to have been bargaining for a favorable rate on Slocan ores moving west on the Columbia and Kootenay to the steamer connection to Trail. Van Horne, however, was not a man to be bluffed.[xiii] He instituted a wholly exorbitant rate on Slocan ores moving to Trail to make sure no mine owner could make a profit contracting his ores to Heinze. Then he secured the ore haulage contract to the Hall Brothers’ smelter from the Slocan district for the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay Railway which now had a branch to Slocan Lake and the mines.
On March 12, 1896, Heinze’s hastily built Trail smelter was blown in with Le Roi ore, wagon-hauled down the mountain. On April 2, as the first rails were being laid on the Trail Creek Tramway, the first shipment of 20 tons of copper matte from the smelter was trundled aboard the steamer, Lytton, for Northport where Dan Corbin’s line would start it on its way to Heinze’s copper refinery at Butte.[xiv] The Trail smelter was a crude operation, fed with cordwood rafted down the Columbia, and then hauled up the steep, high back to the smelter from the river. There were no electric motors. A main steam engine, its boiler wood fired, supplied all the power for the furnaces, mill, sampling works and crushers with a 2 inch rope drive. Power transmission technology, before electricity became available, depended on endless rope drives from the power house, running overhead to the various buildings where the moving ropes dived through the roofs to the grooved sheaves inside that turned the machinery. A rope splicer was present at all times to mend breaks in the rope which were frequent.[xv] The water jacketed blast furnace was fired with coke which Heinze had to bring in from the coke ovens on Vancouver Island via rail to tidewater, ship to Vancouver, and CPR rail to Revelstoke. From there it came down the Columbia through the lakes on barges to be transferred to the narrow gauge cars at Trail. In winter, when the Columbia froze, coke was obtained from Roslyn in Washington via Dan Corbin’s line, put on sleighs at Sayward and hauled up the ice road to East Trail where it was ferried across the river.[xvi]
Once Heinze’s smelter and the Hall Brothers’ smelter in Nelson, began producing copper matte on a continuous basis, the competition for Kootenay traffic became intense, with announcements of great projects being made monthly in the newspapers. An American company was proposing to build a smelter at Robson or at Blueberry Creek on the CPR’s proposed Robson – Rossland line, the Rossland Miner reported.[xvii] Another was rumored to be built at Northport. But Heinze was still in the lead. His Columbia and Western charter had been issued that May, and he announced that the Directors of the Railroad would be himself, of New York and Butte, Frederick Ward, of Rossland, Chester Glass, a Spokane lawyer, and the ornamental Lieutenant Governor Dewdney.
Sometime that spring, Heinze’s engineers convinced him that it would be impractical to build west out of Rossland over Sophia Mountain and in and out of Big Sheep Creek to reach the Kettle River Valley. They suggested a route from Trail up the west bank of the Columbia to a point across the River from Robson and then west, climbing the bluffs along the south shore of Lower Arrow Lake to Dog Creek which could be followed to Mc Rae Pass, a lower crossing than Santa Rosa Pass. From there the line could descend down Mc Rae Creek to Christina Lake. The line would be longer than the Santa Rosa line, but would have easier grades and but one summit. Heinze was more concerned with blocking the CPR than with grades and passes. He accepted the engineers’ proposal chiefly because it preempted the CPR’s Robson -Rossland line; if the Canadian Pacific wanted to reach Rossland it would have to do so over his rails.
The CPR, after the disastrous floods of 1894, had been obliged to rebuild much of its main line and replace weakened bridges in B.C. Desperately short of funds, announced that it would not build its Robson-Rossland line that year, as it had promised. Instead, the public was told, it would build to Trail instead, and three rail Heinze’s Tramway to Rossland to have its standard gauge cars pulled up the hill by Heinze’s narrow gauge locomotives. This seemed to be a feeler put out by Van Horne to learn whether Heinze would consider an alliance with the CPR against Dan Corbin whose men were steadily grading up Little Sheep Creek, closer and closer to Red Mountain.
In Rossland, the Miner reported on April 25, that the blasts of Corbin’s graders could be heard daily from the west, while from the east, the whistle of Hinkley No. 2 could now be distinctly heard as it bustled up and down the track in the canyon below, forwarding timbers, ties and rails to the track gang.
As the graders neared the Rossland townsite, the principals in the Rossland Townsite Company broke a promise, and demanded that Heinze pay for the land his rails were to cross. This infuriated Fritz Heinze, who had obtained a verbal agreement with the Townsite Company the year before when they were encouraging him by any means they could, to build his tramway. Now, with the tracks actually marching up the gulch toward their town, greed took over; they demanded $5,000. Heinze swore and blustered. He threatened to route his line east and north, circling outside the townsite, and put his Rossland station up on the Enterprise Claim, far above the business district. The Townsite Company countered with an offer for a station lot at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Spokane Street, which was far below the business district. A compromise put the station half way between the two extremes, at Le Roi Avenue between St Paul Street and Monte Cristo Street. This was on the original survey and the grading could proceed as planned.[xviii]
But further trouble manifested itself. As his graders entered the townsite, Dan Corbin, whose own graders were considerably behind Heinze’s, obtained an injunction from the court to prevent Heinze’s men from trespassing on his grant lands (everything north of First Avenue) with their grade. Heinze had brashly ignored Dan Corbin’s ownership of these lands when he had Fred Gutelius make the original survey, counting on his own negotiating skills to somehow wrest a permission from Corbin. Now, in a race to Rossland, Corbin was his adversary, and would use any method to delay the Trail Creek Tramway from completing its line. Fritz Heinze had to approach Corbin once again with an offer on that Sayward to Trail line to try to get him to lift his injunction. Heinze promised to build a three rail line from Trail to Sayward, and guarantee Corbin a share in the Trail traffic if only his graders were allowed to proceed. Corbin, not knowing Heinze that well, agreed. Heinze could build his track, he promised, and then, with his habitual thin smile, he exploded a bomb under the young man. It would not matter, he told Heinze, he was planning to build his own smelter at Northport; the Le Roi Company had already promised him their ores.[xix]
At this news it became more than ever essential for Heinze to build his C&W connection to the Coast.[xx] With the Hall Mines smelter in Nelson in operation, and with a greater capacity than his own, and now with a third smelter planned for Northport, it was going to be extremely difficult to dominate the Kootenay mining industry unless he could connect himself to Vancouver.
With Corbin’s injunction lifted, Charles King’s graders moved onto the heights above Rossland and finished their work. The track gangs, working behind them, laid the last rails the first week of June, 1896 at the Le Roi Mine and a “Last Spike” celebration was held. Townspeople came up on foot and in buggies, and every small boy in Rossland was there with his dog. Colonel Topping was present on his white horse, and his partner, Frank Hanna, in a new suit. Fritz Heinze, looking like a college freshman, was in charge. The gentlemen of importance removed their coats and hung them on convenient posts. In their shirtsleeves, they drove the final spikes, the sounds of their hammer blows echoing above the growing town, already spreading beyond its platted townsite. From over to the southwest, the rumble of a blast was heard. E. J. Roberts’ men were down in Little Sheep Canyon, chewing at the stubborn granite, ten feet at a blast. The Canadians, a minority in the crowd, grinned; it would be months before the American railway arrived. Heinze had won the race.
On June 6, 1896, the inaugural run was made. Locomotive No. 1, another Hinkley 2-6-0, was coupled to three boxcars which had windows cut in their sides. Inside, the cars each had a double bench down their centers, the passengers sitting back to back, facing outward, feet braced against the sides of the cars for what was expected to be a rough ride. It was a crisp morning and stoves were lit in the makeshift coaches to keep everyone warm for the trip up to chilly Rossland, 2300 feet above. Every seat was taken when No. 1 whistled off and moved down the center of Bay Avenue where crowds were gathered on the wooden sidewalks and people waved from upstairs windows. At Farwell street the 3.5 percent grade began and the train began its ascent of Trail Creek Gulch. At Dublin Gulch, the switch was thrown and the Hinkley backed its train up the switchback to the smelter where blue sulfur flames flickered on the piles of roasting ore, and thick, yellow fumes swirled around the train. The train reversed and climbed into Trail Creek Gulch again. Alongside, on the wagon road, teamsters scowled and cursed. They were hauling their last loads of ore from the Le Roi. In the following days they would move down to Bossburg or Marcus, Washington where work was to be had hauling mining machinery and supplies to Jay Graves’ new camp in the Monashees to the west.
Up at Rossland, on the granite bluffs east of town, men were watching with spyglasses, following the progress of the tiny train below and checking their watches. At moments the cars were visible through the trees, but for the most part, a moving column of blue wood smoke sifting through the firs was the only indication of the event.
Up on the Lake Mountain switchbacks, the passengers crowded the right hand windows for a look down on the roofs of their houses, a thousand feet below. On the crinkled surface of the Columbia, the Lytton, backing out into the stream, looked like a skittering water bug. As they backed into the tail track of the Tiger switchback, the crew of the Tiger mine, high above them, let off a celebratory blast of black powder to mark the occasion, and cheered the tiny Hinkley.
The sidewalks and wooden steps above Le Roi Avenue were crowded with onlookers when the train entered the Rossland townsite, crossing Earl, Spokane, Washington and Queen Streets, and coming to a halt at the new St Paul Street Station. The whistle blew, fireworks were let off, salutes were fired from every sort of firearm, and all made their way up the steep Rossland streets to a monster celebration at the Allen Hotel, complete with whiskey-garbled speeches and a barrel of phlegm-loosening punch, American Style. For, small as it was, this was an American railroad, American owned, American built, and operated by American railroaders. The Canadians, on the fringes of the crowd, let the Americans have their calithumpian celebration. Now, they believed, Canadian Pacific would have to come to Rossland as well. And it would bring Canadian capitalists from Montreal and Toronto to buy back their mines, it was hoped, from the Yankees.
The ore trains began service on the 16th. The little Hinkleys could handle no more than eight cars each. On the loaded trips down the mountain, with only hand brakes, the brakemen stood between the cars, with a foot on each, where they could apply brakes on two cars at once by using the leverage of a pick handle to twist the brake wheels. Three ore trains ran each day, plus three passenger trains. [xxi] The Hinkleys were pressed to the limit, and in December, Heinze sent Master Mechanic Garlock to Utah, where the Utah and Northern had been standard gauged and the UP, its owner, now had yards full of narrow gauge equipment for sale. Most western narrow gauge lines were reequipping themselves from the U&N; some of the older locomotives were going for as little as $250. Garlock needed a powerful locomotive; he picked out another 2-6-0 which suited him. It was a Brooks locomotive of 1881, originally Kansas Central, No. 8. There has been some confusion about this engine among rail historians. Some have thought it to have been Utah and Western No. 2, another, smaller and earlier Brooks Mogul. Utah and Western No. 2 was Brooks construction number 227, of April, 1875, with 36” drivers. Trail Creek Tramway (Columbia & Western) No.3 was Brooks construction number 578, of 1881, with 14 x 18 cylinders and 42” drivers. The narrow gauge Kansas Central, which had bought this engine new, had been acquired by the Union Pacific, and in 1890 it was standard gauged. No 8 and the other narrow gauge equipment were transferred to other UP narrow gauge lines. No 8 does not show up on the Colorado and Southern or the Denver, South Park and Pacific, nor on any of the UP controlled Utah narrow gauge lines. It seems certain, then, that it went to the UP owned Utah and Northern. This would have been after the U&N roster of 1885 was published, so it would not show up there. The U&N was standard gauged in 1887, and its three foot equipment put up for sale. The author’s conclusion is that C&W No. 3 was found among those locomotives stored for sale at Pocotello, Idaho, or Salt Lake City.[xxii]
In addition to No.3, Garlock bought 11 flat cars, 6 boxcars, a first class class coach and a private car. This last was the Brigham Young family’s car, dating back to the days when the Mormon Church owned the Utah and Northern and a number of other narrow gauge lines in Utah. The car was reportedly decorated inside with paintings of angels, cherubs and seraphim. In Trail it was rebuilt to suit President Heinze’s much more worldly tastes, with “one half fitted up as a drawing room with lounges.”[xxiii] One may suppose that a “drawing room” for Fritz Heinze would have included a poker table, chip racks and a bar, appurtenances that the Trail Creek News chose not to specify. Eyewitnesses testify, however, that the angels and seraphim were retained to look down on the antics below and to gratify Fritz Heinze’s irreverent sense of humor. In December, the private car made its first run with the contractors from Butte who were bidding on the C&W extension to Robson West.
Once the Trail Creek Tramway was in operation, Heinze ordered a second furnace for his smelter to increase its capacity. He went to the Spokane Colonels to negotiate a long term contract for Le Roi ore before Dan Corbin could complete his line. The Colonels refused. They believed he was overcharging them for smelting their ores. Dan Corbin had just made them an attractive proposal: one third of the Northport townsite if they would build a smelter there. Henceforth, the Colonels told Heinze, they would mine and smelt their own ores. The CPR, building slowly up the east side of Crowsnest Pass, and not likely to arrive in Nelson for another two years, tried to stay in the game by announcing a smelter to be built at Blueberry Creek, half way between Trail and Robson.[xxiv]
Heinze, with his revised plans for the C&W, went back to the B.C. Legislature for a cash subsidy for his line which his engineers had told him was going to be fearfully expensive to build. His charter gave him a grant of 10,400 acres of public land per mile of narrow gauge railway built, or 20,000 acres if standard gauge. The land grants would be handed over as the track was completed, and then could be mortgaged to pay the contractors. Now he got an additional grant of $4,000 cash per mile. This would still not be enough. In the summer of 1896, taking the ornamental Governor Dewdney along, he sailed for England to try to raise money to build the C & W. In England, he showed his prospectus claiming his tramway was grossing $25,000 per month and his smelter, $100,000.[xxv] Governor Dewdney was displayed as the obligatory “Guinea Pig,” the sort of titled nonentity which gave Britishers confidence that their investments would be well looked after.[xxvi] However, even Governor Dewdney’s assurances could not convince British investors that a railroad from Trail to Penticton — “from nowhere to nowhere” as it was said, was anything but a backwoods pipe dream. Heinze and Dewdney returned empty handed, and Fritz Heinze mortgaged some of his Montana holdings for the funds with which to begin the first section of his Columbia and Western Railway, the line from Trail to Robson West, a steamer landing across the river from the Columbia and Kootenay terminal at Robson.
It was not until December, 1896, that Dan Corbin’s Red Mountain Railway was completed to Rossland. Heinze had a six months start on him and seemed in no hurry to fulfill his promise to build that three rail line to Sayward. He never did build it. No one did. Today it is still an absurd gap in the ore haul from tidewater, which is filled with a truck haul from the BN transfer at Sayward to the Cominco smelter.
THE RED MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
1896 – 1922
Daniel Corbin’s Columbia and Red Mountain Railway was chartered to run from Northport to the Canadian border at Frontier. A Canadian charter covered the rest of the line from Patterson, on the Canadian side of the border, to Rossland under the title, Red Mountain Railway. The line was operated by Corbin, and later by the Great Northern, as a branch of the Spokane Falls and Northern. Red Mountain mileage are figured from the Northport station, which adds .6 miles to the actual distance, since trains departing from Northport had to back .6 miles to the junction, south of town. There, taking the switch, the trains climbed out on a long trestle approach to the Columbia bridge.
The construction of the great, six span Columbia bridge delayed completion of the line. To get a share of the Rossland ore traffic, Dan Corbin began operations before the bridge was complete. For the first six months, from December, 1896, the trains were run down a steep track from the Northport station to the water’s edge and a reaction ferry. There, the cars would be ferried across, two or three at a time. On the right bank the cars were hauled off the ferry and up a steep track to the permanent line near the southeast end of the present Lowry landing strip. A curving section of macadam pavement from the present gravel river road, leads to the original ferry landing which was also used briefly for an auto ferry in 1947 after the bridge collapsed.
Coming off the west end of the bridge, the Columbia and Red Mountain grade climbed on a 2-1/2 percent grade across the delta of Big Sheep Creek . A mile and a half (2.4 km) from the river it entered Big Sheep Creek canyon on its west wall, opposite the St Crispen mine. The tracks clung to a narrow ledge, sometimes 100 feet above the water, and passed above Sheep Creek Falls at mile 3 (km 4.8). A half mile (.8 km) farther upstream, Upper Sheep Creek Falls poured through a narrow cleft in the rocks. Here at the falls, the line crossed the creek on a single Howe truss span, 75 feet above the tumbling water. This was a favorite spot for photographers, the train pausing while they exposed their glass plates.
On the left (east) bank of the creek the grade steepened to 3 percent, and the line crawled out of the dark canyon to enter the valley of the tributary, Little Sheep Creek, at mile 6 (km. 9.6). At Velvet, mile 7(km. 11.2), a water tank was built and a siding laid out to receive ore from Olaus Jeldness’ Velvet mine. A wagon road led from the siding up Big Sheep Creek to Jeldness’ mine, across the border in British Columbia.
At the border, mile 8 (km. 12.8), the Great Republic and the Double Standard mines were developing ore on the slopes just above the track. Their waste dumps can be seen today, immediately south of the U.S. Border Station. On the Canadian side, at mile 8.4 (km. 13.4), was Patterson, with a depot and a 26 car siding for customs inspection. Ahead the valley steepened, so engineer Roberts had to swing his grade in a wide loop to the east to gain enough elevation to reenter Little Sheep Creek canyon at Silica, mile 13 (km.20.8). The OK mine, just beyond Silica, had ore ready to ship when the rails arrived. Here, for a short time, a transfer station existed where Rossland freight and Le Roi ore, coming down the wagon road, could be put on the cars while the slow work of blasting a grade through the granite bluffs ahead proceeded. Back of Silica, quarries were opened in a quartz deposit, and the product shipped as flux to the smelters at Trail and Northport.
In 1898, the imposingly named British Columbia Bullion Extraction Company built a large mill stepping down the slope from the Red Mountain rails north of Silica to Little Sheep Creek. Its developers planned to use the power from the West Kootenay Power and Light Company’s lines which crossed the canyon at this point, to extract gold from the Rossland ores by a patented electrochemical process. This was just one of the “secret gold saving devices” being hawked to naive investors. All promised to recover the gold and silver the smelters were allegedly “losing.” Like most “secret processes,” the B.C. Bullion Company’s process was not commercially successful, and the great mill was eventually closed.1
Past Silica, at mile 13.5 (km. 21.6), the line crossed the canyon to the west wall on a high, 21 bent trestle at the Midnight mine. The grade, even at 3 percent, could not stay above the even steeper grade of the creek, and Roberts was obliged to reversed it on a 22 degree loop over Little Sheep Creek to ascend the east wall of the canyon. Just above the stream-spanning trestle at the Midnight mine, the line crawled out on another high, curving trestle of 26 bents to loop around a handy granite knob and head upstream again. From here a ledge to carry the rails had to be blasted out of the sheer granite wall of Deer Park Mountain. This ledge brought the rails around the nose of the mountain and into the shallow pass leading to Trail Creek and Rossland.
With the extensive blasting and rock-work, the track layers did not get into Rossland until December, 1896. A box car was set off at mile 17 (km. 27.2) as a temporary station from which the first passenger train departed on the 19th. In the pass, two spurs were run into General Warren’s White Bear mine and mill. Warren could now ship his lower grade ores which he had been stockpiling, awaiting the railroad. Originally, Corbin planned to have the White Bear spur extended around to the east slope of Deer park Mountain and the “South Belt” of the Rossland mines. But with the Trail Creek Tramway already in place, and serving those mines, this line was never built.
Across the flat from the White Bear was the Black Bear mine. Sidings, loading tracks and a wye were laid here. The Le Roi was high above the Black Bear, but the workings were interconnected, and Le Roi ores could come out through the Black Bear tunnel. From the wye at the Black Bear, the track was run diagonally northeast through the upper part of Rossland with a spur to the Nickel Plate mine and a trestle across Centre Star (Acme) Gulch ( the two railroads could not agree on a name). A station was built on the flat at Spokane Street and Third Avenue. The track continued northeast to the Great Western mine at the top of St Paul Street. A water tank was put up here and a short spur served the town wood lot. As the Trail Creek Tramway (Columbia & Western) was still narrow gauge, no connection could be made. Freight had to be transferred by hand and dray wagon from one railway to the other.
Down at Northport the great Columbia bridge was built at the south end of town. Its east approach climbed on a long trestle to carry the line to the height required to clear steamers on the river at high water. The bridge was of composite construction, two 3/4 inch iron plates bolted between three 4 x 16 inch wood timbers. The iron carried the tension loads, the wood the compression loads. The bridge was 1200 feet long, six Howe truss spans, supported on iron cylinder piers filled with rocks and concrete. The cylindrical filling of these piers lies on the beach today, the iron casings having been sold as salvage. During construction the high water of spring, 1897, swept away some of the false work, and completion was delayed until October, 1897. At its west end, the track was carried off the bridge by a short trestle to the top of a gravel bench where several summer homes are now located.1
During the eleven months while bridge was under construction,the small reaction ferry carried locomotives, and freight and passenger cars across the river. The ferry was slung from an overhead 1-1/2 inch steel cable, 1500 feet long, that was made fast to wooden towers on each side of the river. Cables, from bow and stern ran up to a sliding sheave on the overhead line. By slacking or tightening these cables with a hand winch, the hull of the ferry would assume an angle to the current, and the fast running water would push the vessel across the river. Rail traffic on this ferry began on September 3, 1896.1
The Red Mountain Railway owned one locomotive, possibly two. No. 9, the engine most often seen on the line, was a powerful Baldwin 2-8-0 of 1896, with 19 x 24 inch cylinders and 47 inch drivers. It weighed 56 tons and was able to exert 26,000 pounds of pull. After the Great Northern takeover, it was classified GN Class F-4, and renumbered 1094. In 1925 the GN sold it to the McGoldrick Lumber Company of Pe Ell, Washington, and it disappears from the record.
In addition to No. 9, one passenger coach and twenty box cars were lettered for the Red Mountain Railway. All other locomotives and cars were leased from the parent Spokane Falls and Northern. To judge from early photos, SF&N 4-4-0 No.7 frequently worked passenger traffic on the line. No. 7 was the SF&N’s fastest engine. It was an 1883 Baldwin machine with 63 inch drivers, 18 x 24 inch cylinders, and was capable of 14,000 pounds of pull. 2
With the Red Mountain boom in full flower in 1900, the wealthy mine owners persuaded the Great Northern to put on a first class sleeping car service to Spokane.
The train left Rossland at 11:00 PM, just after the CPR train from Grand Forks and Robson West arrived at the CPR station a block away, down Second Avenue. The sleepers got into Spokane at 6:00 AM. Travelers had a full day for business, and an evening for recreation. They could then board the departing sleepers for Rossland at 1:00 AM, and arrive at the mountaintop city at 7:00 AM, jut in time to catch the departing CPR train for Trail, Robson West, Grand Forks and Greenwood. The extra fare for the sleeping car berths was $1.50, and, at the request of the passengers, speed was slowed to ten miles per hour over the rougher sections of track so that travelers did not need to be strapped into their beds.
James J. Hill bought the Spokane Falls and Northern Railway with its Red Mountain subsidiary in 1898, and dismissed Daniel Corbin. In 1907 Hill folded the SF&N, the N&FS,and the RMR into the Great Northern, with all equipment renumbered and re-lettered for the GN. D. C. Corbin went on to build another railroad with CPR financing, the Spokane International, to give the Canadian Pacific an entry into Spokane.
By 1909, the majority of Red Mountain mines had passed into Canadian/British ownership, and ore traffic to the Northport smelter was dwindling. It sought ore from Phoenix, B.C. and from Republic, Washington to make up the shortfall, bu it was not enough. With six smelters operating in the great Boundary-Kootenay boom before WWI, competition was vigorous. But at the end of the war metal prices slumped and in 1921 it was closed. As Rossland and its mines gradually became more and more Canadian, the important and bibulous comings and goings of the Yankee Colonels and the Canadian Honourables ceased, and the night train was withdrawn. Still, the families and ordinary working residents of Rossland and Trail took the day train to Spokane on regular shopping trips. Until the completion of the Kettle Valley Railway in 1916, linking the Kootenays with Vancouver, Spokane continued secure as the metropolis of the Kootenay – Boundary country.
After the Great Northern’s takeover of the SF&N with its Red Mountain branch, GN Class D-5, No. 471, a Brooks Mogul of 1896, usually handled the passenger run. F-4, No 1094 (ex RMR No. 9) which was the heaviest locomotive permitted on the increasingly shaky trestle loops, continued to take the freight runs, often with a snowplow on its pilot.1 Traffic up to Rossland included coal from Jim Hill’s Crowsnest Pass mines, coke from Michel, and limestone flux from the Evans quarry south of Northport for the Trail smelter.
In 1897 the morning freight of fifteen cars, leaving Rossland for Northport, derailed two of the cars on the trestle at the OK/Midnight mines. Luckily the cars did not fall off the trestle and a crew of men unloaded the heavy ore with shovels enabling the cars to be re-railed again.
After the Trail Creek Tramway (C&W) was standard gauged by the CPR in 1898, the lack of a physical connection between the two lines in Rossland was frustrating for the local population. Although the two stations were just a block apart, the unremitting hostility between Jim Hill of the GN and Shaughnessy of the CPR, prevented any joining of the tracks until the Rossland business community and mine managers forcibly agitated for one. The CPR did not want a connection that would permit mines on its rails to ship their ore out via the GN. And, the GN, of course, had identical considerations. Finally, after persistent public outcry, the two corporations gave in, and a single line of track was laid down Third Avenue from one station to the other. When the Northport smelter got contracts from some of the mines along the CPR “Highline, ” the GN laid a pair of switchbacks up from present Jubilee Park to connect with the CPR line on Mc Leod Avenue. Ore then came down the connecting switchbacks, avoiding the passenger stations.
Corbin’s Red Mountain line had cost him half a million dollars to build, a quarter of which went for the big Columbia bridge. When the Northport smelter went into operation on January 1, 1898, more and more of the ore traffic began to move out via Corbin’s line, attracted by J.J. Hill’s lower freight rates. High grade ore could be contracted to the smelters at Butte, and at Everett and Tacoma as well, and moved on GN rails. With horses and mules rawhiding the ore down the snowy trails in 1894, the mines had shipped 2000 tons. In the following year, with the wagon roads open, they shipped 19,600 tons. With the Tramway open for just half of 1896, 38,000 tons went down to the smelter. When both railroads were operating in 1897, 60,000 tons went out. The next year, shipments soared to 111,000 tons.
TWO RAILROADS — TWO SMELTERS 1896 – 1898
With the completion of Heinze’s Trail Creek Tramway, the future of the two communities, Trail and Rossland, seemed assured. On June 19, 1896, editor Thompson of the Trail Creek News, rhapsodized, “It is marvelous — the amount of tonnage arriving at Trail this spring, with three steamers running into Trail, yet the C&KSN Co. cannot keep the consignments of freight to Trail cleaned up. In two days last week, the steamers of the C&KSN Co. landed in Trail 500 tons of coal, coke and lime rock and general merchandise. Every day sees the steamers of this company in Trail loaded down to their full capacity. Yesterday, the steamers, “Nakusp,” “Trail,” and “Lytton, ” and the train of the Columbia and Western Railway were all in Trail at one time, and the aggregate number of passengers served by the three boats and the train was over 400, while the tonnage handled in that day amounted to over 250 tons. And this is a town not yet a year old, and the season has just begun.”
This was June, with a full river, and even steamers drawing a full four and a half feet of water, as did the Nakusp, could make it down the difficult channel from Robson to Trail. In December the low stage of the water would hold the big boats at Robson, with the little Lytton relaying their cargoes down across the sandbars, and through the shallow riffles. A smelter had to have uninterrupted supplies of coal, coke, and flux (lime and silica rock), to operate. With winter steamer operations interrupted by ice and low water, Heinze had to find a better way to bring in his fuel. He could, of course, have Dan Corbin bring in Roslyn coal and coke to Rossland, and then have it hand shoveled into his narrow gauge cars. But this would put him into Corbin’s hands, an unacceptable situation. His trip to England to raise money for his Columbia and Western extension was a failure. He therefore mortgaged some Montana properties and let bids on the first section of the new railway. It was not to run through the mountains from Rossland. Instead, it would run up the right bank of the Columbia from his smelter to Robson West. This would give him year round access to the deep water of the Arrow Lakes and an assured coal supply.
Although the new town of Trail was growing and prospering, things were not well with the three companions who had founded it. Success had had an unfortunate effect on Frank Hanna. He and Mary Jane became estranged over his increasingly blatant immorality. He owned two brothels in Trail and his own daughter, Olive, complained of her father’s sexual misconduct with a Mrs. Crossman in the same bed in which Olive was sleeping. Mary Jane applied to the court for sole custody of her children, and on the grounds alleged, it was granted. In the interests of propriety, Colonel Topping found it best to move out of the Trail House hotel and set up living quarters behind his office.
With the new Le Roi Company smelter at Northport in operation, the Le Roi mine was paying a dividend every month, and its owners were rapidly growing very rich. Le Roi stock, which the Colonels had bought up for 25 cents a share, was now selling for over $5.00. The Rossland mines and in particular, the Le Roi, were becoming well known all over the world for their extraordinary richness. In London, speculators begin to consider the Red Mountain mines for investment.
Whittaker Wright, one of the more successful of those speculators, had formed the British American Corporation to invest in B. C. and Alaska mining properties. Wright was one of those flamboyant mendacities that flashed like meteors across the financial heavens at the end of the Victorian era, occasioning awe, moral outrage, and corrosive envy in the British public. H.G. Wells was so fascinated by him as a symbol of the absolute sovereignty of the money power, as to use him as a model for Edward Ponderovo in his novel, Tono Bungay.
An Englishman, Wright came to the United States, worked in the Pennsylvania oil fields, and was present at the Leadville, Colorado silver boom. He was in Philadelphia in the 1880s, forming companies to buy Colorado and New Mexico mines, and to market their stock to Pennsylvania investors. Learning the techniques of stock jobbing, Wright moved to London in the 1890s and began floating mining companies based on the West Australian gold mines around Kalgoorlie. Wright’s game was not to mine gold, but to organize the mine company and then to sell stock in it, a greater value of stock than there was gold in the ground. This was enormously successful as long as he could pay huge dividends, most of which came out of stock sales, rather than from whatever bullion was being produced. As long as new companies could be floated, with their stock sales covering the dividends of previous companies, the game could go on.
Wright’s ostentatious mode of living was legendary with the British public. They could not hear enough of his private yacht, his private stable of fifty horses, his private observatory, his private velodrome, his private theatre, and his private hospital. He had built an artificial lake on his Surrey estate, and, at the bottom of it, had constructed an underwater billiard room with a glass ceiling through which his guests could view his private fish.
Such an obvious command of large sums of money seemed to signify to the British investors a soundness of his financial empire, which it did not deserve. To keep on grossly overcapitalizing his mines, Wright required continuing press reports of bonanza finds and sensationally rich mines which he could market. The Rossland mines were being reported in the London press in 1897 as being the richest in the world. It did not matter whether they were or not; the perception was enough to bring investors running. Wright needed to own these mines to inflate the value of his stocks. He capitalized his British America Corporation at 1,500,000 pounds sterling, and sold its stock at an unprecedented 5 pounds sterling par value. Its prospectus boldly stated that the Corporation was acquiring the Le Roi and other Rossland and Alaska mines. The well publicized Le Roi name brought the investors crowding in; they bought up more than a million shares at the first offering.
As his managing director and confidence inspiring “Guinea Pig,” Wright brought in a man with Canadian connections, the Hon. Charles Mackintosh, retiring Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories. He then sent Mackintosh to Rossland by private railway car to acquire the mines his investors were told they owned. Mackintosh was an imposing figure, with all the social skills of the British upper class, but he knew next to nothing of practical mining. The British Columbia Review commented, “…of his many social qualities we are well aware, but there is no mining man in Canada but would laugh at the idea of ‘Charlie Mackintosh’ having any idea of the value of an ore body.”
In Spokane the Le Roi Colonels were astonished. They had not heard their mine was being bought. Colonel Peyton remarked quite accurately, “To my mind it looked much as if the people who drew that prospectus used the name of the Le Roi Mine to attract the attention of the English investing public.”
Mackintosh arrived in his private railway car, had it run up the steep Red Mountain line to Rossland, and, flush with Whittaker Wright’s money, began buying mines. He purchased the Josie, the Great Western, the Poorman, the Columbia and Kootenay, and the Nickel Plate mines. He then sent a pompous telegram to London, which Whittaker Wright read to the assembled B.A.C. investors to loud applause. “The British America Corporation has secured and holds the key to a majority of the golden treasure houses of British Columbia. We will practically control the mineral resources of this Province.”
This bombast, while applauded in London, was greeted with derision in British Columbia, and with wicked glee in Spokane. The Colonels now knew that Mackintosh had to make good on his boast; he was obliged to buy their Le Roi, whatever the price. What followed can be interpreted in two ways: either an honest disagreement, or a very clever hoaxing of Charlie Mackintosh and Whittaker Wright. Historians have tended to accept at face value a bitter disagreement dividing the Le Roi directors, as reported in the press; mining men have tended to smile knowingly. The author sides with the mining men; believing that Mackintosh, in what followed, was gloriously hoaxed.
Two of the Le Roi Company’s directors, Colonel Peyton and Judge George Turner, went to London to entertain offers for their company. This is odd; Mackintosh was in Rossland, ready to buy their mine. Apparently they wanted to see what other tenders might be made. Colonel Peyton went directly to the B.A.C. and Whittaker Wright. He was offered three million dollars cash, and accepted, pending agreement by the other directors in Spokane. But Judge Turner, independently negotiating, reported that a mysteriously unspecified source had offered him five million.
On their return to Spokane, a director’s meeting was convened on June 27, 1898, and Colonel Peyton displayed a check for $500,000 as a down payment on their mine. By the rules of the company, the three principal directors had to agree on any action.
Colonels Peyton and William H. Turner (not the Judge, but the Colonel) accepted the check, but Judge George Turner refused it on the grounds that they could get more than the B.A.C. was offering. The directors now split into two camps, the majority, led by Colonel Peyton, and Judge Turner’s minority, including Colonel Ridpath, Major Armstrong, Bill Harris, the flamboyant hotelier and Le Roi mine manager, and Frank Graves. Ostensibly, the sale was blocked by the disagreement between the two groups. While they argued, Le Roi mine manager, Bill Harris, halted all development work (tunneling for new deposits), and put his miners to work stripping the veins of what high grade ore was in sight, and shipping it to the Northport smelter. The mine was going to be sold; the only dispute was about the price. The more ore that could be removed before the sale, the more profit for the owners. The longer the sale could be delayed, the more they would make.
At a second meeting, this time with Charles Mackintosh in attendance, the two groups displayed a mutual enmity for his benefit. Colonel Peyton, of the majority group, revealed that he had already tendered the 284,000 shares of his group to Mackintosh at $6.00 per share. Those shares constituted a majority interest, and Mackintosh then declared that under British law, the B.A.C., as majority stockholder, now had the right to control the company. But Judge Turner rose for the minority, and pointed out that the Le Roi Company was a Washington Company, and governed by the laws of Washington State. And further, that the laws of Washington held that aliens could not own real estate within the State of Washington. Since the Le Roi Company’s Northport smelter was in Washington, the B.A.C., as alien, could not control it, although it could control the mine in Canada. On this basis, Judge Turner secured a court injunction restraining Colonel Peyton from making a legal transfer of his group’s shares.
At this point affairs took on a momentum of their own and events moved swiftly. The following account is taken from the newspaper reports of the day in the Rossland Miner and Spokane Spokesman Review. The author is responsible for the probable dialog hinted at in the press reports.
L. F. Williams, secretary of the Company and a member of Colonel Peyton’s group, realized that Judge Turner, using the Washington law was in an unassailable position, and made a quick call to Austin Corbin, President of the Spokane Falls and Northern Railway. He ordered a fast special train to be made ready for a dash to Canada. In haste, he gathered all the Le Roi Company records plus its official seal from the Spokane office, and jumped into a horse cab for the depot. The one car train whistled off, and Williams inside, relaxed, convinced he was removing the company records from beyond the reach of Judge Turner and U.S. law. But, the cunning Bill Harris had not been deceived. Suspecting Williams might attempt precisely this, he had taken the precaution of removing the Le Roi Company’s official seal from its accustomed hook above Williams’ desk, and substituted the seal of another company. On his arrival in Rossland, Williams discovered to his horror, that he had the wrong seal, and that no company business could be transacted until a duplicate seal could be made. Judge Turner’s group, in possession of the precious seal, now hired deputy sheriffs to enforce the Washington Court’s injunction against Mackintosh and the B.A.C. people. Mackintosh decided that the whole matter of the sale of the Le Roi had best be taken out of the State of Washington where Judge Turner appeared to have the advantage, and moved to Canada where British law would prevail. He had his private railway car coupled to Austin Corbin’s fastest locomotive, No. 7, a 4-4-0 with 63 inch drivers and capable of forty miles an hour on good track. He invited the majority directors, including the three trustees of the pooled Le Roi shares, to accompany him to Rossland, where, with a majority of the directors present and voting, the sale of Colonel Peyton’s shares could be ratified, and company business conducted — as soon as a duplicate seal could be obtained.
Mackintosh, with his majority directors, boarded his private car, and gave the signal to depart. But Spokane County deputy sheriff Bunce entered his car to display a County Court order obtained by Judge Turner, and to tell Mackintosh that he must not proceed. Armed deputies, he told the Governor, were waiting at the city limits, with legal authority to stop any train headed for Canada.
Mackintosh, quite baffled by the machinations of the American Law as expounded by Judge Turner, was now in his element as a British gentleman. Calmly lighting a cigar, he offered the deputy one. With exquisite politeness, he explained to deputy Bunce that under the Common Law of both Britain and the United States, “A man’s home is his castle,” and that a gentleman’s private railway car is just as much his castle in the eyes of the law, as any monument of ancestral English stone. That being the case, would not the deputy, as a gentleman bound to be scrupulous in his observance of the law, realize that his presence here without a warrant was an unfortunate trespass?
Deputy Bunce, awed, backed himself out the door, which was locked behind him. Then he descended, went forward to the engine, boarded it, and ordered the crew not to move the train. The train crew referred the matter to Austin Corbin, president of the line. Corbin came down from his office and explained to Bunce that his injunction was against foreigners, the B.A.C. Company, and not against a law-abiding American railroad. Bunce might order the gentlemen in the car behind, not to leave the United States, but his injunction gave him no right to prevent a railroad not named in the order, from running its trains where so ever it chose.
Deputy Bunce boarded the platform of Mackintosh’s private car once more and pounded on the locked door. The engineer whistled off and the train began to move.From inside the car Mackintosh shook his head reprovingly at Bunce; the door remained locked. As the train gathered speed, deputy Bunce climbed up on the tender and standing uncertainly on top of the pile of coal, drew his revolver. He pointed it at the engine crew and ordered them to stop. His shouts were lost in the sharp exhaust of the accelerating locomotive. He clambered down into the locomotive cab and gestured with his drawn pistol. The engine men shook their heads. Holding his gun on the two men, Bunce pointed to the group of deputies blocking the track ahead and ordered the engineer to halt. In response, the engineer pulled the whistle cord and threw the throttle wide open. Down on the track the deputies scattered for the lives, and the train raced out onto the prairie ahead.
No. 7 was running wide open on the rough track, the private car lurching and swaying behind. Deputy Bunce, with pistol in hand, was no doubt reflecting that the engine crew belonged to the Rail Brotherhoods. It had been that group, but a few years before, in the Coeur D’Alene mines, he had dragged Tom Kneebone off his job and shot him dead for testifying against a railroad engineer in the Frisco Mill bombing. It was a period of extreme union militancy in the West, and the Brotherhoods’ contempt for the law was well established. Bunce prudently holstered his revolver and climbed back across the coal pile in the tender to Mackintosh’s private car. Standing on the platform in a shower of cinders and soot from the stack, he pondered what to do.Inside the car, he could see whiskey decanters passed around, and the directors, in wicker chairs, puffing on their cigars. Bunce knocked. The directors turned their backs to him. He held his court order against the glass and pounded the door. No one paid him any attention.
It was a hot June day across the grasslands of Stevens County. The train raced on. Back in Mackintosh’s car, the windows were opened to catch the breeze and fragrant fumes of the Governor’s best Havana tobacco streamed out across the farmlands and stump ranches. Bunce, on the platform, turned up his collar against the rain of cinders from No. 7’s stack.
It was 147 miles, Spokane to Rossland. Seven hours, 25 minutes by timetable. The men in the private car had promised the engine crew a champagne dinner at the Allen Hotel in Rossland if they made the run in under five hours. Loon Lake, Chewelah and Colville came up. The scheduled trains were waiting in the sidings as the Special flashed by. Past Colville, Number 7 screamed down the long grade to the Columbia at Marcus, and began the long series of S curves as the rails followed the east bank of the river. Grimly, Deputy Bunce, coattails flying, clung to the swaying platform of Mackintosh’s private car, still determined to do his duty. At mile 130, Northport came into view. Here the engine would have to stop to take on water for the final, steep climb to Rossland, 2400 feet above. Bunce swung down from the platform, as the engineer spotted the tender under the waterspout. Bunce planted himself in front of the locomotive, displayed his court order to the gathering crowd, and drew his revolver. With the crowd as witnesses to his lawful act, he announced, the train would move again only over his dead body.
But here, in full frock coat and embroidered vest, his shiny silk hat on his head and gold watch fob bouncing on his paunch, came the sometime Lieutenant Governor of a Canadian Territory, which, though scantily populated, was still fully as big as the entire United States minus Alaska. Mackintosh offered the deputy another cigar. Bunce had to holster his pistol to accept it. Mackintosh then explained, with that same charitable politeness, that the Canadian border was but eight miles ahead, and if the deputy persisted in his attempt to stop a lawful train by force of arms, he would be arrested at the border for carrying a deadly weapon into Canada, an offense that carried a severe penalty under Canadian law. “A word to the wise, Sir,” His Honour remarked amiably, and with a friendly pat on the shoulder, made his way back to his private car.
The fireman raised the waterspout as the tender overflowed, and shouted at Bunce, still planted in front of the locomotive, “Well, what’s it going to be, deputy? You going to shoot a Brotherhood man or get out of our way?” Deputy Bunce flourished his weapon, the crowd of small boys and station loungers looked on in fascination. A few quick wagers were made. The engineer blew three blasts, shoved the Johnson bar into its top notch, and opened the throttle. The train, to deputy Bunce’s great relief, backed away, backed toward Spokane. Then the deputy holstered his pistol with a grin to the onlookers. But why were they laughing? What was the joke? Bunce peered down the track. The train was still backing. At the far end of town it disappeared around a curve. An idler in the crowd remarked, “You sure stopped ‘em, mister. Only you was at the wrong end.” The crowd burst out laughing. They were laughing at him, deputy Bunce realized. What had happened?
Then, from down at the far end of town, came two derisive whistle blasts. Bunce saw the train come into view again on the distant trestle, leading, he now realized, to the great Columbia River bridge. The stop at the station was merely for water. The line to Rossland branched off a half mile south. The engineer had backed his train to the switch and taken the line for Canada. In the distance, the little one car train rumbled over the bridge, whistled once more and headed up Sheep Creek for Canada. Bunce walked to the station platform, sat down, and lit up the Lieutenant Governor’s cigar. To the assembled crowd he muttered contemptuously, “God damned foreigners, anyway!” He puffed for a moment. “Not a god damned thing to do with me,” he said, blowing smoke into the air. But the station platform was empty.
With the dispute now transferred to Canada, Mackintosh tried to settle it under Canadian law. A directors’ meeting was called for July 3, in Rossland. SF&N No. 7 was washed and polished, hitched to a parlor car, and then the Turner minority group came up to Rossland by special train. At the meeting, Judge Turner managed to have the $500,000 check returned to the British America Company as premature. Beyond that, there was stalemate, and No. 7 trundled the minority directors back down the loops of Little Sheep Creek to the U.S. A. and Spokane.
A second meeting was called for Spokane. Another special train ran up to Rossland to bring the majority group down. They were, as they reminded themselves, the owners of the richest gold mine in the world, and must travel as such.The railroad performed these services as perfectly as its rough track would permit, but the meeting was a total deadlock.
In Rossland, Mackintosh tried a new tactic. Bill Harris, the mine manager, and member of the minority group, had had his men stripping the stopes of all the high grade ore they could find, and shipping it to Northport to be converted into dividends for the owners. The delay in consummating the sale was not only embarrassing to Mackintosh; it was depleting the mine of valuable ore. The Governor determined to get rid of Harris. Lacking a company seal, and unable to perform official acts, the Governor applied to Judge Spinks, of the Kootenay County Court, to have the Le Roi Company placed in receivership. The Judge agreed and W. A. Carlyle, a former Provincial Geologist, was appointed receiver. Carlyle dismissed Bill Harris and appointed a new mine manager with instructions to reinstitute development work and reduce ore shipments to a minimum in order to starve the smelter of ore, and the owners of dividends, while the sale was still pending.
Bill Harris had been shipping 350 tons of the Le Roi’s best ore every day; the majority group had been obliged to watch this high grading before their eyes. Their anger had become physical as Judge Turner and Colonel Peyton found themselves both occupying the same hotel, the Allen, in Rossland. Accidentally meeting in the lobby, a scuffle took place, with Judge Turner attempting to bodily eject Colonel Peyton from the hotel. Peace was restored; the combatants, or play actors –it is impossible to be sure which — were parted.
The minority group, with their manager removed from the mine, then went to Victoria, B.C. to institute a suit against Colonel Peyton, the B.A.C., Mackintosh, and Whittaker Wright, to recover $780,000 for an alleged conspiracy to buy Le Roi shares at less than their real value. While this suit dragged on, the group were able to get a Victoria court to overturn Judge Spinks’ receivership. Bill Harris was reinstated as mine manager, and at once he resumed stripping the Le Roi of its best ore. This was intolerable to the B.A.C. Their best ore was being removed out of Canadian jurisdiction, smelted at Northport, and the bullion recovered held in the U.S. for the owners. The owners were making roughly $6,500 each day the sale was delayed. To try to get the receivership reinstated by Washington law, the B.A.C. sent its lawyers down to Spokane — by special train, of course. This time, the minority completely reversed its previous bellicose behavior. They met their Canadian colleagues with profuse apologies for past incivilities, and solicitous concern for their comfort and well-being. This they accompanied by a continuous series of toasts to amity and international cooperation. So alcoholic was the fellowship, and so long continued, that the B.A.C. lawyers, in a boozy haze, completely lost track of time and missed their appointment at court. With their non-appearance, the court dropped the case from the docket, and the rivals were once again plunged into teeth gnashing rage, real or feigned.
The news of these scandalous proceedings was gleefully reported in the mining papers, and reached London, where the effect was to depress the value of B.A.C. shares. Soon they dropped below par. Whittaker Wright was compelled to find some way to conciliate the minority directors, and complete the sale, or his B.A.C. would be in serious trouble. Judge Turner was reporting he had received an offer from Wright of $8.12-1/2 for his shares. This the B.A.C. vigorously denied. The Judge responded by suggesting that another British consortium had offered him $8.50. True or false, the publicity was becoming painfully embarrassing for Whittaker Wright. He would have to compromise.
Finally, on November 22, 1898, all the shares in what had been the world’s richest gold mine, changed hands at $7.40, plus payment for ore en route to the Northport Smelter. The last of the minority hold-outs, Bill Harris, had to come down from Rossland to Spokane to sign the agreement. He made the trip, as might be expected, by special train.
It is impossible to know whether or not the whole affair was a charade played out for the benefit of the pompous and gullible Mackintosh. For 130 days, during the time the sale had been held up, Bill Harris had been Le Roi manager, stripping the mine of its best ore. $845,000 of ore had been removed, smelted and sold, and monthly dividends paid, while Mackintosh was stalled. This amounted to $1.69 per share realized from the high grading, while the compromise with Whittaker Wright added only an additional $1.40 per share. The figures powerfully suggest that the protracted dispute played out in the courts, on special trains, and hotel lobby tussles, may have been a gigantic, profitable, and hilarious hoax.
With the final agreement and sale, the B.A.C. got full control of the mine and smelter, but the dubious look of the affair made Whittaker Wright’s mining empire look shaky in London. The success of any stock jobbing operation depended on its shares rising in value. Should they begin to fall, as had those of the B.A.C., the price of the stock could only be supported by the company’s assets. B.A.C. investors now began to query just what were the Le Roi Company’s assets. An answer was not forthcoming.
The B.A.C., on purchasing the Colonels’ Le Roi Company for $4,000,000, had formed a new British company, the Le Roi Mining Company, and sold the mine and smelter to it for $4,750,000. Wright chose a former anti-union thug, Bernard Mc Donald, who had worked for him in the New Mexico mines, as Le Roi manager. But now manager Mc Donald, began sending alarming reports to London. The mine had no more high grade ore in sight. Bill Harris had indeed stripped the mine. The British investors who had bought up all 200,000 shares in the new Le Roi Company at $25 each, in just three days, wanted their dividends. Monthly, they had been promised.
In Rossland, manager Mc Donald was obliged to report the shattering news that the mine was actually operating at a loss. In 1899, the ore coming out of the Le Roi was netting $12.50 a ton, but mining, smelting and shipping costs totalled $15.14 a ton. With the huge value of the shares outstanding, and an operating loss, the mine could pay no dividends at all. Worse, after purchasing the mine from the B.A.C. for $4,750,000, the new Le Roi Company had but $250,000 left in its treasury for working capital, not nearly enough for a vigorous program of development to find new high grade ore bodies in the network of veins it owned.
At this time similar discoveries were coming to light in Whittaker Wright’s Western Australian mines, and a bear attack on his stocks began in London. Furious investors, finding themselves to have been duped, lobbed the British Parliament for redress. An official investigation of Whittaker Wright’s financial and mining empire began.
In Spokane, the Colonels, congratulating themselves on their coup, having sold their mine just as it was going barren, retired to their clubs and began to invest in other mining properties in B.C., notably the St Eugene mine on Moyie Lake. Perhaps the game could be played again. Colonel Ridpath, and Judge Turner, no longer adversaries, bought the Sullivan mine in Kimberly, B.C., and planned a smelter there to handle its lead-zinc-silver ores.
Half way around the world, Whittaker Wright went on trial for frauds unrelated to the Le Roi affair. He was found guilty, and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. He did not go to jail. Immediately after the sentence was read, he conferred briefly with his lawyers over some last arrangements, then stepped into a side room and swallowed a capsule of cyanide. Returning, he collapsed on the floor and died. A loaded revolver was found in his pocket.
The collapse of Whittaker Wright’s stock jobbing empire damaged the reputation of the mining industry in the London market for years, but for a future American president, it presented a golden opportunity. Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer, only 23 years years of age, was sent out to Western Australia by the engineering firm of Bewick-Moreing to see what could be done to rescue the mines that went down in the Whittaker Wright scandal. There, Hoover met with the new chairman of the Lakeview mine. Convinced that the Lakeview had an unrealized potential, Hoover convinced Bewick-Moreing to take over its management. The Lakeview proved to be a solid success, and launched young Mr Hoover on an impressive career in mine engineering. By 1928, he was President of the United States. By 1985, Bewick-Moreing was boring the Channel Tunnel. The sale of the Le Roi brought to an end the period of gaudy unreality in Rossland. The mines were still there, but the ore was becoming leaner as they went deeper. For Rossland, the bonanza days were over. Conservative, scientific management was in charge, and profits could henceforth only be made from volume of ore shipped, not spectacular finds.
Down in Trail, Colonel Topping continued to insist that he expected to find another Le Roi very soon, and that in the meantime he had some very promising mining claims to sell. He was planning a trip, he announced, to the newly formed mining districts in the Colville Indian Reservation to investigate some remarkable gold properties there. Deputy Bunce was looking for work. A furious Judge Turner had seen to it that he was a deputy no longer.
THE COLUMBIA AND WESTERN (1896 – 1900)
Fritz Heinze let his first contract for the first section of his new railway on December 9, 1896. It was to be a standard gauge line, 21 miles long, from Smelter Junction to the foot of the Arrow Lakes at Robson West. A dock, to be built there, would put his rails a short barge trip across the Columbia from the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay terminal at what was called “Low Water Landing.” The C&K’s original dock at Sproat’s Landing, at the confluence of the two rivers, had been abandoned because of the difficulty of docking sternwheelers there during low water periods. The new terminal was built three miles upstream where year round deep water was available. This “Low Water Landing” became the town of Robson, and Heinze named his C&W terminal on the other side of the river “Robson West.”
Heinze had his original C&W charter, which called for a line running west from Rossland, amended. By building north from Trail to Robson, instead of west from Rossland, Heinze avoided the double summit crossing to the Kettle Valley, and its 5000 foot pass. At Robson West, his line would be in a position to connect to the CPR line from Alberta when it should be completed. That he intended such a connection, is clear from his half interest with a Canadian, Albert McCleary, who had preempted the 320 acres which now forms the townsite of Castlegar. McCleary’s preemption included the best site for a Columbia River bridge, and Heinze, in buying an interest, secured it for his C&W. From his new terminal at Robson West, his amended charter authorized him to continue his line west to Dog Creek, and to ascend it to McRae Pass. From the pass, it would be relatively easy construction down McRae Creek to the Kettle River Valley at Christina Lake. This, of course, would preempt the CPR location for the line to Penticton Van Horne had promised to build. . It was a shrewd move. Heinze had the charter and the lowest pass into the Kettle Valley. Van Horne was now blocked at the Columbia.
The Columbia and Western was received with extreme disfavor by the Canadian Pacific. It was building its line in to the Kootenays from Lethbridge, Alberta, and planned to link up with its subsidiary, Columbia and Kootenay at Nelson. To build its line west from the Columbia, the CPR would now have to buy Heinze out.
The Robson West line was laid with 56 pound rail lifted from the Northern Pacific’s Columbia and Palouse Railroad in Washington. The C&W grade followed a bedrock bench a few hundred feet above the the river. At China Creek, the line had to descend from the bench to cross the creek on a 3.6 percent grade and climb out on the other side at 2.85 percent. These two grades were to require doubling of heavy trains until a new alignment and a steel trestle was constructed in the 1940s. C&W construction was done with leased CPR 2-8-0 No. 351 and some leased CPR flats. The work was bid in by a Butte, Montana contractor at $600,000, and work began on January 1, 1897
Heinze could not afford to buy equipment for his new line. His trip to England to raise money for it, with Lt. Governor Dewdney in his party, had been a complete failure. No one wanted to invest in a railroad between two places which could not be found on any British map. Heinze had to build the C&W using his own money, until on completion he should receive the land grants. In these difficulties, he would not be able to continue his C&W west over Mc Rae Pass unless he could obtain further subsidies. His engineers had reported to him that the line to the Boundary over McRae Pass would cost him $30,000 per mile. His land grant of 20,000 acres per mile would bring in but 25 cents per acre at the prevailing prices: $5,000 per mile. He went to the B.C. legislature to present his engineers’ estimates and request assistance. The members were forthcoming, and granted him a cash subsidy of $4,000 per mile for that part of the line between Robson West and Greenwood. For the remainder of the line, where it was thought construction would be easer, he could have the land grant or the cash subsidy, but not both. He next tried the Dominion government for further assistance.
On June 8, 1897, he appeared before the parliamentary Railroad Committee in Ottawa to solicit a federal subsidy of $8000 per mile. However, to his consternation, appearing the same day was Dr. Milne, of Victoria, for the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway, seeking a subsidy for that line. The committee testily pointed out that Heinze was asking for a subsidy for a line west to the Coast from the Columbia River, and that Dr. Milne was asking for a subsidy for what would be a parallel line running east from the Coast to the Columbia. They suggested that the two men should join their separate lines somewhere in the middle, and ask for a single subsidy for a joint line. Milne and Heinze very reluctantly agreed to collaborate. On the 16th, they reappeared before the committee with a hastily cobbled up joint proposal. But in discussing it before the members, a dispute broke out between the two of them: Heinze would let the VV&E build its line, but he wanted the subsidy for himself.
The argument grew heated, and the committee, in disgust, adjourned for its summer holidays. The matter could not be reopened until the committee sat again the following year. When it considered the matter again in 1898, it granted a Federal charter for the C&W but no subsidy. Interestingly the Federal charter proposed, in addition to the line to Penticton, a line from Trail to Columbia Gardens. This location was also known as Sayward, where Heinze could join his line, as promised, to Daniel Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Shepherd line. Without the Federal subsidy Heinze would be obliged to mortage more of his Montana mines to begin construction. But at this very moment a concerted attack on his Butte copper properties was begun by the Rockefellers whose Amalgamated Copper now dominated Montana by aquiring both Marcus Daly’s and W. A. Clark’s holdings. Only Heinze’s United Copper stood in their way of owning all the significant Butte mines and smelters. The Rockefellers, having created a Standard Oil monopoly in oil, were now goingto attempt it in copper. To fight them off, Heinze would need every bit of cash he could raise.. He decided to cash out his Canadian enterprise to finance the 7 year legal battle with the Rockefellers that followed.
Back on the Columbia, the C&W line to Robson West was nearly complete, when, on September 10, 1897, the sternwheeler, Nakusp, grounded broadside to the current on a gravel bar at Kootenay Rapids, 17 miles above Trail. The Nakusp was firmly stuck, blocking all river traffic. The Lytton and the Kootenay were at once dispatched to try to pull her off. They put lines to her and churned their great sternwheel furiously, but the Nakusp would not budge. It was September, and every day the river level was dropping. Soon the Nakusp was high and dry; no boat could move past her, and the smelter needed its coal deliveries. The railroad was frantically rushed to completion and opened on the 27th, hauling passengers and the urgently needed coal to Trail. The unfortunate Nakusp eventually had to be jacked up onto an improvised launching ways and relaunched into the river. It was November before she could be put into service again.
To operate the new line, Heinze leased four CPR 2-8-0 locomotives, Nos. 401 to 404, a single coach and some freight cars, and had them barged down from Revelstoke. Three rail track was laid in the smelter yards, and by the end of 1897 a third rail allowed standard gauge service down to the Trail city station and the waterfront landing. Leased Consolidation 404 had been built with blind second and main drivers, as did the others. Once Heinze chose standard gauge for his C&W extension to Penticton, it was his intention to standard gauge the Rossland Hill as well. The leased CPR Consolidations with blind drivers, would have been able to run through those tight curves above Anable and Warfield and handle the Rossland passenger runs.
With the completion of the C&W to Robson West, there was no long any need to run steamers down the Columbia from Robson to Trail. And, except for the occasional summer excursion boat to Deer Park or Syringia Creek, this river service was discontinued. Since the Red Mountain Railway now handled the passengers and freight from Northport, the boat service below Trail was also withdrawn, and the waterfront station closed. A new Trail city station was built near the corner of Cedar and Farwell, the site of the present Super Valu market. A wye was laid just east of the station, extending to Victoria Avenue, to enable engines to be turned.
With the whole Kootenay district developing mines, and two Canadian smelters operating, at Trail and at Nelson, the CPR was determined to establish its transportation monopoly in the district, and shut out the American competition. It planned its own smelter at Blueberry Creek, and a line west to the new copper-gold discoveries in the Monashee Mountains. Closely tied to the Federal Government, it sought to preserve the entire Kootenay mining industry for Canada, British investors, and itself.
Its first move was to buy out the independent Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company which operated the largest fleet of sternwheelers on the Columbia and on Kootenay Lake. The strictly neutral CKSN boats had been calling at everybody’s wharf, delivering and accepting traffic from all. Once the CPR took over, however, orders went out that they were no longer to serve Dan Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Shepherd rail to steamer transfer at Five Mile Point, and to discontinue their run up the Kootenay River to Jim Hill’s railroad dock at Bonner’s Ferry. Heinze’s connection at Trail, and later at Robson West, was still to be served, since he possessed that valuable and generous C&W charter which the CPR needed to build west to Penticton and the Coast.
If the CPR thought that they had shut the Americans out by refusing to serve their docks, they did not know James J. Hill. As soon as the CPR boats ceased running up the Kootenay to his Bonner’s Ferry transfer dock, Hill bought up a parcel of land on the southern end of Kootenay Lake called Kuskonook, and chartered a branch line to run down the Kootenay River Valley from Bonner’s Ferry to this new steamer landing and transfer point. The American portion of the line was called the Kootenai Valley Railway, the Canadian section was the Bedlington and Nelson. To counter the CPR boats, which would, of course, be forbidden to serve his new branch, he bought up the International Navigation and Trading Company which had been operating sternwheel steamers on Kootenay Lake in competition with the CPR. Now, with his own boats, Hill competed at every lake point , and as soon as he could get his rails to Kuskonook, the CPR would face a mighty rival for Kootenay trade.
Hill’s Great Northern was not the only American railroad making a move on the Kootenays. Dan Corbin was in Greenwood in the fall of 1897 buying the King Solomon mine, and had his surveyors locating a route from Marcus, Washington, up the Kettle River into Canada and following the river west to Grand Forks, dipping into the U.S. at Carson, and continuing to Midway. From there, the line was to follow Boundary Creek upstream to Greenwood and the mines. From its headquarters in St Paul, the Northern Pacific was watching developments in the Kootenays and Boundary country, and wanted an entry into these rich mineral lands north of the border. It began surreptitiously buying up shares in Corbin’s Spokane Falls and Northern Railway. Dan Corbin soon became aware that someone was buying into his railroad; he suspected the CPR. He wired financier J. P. Morgan in New York to buy up all the SF&N stock he could, lest the CPR gain control of his line and enter Spokane. Morgan did, but as financier to the Northern Pacific, he knew very well that they were behind the stock purchases, not the CPR. However, he did not tell Corbin, and continued to accumulate shares in the expectation that when the time came, he would decide who got the SF&N.
The results of this rivalry of the transcontinentals were exciting for Kootenay Lake residents. Sternwheel steamers raced each other regularly to see which boat and which company could get its passengers from Kaslo or Riondel to Nelson in the shortest time. On the Arrow Lakes the CPR built a powerful new sternwheeler, the Rossland, with huge, 22 x 96 inch cylinders and a more deeply molded hull shape. The new design was intended to produce a sternwheeler that could make the 256 mile round trip from Arrowhead to Robson West and back in one day. She was launched in August, 1897, 183 ft. long by 29 ft. wide, and 884 tons. The Rossland was the fastest boat on any of the lakes, capable of 22 miles per hour, an astonishing speed for a sternwheel steamer. However, her deeper hull, which made her more stable in a crosswind, could not clear the sandbars in the winter low water season. So, while she raced her passengers up and down the lakes all summer long, she had to lie idle during the winter months while the shallower draft Kootenay or Minto took over the run.
Though he had finished his first section of C&W line, and had surveyors out locating a route from Robson West to Penticton, the new copper war in Butte, drew Fritz Heinze back to Montana. H.H. Rogers and William Rockefeller, of Standard Oil wished to duplicate that successful monopoly in oil with a new one in copper. They formed the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, bought up all the major copper operations and all but one newspaper in Montana ( Heinze’s Butte Reveille). With that power they began to manipulate the price of copper, by withholding large quantities from the market to drive up the price.
The adversaries they could not crush were Fritz, Arthur and Otto Heinze and their two companies, Montana Ore Purchasing and United Copper Company. The savagery of the contest was unparalleled, culminating in an attempt by Amalgamated to bribe a judge to testify that Fritz Heinze had bribed him. Heinze, as the lone Butte holdout against a corporation with unlimited power, had the support of the miners and won victory after victory in politics and the law courts. Underground his miners fought Amalgamated miners in the dark, dangerous galleries with picks, clubs and dynamite. The Amalgamated lured away to their side Heinze’s Butte manger with his confidential papers and maps. This was a serious blow. Heinze had 27 lawyers simultaneously fighting Amalgamated lawsuits, and needed huge amounts of money for these court battles. He would have to cash out his B.C. holdings.
As a last effort to secure a federal subsidy, the only hope for completing his Columbia and Western, he sent out Colonel Topping to canvas the Okanagan and Boundary districts for signatures to a petition to Parliament to grant him the Federal subsidy he urgently needed. Colonel Topping’s trip was a disaster. The Boundary Creek Times of January 29, 1898, gives a detailed account of the Colonel’s appearance before the assembled citizens in Rendell’s hall in Greenwood.
“Colonel Topping came down from Vernon, having visited Fairview, Camp McKinney and other points. When he reached Greenwood he had about 75 signatures to the petition, and when he left Greenwood he had the same number of signatures.”
It was not a warm reception. The people of the Boundary were outraged at the subsidies and grants Heinze had already extracted from the Provincial legislature and had not yet built so much as a mile of track in the direction of Greenwood. The line to Robson West, was, in their view, but a device to connect his works to the CPR. They voiced their distrust of Heinze in blunt terms. Mayor Wood opened the meeting.
“What we want is a competitive railway and we should do everything to assist Corbin and getting a charter. (Applause.) He failed to see” the paper reported, “what claim Mr. Heinze had on the people of Boundary Creek. (Hear, hear.) He never built an inch of road for us. He does not think Mr. Heinze ever intended to build a road. He boasted about how he had ‘flim-flammed’ the Victoria government, but, said, Mayor Wood, don’t let him ‘flim-flam’ us. (Loud applause.)
There was considerable prejudice against Fritz Heinze, as his Amalgamated enemies in Montana had given out in their newspapers that he was Jewish, which was untrue. Three years later, Mayor Wood would charter a railway from Midway to Vernon and attempted to “flim-flam” the legislature and public that he was actually “prosecuting continuous construction,” as his charter required, by hiring a foreman and man with a wheelbarrow to dig some few hundred feet of grade south of Vernon.
In Rendell’s hall that winter night, Alderman Galloway took up the attack on Heinze.
“He doubted that Heinze intended to build. He first asked for a charter only, then a grant, then a cash subsidy, and now he is asking for another cash subsidy, and if he gets this he will simply be in a position to sell out at a higher figure. (Hear, hear.)”
A resolution was then introduced enjoining the people of the Boundary district to refuse to sign Colonel Topping’s petition.
Colonel Topping then rose before them and opened his remarks by saying, “It was indeed a pleasant thing to face a meeting thoroughly hostile, fearfully hostile…”
Topping went on to present Fritz Heinze as their champion against the the CPR, which he painted as, “…a monopoly, no more cruel one existed… The fight was between Heinze and the CPR… If the CPR was supported it would crush any other road that attempted to get into this district. He had no quarrel with Mr. Corbin; he was entitled to his charter. (Hear, hear.) The Columbia and Western was not antagonistic to Mr. Corbin…the Columbia and Western was an all-Canadian road… He had the assurance that Mr. Heinze intends to build it if granted a subsidy.”
The crowd was unimpressed. The miners and businessmen of the district had already put 700 of their names to a petition favoring Dan Corbin’s Kettle River Valley Railway. Corbin was popular in Greenwood. He owned mining properties west of town. He had come personally and assured the citizens that, “…the time has come when it is not necessary that the government should give away more money or land in this direction and I do not intend to ask for either.”
Alex Wallace, a prospector, spoke for the majority when he said, “…he had heard of Mr. Heinze before. The people of Boundary Creek were a long suffering humanity. He would like to see Mr. Heinze visit this district — the Commander in Chief –but he sends only his Colonel: that was good enough for the people of Boundary Creek. The Columbia and Western was a gigantic humbug. (Hear, hear.) The people should oppose such a subsidy to any such boodling scheme… He was only prospector, but he was tired of being humbugged and therefore wished to give expression to his opinions. (Applause.)”
The assembly voted, “without a dissenting voice,” a resolution to be forwarded to Parliament, “…that the residents of the Boundary Creek District urge upon the Dominion Parliament to grant said charter to the Kettle River Valley Railway Company.” (Corbin’s line).
Faced with this united hostility, and the accusation that Heinze would only use the cash subsidy to raise his selling price to the CPR, Colonel Topping became heated and unwisely remarked to the assembled citizens that, “…he hoped they realized the gravity of the position they had taken. Mr. Heinze is a strong friend or a strong enemy. He is going to build into this district and the chances are he will reciprocate for this.”
Colonel Topping did not know it, but Fritz Heinze was already in Montreal negotiating the sale of his B.C. assets to the CPR. The CPR wanted the railroad and its charter with those generous land grants, but not the smelter which they considered crude and jerry built. They intended to build a modern and efficient smelter at Blueberry Creek and dominate the Kootenay mining industry. Brash and impulsive, Fritz Heinze was not an easy man to deal with. If the CPR wanted the C&W, they would have to take his smelter as well. At this all or nothing insistence, the negotiations stalled, and the CPR hired Walter Aldridge to deal with Heinze and become manager of what they proposed to call their Canadian Smelting Works which was to be built at Blueberry Creek. Walter Aldridge was also a Brooklyn boy, had been a classmate of Heinze at Columbia, and knew him well. From his post as a smelter manager in Colorado, Aldridge had followed Heinze’s career in Butte with interest. He unbluffable by his former classmate was the ideal man to deal with Heinze.
But while Aldridge hurried to Trail to inspect Heinze’s holdings and estimate their fair value, Fritz Heinze was in Montreal, dealing personally with CPR President Thomas Shaughnessy, and asking two million dollars, cash for his Canadian holdings. Out in Trail, Aldridge was furious. His inspection had convinced him that such a price was much too high. He wired Shaugnessy to stall Heinze while he prepared a device worthy of Fritz Heinze himself. He telegraphed the Fraser and Chalmers Company in Chicago for quotations on a complete smelter delivered to Robson, B.C. He next optioned a plot of land at Blueberry Creek for a smelter site, and began negotiating for ore contracts with the Red mountain mine owners. He was sure Fritz Heinze would be informed of these preparations. The actions had the expected effect. From Montreal, Shaughnessy wired Aldridge that he had now been able to close a deal with Heinze for half of what the American had been previously asking.
Having thus acquired Heinze’s C&W charter Shaughnessy began to rush a railroad into the Boundary country. On February 1, the first CPR surveyors landed at Renata on Lower Arrow Lake and headed up Dog Creek for McRae Pass. Shaughnessy had learned that someone was buying heavily into Dan Corbin’s SF&N stock, and he suspected the Northern Pacific. It was essential to get rails into the Boundary and preempt it for the CPR before Corbin, or whoever was buying his stock, could get there.
In Trail, Aldridge was annoyed that the purchase of Heinze’s holdings had been settled over his head. Suspicious that Heinze had bamboozled Shaughnessy, he asked to see a copy of the contract. He found what he had expected. The document failed to transfer Heinze’s mining interests, the rolling stock of the two C&W lines, and the smelter machinery. Without these vital components, the CPR could operate neither the smelter nor the railroads.
When an outraged CPR Board of Directors confronted Heinze with these omissions, he blandly informed them that they could have those items for another $300,000. The Directors wired Aldridge in Trail. He told them to hold up payment on the original contract, and give him full authority to deal with Heinze in Trail. This was done, and Aldridge, knowing from his contacts in Butte, that Heinze was pressed for cash, simply sat tight and waited for Fritz Heinze to come to him. Heinze did. He came to Trail on February 10, and asked Aldridge why the CPR had not honored its contract with him. Aldridge told him the company had no intention of paying his extortionate demands. Heinze could sue if he wished, but the Company would not budge, and a Canadian judge was not likely to sympathize with Heinze’s violating the spirit, if not the letter of the original contract. Heinze was uncertain that Canadian judges were to be bought as easily as Montana judges, and after remonstrating with Aldridge to no effect, he finally suggested that the two of them sit down together and play a hand of poker for the Canadian holdings not mentioned in the contract. Aldridge refused, saying that there were too many Methodists on the CPR Board for the Directors to countenance any such arrangement.
The suggestion of a hand of poker convinced Aldrige that Heinze was at last ready to compromise. Aldridge suggested the matter be submitted to J.S.C. Fraser, manager of the Rossland branch of the Bank of Montreal, for arbitration. Fraser had the full confidence of both men, Heinze insisted that the matter be settled without delay, so a buggy was called and a driver to take them on a midnight ride up the mountain to Rossland. On their arrival, Fraser was wakened out of bed, and sat down at his desk to arbitrate. By dawn, on February 11, 1898, a deal had been struck. The CPR paid $600,000 for the C&W railway and its rolling stock, plus $200,000 for the smelter and $6,000 for smelter supplies on hand, for a total of $806,000.
Heinze, however, kept one very valuable asset. He retained a half interest in all of the C&W land grants (which would amount to 307,000 acres), to be transferred to him when the grants were earned by construction of a railroad to Penticton. Heinze left B.C. and never returned. With his $800,000, he won all of his Montana lawsuits, quite possibly “sweetening” a number of judges in that process. Though winning his suits against the Amalgamated Copper trust, that corporation used its ultimate power. Complaining that Heinze’s lawsuits had prevented it from operating its mines, it closed all of its operations in Montana, throwing 3/4 of the wage earners in the state out of work. Though partisans of Heinze, whom they regarded as one of themselves, the Montana miners could not live on enthusiasm. Their need to go back to work eroded their support for Heinze. He saw himself in an untenable position and sold out to Amalgamated for twelve million dollars. Leaving Montana, he moved to New York, and against the advice of this brothers, bought a bank, planning to expand it to a nationwide chain of banks which would lend to small businessmen and tradesmen. His bank was overextended when the panic of 1907 stuck and the hostile New York bankers forced him from its presidency. Fritz Heinze died in disgrace, of cirrhosis of the liver, at the age of 42, a lifelong boozer and womanizer, but a man who faithfully wrote his mother a letter every week.
Dan Corbin, confident that J.P. Morgan was looking after his interests, went ahead with his proposed line to the Boundary mines. On March 19, he incorporated the Kettle River Valley Railway in Washington State to bridge the Columbia at Marcus and build up the Kettle River into Canada at Cascade. He then went to Ottawa to secure a federal charter for the Canadian portion of his line. He brought lengthy petitions from the citizens of Grand Forks and Greenwood supporting his application. The parliamentarians were favorable, especially when an opposition member accused the CPR’s telegraph department of fabricating telegrams opposing Corbin’s application. The Railway Committee approved the application and sent it to the full house. But there, on April 15, a telegram arrived from the British Columbia Government vigorously opposing Corbin’s charter. This swung the undecided votes against Corbin; his application was defeated. This defeat, which was thought to have been engineered by the CPR, aroused fury in the British Columbia interior. The CPR, from distant Montreal, was again pulling the strings in B.C. politics to protect its monopoly.
The CPR, under President, Shaughnessy, had made a location survey west from the Columbia. The river would be bridged at Castlegar, a line run up the bluffs on the south side of Arrow Lake, Bulldog Mountain would be tunneled to enter Dog Creek which would be followed upstream to Mc Rae Pass. From the pass, the line would go down Mc Rae Creek to the Kettle River and then west to Grand Forks. From Grand Forks, the line would either go over the mountain to Greenwood, or dip into the U.S.., following Corbin’s route, to Midway and Rock Creek. From Rock Creek, the line was to climb over the Okanagan Highlands at Anarchist Summit, and descend into the Okanagan Valley at Oliver to run up to Penticton. The CPR operated the Columbia and Western as a subsidiary company, leased in perpetuity to the CPR. While the activities of the C&W will be described under that title, it should be remembered that it was always the creature of the CPR.
The people of B.C. were willing to back whomever, American or Canadian, would tie the Kootenays to the Coast. Vancouver businessmen, however, opposed Corbin’s Kettle River Valley scheme as an American grab for Kootenay and Boundary business. They opposed the CPR plan as well. It looked to them like a dark plot to draw off the business of Southeast B.C. for the hated East. Neither Corbin, nor the CPR, they noted, had given any but the most vague declarations to continue their lines past Penticton to the Coast. Vancouver, therefore, supported the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern scheme to build from Vancouver east to the Kootenays on the route of the Dewdney Trail. But the VV&E was a paper railroad, with a charter, but no money, and no tracks. As well, the Dewdney Trail route, with its succession of summits to be climbed, might suffice for mules, but would be an engineering nightmare for a railroad, as the CPR was later to find. Still, in hopes that someone would build it, the charter had been sold for $75,000 to McKenzie and Mann, reputable railroad contractors. However, in 1898, with the Klondike excitement at its height, McKenzie and Mann stuffed the VV&E charter in a drawer, and began promoting their own creation, a railway from Vancouver to the Klondike.
Now British Columbia politics stepped firmly into the railroad situation in the southeast and began shaking it vigorously. Politics in B. C., in 1898, was railroad politics. Party politics did not come to the province until 1903. Until that year, the members of the legislature were either “The Government” or “The Oppositionists.” The election of 1898 was largely concerned with railroads. Premier Turner promised the electorate a “Coast to Kootenay” railroad, and a line to the Yukon as well. That respected team of McKenzie and Mann would build both. McKenzie and Mann took the Premier aside and informed him of the realities. The VV&E, they told him, would be formidably expensive to build through the Cascade Mountains on the Dewdney Trail route. They would not undertake it unless they could be guaranteed exclusive rights to the Boundary copper traffic. If Corbin was allowed to build his line in from Marcus to haul out copper, they would absolutely not build the VV&E. Further, they assured him, that if Corbin was allowed to build his line, the CPR would surely build in as well to block him. The B.C. Government’s choice, they explained, was to either back Corbin, and have the CPR in as well, or refuse him his charter, which would make it unnecessary for the CPR to build west of the Columbia. In that case, and only in that case, with the absolute assurance of a monopoly of Boundary traffic, would they build the VV&E. Premier Turner deliberated, decided to back Mc Kenzie and Mann, and then sent the famous telegram to Parliament in Ottawa opposing Corbin and destroying his hopes for a charter. Now, Turner told the electorate, McKenzie and Mann could build the VV&E.
Suddenly, the news came, stunning everyone, that Jim Hill had bought out Corbin’s SF&N. The Northern Pacific had indeed bought a majority of SF&N stock. But Jim Hill invoked a prior agreement he had had with J. P. Morgan. Morgan, as financier to both the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific, had insisted, as a condition to supporting them, that both railroads refrain from invading one another’s territories with branch lines. Everything from Hill’s Great Northern north to the Canadian border was agreed to be Great Northern territory; the NP was not to trespass. Hill now demanded that Morgan enforce the agreement, and require the Northern Pacific to turn over all of its shares in the SF&N to Hill at the price they had paid for them. This was done. In British Columbia, the railroad situation was instantly changed.
The CPR, facing this threat from its implacable rival, J.J. Hill, made a midwinter rush to get rails to the Boundary before Hill. Mc Kenzie and Mann told Premier Turner that their deal was off. There was no way that they would build the VV&E in competition with both the CPR and Jim Hill. Premier Turner was desperate; he had an election coming up, and could lose it if he could not promise that the VV&E would be built. He called a conference between himself, Shaughnessy of the CPR, and Mc Kenzie and Mann. The parties stated their positions. Mann said that since the CPR was already grading toward Penticton, he was not in a position to build a parallel VV&E. Shaughnessy replied blandly that the CPR had promised Parliament it would save the valuable Kootenay – Boundary traffic for the people of Canada. (He meant, of course, the CPR.) Premier Turner suggested a shaky compromise: the CPR should build to Midway only, and the Province would consider that would fulfill its obligation to save Boundary traffic for Canada. At the same time, the VV&E would build east from Vancouver to Midway to meet the CPR rails. Mann objected. What guarantee was there that the CPR would turn over Kootenay traffic bound for the coast to the VV&E at Midway, when it could carry it back on its own lines to Calgary and from there to the Coast? Turner suggested, that with their rails in Midway, the VV&E could counter any such CPR move by turning its Kootenay bound traffic over to the Hill lines which the VV&E could easily reach down the valley of the Kettle. A perfect standoff, the Premier suggested; both lines would have to play fairly with each other. The principals pretended to be satisfied with this, and signed the agreement.
Premier Turner then drew up three contracts with McKenzie and Mann. The first was to grant a subsidy of $4,000 per mile for the VV&E to begin building at once from Penticton to Midway. The second was for the section from Penticton to the Coast, and the third was for the Yukon railway. Turner insisted that the VV& E forces be seen on the ground building railway, particularly in the Okanagan where his support was weak, while he fought the election. At the end of June, a force of nine men and a team of horses, much ridiculed by the opposition, was indeed on the ground, grading roadbed south from Okanagan lake through Penticton on what is now Main Street. This was probably mere window dressing. McKenzie and Mann were too experienced to commit substantial resources to the VV&E until the crucial election had been won. This was prudent. Turner lost the election. The incoming government canceled all the contracts. The “nine men and a mule” were paid off, and the VV&E was as dead as any political promise could be.
Up in the snowbound Monashees, the CPR worked frantically. In deep snow, sixteen survey parties spread themselves along the route to stake a grade from Robson West to Grand Forks and on to Greenwood and Midway. Location surveys had been made by both Heinze and the CPR on this route, but this was a construction survey.
A location survey merely located the most feasible route which would avoid costly obstacles, rock bluffs which might require tunneling, and canyons which would need bridges. It would be carried out by a single party. A construction survey had to examine every hundred foot section of the located route (called a “station”), and from each, estimate the number of cubic yards of earth to be moved, the volume of rock to be drilled and blasted. From these figures, a cost estimate could be made for each station. With this information, bids could be advertised and awarded.
In the Monashees that winter each survey party was led by an assistant engineer, and comprised an instrument man with his transit, a chain man with his hundred foot chain, an axe man to clear sight lines, and that most essential fifth, a cook. It must have been brutal work with the soft February snows silently cascading off the firs at the least disturbance of the air. They must have had to rig up some sort of portable shelter to protect the instrument from the heavy clots of snow falling from sixty feet or more above them, a sudden blow that will knock a man to his knees as the author knows from experience. The record shows a hundred pairs of snowshoes worn out by the time spring arrived.
There was need for haste. The C&W charter required completion of the line by 1900, or the $50,000 bond would be forfeited. There was also Jim Hill. He had taken over Dan Corbin’s Kettle River Valley surveys and was preparing to build on that line to Greenwood.
By midsummer, 1899, the C&W construction estimates were complete, the bids were let, and 3000 men were at work grading. The engineers’ estimate was an alarming $40,000 per mile. There were 101 miles to build to reach Midway. The subsidies would return them 20,000 acres and $4,000 per mile, but only on completion of the track.
The climb out of Robson West was blasted through the granite bluffs along the south shore of Lower Arrow Lake on a 2.2 percent grade. At Bulldog Mountain, a long tunnel had to be driven to get the line into Dog Creek. To avoid delaying the work, a series of twelve switchbacks, six to a side, was built over the ridge while the miners tunneled underneath. Narrow gauge Hinkley No. 1, from the Trail Creek Tramway, had been bought by the contractor, Mc Lean Brothers, to haul waste rock out of the tunnel and cuts and distribute it in the fills. A new development, compressed air drills, were being used in the Bulldog Tunnel. These required a boiler and steam powered air compressor to be hauled up the steep and difficult wagon road from Brooklyn, the construction camp on the lake. As well, a full complement of woodcutters were employed to keep the boiler fed. Six shorter tunnels were drilled in the old way, with hand steel and sledge hammers. The construction town of Brooklyn comprised hotels, saloons, restaurants and stores. It lasted only until the tunnels and grades were done. In 1900, abandoned, its buildings were carried off, board by board to nearby Renata and Broadwater by the settlers to build houses and barns.
Track was laid as fast as the grade could be completed, beginning in November, 1898. By the time winter shut down the work with continuous snow slides, ten miles of steel were in place. When the snow had melted in May, 1899, the crews returned to the grade. By July, the steel crews had laid the switchbacks over the tunnel, passed the summit at Farron, and were descending past Gladstone (later Coryell) toward Christina Lake. A rock and snow shed was built at Orion Creek where a long, high talus slope shed boulders on the right of way with every summer rainstorm and avalanches in winter. West of Coryell, another snowshed shielded the track from a perennial avalanche chute.
Descending Mc Rae Creek, the line emerged above Christina Lake on a high granite ledge. This ledge was widened by blasting and stabilized with retaining walls of cut stone, each block three feet long by 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep. They were laid without mortar with the walls reaching ten to forty feet high in sections up to 1409 feet long. They are an impressive sight today, looking up from the highway below. This was not the quick and flimsy construction of Heinze’s or Dan Corbin’s lines, where an improvised crib of logs or a quick and shaky trestle would have sufficed. This was CPR mainline construction, built for the centuries, and fearfully costly, as was being discovered, back in Montreal. The author has inspected a culvert, at the Coryell water tank, drilled and blasted through solid rock, rather than risk a softening of an earth fill during spring freshets. No one else built like the CPR, and the grade will be there long after people forget what it was.
The line reached the valley bottom and the Kettle River just a few hundred feet short of the U.S. boundary. Here, at the foot of the grade, it curved out on an enormous trestle of 62 bents (supporting timber frames) and two Howe truss bridge spans 80 feet above the river. A further 19 bent trestle carried the line to solid ground at Cascade. Two million board feet of timber went into that crossing.
Two more crossings of the Kettle were required to bring the line into Grand Forks, the hub of the Kettle Valley. The CPR was a tough negotiator with the municipalities on the route. The Grand Forks Miner of November 18, 1900, observed, “Not being satisfied with receiving one of the largest land grants ever known in the history of the Province and a cash bonus of $4,000 per mile, they sent representatives to visit every town. Unless they would turn over a large portion of their holdings to the C.P.R.., the names of the towns would not be on the C.P.R. map. These threats proved successful in most cases.”
Grand Forks was not such a case. The town gave no concessions, and the CPR punished it by building its Grand Forks station in the small settlement of Columbia, a mile to the west. Columbia organized itself around the depot, and solicited the businesses of Grand Forks to move out to Columbia where it suggested the action would be. Grand Forks scornfully declined. They were thinking of building a railroad of their own, they said, with a downtown depot. This acrimonious rivalry, with newspapers, the Miner in Columbia and the Gazette in Grand Forks, each black guarding the other community, and rejoicing in whatever disasters befell it, lasted until amalgamation in 1903. Rail passengers, however, were doubtless puzzled to find the Grand Forks station in the town of Columbia.
The first C&W train entered Grand Forks on September 18,1899. From there the route west would run either beside the Kettle River into the U.S. on Corbin’s route, or over the Boundary Range at Eholt’s pass. That the C&W surveyed the route though the U.S. is clear from British Columbia Mineral Reference Map No. 6. This shows a located C&W grade running west from the Grand Forks station (in Columbia) and approximately on present highways 3 and 21 to the border at Carson. The CPR was barred by its charter from building into the U.S.A., but its subsidiary, the C&W, was not, and could have built this easy, water level grade. However, such a line would have by-passed the mining centers of Phoenix and Greenwood, and Aldridge badly needed their copper-gold ores for his Trail smelter. The output from the Red Mountain mines was dwindling; they were never able to hoist more than 300 tons per day; Aldridge needed 500 tons to keep his furnaces running at full capacity.
The urgent need to get rails to the mines on Montezuma Ridge and Knob Hill before Jim Hill showed up, decided the CPR to have the C&W build over the Boundary Range to Midway instead of around it. The 1400 foot climb was difficult and the grade, much of it blasted from rock bluffs, was costly. The C&W graded on a 2.2 percent grade up Hardy Mountain northwest of Grand Forks with more cut stone retaining walls and a tunnel to enter Brown’s Creek . At the head of Brown’s Creek, the range was crossed at Eholt’s ranch, 3100 ft. It then descended Eholt Creek to Greenwood at 2500 feet, and down Boundary Creek to Midway at 1900 feet. By the end of November, service was extended to Greenwood, and Midway was reached by the deadline, the end of the year. Here the C&W stopped. The cost had been appalling, $4 million, but they had beaten Jim Hill.
Construction crews were sent to Eholt and to Greenwood to begin grading two steep and crooked mine branches, one to Phoenix, and one to Motherlode. The CPR would have to recoup its costs from hauling Boundary ore before it would build any farther toward the Coast. It stuck to its agreement with former Premier Turner; it was obliged to go no further. The VV&E was to meet them at Midway. But the VV&E was dead. Or so everyone thought.
In June the anti-VV&E Semlin government which had canceled the contracts, was defeated. Dunsmuir, the new Premier, offered government aid to the C&W to complete a Coast to Kootenay Railway. Shaughnessy, of the CPR, dreading more expensive construction, replied that the CPR would not be able to proceed “for some years.” With that, die-hard VV&E supporters sprung once more to life, and in October Mc Kenzie came to Vancouver to suggest that he would build the VV&E if ex- Premier Turner’s aid package were reinstated. This offer raised instant suspicions that J.J. Hill was behind it. The suspicions were correct. Hill had begun to negotiate with McKenzie and Mann for an interest in the VV&E charter.
On December 24, 1900, Premier Dunsmuir reinstated the $4,000 per mile VV&E subsidy. The dead railway was now very much alive. In March of 1901, the VV&E supporters were able to announce that J.J. Hill was now an equal partner with Mc Kenzie and Mann in the VV&E. The CPR countered this by pointing out that the VV&E charter had lapsed, and was no longer legal, since the promised construction had never taken place, and the deadline had not been met. Further, Laurier, the Prime Minister, announced definitively that no Coast to Kootenay Railway could expect any subsidy from the Federal Government. At this, McKenzie and Mann lost heart and sold the questionable charter outright to J.J. Hill on June 16.
Just five days later, Hill’s American charter for the Washington and Great Northern Railway was granted. He sent his crews at once to begin grading on Dan Corbin’s route from Marcus up the Kettle River to Canada. On July 12, his men crossed the border into Canada and began slashing a right of way west along the Kettle River under the possibly illegal charter of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway.
In Trail the sale of Heinze’s smelter was a disaster for the town. Walter Aldridge closed the smelter which he deemed to be hopelessly inefficient. All its machinery had been run with old time rope drives from a central Corliss steam engine with the moving ropes running overhead on a multitude of sheaves from building to building. Aldridge prepared to convert all this to electricity from the new West Kootenay Power and Light dam at Bonnington Falls. He ordered 2 million bricks with which to build a new 175 foot stack with 48 roasting stalls venting into it. This was to end the notorious outdoor ore roasting heaps and dissipate the noxious fumes into the surrounding mountains. He would use the old stack to vent the new lead smelter he was planning, since now, with CPR ownership, he could smelt those Slocan silver-lead ores denied to Heinze.
Aldridge promised to reopen in a year, but smelter men could not live on air, and many of them departed. To keep some of them in Trail, and to deal with ore still coming down the tramway from the Centre Star, War Eagle and Iron Mask, he fired five outdoor roasting heaps that summer. Still, the population of Trail was dwindling. With more and more of the Red Mountain ores going to Northport, many of the residents followed.
Aldrige and his men worked as speedily as possible. New water cooled furnaces were installed, and a lead smelter was erected. In addition, work began, converting the narrow gauge tramway to Rossland to standard gauge. In Rossland, the yards were moved west to a flat between Second and Third Avenues and a large new station and freight shed built there. When the standard gauge rails were in place, an oversight came to light: the CPR had no ore cars at all, and the little 12 ton narrow gauge cars were inadequate, even if put on standard gauge trucks. Hastily, wooden ore boxes were built on standard flat cars at Trail, little more than staked sides and sloping ends. Capacity was 20 tons. An order to the East finally produced a number of all wood 22 foot cars with an outside braced box, sturdy and serviceable. Capacity was 30 tons. With their arrival, the improvised boxes on flats were shifted to the Boundary mine branches where they ran for years. Later, a group of 50 ton all steel cars showed up and served until mid century.
With a standard gauge ore haul and a modern, electrically powered smelter, the pioneering phase was over. Financed from Montreal and London, the bankers were now in charge of Trail, Rossland and the Red Mountain mines. Sourdough Alley was razed and rebuilt on a sober, rectangular grid. Most of the miners had married, and now lived with their families in small bungalows, going to work like anyone else. The gaudy days were over, the all-night saloons and gambling halls closed down, and the Rossland began to look like any other British Columbian. mountain town.