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.
RAIL OPERATIONS, TRAIL TO ROSSLAND (1896 – 1929)
On the narrow gauge line to Rossland, three freight trains ran daily, bringing ore down to the smelter, and hauling coal, machinery and supplies to the Rossland Camp from barges on the Columbia. At the riverfront, a steep track ran diagonally down the riverbank to a switchback, and reversed down to the extreme low water line. A steamer or a barge moored alongside the track at any stage of the river allowed transfer of freight or passengers directly to the little cars of the Trail Creek Tramway.
Dispatching was from the Tramway office at Smelter Junction, a two story building, with operations on the first floor. The second floor was comfortably fitted up as accommodations for Fritz Heinze where he spent one week of every month in Trail looking after his Canadian enterprises. The freight schedule had one train loading at the ore bunkers above Rossland, while another was on the line, and a third unloading at the smelter. The ore cars were the 12 ton wooden coal gondolas that had come from Alberta. They had link and pin couplers, hand brakes, and typically ran in trains of seven cars with no caboose. Upgrade, the little Hinkleys would have been taxed to their tractive limit by eight empties, or fewer if a car of coal was in the uphill consist. The Tramway ran several passenger trains daily between the Trail waterfront station and Rossland. Passenger service began on June 5, 1896, with a morning and an afternoon train each way. The fare was $2.00. As the Tramway had no proper passenger cars as yet, three freight cars had windows cut in their sides, wood stoves installed, and a double bench was run down the length of the car, the passengers facing outward, back to back, and bracing their feet against the sides of the car for the rough ride up the hill.
The afternoon train of these improvised coaches left Trail at 5:00 PM, and , according to the Trail Creek Times, regularly carried a hundred or more passengers, local people, and travellers disembarking from the sternwheelers down at the riverfront. At times space in the train was fully occupied and passengers sat on the car steps, on the roofs, and even on the locomotive pilot. Frequently, in those early days, extra cars had to be added to handle the baggage off the boats, and a second locomotive had to be coupled onto the train to haul it up the steep grades to Rossland. These were bonanza times, and in their eagerness to get to the golden promise of the mines, travellers were undeterred by such inconveniences; the more overcrowded the trains, the more wonderful the mines above must be. Miners, promoters, salesmen, saloon keepers, gamblers, prostitutes: everyone was frantic to get in on the roaring days while they lasted. Farmers and ranchers from the surrounding district rode the Tramway as well. They made regular trips to Rossland to solicit restaurants, hotels, grocers, for contracts for their produce, fruit and meat. Many of the orchardists along the Arrow Lakes would contract their entire crop to a retailer in Rossland and ship the fruit, as it came ripe, on the daily CPR sternwheelers that would pause at every rural wharf where boxes of fruit were stacked. Taken off the steamer that same day at Trail, these perishables would ride the cars up the steep and twisting rails to Rossland. With this coordinated boat-rail service, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, apples and pears, could be in the Rossland grocers’ windows the day after being picked. It is deceptively easy for us to dismiss the 19th Century as crude and rustic. A look at the wilted produce at the market today should remind us that we often grossly overestimate the fruits of progress. Similarly, in the cold months of the year, when lack of refrigeration was no problem,. fresh killed pork, beef and lamb rode the boats and rails to the mines. Retired farmers and orchardists assert that the golden days of the Rossland Bonanza were the making of their homesteads. The Red Mountain mines made millionaires out of the Spokane Colonels, but more importantly, it kick-started a brand new Kootenay agriculture which flourished in those years as it has not done since.
The Spokane passenger train left that city at 8:45 AM daily, and its Northport connection on the Red Mountain Railway did not get into Rossland until 4:10 PM, too late to catch the last passenger train down the hill. They would likely have taken the stage down the steep, twisting wagon road the last eight miles to Trail. The 10:00 AM Red Mountain Railway departure from Rossland got its passengers into Spokane at 5:35 PM, making the 147 mile trip at and average of 19 miles per hour. Chartered private trains, not obliged to make station stops, probably made the journey in two thirds of that time.
The timetable above shows that the passenger schedules on the Rossland hill left two daylight windows for freight operations, one from 9:15 AM to 11:00 AM, probably for a run of empty ore cars up to the mines, and another from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM, to bring down the first loads of ore. Nighttime was open, and the other two freight runs were certainly made in the dark.
Motive power on the narrow gauge consisted of the two Hinkley 2-6-0 locomotives bought second hand from the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, successors to the Northwest Coal and Navigation Company, when they standard gauged their “Turkey Trail” line to Great Falls, Montana. Hinkleys No. 1 and No. 2 were construction numbers 1780 and 1781 respectively, with 12 x18 cylinders and tiny, 31” drivers which gave them 13,000 pounds of tractive effort. The Hinkleys were built as 0-6-0 machines with the pilot truck added later. They probably handled the passenger runs on the narrow gauge with the more powerful Brooks locomotive making the freight runs. The Brooks was construction number 578, with 14 x18 cylinders, 42 inch drivers, and weighed 20 tons. Two more moguls were reportedly obtained in 1899. No. 4 was a Mogul of unknown origin, and No. 5 was a 2-6-0 from the Canadian Locomotive Company of Kingston. No photographs are known to exist. Possibly one or both were bought for spare parts. On December 6, 1896, the refurbished private car made its first trip up the line to Rossland with Heinze and a party of contractors who had come to bid on the C&W line to Robson West.
The Trail Creek Tramway from the outset was worked as hard as its diminutive equipment would allow, to bring down the tonnage Heinze required for his smelter. In the summer of 1896 a new blast furnace was installed at the smelter and capacity was raised to 500 tons per day. This was more than the little 12 ton cars could handle. In the middle of August, 1896, the tramway was delivering 200 tons a day. 50 tons came from Le Roi, 50 from the War Eagle and a hundred tons from other mines. A further 50 tons of very high grade ore in sacks was brought down daily and taken to the riverbank to be put aboard the Lytton for Northport and rail shipment from there to the Tacoma smelter. Heinze boasted his tramway was earning $25,000 a month. In October of 1896, fourth freight run was instituted and the tramway was able to bring down 325 tons daily. About half this ore was was coming from the stockpiles accumulated at the mines during the years before the railway had come. The mines themselves were not producing more than 175 tons daily, all told. When the tramway should have caught up with this backlog, the smelter would need new ores or have to cut back to a reduced capacity. This prompted Fritz Heinze to go after those Slocan silver-lead ores with his C&W line to Robson West.
The Trail Creek Tramway did not keep its employees long. The pay was low, only $1.75 per day, from which $1.25 was deducted if one used the company boardinghouse. As well, the operation was a difficult and hazardous one, bringing heavy trains down one of the steepest railroads in the West at night and without air brakes. Brakemen had to ride between the cars, with a foot on each, and twist down the brake wheel, with a pick handle for leverage, at whistle signals from the engineer. In winter the job was particularly brutal. Most men stayed only long enough to earn a grub stake, then moved on.
In one instance, remembered by freight conductor, Tom Peck, the entire train crew rebelled. During the obligatory stop at the Tiger switchbacks to let the wheels and brake shoes cool, the grumbling men discovered that they were of one mind: Fritz Heinze could have his damned railroad in a place that would cause him severe discomfort. Led by conductor, “Lean Dog” McLean, they took a sight on a lighted window in Anable and walked off in a body, leaving the train to look after itself. For such a steep and difficult line, accidents were surprisingly few. A passenger train demolished an ore car which had somehow strayed onto the main line in July of 1896. In August of 1897, the second loaded ore car of a ten car train left the rails on the Davis Street curve in Rossland, just above the Spitzee mine. Conductor Abercrombie and his crew made two unsuccessful attempts to re-rail the car with track frogs. On the third try, Hackett, the impatient engineer,. took slack, threw the Johnson bar over and opened the throttle wide. The sudden jerk, instead of pulling the car up onto the frog, threw it over on its side, tumbling it down the embankment, and pulling the first car and the locomotive with it. Engineer Hackett, Fireman Harkness, and another man leapt free from the locomotive as it rolled, and scrambled away, uninjured. No. 3, the Brooks Mogul, came to rest upside down, its drivers still turning until someone closed the throttle. The wreck came at the wrong time, as No. 2 was in the shop for repairs, and Hinkley No. 1 was left to run the Tramway by itself. Tragedy came during the efforts to right the wreck, and get No. 3 back up on the rails. The company’s blacksmith, trying to loosen a bolt, had his wrench slip, and falling backward, crushed his kidney on a tree stump. The injury proved fatal, the first casualty of the little line.
After three years of operation as a narrow gauge line, the Canadian Pacific, when it took over, standard gauged the line in 1899. The loops at Warfield were widened from 25 to 20 degrees, and at Tiger, the alignment was changed. The switchbacks could not be dispensed with, but the line linking them was lengthened to reduce the grade. All but one of the line’s tight curves were eased to 20 degrees, but still the standard CPR Mikado locomotives were never able to be used since their trailing trucks lacked the swing necessary to negotiate a 20 degree curve. The grade on the line after standard gauging was still 4 percent with short stretches of 4.6 percent, and two sections of 4.8 percent, one at Anable and the other on Le Roi Avenue in Rossland.
In the process of conversion, standard gauge ties were slid under the rails, and the old six foot ties were sent down to the smelter to be used as fuel. 60 pound rails replaced the old 28 pound steel, but one 28 pound rail was left in place so that the narrow gauge traffic could continue uninterrupted during the changeover. 60 pound rail for all the standard gauge switches was cut and set out, and on June 15, 1899, a hundred men, in six gangs, replaced the 14 narrow gauge switches with standard gauge, and the changeover was complete. By 3:15 PM, on that same day, the first standard gauge train, following the changeover crews up the hill, arrived in Rossland.
The narrow gauge equipment was sold by the CPR. Hinkley No. 1, went in November, 1899, to Mc Lean Brothers, contractors working on the C&W extension to Midway. It worked at Bulldog tunnel, on the long fills above Dog Creek and doubtless at other locations as well. It was reported in 1905 at Midway, working on the abortive Midway and Vernon grade. In 1907, a locomotive of identical appearance shows up in a photograph as No. 2 of the Belcher Mine Ry, an 8 mile narrow gauge line serving the Belcher mine up Lambert creek near Karamin in Ferry County, Washington. This may have been Trail Creek Tramway No. 1 or a sister locomotive from the Turkey Trail in Alberta.
Master Mechanic Garlock, left Trail to work in Seattle for the White Pass and Yukon Railway. He was charged by them with the job of finding narrow gauge equipment for the new line. He bought Hinkley No. 2 in October, 1900 and shipped it to Skagway where it worked on the White Pass as its No. 64. It was scrapped there in 1918. No. 3, the Brooks Mogul, was also bought by Garlock in July,1900, and shipped north to become WP&Y No. 65. When it was replaced some years later by heavier locomotives, the White Pass sold it to Tanana Mines in Alaska to become their No. 51. It was scrapped by the Alaska Railroad, probably in 1917, when it standard gauged the Tananna Mines line. The fate of Mogul No. 4 is unknown; some reports have it sent back to the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. No 5, the C.L.C. locomotive, went to McDonnell and Gzowski, contractors, and was put to work on the construction of the spiral tunnels above Field as No. 15. Its ultimate fate is unknown. There are reports in Trail that Garlock sent the first class passenger coach and Heinze’s private car to the WP&Y as well. However, there are no records in Skagway to bear this out.
The early coaches on that line have been thoroughly rebuilt and no evidence of origin remains. However, early photos of the WP&Y show a “duckbilled” roof Billmeyer and Smalls coach, which could have come from either the Trail Creek Tramway or the Coeur D’Alene Railway which was standard gauged about the same time. In 1900, the CPR bought the first of three large three truck Shay locomotives to work the Rossland Hill. No 111, the first of the Shays, was a 90 ton machine, (120 tons in working order with a full boiler and tank) with three 15 x 17 inch cylinders and 41” drivers. The big Shay had greater tractive power than any other locomotive the Canadian Pacific possessed at that time. As the CPR intended to run mixed trains on the Rossland hill, the Shay was fitted with an elegant wooden cowcatcher as the law required for a passenger locomotive. Wooden cowcatchers were favored by the CPR for mountain districts in the early years of the century. It was noted that on encountering a boulder on the track at speed, a wooden cowcatcher would disintegrate into splinters, while a steel pilot would be mangled into mass of bent metal, which, passing under the wheels, would frequently derail the locomotive. But Shay 111, though powerful, was slow, and it is doubtful that the mandated cowcatcher was ever able to overtake a cow in good health.
The Shay could bring eight steel gondolas up the hill, while the light Consolidations assigned to the branch could bring up but four. Capacity of the Shay on the hill was 213 tons, the Consolidations, 184 tons. For winter service it was found necessary to sheathe that elegant wooden pilot with steel to throw the snow, and to also extend steel sheathing outside the front truck to keep wet snow from balling up in the gears. The curves on the Rossland line were too tight to permit a standard snowplough to operate; its long wheelbase caused it to overhang the sharp curves and derail when pushing snow. A special short coupled plough was built for the Rossland line, and a tiny flanger was constructed on a single truck, weighted with lengths of rail.
The CPR bought two more Shays to the same pattern as 111, for the Motherlode and Phoenix branches, and these locomotives probably worked the Rossland hill as well. No 112 came in 1902, and was scrapped after a wreck in 1911. No 113 arrived in 1903. In 1913 it was sold to become No. 5 on Dan Corbin’s coal line in the East Kootenay. It was sent to Contractors’ Machinery in Seattle the same year in trade for a lighter Shay, and disappears from the record. Probably it served out its time on some Northwest logging line.
Winter brought special problems at the ore receiving pockets at the smelter. All of the Red Mountain ores came out of the mines wet, and in the winter whole train loads of ore would come off the hill frozen solid. A special thawing house was built at the smelter into which the cars of frozen ore would be shunted and the doors closed. Stoves would lit to raise the temperature, and steam lances employed in the wooden cars to loosen the ore. Later, when steel ore jennies were introduced, oil fired torches would be played against their sides and workers with sledge hammers would pound the cars until the ore could be broken up. The scorched and battered sides of these cars testified to dozens of combats with frozen ore. Finally, the engineering department built a car shaker to break up frozen ore.
Other problems abounded on the steep and crooked line, even in summer. T.L. Bloomer, who worked on the Rossland hill, remembered, “One of the most trying difficulties on the Rossland Hill in the old days was bad rails caused by smoke from the smelter combining with dew or mist from the heavens. All sorts of schemes have been tried for overcoming this combination — steam jets to blow it off and different methods of sanding. I have seen it so bad that the train crew had to get shovels and throw dirt from the side of the track onto the rails, and still the engine would slip.” As the smelter stack was belching tons of sulfur dioxide, the oxygen of the air and the dew on the rails, converted it into sulfuric acid, an oily liquid. Another slippery rail problem was caused by caterpillars in the summer, which, Bloomer reported, “…would cluster on the rails for warmth when the sun went down. And how they would smell!”
Acid rain, shivering caterpillars, unremarked on a normal railroad, became serious on the 4.6 percent grades, stalling trains and magnifying the trivial into the serious. Bloomer, and other engineers on the Rossland hill, noted that a light day snow gave ideal traction on the tight curves. It held the sand on the rail and provided just enough moisture to lubricate the flanges. The trains always ran better through the loops, the crews found, when the outer drivers had just the right amount of slippage on the super-elevated outer rail. The Rossland hill was a challenge for engineers and train crew, winter and summer.
Coming down the hill with a loaded train or ore, a stop had to be made .4 miles below the old narrow gauge wye for a safety switch. Here retainers were set up to hold 15 pounds of air on the brakes, the switch was thrown, and the train proceeded down the hill. The switch was normally lined for an old quarry and if the descending train was unable to stop, the switch would divert it into a pile of loose rock in the quarry.
Freights were limited to 10 miles per hour downhill, passenger trains to 20. At the Tiger switchbacks, freights had a mandatory stop of ten minutes, to allow brakes and wheels to cool before proceeding down to Warfield. Most tricky of all, was bringing down a light engine. The engine brakes in that case could be used only sparingly, for if the steel driver tires overheated, they would expand and come off the drivers, derailing the locomotive. Engineers put the Johnson bar in the second notch of reverse and open the cylinder cocks slightly and came down on compression, rather than on brakes.
Up above Rossland, the Highline leading to the War Eagle and Le Roi ore bunkers crossed Acme Creek (Centre Star Gulch) on a high trestle built on a 26 degree curve. Only the Shays and rod engines with blind second and main drivers could negotiate it. Later, new ore bunkers were built down on the lower line and the ore sent down to them by cable trams to eliminate this awkward spur.
The Canadian Pacific operating department never did like the Shays bought for the steep mine branches. With their limited speed, they were not interchangeable with rod engines for mainline service. In 1910, with the coming of the heavy Consolidations of the M4 class, these engines were assigned to the Rossland hill and the Shays confined to the the Phoenix and Motherlode branches in the Boundary district. The M4 3400s and 3500s were rated at 184 tons on the Rossland hill, and could when required, work the line to Castlegar and Nelson, or wherever else they might be needed. The Shays could out pull them, but that was all. Later, the N2 class Consolidations worked the hill, the heaviest engines permitted on the line.
With the standard gauging of the line in 1898, passenger connections to Nelson, where all court and government business had to be transacted, and to the outside world, were greatly improved. A 1905 timetable shows daily except Sunday departures from Rossland at 6:55 PM, dropping down to Trail to pick up passengers, and then climbing back to Smelter Junction to take the line to Castlegar. The train arrived at the dock at Robson West at 9:00 PM, and passengers would board the sternwheeler “Rossland,” “Kootenay,” or “Minto,” leaving at 11:00 PM for the sixteen hour run up the lakes to the rail connection at Arrowhead. Arrival at Revelstoke was at 5:30 PM to make connections with trains to Vancouver or Calgary and the East.
On the inbound trip, passengers would leave Revelstoke at 8:15 AM on the branch line train to Arrowhead where they would board whichever one of the three sternwheelers was running that day at 9:15 AM for a 10:15 AM departure. Arrival at Robson West was at 8:30 PM, after a fast ten hour run down the lakes. Waiting at the dock would be the Rossland-Trail train, departing at 8:50 PM, and reaching Rossland at 10:50 that evening. The Nelson and Grand Forks trains would be at Robson West as well, for passengers bound to those destinations.
Robson West was a busy place with a twice daily interchange of steamer and three trains. At 9:24 AM the Rossland train arrived, followed six minutes later by the arrival of the Nelson train. After transferring passengers, the train from Rossland departed for Grand Forks and Midway. At the same time, the train from Midway which had been standing all night, departed for Nelson, and a third train departed for Rossland.
At 8:30 in the evening, the Revelstoke steamer would arrive and ten minutes later, trains began arriving. First, the Nelson train, then five minutes later,the train from Grand Forks, Greenwood and Midway. Fifteen minutes later, the Rossland train would pull in.
Passengers from the boat boarded their trains; train passengers boarded the boat, and at 8:45 all three trains departed, for Rossland, for Nelson and for Midway. The steamer took on coal, and at 11:00 PM she departed up lake. Nothing remains of Robson West today but a double line of rotting piles where the trains used to back down the long, sloping ramp to lie alongside the steamers to transfer freight and passengers. Directly across the river was the terminus of the Columbia and Kootenay line to Nelson and in the early years, after the steamer had discharged its passengers, it would barge rail cars across to the line on the other side. In 1902, the CPR bridged the Columbia at Castlegar and the Robson terminus was abandoned. Robson West continued to function as the rail-boat transfer point until the last sternwheeler, the “Minto,” was withdrawn in 1954.
All of the trains from Rossland, bound for Nelson, or Grand Forks, or Robson West, stopped at Smelter Junction, (now called Tadanac) and backed down the switchback line to Dublin gulch, took the switchback, and proceeded down Trail Creek to the Trail City Station on Cedar Avenue. Passengers and express would be loaded and the train would back up the gulch to the switchback and then up the 3.9 percent grade to Smelter Junction. In the 30s trim Ten Wheeler D10g class locomotives were assigned to the Trail- Nelson run. Gibson Kennedy reports that some engineers with their light, two car train, would work the grade with a short cutoff which yielded a satisfyingly sharp bark from the stack, but produced a surge in train motion with every revolution of the drivers. This caused the clerks in the mail and baggage car to lose their footing while trying to sort mail. They registered a complaint to the company and engineers were subsequently ordered to moderate their efforts to save fuel on this particular grade.
A CLASH OF CAPTAINS:
HILL, VAN HORNE, AND “THE ASSOCIATES”
James Jerome Hill, of St Paul, Minnesota and the Great Northern Railway, was at home on both sides of the border, and saw no reason why his railroads should not be as well. In 1870, as a Canadian living in St Paul, he was asked by Canadian Parliamentary Secretary, Joseph Howe, to travel north to Fort Gary (near present Winnipeg) to report on the Riel Rebellion. So isolated was the Manitoba territory from the rest of Canada by the trackless 800 miles of rocky wilderness north of Lake Superior, that St Paul was the nearest source of information, and the place through which travel to that remote region passed.
Hill traveled in March of that year by railroad, stagecoach and, dog sled over the snows. On the trail with his dogs, he encountered Donald Smith, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, returning from his own investigation of the rebellion. Their campfire talk led them to agree that the Red River Valley, as both prime agricultural land, and as the surest route from St Paul to Fort Gary,. Manitoba, and the Canadian West, would some day support a very profitable railway.
In the following years Hill enlisted the support of Donald Smith and his equally wealthy cousin, George Stephen, of the Bank of Montreal, in getting control of the steamboat business on the Red River, the route to Winnipeg. Their syndicate, “George Stephens and Associates,” comprised Stephen and Smith, as the financiers, Norman Kittson, The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Minnesota agent, operating the steamboat line, and Hill, their St Paul freight forwarder. Once in control of steam navigation on the Red River, the Associates then went after the bankrupt St Paul and Pacific Railroad which they intended to complete to the Red River and a connection with Kittson’s steamboats.
It was the mephistophelean George Stephen who devised a way to buy the incomplete and bankrupt St Paul and Pacific Railroad from its Dutch bondholders with their own money. The Dutchmen had invested $11 million in the railway to get its valuable land grant, and so far had received neither land nor a penny of interest. George Stephen offered to take their bonds in exchange for bonds in a new railway company which the Associates would form. The Associates were gambling that J.J., Hill could complete the railroad before the deadline, eight months away, and earn for them the huge land grant that went with it.
The new company’s worth, in five equal shares, was divided among Stephen, Smith, Hill and Kittson. The concealed fifth share was kept by George Stephen who passed it clandestinely to New York banker J. S. Kennedy who had been the Dutchmen’s representative and who had, somewhat unethically, persuaded them to accept Stephen’s offer. Stephen became president of the Associates’ new company, Smith became vice-president and Hill, the man on the ground, General Manager. When the original bonds received from the Dutchmen could not pay their interest, the Associates foreclosed, and became instant owners of the bankrupt railway. It was an extraordinary bargain; the Associates had put up but $280,000 to acquire a railroad with assets of 11 million. At once, Hill, with tremendous energy, pushed the railway to the Red River within the deadline, and the land grant was handed over. Sale of those lands brought the Associates $13 million over the years, but more importantly, they now had a railway to the Red River and the exclusive steamboat transportation along its waters to Winnipeg. The Associates, with this one coup, now controlled absolutely Canada’s only land transportation to its west.
The Associates renamed their railroad the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba and capitalized it at $15 million. The railroad and the steamboat company became instantly profitable. Stock was quickly bought up by the public and the proceeds were used to pay off the construction debt.
Through another of George Stephen’s manipulations, the Associates were able to buy back $11 million of the bonds they had given the Dutchmen for $1 million. Hill, on Stephen’s instructions, refused to redeem the interest coupons on the bonds with the railway grant lands, alleging that the Dutchmen had violated the terms of the bond exchange agreement. The bamboozled Dutchmen, who were primarily interested in land, sold out in disgust.
The new Canadian government had been seeking a way to build the transcontinental railway which it had promised British Columbia and the rest of Canada from its inception. The only syndicate sufficiently strong to undertake such a project was The Associates with George Stephen in charge.
The Canadian government courted George Stephen. But Stephen was wary. Hill and Angus (of the bank of Montreal) pointed out to him that if some hostile syndicate, such as the NP or the Milwaukee built the Canadian transcontinental, their St P M &M would lose its international value and become but one more prairie granger line. If George Stephen accepted the offer of substantial land grants and a cash subsidy the Canadian government was offering, Hill and Angus promised, they would build the line. Hill, Angus and Stephen at that time saw the Canadian transcontinental as a valuable feeder line to the St Paul and Manitoba and felt its only rational route would be to dip into the U.S. at Sault Ste Marie and run via their SPM&M to Canada at Emerson. It would be madness, Hill thought to build a railroad across the Canadian Shield where no one lived and no agricultural land existed. Thus, from its inception, The Canadian Pacific Railway was paradoxically conceived by its builders and owners as an international extension of their American railroad.
George Stephen was more than naive in taking on the building of the Canadian Pacific. As with the St Paul and Pacific, he would find the financing, J.J. Hill would build the line, and they would all profit from the truly enormous land grant to be earned, in this case, 25 million acres. But the St Paul and Pacific had required but 87 miles of line to complete. This time the distance was 1900 miles, over unknown territory, and through two mountain ranges where no railroad passes had yet been located. George Stephen was able to wring concessions from the Canadian government: a monopoly on all rail transportation west from Winnipeg, and a further guarantee that the builders would own and run CPR forever. With these, Stephen thought the thing could be done for $45 million, of which the Government would advance half. It was an enormous and nearly disastrous underestimate.
Hill built the Associates’ SPM&M to the Canadian border at Emerson. The Canadian Pacific built from there to Winnipeg. George Stephen named J.J. Hill managing director of the CPR, and Hill moved to Winnipeg to direct the building of the line west to the Pacific. He discovered at once that the CPR was a swamp of confusion, ineptitude, and graft. In its first year,1881, it had spent $10 million and only built 130 miles of track. The chief looters were former Confederate General, Thomas Lafayette Rossiter, and his superior, Alpheas B. Stickney, who later would become president of the Chicago Great Western. The pair were working an outrageous scam, selling privileged information as to the line’s location to land speculators. The speculators could then buy up raw prairie land for $1.25 and acre and sell it as track-side locations a month later, for 50 times that amount. Hill still had the Mantoba road to run; he desperately needed a supremely tough superintendent to clean out the deadwood and grafters in the CPR, and to drive its grading crews ahead at top speed.
The man he hired was William Cornelius Van Horne, a hard-driving American whom he had met when Van Horne was resurrecting the Southern Minnesota line out of La Cross, Wisconsin. Van Horne was exactly Jim Hill’s kind of man, one who eagerly sought every possible responsibility, and when given it, produced solid results. Hill first offered Van Horne the presidency of his own St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba railroad. When Van Horne laughed in his face at the proposal, Jim Hill knew that here was a man with enough self-confidence to take over the chaotic CPR whose current managers were more interested in organizing pheasant hunts and champagne parties than building track.
Van Horne accepted, and brought along with him from the Milwaukee, Thomas Shaugnessy, to act as his purchasing agent. The team of Van Horne and Shaugnessy, the blustering, belligerent “Terror of Flat Crib,” and the suave, meticulous Chief Clerk ingeniously stalling every creditor of the nearly insolvent line with exquisitely polite requests for more detailed invoices, completed the Canadian Pacific and successively held its presidency until 1918.
Van Horne at once took the CPR by its ears and shook it thoroughly, earning his title, “The Terror of Flat Crick.” Van Horne’s arrival at any of the hundreds of end-of -track camps was described by R.K. Kernighan,
“…when manager Van Horne comes to town there is a shaking of bones… He is the Terror of Flat Crick… they are as frightened of him as they are of the old Nick himself.
“Yet Van Horne is calm and harmless looking. So is a mule and so is a buzz saw. You don’t know their inwardness till you go up and get the feel of them. To see Van Horne get out of his car and go softly up the platform, you might think he was an evangelist on his way to preach temperance to the Mounted Police.
“But you are soon undeceived. If you are within hearing distance you will have more fun than you ever had in your life before. He cuffs the first official he comes to just to get his hand in and leads the next one by the ear, and pointing eastward informs him that the walking is good as far as St Paul. To see the rest hunt their holes and commence scribbling for dear life is a terror.
“Van Horne wants to know. He is that kind of man. He wants to know why this was not done and why this was done. If the answers are not satisfactory there is a dark and bloody tragedy enacted right there. During each act the all the characters are killed off and in the last scene the heavy villain is filled with dynamite, struck with a hammer, and by the time he has knocked a hole plumb through the sky, and the smoke has cleared away, Van Horne has discharged all the officials and hired them over at lower figures.”
Hill was at first pleased with his choice; he had both found the man to terrorize the CPR into order, and also very cleverly removed a dangerous rival from the competing Milwaukee Road which was by then invading what Hill considered St Paul and Manitoba Road territory.
Hill’s pleasure was not to last long. As 1882 began, Van Horne had boasted that he would lay 500 miles of track that year, an unheard-of feat. Moreover, he had ordered in advance, every tie, bridge timber, rail and keg of spikes for 500 miles of railroad. His orders, filling 500 rail cars, choked Hill’s St Paul yards. The Manitoba found itself unable to move its trains until Van Horne’s cars were removed. Hill threatened to have his own men dump the cars where they stood. Van Horne, choosing his own time, eventually sent his own men down to offload the cars and permit Mr. Hill to run his railroad. But by the end of the year, Van Horne had laid an astonishing 548 miles of track, a record never bettered.
Hill constantly complained to Van Horne that he was not sufficiently concerned
for the well-being of the Manitoba Road, for in Hill’s mind the Canadian Pacific was to make the Manitoba Road thrive. But Van Horne had no intention of being the Associates’ pawn. Almost from the beginning he became a thorough CPR man. When the Canadian Pacific completed its line east from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, George Stephen promised a worried J.J. Hill that it would not be opened for another year so that their Manitoba Road would have all the haulage of CPR materials. Van Horne, however, instructed his traffic officials to bring in materials via the Great Lakes and the Thunder Bay route, a considerable cost saving, but cutting the Manitoba line out of the traffic. Hill protested Van Horne’s attitude, “…there is I know a feeling…of ill concealed hostility toward this company.” J.J. Hill had picked the one man thick-skinned enough to see the CPR through to the Pacific. But he had failed to realize that Van Horne was a man just like himself, stubborn, headstrong and supremely ambitious. It was inevitable they would clash. As well, Hill failed utterly to take into consideration that the Canadian Government, which was subsidizing the CPR construction by loans and grants, would absolutely insist on an “All Canadian” route to the north of Lake Superior. No matter that it made no economic sense, that it would not furnish a single carload of freight. Canadian nationalism demanded it. Canadian taxpayers would never permit their government to subsidize a railway through the United States.
George Stephen and Associates were not going to be able to construct the Canadian Pacific as an extension of the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba; they were going to have to build an “All Canadian” route or forfeit government support. Hill, his advice ignored, his protests unheeded, found his position on the Canadian Pacific board untenable. He angrily resigned his position on May 3, 1883, and began selling his CAP stock. In a note to Kennedy, the clandestine fifth Associate, on the following day, Hill explained, “Mr. Van Horne… is inclined to take the view that the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba are powerless to help themselves and must simply accept any situation that may be assigned to it by the Can Pac.”
Van Horne, seeing the CPR in a wider perspective than J.J. Hill, realized that his line could never fulfill the destiny he saw for it as long as it operated as a feeder to the St Paul and Manitoba. In an act that would render Hill an enemy forever, he declared the CPR’s independence by signing a preferential traffic agreement with the Northern Pacific, rather than with the Manitoba Road. When Hill discovered this, he sold his final 10,000 shares in the CPR in utter disgust, and became Van Horne’s implacable foe. “I’ll get even with him if I have to go to hell for it and shovel coal!” Hill swore.
The position of George Stephen in all this is curious. He was president of both the Canadian Pacific and of the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, now rival lines. Van Horne’s disregard of Hill’s interests had to have the President’s sanction, yet Hill, mesmerized by the aristocratic presence of George Stephen, never blamed him for the rift.
Stephen’s manipulations continued. In 1886, with the Canadian Pacific completed, George Stephen and Donald Smith secretly bought control of the Minneapolis, St Paul and Salt Sate Marie (the So line), railroad, a line charted by Minneapolis millers to bring wheat from the Dakota prairies to the Minneapolis mills and carry their flour to the year round port of Salt Sate, Marie. This line, a rival to both the CPR and the Manitoba Road, had been looked at by both Hill and Van Horne and rejected as weak line, unfinished and no threat. However, Stephen and Smith put $750,000 into it to complete it. Once finished, they intended to sell it to either the CPR or to Hill, whichever would bid highest for it. Hill discovered that the money had come from the bank of Montreal, and queried Stephen as to who was involved. Stephen mendaciously denied that he or Smith had advanced the money. With Hill still in the dark, Smith and Stephen went bargain hunting again, and bought the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic, another line running from Duluth to Salt Sate Marie. Their purpose was the same, to sell it to either the Manitoba or the CPR. Hill began a savage rate war with both lines in an effort to drive them into bankruptcy. But from some unknown source, money kept being poured into these competitors. Eventually, Stephen had to confess to Hill that he and Donald Smith were behind the rival lines. Hill then questioned Stephen’s anomalous position as President of both the CPR and the Manitoba. In 1888 George Stephen sold the So line to the Canadian Pacific and resigned as CPR president. His place was taken by Van Horne who began to pour money into the So, as a “defense” against the Manitoba line.
Hill responded with a campaign against the CPR, delaying his passenger trains so that travelers would not make their connections at Winnipeg, and on one pretext or another, blocking freight cars a the border, tying up the CPR line.
The anxiety Hill felt about the So line which paralleled the Manitoba on the south was doubled when in 1893, Van Horne bought the Duluth and Winnipeg for the CPR, a line, that would when completed, parallel the Manitoba on the north. This put Hill in vice, and Van Horne, it seemed to him, was twisting the handle. For, if Van Horne could complete the Duluth and Winnipeg north to the border, the CPR, using D&W and So tracks would have its own line into St Paul and connections to the Chicago roads. Hill had to have the Duluth and Winnipeg, or he would be squeezed out of the Canadian traffic. Realizing at last that the CPR was now never going to use his Manitoba road as an American connection, he changed the name of the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba to the Great Northern, and encouraged by George Stephen, struck out for the Pacific Coast on his own.
George Stephen had no intention of letting Van Horne destroy the Great Northern, which he could have done with the So and D&W. Stephen now began a treacherous campaign to get rid of Van Horne. In 1897 he forced Van Horne out of the Presidency of the CPR, took over himself,and sold the D&W to Hill.
George Stephen’s ambiguous position as President of the CPR from 1880 to 1888, and Chairman of the Board of the Manitoba Road from 1878 to 1886 gave him almost unlimited power to play with both lines for his own profit. He played the deluded combatants, Hill and Van Horne, shamelessly against each other, sliding adroitly from one camp to the other in his letters to them. Here he is to Van Horne on J.J. Hill,
“…he is the most ‘shame faced’ grown man I ever met, more like a very shy boy of 10 or 12 years than a full-grown man of 50.
“In dealing with him it is necessary to keep his odd ways in mind & to treat him rather as a spoilt child brimful of ridiculous suspicions of everybody he comes in contact with.”
Here he is to Thomas Shaugnessy on William Van Horne,
“It is quite evident that Sir William, either from failing health or from allowing other things to occupy his mind, is no longer able to give the affairs of the Company his undivided attention… His actions gave me the impression that he felt like a man who knew he was in a mess and had not the usual courage to look his position in the face.”
Manipulated by the Machiavellian Stephen, the two former farm boys, Hill and Van Horne charged at one another like maddened bulls, creating a bitterly hostile relationship between the Great Northern and the CPR which was to last for their lifetimes. Hill seems to have conceived the idea that by invading the CPR’s British Columbia territory with his profitless lines, he could trade them to the CPR for its So Lines in the U.S. He made the offer in 1897 and was refused. Rebuffed, he continued to build Canadian lines. When, in 1906, the CPR acquired Dan Corbin’s Spokane International and trackage rights with the UP to Portland, Hill responded with a threat to build a new Canadian transcontinental which would run from Winnipeg through Brandon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and the Peace River country.
Near the end of his life, with his “Third Main Line” (the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern route) in its final stages of construction, Hill made one more move to confound the CPR in British Columbia. He conferred with the builders of the Grand Trunk Pacific who were building a second Canadian transcontinental on the Edmonton to Prince Rupert route, about extending a link northward from his VV&E to link up with both the GTP and the Canadian Northern. This link, if built, would have enmeshed the CPR in British Columbia, in a choking web of Hill lines.
Hill died in 1916, but in his last years the GN board withdrew support for any further construction in Canada. The defeat of the Liberals killed the Free Trade policy which Hill has supported and counted on. Without Free Trade, the GN would always be at a disadvantage in Canada. Hill’s son, Louis, taking over the Great Northern in his father’s last years, immediately stopped work on the VV&E and negotiated a joint trackage agreement with the CPR for that route. It was never used. Louis Hill and his successors began a slow withdrawal of the profitless GN lines from B.C. Today only a hundred miles of ex-GN track remain in B.C., the steep and crooked line from the border to Nelson, the 12 mile arc into the Kettle Valley on the Republic line, and the route from the border at Blaine to the Vancouver terminal.
GRANBY 1895 – 1902
Jay P. Graves at the California mine on Red Mountain had held his breath in 1895 and taken the plunge. He bought into a pair of copper prospects on Knob Hill in the Boundary range of the Monashee Mountains a few miles north of the border. An old and trusted acquaintance, H.P. Palmerston, had come to him with a proposal. Palmerston had been offered one quarter of their claims on Knob Hill by the Greenwood prospectors, Henry White and Matthew Hotter, on a promise that he would raise development money. Palmerston was ill and unable to interest anyone in these remote claims. He sold his interest in them to Jay Graves.
Graves put his Spokane boarder, Aubrey White, a bookseller, to peddling stock in these claims to Spokane mining speculators in 1896. White could get no more than 10 cents a share; on the Spokane Mining Exchange they traded for just 5 or 6 cents. This was failing to raise enough capital to begin work, so Graves sold his house and moved his family into the Spokane Hotel. With the money from this sale, he hired Henry White, the original locator, to begin to clearing the forest from the claims and digging a trench to expose the top of the ore body. When the extent of the deposit had been established by trenching the shallow overburden of soil, Graves bought a boiler, a steam powered hoist and a steam pump to begin sinking a shaft into the ore. This machinery had to be hauled by wagon from Bossburg on the SF&N line to Grand Forks. Then a road had to be brushed out up to Knob Hill on the ridge top west of town. The claims that Graves had bought did not contain the rich, narrow veins plunging steeply into the mountain, as at Rossland. The trenching had showed that the copper was a large, saucer-shaped ore body just below the surface. How thick it was, no one knew. It was only 1 or 2 percent copper, but there was a great deal of it, and it contained minor amounts of gold and silver. A pit could be opened and the ore quarried cheaply out of the hillside. Still, more development money would have to be raised to determine the full extent of the ore body.
Graves had incorporated the two claims with 1,500,000 shares for the Knob Hill and 1,000,000 shares for the Old Ironsides. In 1899 he sent out Frank Hemmenway, a Spokane bank teller who doubled as a miner in the summer, to work with Henry White, trenching and taking samples for assay. Hemmenway had a sound reputation with Spokane mining investors, and his favorable report boosted the stock price on the Spokane Exchange. It also started a rush of prospectors and promoters to the Knob Hill discoveries. All those who had been too late to cash in on the Red Mountain bonanza now swarmed over Knob Hill, and claims were staked for several miles in all directions. The trenching White and Hemmenway had done on Grave’s Knob Hill claims suggested the presence of a very large ore body, much large than the original 600 by 1500 foot claims. Graves used the money stock sales were bringing in to buy the adjoining claims and acquire the entire ore body. Encouraged by reports of other ore bodies in the district, other serious investors were moving in. In 1897 the Dominion Copper Company was formed to acquire the Idaho, Brooklyn and Stemwinder claims across the valley of Twin Creek from Graves’ developments. All of the deposits found, while large and close to the surface, were of low grade. None of them would pay for the long wagon haul to the railroad at Bossburg or Marcus.
Railroads were coming; Dan Corbin was surveying his line from Marcus to Greenwood. Fritz Heinze was surveying his route over Mc Rae Pass. The CPR was, with agonizing slowness, creeping in from Alberta. The railroads had made Rossland, and Jay Graves was confident that when one reached his mines, there would be a boom bigger than had yet been seen. A smelter would be required. To raise money for it, Graves and Aubrey White went east to enlist Montreal investors. Their pitch to the Montreallers was that it was a patriotic duty for Canadians to invest in these British Columbia mines, and not let them fall into the hands of the greedy Americans. The spectacle of a couple of Americans, Graves and White, glibly promoting Canadian patriotic sentiment was a replay of Captain Ainsworth’s arguments to the B.C. Legislature, twenty years before. Graves and White were helped by the fact that Canada was in the midst of its great Free Trade Election and the issue of American domination of Canadian business was being fought out at the polls. The anti Free Trade forces won and so did Graves. He enlisted the support of Stephen Miner, a Quebec industrialist with connections to the Montreal banking community. Miner wanted a recognized mining engineer to submit a report on Graves’ to circulate to his wealthy friends. Graves sent out another Spokane Colonel, Nelson Linsley, the head of the Spokane Mining Bureau, and a respected mining engineer, to assess the value of his claims on Knob Hill.
The report was favorable. In Montreal, Stephen Miner showed it to his friends, and introduced them to Graves who, with his tongue stuck solemnly in his cheek, warned them of the dangers of Americans getting control of this valuable Canadian resource. Might not even political annexation follow? he asked with a melodramatic shiver. Miner’s friends were impressed. The combination of patriotism plus profit was irresistible. There is something embarrassingly familiar about this to Canadians. It seems it always takes an American to arouse Canadian patriotism. With a group of wealthy Montreal investors behind him, Graves went across town to the CPR. He began lobbying the CPR directors to lay rails to his mines. The directors were skeptical. Three mountain ranges would have to be crossed, and they doubted that Grave’s low-grade copper would pay for the construction costs. Jay Graves was at an impasse. The railroad was essential to his mines. Without a firm promise of one, he and Miner could not sell stock in the Old Ironsides and Knob Hill. And until his mines demonstrated their profitability, the CPR would not move. And just as it was the threat of American control that brought the Montreal investors into Graves’ scheme, it was Dan Corbin, lobbying for a charter for a railroad to the Boundary mines, that aroused the CPR. They easily blocked his charter application in Parliament, but when Jim Hill bought Corbin’s railroad, the CPR had to act. Almost in a panic, they sent their engineers and surveyors into the Monashee snows to rush a line to the Boundary Copper camps.
The arrival of Canadian Pacific rails in Grand Forks in 1899 was marvelous luck for Jay Graves and Stephen Miner. With the CPR laying track toward their new mining camp of Phoenix, the future of their Granby Company was assured. However, Graves knew very well the CPR’s intention to create a transportation monopoly in the Boundary district, just as they had attempted in the Kootenays. And with the knowledge that only a second and competing railroad could bring the CPR ore hauling rates down to the lowest possible figure, Graves went to Jim Hill in St Paul. He showed him Colonel Linsley’s reports on the Old Ironsides and the Knob Hill. Would Mr. Hill build Dan Corbin’s line to the Boundary? Jim Hill said nothing. His game was bigger. If Grave’s ore body was as big as Colonel Linsley said, and as cheap to mine, a rail haul, while profitable, would not be enough. Jim Hill wanted the mines and the smelter as well. Very quietly, he began buying stock in Graves’ and Miner’s companies. Graves and Miner had organized three companies in 1899, the Old Ironsides, the Knob Hill, and Granby, to control the properties they owned on the ridge between Grand Forks and Greenwood. Graves brought Yolen Williams over from the California mine at Rossland, made him a director, and hired him to work out plans to extract the ore. Then, at the head waters of Twin Creek, just below their claims, Graves and Miner preempted a town site, called it Phoenix, built a water system, and began selling lots to merchants, saloon keepers, hotel men, and others moving to the new camp. The town site was a huge success. Buyers flocked in, scenting a new Rossland. Within 24 hours of going on sale, nearly every lot was sold for between $500 to $600. It was said that the town site sale brought in $100,000 to Granby. Graves and Miner now had enough for a down payment on a smelter, and began to build one on the North Fork of the Kettle River, just over Observation Mountain from Grand Forks. Breathlessly, miners, businessmen and investors, watched the CPR’s branch line to Phoenix being graded around the eastern slopes of Deadman’s Hill toward the mines. With the CPR laying tracks to their ore, and with directors, Miner and Gault, handling stock sales in Montreal, Aubrey White moved to New York and began selling shares there. They began moving briskly in the range of 80 cents. This was delightful news to the Spokane speculators who had bought their shares for a nickel. And at 80 cents, Jay Graves was now a rich man.
The Guggenheim brothers at that time dominated American metal smelting and refining. Walter Aldrige at Trail had served in one of their Colorado operations. Now Graves hired another one of Guggenheim’s smelter engineers, Abel Hodges, to put up a first class smelter on the North Fork site. With all this activity, the CPR queried Walter Aldridge, whether the Phoenix development was serious. Aldridge, who badly wanted the Phoenix ores for his Trail smelter, told President Shaughnessy that it was quite serious, and that the Old Ironsides held enough ore to support a small smelter. Shaughnessy was asked by Graves to build a 2-mile CPR spur into the smelter site from the C&W main line at Ward Lake. It was needed as quickly as possible, Graves emphasized, as the smelter machinery to be installed would be much too heavy for freight wagons. Aldridge and Shaughnessy wanted the Phoenix ore for the Trail smelter, and were in no mood to facilitate a competing smelter. They told Graves Granby would have to pay for the smelter spur itself, but the cost would be refunded if the smelter production should reach 100 tons per day. Aldridge underestimated Granby. The Phoenix ores were lean, averaging only 1-1/4 percent copper, and would require several smeltings to concentrate them enough for refining. Abel Hodges assured Jay Graves that he could smelt 150 tons of Phoenix ore a day, and that the spur cost would be recovered.
The CPR’s Phoenix branch left the main line at the Eholt summit and climbed up Coltern Creek on a 3.4 percent grade. At the head of the creek a small side hill cut, exposed a mass of chalcopyrite, a sulfide of copper and iron. An alert workman quickly drove stakes on it and sold it to the Dominion Copper Company as the Emma Mine. Aldridge and Shaughnessy were in no hurry to serve Jay Graves’ interest, and at this spot they abandoned the climb to Phoenix and ran a 2-1/2 mile spur out to the B.C. mine. Aldridge urgently wanted that mine’s ore, almost pure copper pyrites, for his Trail smelter, as its high sulfur content would only require enough coal to ignite it in the smelter furnace. From then on the burning sulfur itself would smelt the ore. Graves was furious. The CPR was hauling Boundary ore to Trail before putting rails into his deposit. If Jim Hill were only on the scene, the CPR would not be trifling with him in this way. Angrily, he had to send his first ore shipments down the mountain by wagon to the Granby Smelter for its opening on April 11, 1900, exactly as the Le Roi had had to do from Rossland, four years previously. Finally, the CPR sent its crews back to the Emma mine, and began grading up the east side of Deadman’s Ridge toward Phoenix. Not a quarter mile from the Emma, their grading exposed another mass of copper ore, and with no Trail engineer present, it was staked as the Oro Denoro, and sold to the Dominion Copper Company.
From that point the graders carefully examined every stone for traces of copper, but no further bonanzas were uncovered in the steep climb to the ridge top flat at the Wellington Camp (later Hartford). At the chaotic Wellington Camp the ground was covered with stores, tents and cabins whose owners demanded exorbitant prices for a right of way. The CPR hastily put in a switchback on perfectly level ground rather than pay for the land needed for a loop. (Later on, when the Wellington Camp declined, a loop was built.) The switchback reversed the line north where it climbed through the Rawhide, Gold Drop, Curlew, and Snowshoe claims, and turned into a shallow pass at an elevation of 4500 feet to enter the head waters of Twin Creek, the new town of Phoenix and the Granby Company’s mines.
In June of 1900, the rails were spiked down, and the line was complete. On July 11, the first trainload of ten 30-ton cars of ore from the Old Ironsides mine departed Phoenix behind CPR L class Consolidation No. 317. At Smelter Junction, the train was split, with five cars set off to be forwarded to the Trail smelter, while the remaining five cars were trundled down the 2 mile spur to the to the Granby Smelter. They arrived at 5:30 PM and were received with elaborate ceremony. Jay Graves and his family, together with C.H.S. Miner, Abel Hodges, and their families, were present. A local brass band played, and the whistle cords of the engines were tied down to express the jubilation of all present. It had been a tremendous gamble, but Jay Graves had won. The two smelter furnaces were fired up the next day, and another trainload of ore arrived, the beginning of daily shipments from Granby and the other mines in the region. Jay Graves at once ordered two Thew steam shovels on flanged wheels for 36” gauge track. Quarry faces were blasted into the ore bodies at the Old Ironsides and the Knob Hill, 36” track was laid, and the two shovels began digging out the broken ore and loading it into 4 ton mine cars. Davenport 0-4-0 saddletanker locomotives hauled the mine cars out of the quarries to a loading platform where they were dumped into the CPR 30 ton ore gondolas below. At least one of the Davenport saddletankers was a special model for underground use, cut down to a five foot height, and requiring its engineer to operate it and fire it from a sitting position. This squat steamer could enter the caverns blasted into the quarry walls and pull out ore from underground.
All this mechanization was wonderfully efficient. Jay Graves boasted accurately to reporters that the Granby ores moved from quarry to smelter untouched by human hands. Dumping the mine cars was mechanized a few years later when a Granby employee invented the self-dumping Granby mine car. A wheel on the outside of the car would ride up on a slanting rail fixed to a vertical bulkhead in the dumping shed and tip the car as the Davenport pushed it over the chute. This “Granby Car” was sold all over North America in subsequent years. As soon as the CPR tracks reached the mines at Phoenix, production went on a six-day week. The ores rolled in short trains down the steep 12 mile grade to Eholt where they were made up into trains for the Granby smelter and cuts of cars for Trail to be picked up by the next way freight. A second Shay locomotive, No. 112, identical to the 111 working the Rossland hill, was ordered and put to work on the Phoenix line hauling ore down the hill, and bringing coal and freight up to Phoenix.
With the completion of the Phoenix line, the CPR shifted its crews to Greenwood to build another steep and crooked branch up Motherlode creek to serve the Deadwood, Sunset and Motherlode mines. The branch left the main line just a few hundred feet north of the C&W station, and climbed the rock bluff above Boundary Creek on a 3.8 percent grade to enter Motherlode Creek above the new smelter being built by the B.C. Copper Company. From the smelter, the line climbed the left bank of Motherlode Creek to the town of Deadwood, and the Greyhound and Deadwood mines, also open quarries like the Phoenix mines. From Deadwood the line was built on that same 3.8 percent grade up Castle Creek to a switchback (later replaced with a loop) which reversed it out of Castle Creek and up Motherlode Creek again to the huge Sunset open pit, or “glory hole,” as they were then called. A quarter mile farther on it reached the Mother lode mine and its even bigger glory hole. Shay 113 was purchased in 1903 to work this branch.
The CPR surveyors had continued past the Motherlode mine, locating a line winding in and out of creek valleys and looping around the noses of ridges to Dan Corbin’s King Solomon mine. This location was known as Copper Camp, at 4400 feet elevation, with the King Solomon and Enterprise as the major producing mines. The line past Motherlode, however, was never graded or built. Probably because the CPR demanded the mine owners pay for it, with reimbursement after a certain tonnage had been shipped. Agreement was evidently never reached, and the end of track remained at Motherlode with the King Solomon and Enterprise ores coming down to that point on wagons.
From the Canadian Pacific’s point of view, the building of the Columbia and Western with its spurs and branches was more a defense against Jim Hill than a profitable investment. They had spent an estimated 7 million dollars to put rails into the Boundary country from Robson West, and yet the mining companies had spent but 4 millions in their developments. Worse, the startling news came that Jim Hill had bought the supposedly defunct charter of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern and his surveyors were staking grades into the Boundary country and up into Phoenix itself.
The CPR built a further spur from the Eholt-Phoenix line to serve the Jackpot and Athelstan mines, and surveyed two more grades long the spine of the Midway range across the border to reach the City of Paris and No. 7 mines at White’s Camp, and the Washington and Lone Star at the head of Big Goosmus Creek in Washington.These two last branches were never built; again, the owners would not pay, and found they could build a 5-mile aerial cableway to transport their ore back across the border into Canada and down to a second Boundary Creek smelter being erected by the Dominion Copper Company. It went into operation in 1901. With three smelters competing against him for Boundary copper, Walter Aldridge was finding it difficult to obtain sufficient ore for his Trail smelter. His Canadian Mining and Smelting Company was obliged to buy or lease producing mines to secure a dependable supply of smelter feed.
By 1902 the Granby smelter was operating at capacity, and still more ore was coming down from the huge Knob Hill and Old Ironsides pits. Graves and Miner merged all their Companies into Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company, Ltd. and issued $15 million in stock. $11 million went to the stockholders in the old syndicate; the rest was put on the market to raise funds for enlargement of the smelter, the installation of a converter to produce nearly pure copper, and for a hydroelectric plant at Cascade, on the Kettle River, to furnish additional power for the smelter and to electrify the mines at Phoenix. This enormous capitalization looked suspicious to many. No one knew how deep the Old Ironsides and Knob Hill ore bodies were. Did they really have $15 million dollars worth of ore? Neither Graves nor Miner could answer this question definitively. Speculators wondered if Graves and Miner were preparing to sell out at this inflated value before the ore bottomed out.
For his part, Graves had a new scheme. This minor real estate developer from Spokane was going to try to play the two hostile railroad barons against each other for his own interests. Graves was never shy; he approached Thomas Shaughnessy, President of the CPR, with a plan to keep Jim Hill out of Phoenix. He proposed that Granby should continue to smelt its own ores in its own smelter. But since there was more ore now coming out of the ground on the heights around Phoenix than the Granby smelter could handle, and the cost of transporting ores to Trail over McRae pass was uneconomic, the CPR could build a second Grand Forks smelter, a custom smelter to handle all the ores from the mines not owned by Granby, B.C. Copper, or Dominion. These ores could not stand the shipping charges to Trail and were going begging for treatment. If the CPR would build this custom smelter, Graves promised he would offer as security for loans to build it, 28 options he held on mines in both the Phoenix area and also down in Republic, Washington in the new Eureka Creek mines. If the CPR accepted his offer, he would guarantee them the haul from all these mines to the custom smelter as well as the Granby haul to its smelter. Graves estimated revenue from these hauls to be $800,000 per year. It was not unreasonable; CPR was already getting $380,000 a year from its haul to the Granby smelter alone. It was a clever scheme; by using the capacity of a second Grand Forks smelter to contract for all the Boundary ores offered, nothing at all would be left for Jim Hill to haul. He might run his rails up to Phoenix if he wished, but when he got them there, there would be nothing to load into his cars.
If the impetuous Van Horne had still been in charge, he might well have agreed. But the cautious, conservative Shaugnessy was now President. He sought advice from Walter Aldridge. Aldridge told him the Boundary mines were overrated, that they were shallow deposits that would soon play out, that Graves could not demonstrate proven reserves of ore. Shaugnessy turned down Graves’ offer. As it turned out, this was a spectacular mistake. Copper prices would soar during World War I making even the poorest Phoenix ores profitable.
Undismayed, Graves turned around and sounded out Jim Hill. His new scheme, which he put to Hill, was nothing less than a proposal that the two of them should buy Granby outright. He asked Jim Hill for a loan of $2 million to buy 500,000 shares of Granby at $4. With the 150,000 shares he owned or controlled through relatives and employees that would give Hill and himself control. With control of Granby, Hill, when his rails reached Phoenix, could then take all of the Granby traffic and the CPR would be starved of ore. After promising funds, Hill had second thoughts. His suspicious nature which George Stephen had played upon so successfully, asserted itself. He could not bring himself to participate in another man’s scheme. When Graves got to Montreal to make his stock purchases, there was no money waiting for him. He found the Granby directors ready to sell, as he had predicted to Hill. They thought the future for copper was speculative, and wanted to get out while the stock price was favorable. They were selling, however, to William H. Nichols, a New York copper refiner. Frantic letters to Hill produced no result. Graves’ scheme was slipping away from him. When the other directors, unaware of Graves’ intentions, invited him to go along with them and sell to Nichols, he had to agree. Hill eventually sent him a stingy $25,000 in New York in case Nichols should change his mind, but it was too late. Nichols and his New York associates had bought Granby outright.
One has to wonder at the eagerness of the Canadian stockholders to sell out to the Americans when it had been appeals to their patriotism that had brought them into Granby in the first place. Emotionalism is probably much more a factor in business than most will admit. In 1902 Jim Hill’s men crossed the border into Canada at Cascade and began grading toward Grand Forks. There they were halted by an injunction obtained from the court by one of the most preposterous railroads ever to run a train, Tracy Holland’s “Hot Air Line.” Jim Hill had encountered his newest and most pestiferous adversary.
EUREKA CREEK 1896 – 1902
Responding to the urgings of Spokane mining men, the American Congress opened the north half of the Colville Indian Reservation to mineral entry on February 21, 1896. Among the prospectors quietly leaving Rossland for the newly opened lands in the Colville Indian Reservation, were Phil Creaser and Tommy Ryan, both grubstaked by James Clark. By grub staking the prospectors, Clark would receive a half interest in whatever the prospectors should find.
Creaser and Ryan bought horses and supplies at Bossburg, on the SF&N line, the jumping off place for the Boundary country. They traveled up the Kettle River trail into Canada, and west to Carson, where the Kettle flowed out of the U.S. Here, beside the river, they found the Welty Brothers, George and John, who had come north from their illegal camp in the Reservation to get news of the expected mineral opening. Creaser and Ryan gave them the welcome news and were invited to join the Weltys who now could stake the mineralized outcrops they had found near the headwaiters of the San Poil River.
On February 28, 1896, Creaser and Ryan, following the Weltys, came into an area of rolling hills covered with ponderosa pine. Here they found long, dyke-like outcrops of a crumbly, white rock they identified as “porphyry,” a massy rock enclosing many small rocks of differing composition. Veins of quartz ran through these crumbly outcrops, and in the quartz veins, tell-tale black streaks of some heavy mineral. Creaser and Ryan knocked off some chunks, licked the samples shiny, and brought out their hand lenses. Through the lenses they could see gold in minute specks in the black streaks. All around them were more outcrops and all of them showed gold. Creaser and Ryan, picking what looked to be the richest of the outcrops, staked the Iron Mask, the Copper Belle, and Lone Pine, and took samples from each. John Welty, naming the draw he was prospecting, Eureka Creek, staked the Black Tail.
The men continued to prospect the ground around Granite and Eureka Creeks. On March 5, Creaser and Ryan staked the Republic and Jim Blaine, and then headed back to show their samples to James Clark and have them assayed.
In Rossland the assays were disappointing. Only a trace of gold in most of them, just $ 2.06 in their best specimen. Clark sent Creaser and Ryan back to Eureka Creek to begin digging on their claims and bring back deeper samples. The two men dug on the Republic, the Iron Mask, and the Lone Pine. This time the assays turned out much better: $4.00 to the ton from the Iron Mask, and $35.00 from the Lone Pine. As they went deeper, the values continued to increase. In August, James Clark came himself. He looked, he approved, and went away convinced that a significant mining district had been discovered. He went to Spokane and shared the news with his brother, Patrick, or “Patsy” as he was called.
Patsy Clark came to the Eureka Camp at once and began developing the Republic claim, the biggest of the visible ledges. Soon it began to show values in hundreds of dollars per ton from a large vein fifteen feet wide.
With the Republic producing paying ore and shipping it out by wagon to the Northport smelter, Patsy Clark incorporated the Republic Gold Mining Company and bought out Creasers and Ryan’s interests for $55,000, while investing $70,000 of his own money. Creaser and Ryan used the money to develop their Lone Pine and Iron Mask mines. They were successful and a few years, as the town of Republic began to take shape on the low hog back ridge across Granite Creek from the Republic mine, Phil Creaser built the Hotel Creaser there.
When rich pockets of ore were discovered at 60 feet, James Clark came to take over the Republic mine while brother Patsy went to Toronto to negotiated the sale of their War Eagle mine in Rossland to the Gooderham-Blackstock syndicate for $700,000 cash. With that money, he came back to the Republic Camp in 1897 to develop the Republic mine into a property equally valuable.
Patsy Clark was the monarch of the camp. He was a popular man, running the biggest mine, a mill, and a boarding house where he played accordion for the miners’ dances. At his urging, a townsite was platted on the low ridge opposite his mine, to be called Republic with its main street named Clark Avenue. Still, in 1898, most of the miners lived in the Eureka Creek camp at the mouth of that creek. It was a wild place in those early years when the district was not organized. Legally, it was still the Colville Indian Reservation and the nearest sheriff was in Colville, two days away by horseback. This allowed a certain amount of lawlessness. An entry in the Boundary Creek Times of Greenwood, B.C.., dated January 8, 1898, reads:
“Bad whiskey, the absence of officers of the law and the general looseness which prevails in the vicinity of Eureka, Wash., were responsible for a serious shooting affray in the mining camp on Friday last. Three men were wounded, and one of them, Frank Gottfriedsen, is in the Greenwood hospital with his elbow splintered by a rifle bullet and a flesh wound in the other arm. Gottfriedsen was brought to the hospital in Sunday. “It is a difficult matter to learn the particulars, but it appears that early Tuesday morning Gottfriedsen, La Fleur and others were in Bennett’s saloon in Eureka. Bennett and Gottfriedsen got into a dispute about claim jumping and words led to blows. Bennett got the better of the fight, and then Gottfriedsen pulled out a six shooter and opened fire. Before the gun could be taken from him he succeeded in wounding his antagonist in the cheek. Bennett went off to get the wound dressed and Gottfriedsen left the house at the same time. Later in the day Gottfriedsen returned for his coat and the quarrel was started anew. This time Bennett used a repeating Winchester, and opened fire. Gottfriedsen grabbed the barrel of the the Winchester, but Bennett continued firing and almost shot the clothes off Gottfriedsen’s body. He appeared to have a charmed life, however, for he escaped with the two wounds mentioned. La Fleur tried to stop the shooting and was rewarded with a bullet from the Winchester. His wound is not dangerous.”
The ores from the Eureka Camp were not free milling. The gold and silver they contained were encapsulated in lime and silica, and required treatment in a mill to break down that coating. Costly processes were tried in Clark’s “Big Red Mill” and the Mountain Lion Mill, north of town. None were entirely successful. The coarse particles of gold and silver were recovered, but the fine ones were lost. As well, the lack of cheap transportation was a serious drawback. The wagon haul to the Spokane Falls and Northern was costing $25 per ton. Rail freight to the Northport smelter was another $6.00, and the smelter charges were $10.00 per ton.
This meant that only $40.00 ore ore better could be sent to the smelter. The Republic had such ore, and their shipments ran as high as $12,000 per carload at Marcus, with an average of $4,000 per car. Railroads were projected. One was to come up the Columbia and San Poil Rivers from Jim Hill’s Great Northern at Wenatchee. Another was to come down the Spokane and Columbia Rivers from Spokane and turn up the San Poil to Republic. Everyone with a map and a pencil played at paper railroads, but investors could not be found.
Patsy Clark went to Montreal again in 1899 and negotiated the sale of the Republic mine and mill, plus the Surprise and Lone Pine mines, for an extraordinary $3,500,000 to a Canadian syndicate. The Canadians moved in, bringing their own bank with them, the Halifax Trust and Guarantee (later the Royal Bank). This was to last as long as the Republic mine operated, the only American branch of the Royal Bank outside of New York at that time.
Patsy Clark was extremely fortunate in selling the mines. The Petalan-Clerici process he was using in his mill to release the fine gold from the ore was costly and only partly successful. It involved a preliminary roasting of the ores to break down the silica coating on the gold and silver. Wood was the only fuel and the Republic Mill was firing six boilers of 500 total horsepower. The hills around the Eureka Camp were being rapidly depleted of firewood. Patsy Clark had build a five mile flume up Granite Creek down which firewood was floated to the mill, and the water used to generate electricity. Up at the headwaiters of Eureka Creek, the Mountain Lion Mill, firing three 100 horsepower boilers, had strung a half mile cable across the Swamp Creek valley and was bringing in wood on this overhead cable tram from the mountains beyond. The camp could not last long with these pioneer methods. If a railroad would build in, the costly milling procedures could be dispensed with, and the ore could go directly to the Granby smelter. Jay Graves in Phoenix realized this, and bought into a number of Eureka Creek mines, developing his plan for a custom smelter in Grand Forks to treat non-Granby ores.
As the new Century began, the town of Republic took shape, Ferry County, Washington was organized, and a sheriff and deputies hired to keep the peace. As well, a railroad was surely coming. Jim Hill had promised one. But so had an unknown, Tracy Holland, a bank manager in Grand Forks. Two railroads building to the mines. It began to sound like Red Mountain all over again.
JIM HILL VS THE HOT AIR LINE 1900 – 1908
When the Canadian Pacific brought its Columbia and Western rails into Grand Forks in 1900, a civic dream was born. In the euphoria of getting a railroad, a copper smelter, and a hug influx of miners, merchants and promoters, the citizens began to see their town as a second Spokane, the hub of an empire of mining, agriculture and industry. Their location, with broad, easy valleys leading to east, west, north and south, suggested that it was the destiny of Grand Forks to become the center of a network of railroads. Not cramped on a steep hillside against a lake, as was Nelson, nor on top of a wintry mountain, as Rossland, it would be Grand Forks, they believed, that would dominate southeastern British Columbia.
“The immensity of the ore deposits in the Boundary and Kettle River districts is almost unparalleled in history,” the Grand Forks Miner exulted in 1896. The year following, the Miner’s pride soared to even greater heights as the editor counted the local “firsts.”
Local prospector, R.A. “Volcanic” Brown, spoke of “a new type of city arising; one without any schools, churches, or banks, and served by four railroads running in from the four cardinal directions..” Having witnessed the rise of Rossland from a handful of tents and log cabin to the fifth city in B.C. in a single year, Grand Forks’ dream seemed eminently achievable. All that was needed was leadership. Leadership and money.
The leadership presented itself in the person of Tracy Holland, a native of Ontario, who had come west to manage the affairs of the Grand Forks branch of his brother’s Dominion Permanent Loan Company. Holland proposed that Grand Forks itself build Volcanic Brown’s railroads to the four cardinal directions with himself as manager. He enlisted the support of his brother, Frederick in Ontario, and his Loan Company. Their enthusiasm converted James Stratton, the Provincial Secretary of Ontario, Thomas Coffee, manager of the Toronto Trust and Guarantee Company, and George Cowan, a Vancouver lawyer.
Holland then went to work to secure a charter for the four railroads. He gave them a bewildering confusion of names: Grand Forks and Kettle River Railway, to run east; Grand Forks and Republic, to run south; Kettle River Lines, to run west. The skeptics of Grand Forks, wearied of Holland’s endless speechmaking, and interminable lobbying in Victoria and Ottawa. Just another paper railroad, they concluded, and all of Holland’s projected lines, whatever its corporate title, went by just one name: “The Hot Air Line.” The name stuck, and all of the chartered lines, Canadian and American, were known in the Boundary Country only as “The Hot Air Line.” To avoid confusion, we shall refer to them by that name.
When Jim Hill bought the Vancouver Victoria and Eastern charter in 1902, his way was clear to enter Canada with his line from Marcus and build to the Phoenix mines. He had chartered the Washington and Great Northern Railway to build the American parts of his line, and began from Marcus with a reaction ferry carrying the cars across the Columbia while the long bridge was being built, just as Dan Corbin had done six years before in Northport. His graders followed the Kettle River north to the Canadian line at Laurier, crossed it, and then. under the VV&E charter, began working west.
At the same time, in Grand Forks, it appeared that after years of lobbying, Tracy Holland had actually succeeded, and had real railway charters in his hands. The delighted residents swung in behind him. Amazingly, they now had charters for all those four railroads running to the cardinal points. Volcanic Brown’s dream was becoming reality. In their enthusiasm, the City Council passed by-law No. 68 in December, 1901, allowing for the issuance of debentures to grant the Kettle River Railway $3,500.
Holland’s charters authorized him to build a fifty mile line north up the North Fork of the Kettle River to the gold mines at Franklin Camp. A second line was authorized to run west to Midway. A third would parallel the CPR tracks east to Cascade where a smelter was proposed to take advantage of the electric power that could be generated at that point from the falls of the Kettle River. In addition, Holland had obtained from the Americans a charter for a line south to the new gold camp of Republic (Eureka Creek). None of the charters provided land grants. And the $3,500 from the city of Grand Forks would not build much of a railroad. But there were the Ontario Banks supporting the scheme. And there was the CPR. Its position would be crucial. When the newly formed Hot Air Line issued construction bonds to finance their first line, the Canadian Pacific bought the bonds and quietly became the line’s sponsor. With Jim Hill about to begin a fourth incursion into southern B.C. and the territory the CPR considered its own, the Hot Air appeared to be the tool with which to fight him from behind the scenes.
In Grand Forks, railroad enthusiasm became conviction, when, on August 31, 1901, the first contract for construction was awarded, and grading began on the line south to Republic, Washington. This first Hot Air line was to run south from a depot on Fourth Street where the Boundary Mall now stands. It was to cross the Kettle and turn west to enter the U.S.A. at Danville, and then south down the valleys of the Kettle River and Curlew Creek to Republic. On the 28th of October the Hot Air’s first locomotive arrived, an ancient 4-4-0 of ungainly proportions and uncertain ancestry. However, it ran, and a celebration was in order. The townsfolk followed the local band across the Kettle River Bridge to the CPR siding called Cuprum, and here, leading citizen, John Manly, pounded down the first spike, while his wife who had left her horsewhip at home on this occasion, broke a bottle of champagne across the first rail. The scoffers showed up as well — they always do — with a wagon on which was mounted a huge blacksmith’s bellows with the legend, “Hot Air.”
However, locomotive No. 1 had real steam up, not air, and demonstrated her ability by creakily moving off the CPR rails, and onto the very first lengths of steel of the Grand Forks and Republic Railway. From the ragged sound of her whistle, No. 1 was there and then dubbed “The Tin Whistle,” and was known by that name rather then by her number, as long as she ran, creaking and screeching, up and down the riverside prairies of the Kettle River Valley.
All this civic jollification, the whistle blowing, the champagne and the speeches, ignored the ominous fact, that just twelve miles to the east, Jim Hill’s men were crossing the border into Canada and beginning to grade westward toward Grand Forks. Jim Hill had announced that, he too, was building to Republic. It was not likely that the mighty “Empire Builder” would have any patience with a home grown railroad, its one engine and few hundred feet of track. Holland, of course, knew Jim Hill was coming, knew his enormous power and influence. Still, he resolved to take him on, head to head. His silent ally was the CPR. It had bought his bonds, and he counted on its continued assistance. However, CPR support had its price. At Cuprum, it did not permit the Hot Air to lay a diamond crossing of its tracks. Instead, it required that the Hot Air trains switch onto its rails, run for a few yards on them, and then switch off to the south. This ensured that the CPR could charge each Hot Air train crossing its rails, a switching fee, and as well it would get all the Republic ore to haul on its own rails the last few miles to the Granby smelter.
Holland had worked out a scheme to counter this. The B.C. Government Mineral Reference Map No. 4A shows a Hot Air track diverging from the Republic line just 1/4 mile south of Cuprum and running east to cross the CPR and the Kettle River on a bridge to the east bank about where Johnnie’s Motel is today. This was to be the Hot Air’s north line to Franklin Camp. It would run up the east bank of the North Fork of the Kettle to the Granby smelter, and past it up the river to Franklin Camp. This line was never built. Perhaps Holland came to an agreement with the CPR about more modest switching fees to the smelter. Behind the scenes, the CPR was definitely pulling the strings. When the first interest payment came due on the Hot Air bonds, Holland was obliged to borrow the money from the CPR to pay the interest due it. The relationship was clandestine, but essential to Holland and his railroad.
A photograph of Tracy Holland at this time shows a young man, smooth shaven, regarding the camera with steely eyes, a slightly amused expression, and wearing a slouch hat pushed well back on his forehead. It is reminiscent of early photographs of Fritz Heinze, the same humorous and confident mouth, the same unwavering eyes, hinting at a willingness to take on any of the financial carnivores of the day.
Holland’s crews graded west from Cuprum to Carson and crossed the border.
At Danville they crossed the Kettle River with a two span Howe truss bridge, and a station was built just south of the present Lone Ranch Creek road. The grade from Danville south is now State Highway 21. Just a half mile north of the Curlew iron bridge, a rock cut to the west of the highway shows where the Hot Air grade gained elevation to recross the Kettle on another two span Howe truss bridge and a trestle across the low lying fields on the east bank of the river.
Behind Holland’s graders with their one, rickety steam shovel, came Jim Hill’s men with the finest equipment, first class engineering, and horses and scrapers hired from the Montana prairies. To try to delay them, Holland and his backers fanned out through he Kettle Valley in Canada to persuade the farmers to refuse Hill and his VV&E permission to cross their lands. The VV&E charter, of course, gave Hill’s lawyers the right to expropriate a right of way across the lands of the uncooperative, but that entailed protracted court proceedings and long delay for every separate parcel of land. Holland hoped that by delaying Jim Hill this way, he would get his line to Republic first and contract for the cream of the trade.
The Hot Air men dug industriously, the Tin Whistle bustled up and down the lengthening track, leaking steam at every joint, but bringing up ties and rails and trestle timbers. Over their shoulders was always the shadow of Hill’s lawyers, working as speedily as the courts would permit, to acquire, farm by farm, the rights of way for their line to Grand Forks. These lawyers in special trains hurried up and down the lines between Spokane and Grand Forks. Deputies carried writs from American courts to Canadian courtrooms. Canadian judges dismissed them as unenforceable in Canada, and issued their own writs, which were of course void in the U.S.A. Judges in both countries chose to be insensible to the fact that their pronouncements had no effect in the other country, and continued to fire paper salvos at each other. It was a grand game; the newspapers and the public loved it. Deputy Bunce, or “Burns,” as the papers spelled his name, hustled the papers back and forth from one country to the other. He was becoming an old hand at this business.
In spite of all the Hot Air Line’s haste, the promised completion date of January 1, 1902, came and went with the graders only at Curlew, half way to Republic.
Hill’s men were catching up. Holland conferred with his lawyers, and new injunctions were showered on the VV&E. One enjoined the VV&E from crossing the Hot Air’s tracks, which it would have to do if it were to enter Grand Forks. A second prohibited the VV&E from trespassing on land owned by Tracy Holland and his friends. As Holland was a principal in the Grand Forks Townsite Company, which owned the unsold lots, this effectively barred Jim Hill from entering Grand Forks. The third action was a notice of a court application denying the legality of the VV&E charter. This charter had lain dormant for five years before Hill bought it, with no construction of any kind except from some desultory grading down Penticton’s Main Street for the election of 1898. It contained the standard phrase that, “…construction was to begin immediately and be prosecuted continuously.” But the precise meanings of “Immediately” and “continuously” could become surprisingly elastic when the courts cogitated on them. The lawyers for both sides saw real meat in the arguments, and settled in for a long winter of litigation, hurrying back and forth from Spokane to Grand Forks in their special trains.
The question of the validity of the VV&E charter was taken all the way to the Canadian parliament where its Railway Committee held up approval of the VV&E line until the matter could be settled. No railway line in Canada could be opened to the public until the Parliamentary Railway Inspector examined and approved it. Hill continued to grade and lay tracks, but he was forbidden to operate trains for profit until the Inspector should authorize it.
It seemed that this charter dispute had Hill stuck, but he countered with an injunction prohibiting the Hot Air Line from crossing his right of way at Curlew where Holland’s line came off the bridge on a trestle and crossed over the W&GN line with another bridge to reach Curlew and compete for traffic there. E. J. Delbridge, of the California mine, near Torboy, was already shipping ore by wagon to the end of the Hot Air track at Curlew for furtherance to the Granby smelter. Three carloads, amounting to 105 tons, were the first of the Republic ores to reach the smelter, and returned $10,000 to the owners. Other shipments followed.[v] It was crucial to Holland to haul these ores and show some revenue for the new line.
A deputy (“Burns,” in the newspaper report, but possibly, “Bunce”) served Holland in his office with Jim Hill’s injunction forbidding the Hot Air to cross his line at Curlew. Holland politely observed to Burns (or Bunce) that Hill’s injunction had been properly issued by a Canadian court, but Curlew was in Washington State, and no Canadian injunction could be enforced on American soil. The deputy nodded. The argument was familiar to him. It was all beginning again.
For his part, Holland had his men work all night to bridge the W&GN grade at Curlew without physically touching it, and thus avoid a trespass. At daylight the bridge was discovered, and the news went out to an angry J.J. Hill in St Paul. Blunt instructions came back to Chief Engineer Kennedy.
On Sunday morning, January 5, 1902, when railroaders were darning their socks, playing cards, or tuning up their fiddles, a group of W&GN men were rounded up by their foreman and promised Sunday wages if they would walk over to the Hot Air’s bridge and tear it down. The men harnessed a team of horses, put a chain on the bridge and tried to pull it over. The bridge stood fast. They then began making preparations to blow it up with gunpowder. The noise of these efforts alerted the Hot Air construction camp nearby. Putting down their socks and cards, the Canadians hurried to the site to repel Hill’s men and save their bridge. A fight ensued with fists and clubs. The Hot Air men were tenacious in defense of their bridge and gained the victory. The Hill men were driven to some distance where they shouted insults and hurled rocks and bottles. Tommy Hogan, timekeeper at the Hot Air camp, hurried to Danville to summon Tracy Holland. Commandeering the leaky Tin Whistle, and with deputy Bunce at his side, Holland hurried to the scene. He arrived to find his men still in possession of their bridge, and reached into his pocket for money to enable deputy Bunce, that experienced international enforcer, to hire armed guards to patrol the Hot Air bridge.
Lawyers swarmed eagerly on this legal tangle. Holland’s men argued no trespass. Though Mr. Hill might own his rails and ties and the soil they rested on, he did not own the air above them. Mr. Hill could not forbid a bird to fly over his rails, nor could he forbid the trains of the Hot Air Line to pass harmlessly overhead. Hill’s lawyers revived an ancient definition of private ownership, which stated that a man had exclusive use of his land, “down to the center of the earth and up to the sky.”
But now, with these weighty matters being chewed over in the courts, with Hill blocked at Grand Forks by Holland’s injunction, and Holland blocked at Curlew by Hill’s suit, all construction came to a halt. The workmen gathered their effects and went home. Only deputy Bunce and his hired bravos remained, huddled over a smoky fire in the January winds at the Hot Air bridge.
The situation alarmed those in Grand Forks who knew of Jim Hill’s stubborn and vengeful nature when crossed. It occurred to them that if Hill were blocked out of Grand Forks, he might finish his line to Republic, which no injunction forbade, and ship Republic ore to the Northport smelter, all on his own rails, and leave Grand Forks out of the Republic boom altogether. The Granby managers, Hodges and Jay Graves, found that an intolerable prospect. They were eager for the Republic ores with their high silica and lime content which would flux the sulfurous Phoenix ores and reduce the amount of coal needed. In an effort at a solution, Grand Forks mayor, James Anderson offered (or was persuaded) to step out of the 1902 mayoralty election and let Tracy Holland, the only other candidate, win by acclamation. But only if Holland allowed Hill’s railroad to lay tracks to the Granby smelter. After a conference between Holland, Mayor Anderson, and J.H. Kennedy, chief engineer for the VV&E Railway, Tracy Holland signed an agreement.
“Grand Forks, B.C., Jan. 15, 1902 On behalf of the Grand Forks Townsite Company, I agree to allow the Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern Railway and Navigation Company, possession of a strip of land one hundred feet wide, fifty feet on either side of their line as located across the lands of the Grand Forks Townsite Company for its spur to the land of the Granby smelter. Said land to be paid for by the railway company, the price to be mutually agreed upon or decided by friendly arbitration in the same way as if expropriation proceedings were being undertaken, and the work of grading to be commenced by the said railway at once.“Tracy W. Holland, Managing Director, Grand Forks Townsite Company.”
It is not hard to see the hand of Jay Graves behind this agreement. Graves had financial involvement in the Republic mines. He was anxious that Hill’s tracks should reach Phoenix as soon as possible, so that competition between the two lines should reduce ore hauling rates, and allow Granby to ship lower grades of ore. As well, Graves knew that Hill was buying Granby stock ever since Graves’ takeover proposal to him. Soon J.J. Hill would have a seat on the Granby board; it was crucial to Graves to solidify his position with him since the New Yorkers who now owned Granby were ready to discard Jay Graves.
With the signing of the agreement, engineer Kennedy of the VV&E had his men begin bridging the Kettle River and scraping a grade into Grand Forks. But if Jim Hill thought that he had disposed of the pestiferous Tracy Holland by elevating him to the Mayor’s chair, he was very wrong. Although Holland no longer opposed VV&E construction through the Township Company’s lands to the smelter, there was still this pesky injunction forbidding VV&E rails to cross the Hot Air tracks south of town. And there were still those stubborn farmers who continued to refuse to sell rights of way to Hill’s agents. Tracy Holland was very sorry about these matters, he said, but he had no authority to dismiss them. They would have to be resolved in the usual way, by application to the courts.
Hill was furious. In St Paul he glared at his lawyers and demanded who was this gadfly, this nobody, this insignificant Canadian, standing in his way? His lawyers argued for a more conciliatory policy. Reasonable compromise might prove effective where intimidation had not. Mr. Hill should try to win the sympathy of Grand Forks, not its hostility. His real adversary was, after all, the monopolistic CPR, not this preposterous Tracy Holland.
Hill listened. He called off his forces at Curlew, and let the Hot Air complete their bridge and enter the town. He permitted a second crossing, this time at grade, four miles south of Curlew at Pelham Flats. Hill knew that no matter who got to Republic first, he had resources to beat the Hot Air in the end. The important goal was to get those Phoenix ores.
The matter of dissolving that injunction against crossing the Hot Air tracks south of Grand Forks went to the B.C. Supreme Court on January 24, 1902. Astonishingly, Holland, not in the least mollified by Jim Hill’s gesture at Curlew, succeeded in having the injunction upheld. In fury, Hill thundered publicly on February 8, that he would give up the Boundary trade altogether and haul Republic ores only to the Northport smelter. Grand Forks would not profit a nickel from any Great Northern connection.
Holland greeted Hill’s pronouncement with bland ingenuousness. If Mr. Hill was truly abandoning his intention to enter Grand Forks, he told the press, then Mr. Hill could have no objection to the Hot Air Line beginning their new line east to Cascade by using Mr. Hill’s apparently now abandoned grade. Hill, of course, exploded in apoplectic rage at this. He damned his lawyers gentle counsels and forthwith ordered his men back to the disputed line to claim it as their own.
Holland was having the time of his life. His repeated tweaking of Jim Hill’s nose strikingly resembles Fritz Heinze’s amused twitting of the CPR’s directors in Montreal four year before. Holland and Heinze were both young men with their own ideas, and like brash young men everywhere, delighted in having a run at the rich and powerful of their time. Even Dan Corbin, though older and more conservative, seemed to have a zest for the game. “I have had one satisfaction, in knowing that I gave the Canadian Pacific the toughest fight it ever had, and I am not through with it yet,” he said in 1898.
In the following months, a frustrated Jim Hill announced to the press this plan and that in continuing war of words. He would bypass Grand Forks altogether, and build to Greenwood instead, to access the Phoenix ores from the west. Or he would shift his line to the north bank of the Kettle and build into Grand Forks behind Holland’s line. The CPR, which had its own line on the north bank, came to life at that , and told Mr. Hill, that, No, he would not do that under any circumstances.
Nothing that J.J. Hill could come up with budged Holland’s intransigence. Intimidation, brute force, political payoff, conciliation, all had failed. At last he gave in. On April 5, 1902, he dissolved his expropriation proceedings against the Grand Forks farmers who stood in his way. He paid their extortionate prices for a right of way. Hill could afford the money, but the legal delays from January until April had given Holland’s men the time to run their track down the Curlew valley toward Republic well ahead of Hill’s forces, which had been unable to complete the grade from Cascade to Grand Forks. The Washington and Great Northern crews had been able to grade a line on American soil, down past Curlew, but since he had no right of way through Canada, engineer Kennedy had been unable to bring up ties or rails or bridge timbers to complete it.
From Curlew south, the two lines ran side by side, barely a hundred feet apart, their respective crews trading insults as to the character of each other’s work. The fight at the Curlew bridge was not forgotten, and at the least provocation it broke out anew, just for the love of brawling. At Curlew Lake, the W&GN grade followed the west shore of the lake, while the Hot Air grade climbed along the west slope to gain elevation. Above Pollard’s it turned up Trout Creek for a mile to climb higher. It then crossed Trout Creek on a high, curving trestle to reverse direction and skirt the lower slopes of Bald Mountain, still climbing. Two miles on, it entered Barrett Creek, and four more miles brought it to the summit where it entered the drainage of Swamp Creek and reached the Tom Thumb mine. The Tom Thumb was up on a granite bench just a few hundred feet south of the grade. While it was not yet shipping ore, Holland rejoiced, believing he had “captured” the first of the Eureka Creek mines.
Skirting the swampy ground along Swamp Creek (North Fork of Granite Creek), the grade passed close by the Mountain Lion’s big mill. The Mountain Lion had lots of ore stockpiled, awaiting the railway. Holland was delighted; he had added a second mine, this one with hundreds of tons of ore to move. All he needed now was rails to lay on his grade. They were slow in coming.
Another 2-1/2 miles down Swamp Creek brought the graders to Granite Creek. There, holding their elevation, they contoured around the slope on a level grade to be able to enter Eureka Creek a mile further on. As they passed under Flag Hill, the line picked up a whole series of mines just above their right of way. The El Caliph and Morning Glory were ready to ship as soon as the rails arrived and were spiked down under their ore bunkers. Holland, desperately needing the revenue, ordered the track laying to begin, although the grade was not complete, either into Eureka Creek or to his proposed station in Republic.
Meanwhile the W&GN graders passed Curlew Lake and reached San Poil Lake at Torboy. Ahead, they faced several miles of rock work to keep the grade on the rock bluffs above the San Poil River. This slowed their progress. They were well behind Holland’s men who had a far easier location with very little blasting required. Still, Holland’s injunction held and no ties or rails could be forwarded past Grand Forks. The W&GN line had a number of trestles across arms and bays of Curlew Lake still to build, but nothing could be sent up to build them with; this left three unfilled gaps in their grade.
On April 12, Holland, convinced he had won the race, declared the Republic and Grand Forks line completed. Republic was hung with bunting, and the Hot Air got out locomotives No.2, and No.3, second hand ten wheelers, to run a special train with 300 passengers down to Republic for a “Calithumpian Celebration and Last Spike Ceremony.”
It was something of a surprise to the celebrants when the train came to a stop at the end of track, some five miles from Republic. Well, yes, Holland admitted, the track was not yet quite complete. But no matter. Stages were on hand to take everyone the few miles into town for the festivities. And there, in Republic, in the middle of Clark Avenue, opposite the Delaware Hotel, were a pair of orphan rails mounted on twenty ties, ready for a final spike to be driven.
The crowd was in an optimistic and forgiving mood. Yes, the tracks were five miles away, but here was the Grand Forks brass band rendering sweet sounds, and Lawyer Morris and Mayor Holland had a real gold spike and were about to drive it. Why spoil a party, a barrel of free whiskey and a fine banquet with niggling details. Some allowance, they supposed, ought to be made for a homemade Hot Air Line.
So, the hoarse-throated orators pronounced, the bands played lustily, some fireworks were let off, and the crowds cheered. The golden spike was hammered down, and everyone agreed that it was a dandy celebration, and exactly what they had come to expect from their own railroad. And Tracy Holland, that nobody, from Grand Forks, Canada, had beaten — well, sort of — the great James Jerome Hill and his Great Northern Railway to Republic and the Eureka Creek mines.
One could believe it, perhaps, and toast the hometown boys while the fireworks and oratory lasted, and the free whiskey flowed. But anyone who thought that J.J. Hill would accept second place in Republic, or anywhere else, was not thinking with a clear mind.
Jim Hill, that same April, ran out of patience with his lawyers. They were costing him a fortune, and spending most of their time racing up and down the rails in special trains between the American and Canadian courts. He now gave orders for his men to ignore the law, the Canadian courts, the several Grand Forks injunctions, and proceed regardless and with main force. The lawyers could deal with the consequences, if any. The VV&E workmen began to lay illegal rails toward Grand Forks. The lawyers assembled. The special trains rolled and the matter entered the courts to wind its way slowly through endless legal cunctation.
Outside the courts, however, a real railroad was being spiked down, and on June 9, 1902, the Canadian Government’s Railway Inspector approved the 11 miles of VV&E railway in Canada, from Laurier to Carson, and ties, timbers and rails could now come forward to be spiked down on the grade to Republic.
During the April to June delay, Tracy Holland had found the rails he was missing and spiked them down. The track was now complete, not to Clark Avenue in Republic, but to a station over on the west side of Eureka Creek above the present County Highway shops. His track ran up the right (west) wall of Eureka Gulch as far as The Cove, with spurs down to the creek bottom and the mines along its course. To his consternation, Holland now found the mine owners unexpectedly coy about signing long term contracts for their ore. They would ship a car at a time by the Hot Air, but for the rest, Jim Hill’s men were coming; they could hear their blasts echoing from the other side of Klondike Mountain. The owners chose to wait and see what rates the competition would offer them.
This was ominous for the Hot Air. Jim Hill’s tactic had always been to be the lowest cost competitor in any transportation market. With his vast network of lines, he could underbid any short line in his way, and make good the loss by raising rates in markets where his was the only railroad.
Holland had done his best. He had run his rails up Eureka Gulch on a 2% grade, and dropped a switchback to the creek below to serve the Quilp, Black Tail, Lone Pine, Surprise, Pearl and Little Cove mines. His main line ended at the San Poil mill in the Cove, the head of Eureka Creek. For ore cars he bought or leased those home-made ore boxes on flat cars that the CPR had built in Trail in 1898 for use on the Rossland run. It is not possible from the early photographs to tell whether they are still lettered for the CPR, or whether the Hot Air had ownership.
Holland had the Eureka Creek traffic to himself for just a few months. By September, the W&GN had arrived. They built a Republic station at the confluence of Granite Creek and the San Poil River, no nearer Clark Avenue than the Hot Air station over on Eureka Creek. From their station, with its wye and water tower, the W&GN ran their tracks up the east side of Granite Creek, crossed it on a curving trestle that looped the line back on the opposite bank to climb to the Jim Blaine mine. Here, the tail of a switchback ran to the mine, while the line reversed to climb upstream again, passing above the big Republic Mill and following the creek to a point opposite the Flag Hill mine. At this point a high trestle looped over Granite Creek and brought their grade just beside that of the Hot Air at the entrance to Eureka Gulch. As the Hot Air was already in place on the west wall of the gulch, the W&GN crossed the creek on a high trestle at the Quilp mine and ran up the east bank. Coal and mine timbers were shot down a wooden chute from this trestle to the mine below. Eureka Gulch was narrow. Log cribs had to be built along both sides of the creek and filled with mine waste to hold the two sets of spur track that Hot Air and W&GN ran to each of the ten mines along the creek’s golden mile. The four sets of tracks, the two main lines dug out of the canyon walls fifty feet above the creek, and the two sets of mine spurs, one on either side of the creek, filled the gulch completely. There was scarcely enough room for the dirt road from town. At The Cove, where the Hot Air line ended, the W&GN men threw a great, climbing loop around the perimeter of the meadow with a spur to the Knob Hill mine on the north. It then crossed above the San Poil mill, and a switchback was laid to to reverse the line up to the top of The Cove past the Ben Hur mine. Climbing out of the gulch, the grade skirted the south shore of Mud Lake, the source of Eureka Creek. Past the lake, it entered the wide flat behind Knob Hill. Here a wye was laid to turn the engines, with one leg running a half mile west to the Mountain Lion, and the other leg a mile north to the Tom Thumb. Excepting the El Caliph, Morning Glory, and Flag Hill mines, Jim Hill had now run his own spur to every mine served by the Hot Air, and he was ready to underbid Holland for every shovelful of ore to be moved out of Republic.
There was still one problem. The VV&E while complete from Laurier to Carson, had not yet been able to enter Grand Forks and run up to the Granby smelter. It was still fenced out by that injunction forbidding it to cross the Hot Air’s track. Faced with hauling Republic ore 103 miles to the Northport smelter, as against the Hot Air’s 48 mile haul to the Granby smelter, Hill applied to the Railway Committee of the Canadian Parliament for permission to cross both the Hot Air and CPR tracks to enter Grand Forks. He got parliamentary permission, but still the local injunction held against him. Hill opted for main force, and so, after dark, on Sunday, November 9, 1902, his crews quietly laid a diamond crossing over the Hot Air tracks south of town. Monday morning found the VV&E crews laying track across the bridge into town. The Hot Air men responded by getting steam up in one of the Ten Wheelers and parking her squarely on the diamond, blocking the VV&E line. Now the crews of both lines gathered at the obstruction, hefting pick handles, showing their teeth, and ready for a dandy fight. Where was deputy Bunce? Still guarding that Curlew bridge, apparently, twenty miles away.
As a crowd from town gathered around them,the VV&E men saw that the Hot Air had a large part of the citizenry behind it, and this was, after all, Canadian territory. They considered the odds, and settled for packing their ties and rails around the obstructing locomotive by hand under the hostile scrutiny of the Hot Air men.
Chief Engineer Kennedy of the VV&E wired Hill in St Paul. Hill wired back to Tracy Holland telling him that if he did not remove his locomotive forthwith, the blockage at the Curlew bridge would be revived. A stalemate was not to the advantage of Holland now; he needed the revenue from the Eureka Creek ores he was hauling. Reluctantly, he conceded. The locomotive was removed, the VV&E entered Grand Forks, and proceeded to lay its own rails to the Granby smelter.
Hill, or his engineer, Kennedy, seemed to have learned one thing from this long standoff. When his men were running their line to the downtown Grand Forks, and came to the CPR tracks, Hill did not attempt to have them force a crossing. Although he had Parliamentary permission, the CPR was somewhat more powerful than that body. Engineer Kennedy ended his track at the CPR rails and built his station there, at Boundary Road. And again, when at Ward Lake, his smelter spur had to cross the CPR line, he chose to bridge it rather than rouse the Canadian Pacific to retaliation. He crossed CPR rails once more at the North Fork dam on the smelter spur, where he threw a bridge across both the CPR line and the river in one leap. These structures were costly, but Hill and Kennedy had learned something about Canadian stubbornness when aroused.
Now, with Hill’s line running direct to the Granby smelter, and his agents able to underbid the Hot Air for ore haulage from Republic, Holland seems to have chosen to retire from the fight. He had beaten Jim Hill to Republic, but now the financial power of the Great Northern came into play against him. The W&GN undercut his rates on Republic ores by dropping its charge to 75 cents per ton. The Hot Air matched that. Then Hill dropped his rate to 37-1/2 cents per ton. Again, the Hot Air matched the rate. Finally, Hill dropped his rate to 25 cents per ton. That was below cost and unmatchable. Moreover, Hill could move his cars direct to the smelter, while the Hot Air had to turn over its cars to the CPR at Cuprum and absorb the switching charge for moving the ore the last three miles to the smelter. Hill gradually took away most of the ore business. The Hot Air tried to stay alive by moving logs, lumber, sheep and whatever other traffic agent O.E. Fisher could scrape up.
The Hot Air had cost Holland and his backers $718,747 to build, and $43,190 to equip. The Washington and Great Northern line, built to higher standards, had cost Hill $4,555,392 to build, equip, and defend in court. Hill could not possibly recoup this expenditure by moving ore at 25 cents a ton, a mere $7.50 a carload. But Hill could raise his rates on other lines to make up the loss. The Hot Air could not. But by staying in business, however shakily, and moving small lots of ore at 37-1/2 cents, the Hot Air prevented Jim Hill for the next 18 years, from raising his rates to a profit making level. The mine owners reaped the benefit, but it is not recorded that they manifested their gratitude to Tracy Holland in any tangible way.
Crushed by the ingratitude of the mine owners he had done so much to enrich, Tracy Holland resigned from the Kettle Valley Lines at the end of 1902. His mayoralty was in trouble as well, A civic protest meeting was held to urge him to resign. He finished his term, but then, a defeated Tracy Holland left Grand Forks for Vancouver, to be heard of no more. He had beaten Jim Hill, railroad Mogul, only to lose to Jim Hill, the financier. His place at the Hot Air was taken by Republic lawyer, W.T. Beck.
Although Tracy Holland had departed, the Hot Air management was not ready to give up their dream of railroads running to the four points of the compass. Hill’s VV&E, and the CPR had preempted the route east to Cascade, and the W&GN was beggaring the line to Republic with lower rates, but there still remained that projected line up the North Fork (Granby) to Franklin Camp and its gold mines, and an extension beyond to cross the Monashees and reach the Nicola Valley coal mines. With coal in demand at the three Boundary smelters, such a line would seem to have an assured future. A line was surveyed to Franklin Camp and grading was begun running north up Fourth Avenue from the Hot Air station. Jim Hill made his enmity known at once. He was still angry at the delays Holland had previously put in his path, and he would punish the Hot Air if he could. Using the press, he announced that he would build a parallel line up the North Fork if the Hot Air dared to lay rails in that direction. This was undoubtedly St Paul hot air, but no one could be sure. Potential investors were scared off by Hill’s proclaimed opposition, and work was halted.
When the Canadian Government came through with a subsidy of $3200 per mile in 1906, work began again, and track was built up the North Fork. But 18 miles from town, at Lynch Creek, the money ran out, and no more could be found. There, the Hot Air stalled, until, some years later, under CPR management, it was extended another two miles to Archibald where a cable tram brought down fluorite from the Rock Candy mine to be used as flux in the Trail smelter.
The Hot Air made one more floundering attempt at their railroad empire. Under the leadership of lawyer, W. T. Beck, of Republic, they renamed their line the “Spokane and British Columbia Railway, and projected an extension south from Republic to Spokane. Jay Graves offered a loan of $50,000 from Granby to get the work started. This extension, if built, would short-haul the Great Northern’s roundabout line to Republic, arousing Hill’s anger once more. He sent his Spokane lawyers baying after the Spokane and B.C. like a pack of savage hounds and submerged the scheme in reams of litigation. The Hot Air lawyers fought back. Astonishingly, ten years later, they had won, but by that time the Spokane and B.C. was bankrupt.
The S&BC was the Hot Air’s last gasp. Traffic on the Republic line had dwindled. When the depression of 1907 hit the country, the Eureka Creek mines were unable to finance a needed conversion to low-grade ore mining and concentration. Ore shipments to both railroads, which in 1903 amounted to 35,000 tons, with a value of $350,000, had declined by 1907 to a mere 195 tons with a value of $9,000. In desperation, the Hot Air, using its CPR connections advertised a rate to the Chicago stockyards to attract local sheep men. By using the CPR’s Soo Line to Chicago, the Hot Air would accept live sheep at Republic for delivery in Chicago at the rate of $1.00 per pound. It was not enough. Regular service was suspended in 1907, and maintenance could no longer be afforded. The Hot Air would still run a train for any traffic that was offered, but that was all.
The CPR leased the Hot Air in 1908 for the sake of its charter, which still offered the right to build to the fourth point of the compass, west, to the Okanagan Valley and the Coast. Using this Hot Air charter, and renaming the Hot Air once again, to “Kettle Valley Railway,” the CPR built from Midway through Penticton to Hope on the CPR main line. Thus, by 1916, Volcanic Brown’s great dream was fulfilled. Rail lines, though now, Canadian Pacific lines, were running in all the cardinal directions out of Grand Forks. There was an irony in the CPR takeover, for, beginning in 1908, the Republic mines began to recover as concentrators were installed. The turnaround was dramatic.
From the 1907 low of 195 tons, the ore shipped rose to 584 tons in 1908, to 11,000 in 1909, and, by 1911, all previous records were bettered, with shipments of 44,000 tons, with a value of $868,000. Still, this was split between the two railroads with Jim Hill’s W&GN getting much the larger share.
JIM HILL BUILDS TO PHOENIX 1903 – 1905
It was certain that as soon as Jim Hill got his tracks into Grand Forks and around Observatory Mountain to the Granby smelter, he would begin building to Phoenix. From the days back in the 1870s when he took over the ailing St Paul and Pacific, Hill had maintained that, “every mile of track must pay its way.” So, with his “Third Main Line” plan, he intended to make every mile along the VV&E pay by competing for every carload of traffic offered. As well, Hill had bought heavily into Granby, seeing its smelter as a market for coal. He had bought an interest in the Crowsnest Coal Company in the East Kootenay, and built a railroad from his main line to its operations to supply his locomotives. Hill could move Crowsnest coal over his water level routes to the Granby smelter, while the CPR route had a 30 mile barge trip plus climbs over two mountain ranges on 2.2 percent grades.
As soon as the Hot Air blockage was removed by Holland’s compromise, the VV&E men began bridging the Kettle River and laying track north toward the smelter. Just outside the Grand Forks municipal boundary, a wye was installed, called Columbia Junction. From the east leg of this wye, track extended down what is now 68th Avenue, and a station built at Boundary Drive. On the west leg of the wye, the station of Weston was established with a five track yard, a locomotive servicing facility, coal bunker, water tank, and engine house. This line continued northwest, and
at mile 2 (Km. 3.2), from Cooper’s Wye (now called “Big Y,”) where the Grand Forks line diverged from the main line to Curlew and Republic, another wye was laid, called Copper Junction. The east leg of this wye, at mile .6 (Km. 1), bridged the CPR line with a 1000 foot trestle and single span Howe truss bridge. The grade then went around the east shore of Ward Lake and paralleled the CPR smelter spur on a slightly higher alignment just a few feet south. At the North Fork (Granby) River, a trestle and two span Howe truss bridge, 660 feet in all, bridged both the CPR smelter spur and the river. On the north bank the VV&E ran parallel and just uphill of the CPR line into the smelter yards at mile 3.3 (Km. 5.3), from Copper Jct.
Hill then set his men to grading a loop from the west leg of the Copper Jct. wye to climb around Eagle Mountain and enter Fourth of July Creek. This was slow work since much of the grade had to be blasted out of granite bluffs.
While Hill’s men were methodically grading toward Phoenix, expecting to reach the camp in 1904, Nichols and the New Yorkers who had bought Granby, decided to Americanize the company. With an American railroad shortly to be completed from the Phoenix mines to the smelter and to Spokane, they saw no more need to conciliate the Canadian Pacific or their Canadian directors. In June, 1904, Nichols requested the resignations of Granby’s Canadian directors. All but one, Robinson, resigned. In their place, the American directors made Abel Hodges, whom Graves had hired in 1898, Granby’s General Superintendent, reporting directly to the board. Jay Graves kept his vice-presidency, and became non-resident General Manager. Yolen Williams, Graves’ trusted lieutenant, was retired and given the honorary position of consultant. That Graves held his place at all was due to J.J. Hill, whose man, George Baker Jr., represented Hill on the board. Hill’s interest, though studiously and repeatedly denied by the company, was quite evident. Graves, for his own purposes, floated the legend that he, through Granby, was the trusted associate of J.J. Hill.
With his line to the smelter, Hill had captured the Granby coal market with his lower rates. Now his men were on their way to Phoenix where he intended to take the ore haul away from the CPR as well. The VV&E grade, which is very visible today from Highway 3 just west of Grand Forks, climbed Fourth of July Creek toward Summit Camp, on the divide between the Brown’s Creek and Eholt Creek. Here, at mile 14.3 (Km. 23), a station called Hale was laid out with a 2000 foot passing track and water tank. The loaded ore trains would take the siding here, while the up trains passed. At mile 15.9 ( Km.25.6) the track passed right though the Oro Denoro mine, a large and irregular glory hole, with a 1000 foot siding for loading ore and a station named Denoro. The CPR’s Phoenix line was just a few feet uphill, climbing in the opposite direction.
At mile 16 (Km. 25.7), and the Emma mine, the VV&E tracks passed under the CPR trestle bridging the gulch. An interchange to the CPR was laid here, and the place was called Coltern (the CPR called this point B.C. Junction). Now on the north slope of Montezuma Hill, and running west on a continuing 2 percent grade, the line crossed the canyon of Glenside Creek at mile 18.1 (Km. 29.1) on the huge, Deadman’s Creek trestle, 672 feet long, 195 feet high, and built on a 14 degree curve.
A loop into Providence Creek came next with another curving trestle at mile 21.4 (Km. 34.4). Turning the corner into Twin Creek at mile 22 (Km. 35.7), the line came out of the dense fir forest and onto open, grassy slopes facing south. The VV&E entered Phoenix on the 4300 foot contour, just above the road up from Greenwood.
Phoenix was built in a shallow gulch; the VV&E entered town with a wye on trestle work at the intersection of Dominion Avenue and Banner Street. The left leg led to the depot at mile 23.4 (Km. 38.8) and the foot of Phoenix Street. The west leg of the wye crossed Twin Creek and climbed to a switchback at the 4400 foot level, and then ran back to the Idaho mine ore bunker at the 4500 foot level. From this spur, a second switchback climbed the slope of Knob Hill, and reversed back to the Victoria ore bunkers at the 4600 foot level. With the Americanization of Granby, the VV&E was invited to install loading tracks on the lower side of the Victoria mine ore bunkers, while the CPR loaded from the uphill side. Here, an interchange track connected the two lines.
On February 15. 1905, the VV&E hauled its first train load of Granby ore. By building a climbing spiral clear around the mountain on which Phoenix was located, VV&E engineer Kennedy had constructed a longer but easier grade than the short but steep CPR branch. Both railroads now had their tracks at the mine mouths and ore bunkers of the Granby Company’s biggest producers, and it was clear that the lowest rates would determine who got the haulage.
With its 2.2 percent grades, the VV&E could bring down more loaded cars in a single train and haul more empties uphill. That gave it a cost advantage over the C&W with its 3.4 percent grades. The CPR typically ran ore trains of 15 cars down to Eholt; the VV&E ran 22 car trains down its grade to the smelter. The CPR immediately reduced its rate for hauling Phoenix ore to the Granby smelter from $1.00 per ton to 25 cents, which President Shaugnessy agonized loudly, was “bare cost.” If 25 cents was “bare cost” the previous $1.00 had represented a substantial profit. But Hill was not to be outdone. He reduced his rate below “bare cost,” and got the bulk of the traffic. From 1905 on the VV&E was hauling 70% of Granby’s ore.[i]
Although running different routes, the two lines were almost exactly the same length. The CPR line from Phoenix to Eholt was 9.7 miles (15.6 Km.) of 3.4 percent grade, plus Eholt to Smelter Junction, 12.5 miles (20 Km.) of 2.2 percent grade, plus 2.2 miles (3.5Km.) of nearly level grade into the smelter, 24.4 miles(39.1Km.), in all. The VV&E had 22.3 miles (35.7 Km.) of 2.2 percent grade, Copper Junction to Phoenix, and 2.2 miles, (3.3 Km.) into the smelter, a total of 24.3 miles (39 Km.). The CPR ran its short ore trains down to the Eholt yard, where they were broken up and separate cuts of cars made up made up for the four smelters to which they were consigned. When a sufficient number of cars had accumulated for the Granby smelter, a train would be made up for that destination. Cars destined for the Trail smelter would be attached to eastbound freights, those for the B.C. Copper or the Dominion Copper smelters, attached to westbound freights.
The CPR went after the traffic from those outlying mines not served by the VV&E. From Hartford Junction, a spur was extended east .8 miles (1.3 Km.) to serve the Winnipeg and Golden Crown mines. A short spur running south along the ridge top from Hartford Jct. reached the Buena Vista. As previously described, other spurs served the B.C. Copper mine in Summit Camp and the Jackpot and Athelstan mines above Spencer. In 1909 a short spur was built west from Hartford Junction to the terminal of an aerial cable way which brought ore down from the Boundary/War Eagle mine on the south slope of Knob Hill.
As the CPR line made the loop at Hartford and climbed the east slope of Knob Hill, short spurs ran in to the Rawhide, Gold Drop, Snowshoe and Curlew mines, all of which were big producers. The west leg of the wye at the Phoenix station was extended down the north side of Twin Creek to reach the Brooklyn mine. A few hundred feet west of the Brooklyn, it switch backed down to the Stem winder, below the Brooklyn.
Granby, however, was still the largest producer, with the VV&E loading at tunnels 2 and 3; the CPR at tunnel 2. Hill’s line was tying Grand Forks and the Boundary District closer to Spokane and the U.S. By 1905, the Hill lines had 60 percent of all classes of Boundary rail traffic. The Rossland experience was being repeated. There the steep Trail Creek Tramway had won the race to the mines, but the better engineered Red Mountain Railway took the bulk of the traffic and by far the most passengers who were bound for the American trading center of Spokane. Now, at Phoenix, though the CPR had won the race and covered the mountains with its twisting spurs, the Hill line with its better grades and its direct connection to Spokane, was taking most of the business.
THE BELCHER MINE RAILWAY 1906 – 1914
The Belcher mine was located on Cooke Mountain, in Ferry County, Washington. The ore deposit was pyrrhotite, a sulfide of iron, which on Cooke Mountain contained appreciable quantities of gold. When smelters opened at Grand Forks, Greenwood and Boundary Falls, there was a market for this ore, since the iron was in demand as a slag forming mineral, and the smelting process recovered the gold.
H.C. Lycett opened the mine and built a three foot gauge railroad in 1906 from Karamin up Lambert Creek to the Belcher Camp, below the mine. The transfer point to the standard gauge was just a quarter mile north of Karamin where a pile of rusty looking dirt (pyrrhotite) beside the BN track indicates the former ore bunker. The two lines were just a few feet apart, the highway being on the old Hot Air grade.
There was a reversing loop on the flat above this transfer point, and the line ran south along the hillside with a double switchback to gain elevation to enter Lambert Creek. In early morning light, the switchback grade can be easily seen today, looking east from the Karamin intersection. The track ran up the north side of Lambert Creek for 8 miles to the Belcher Camp which was on the flat by the creek. The camp comprised some 40 to 50 persons, a school, a store and post office and bunkhouses for the miners and railroad crew. The railroad looped around the camp and had a loading bunker on the south side of the creek where a three-rail gravity tram came down from the mine 1500 feet up on the mountain. The tram had two, 5 ton cars connected by a steel cable that ran over a sheave at the top. The loaded car, coming down, pulled the empty car up. A passing tracks with spring switches in the center, allowed the cars to pass each other. Kenneth Fairweather, the tram operator, had to climb the steep trail to the mine on foot each morning and hoist the crew in the empty car. At the end of the day he had to let them down again and then descend on foot. He got an extra half hour pay for this.
A daily ore train ran down the line to the Karamin transfer bunker. When someone needed to go to town, or when there were company officials on the property, the single passenger car was attached to the ore train by Conductor, Ike McClung. Ed Williams was engineer, Dan Mc Dougal was fireman, and only the brakeman’s first name, Ralph, is remembered. In addition to the ore shipments which went to the B.C. Copper smelter in Greenwood, the settlers along Lambert Creek hewed railroad ties for a cash income and sent them out via the Mine Railway. At the Karamin transfer point the ore was loaded into W&GN ore gondolas to be taken up to Grand Forks. There was no interchange between the GN and CPR in Grand Forks, so the single car of Belcher ore would be coupled to a GN train of empty ore cars bound for Phoenix. The car would be dropped at the Coltern interchange with the CPR, and a CPR train would take it down the hill to Eholt. A westbound freight would then pick it up and take it to Greenwood. The CPR Shay would move it up to the B. C. Copper Company’s smelter on its Motherlode turn.
The Belcher Mine Railway owned two locomotives. No. 1 was a Baldwin 2-8-0, c/n 11005, of June, 1890, built new for the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. It had 16 x 20 cylinders and 37” drivers. No. 2 was another one of the Alberta Railway and Coal Company’s Hinkleys, a 2-6-0, and may very well have been former Trail Creek Tramway No. 1, as that machine was noted at Midway in 1905. As well, the line owned a baggage car, little more than a boxcar with a side door and windows, also probably from the AR&C. The single passenger coach, carefully lettered, “No. 1,” may well have come from the “Turkey Trail,” as it was of the same pattern as those cars. The ore cars appear to have been identical to the old link and pin coal cars of the Trail Creek Tramway. They may have been those cars or others from the Alberta line.
As flags from both Canada and the U.S. were equally displayed on the passenger train for its inaugural run, some Canadian ownership may be inferred. The mine and Belcher Camp lasted until 1914; Ike Mc Clung’s wife, Madge, taught school and the Belcher Camp store supplied the stump ranchers along Lambert Creek. The railroad may have lasted a little longer. A photo of the old Karamin lumber mill shows a narrow gauge track alongside. The Belcher Camp was reported to have carried logs out of Lambert Creek to this mill, possibly prolonging its life for a year or two.
Today Echo Bay Minerals works several gold mines on Cooke Mountain, not far from the old Belcher, and trucks the ore to their concentrator above Curlew Lake.
TWO RAILROADS; FIVE SMELTERS 1905 – 1921
Having bought Granby for $4.00 a share, William Nichols and his associates in the copper refining and marketing business, got up a special train and traveled west to see for themselves what they had acquired. At Grand Forks, Jay Graves, Stephen Miner, and Aubrey White toured them through the smelter. Then the CPR put on two locomotives and pulled their train up the steep grades to Phoenix where they stepped out in the highest town in Canada at 4610 feet. There they were shown the claims and the producing mines of the company. These were knowledgeable men, and they were enthusiastic at what they saw. Analyst Stanton admitted, “Nowhere have I seen superior methods.” J.B. Hereshoff, perhaps a rendered a bit light-headed by the elevation, rhapsodized, “…a magnificent, monotonous mass of homogeneous ore…”
These men, now his bosses, instructed Jay Graves to do two things. First, pay a dividend. Second, do more development work to determine precisely how much ore they had. He did both. A modest dividend was forthcoming, and he had his men begin a tunnel from the 4400 foot elevation at the foot of Church Street in Phoenix, to burrow under the town and tap the ore body 400 feet beneath its discovery point. He ordered that the shaft from the Victoria be deepened as well, to meet the tunnel on the 400 foot level. Then crosscuts were to be made to explore the ore body from end to end and side to side to discover its extent at the deep levels.
Eholt had become a busy railroad town with a five stall roundhouse, five tracks, four hotels, 25 houses, and half a dozen commercial establishments. Switchers bustled around the small yard day and night, making up cuts of cars for the five smelters the mines were serving, the Granby in Grand Forks, the B.C. Copper in Greenwood, the Dominion Copper in Boundary Falls, the Trail smelter and the Northport smelter.
For passenger service to Phoenix , the CPR ran a mixed train from Eholt. The ten mile trip uphill took 50 minutes, but downhill, with a heavy train of ore cars and the passenger car trailing, the time was an hour and twenty minutes, though the timetable suggests otherwise. Mixed trains were obliged to stop and cool brakes on the way down, and limited to ten miles per hour. Pure passenger consists could keep the published schedule.
The 1:55 PM train leaving Eholt boarded passengers from westbound CPR train No. 41 from Grand Forks, Robson West, Castlegar and Nelson which had arrived at Eholt at 1:55 PM. Obstreperous miners returning from alcoholic and other endeavors in Grand Forks could be a problem on the trains. Conductors learned to turn the train heat control wide open. In ten minutes, they reported, the cars would be hot and the miners snoring peacefully. Awakened in Phoenix, they would be bundled out into the cutting mountaintop winds to find their way to the “Rampasture,” their name for the Granby Company’s large employee boarding house at the top of Second Street.
With the steep, 3.4 percent grade and 600 tons of ore behind the locomotive, a brake failure on this line could be disastrous. On the 23rd of August, 1904, Shay 1901 (formerly No. 111 from the Rossland branch) lost train brakes half a mile above B.C. Junction. Engineer Alf Kenward and Fireman Charlie Haggart jumped and escaped injury, but the Shay left the tracks at the curve just above the Oro Denoro mine and the following ore cars piled up on top of it. Fortunately, this was not the afternoon mixed; no passenger coach was attached. So imperative was it to restore service at once, that a short trestle was built around the wreck and traffic went on while the mess was cleaned up. It was crucial not to interrupt the flow of ore to the smelters, as shutting down the furnaces and restarting them was both costly and shortened the life of the furnace linings. Shay 1901 was repaired and put back into service.
On February 2, 1907, CPR Consolidation No. 1384 with a heavy train of ore wrecked a short distance below the Rawhide mine when it spilled a switch.
The VV&E had its share of wrecks as well. On Sept. 20, 1909, both the engineer and fireman were killed at Phoenix when their locomotive overran the tail of switchback and rolled down the mountainside. Just one month later, Engineer McAstocker was killed and Fireman Beatty injured when their locomotive derailed and rolled coming down the 2.2 percent from Phoenix. Snow on the rails was believed to be the cause. 1909 was an unlucky year for trainmen; a week after the VV&E wreck just mentioned, CPR engine No. 1385 running light, Phoenix to Eholt, left the rails just below B.C. Junction and rolled.
The VV&E service did not require a change of trains. Still, it was one hour, 25 minutes, Grand Forks to Phoenix, and one hour, 20 minutes, Phoenix to Grand Forks. These were mixed trains, trailing a coach behind the ore cars, with a stop for water at Hale, and on the downhill run, one or more stops to cool brakes. Weston station served West Grand Forks, the former Columbia. The Spencer flag stop served the Athelstan and Jackpot mines, as the CPR spur line to them did not have passenger service. The Hale flag stop served the Summit Camp including the B.C. Copper mine. Glenside served the Tiger mine.
By 1905, Granby and the Phoenix mines were in full bonanza. Jim Hill himself came out by special train on those VV&E tracks that had cost him so much ire and invective to build. His seven car train came snorting up its spiral grade to Phoenix. Down from its platform stepped the short, broad, and scowling Cyclops of St Paul. Behind him came a hunched Jay Graves and a young and athletic George Baker Jr. who danced about in a series of hopping and arm swinging Swedish exercises popular at the time, all the while praising the invigorating qualities of mountain air.
While Director Baker danced and inhaled his mountain air, a driving rain commenced, and J.J. Hill, watching these antics without comment, allowed a company slicker to be draped around him and be led off for a tour of the property. The party inspected the mines, watched one of the Thew steam shovels loading Granby ore into Granby patent cars, and then retired to one of the Granby offices for confidential talks. Graves was in an ambiguous position with Granby. He was vice President and General Manager, but a second to Abel Hodges. The New Yorkers preferred to keep control in the hands of their own men. Graves owed his position to the influence of J.J. Hill who as now a major shareholder in Granby. Graves must have had something he wanted to discuss with J.J. Hill as well. He had incorporated The Spokane and Inland Railway the previous December and had been trying to convince New York investors that Mr Hill was behind him in this enterprise. Hill was not; his son Louis was trying to persuade him to break with Graves whom he did not trust. Graves certainly, on his own ground in Phoenix, must have tried to persuade Mr Hill to grant his new railway some sort of public approval. There is no evidence that he was successful.
When, by 1905, electricity reached Phoenix from Granby’s Cascade Power development, it replaced steam for haulage and underground work. The three Davenport saddle tank 0-4-0s then moved ore and waste on the surface while a fleet of 4 wheel Baldwin electric ‘mules’, taking 600 volt power from trolley poles, moved the ore underground. The locomotive fleet, divided among the five big Granby mines, comprised 3, 36” gauge Davenports, 3, 36” gauge electrics, nine 20” gauge electrics, one 20” gauge Baldwin steam locomotive, one 18” Baldwin steam loco, and two Thew 36” gauge steam shovels converted to electricity in 1905 to work underground.
The multiplicity of gauges reflects the five different mines, each with its own choice of track gauge, that now comprised Granby.
At the smelter the service tracks were 3 foot gauge with a Davenport 0-4-0 saddle tanker and five Baldwin electric mules handling the coal, ore, and flux to the furnaces. A standard gauge Davenport, piloted by Bill Euerby, moved cars on the elevated ramp over the receiving pockets and hauled the huge 6 ton slag pots loaded with red hot molten slag to the slag dumps along the riverbank east of the smelter.
The furnaces roared day and night and Grand Forks old timers remember how the dumping of the pots of molten slag at night would light up the skies with a red glow over the river.
Ore trains coming from Phoenix and Republic would leave their cars on the yard tracks, and depart with strings of empties. Bill Euerby would sort the loads out and move them with his Davenport to one of the five elevated tracks on the north side of the smelter, and spot each car over the appropriate bin below. Ore from each mine had to be kept separate, as each carload had to be assayed for metal content so proper payment could be made to the shipper. Custom ores were blended by the smelter men with the Granby ores, depending on which of their individual contents was desired in the furnaces. Republic ores, with their high lime and silica content, were used to flux the more sulfurous of the Phoenix ores.
Up at Phoenix, at the urging of the new American directors, production was pushed. 300,000 tons of ore were produced in 1903, 500,000 in 1904, and 550,000 tons in 1905. Beginning about 1904, the price of copper was manipulated to 25 cents a pound by the Amalgamated Copper Trust ( Standard Oil) which had captured all but Fritz Heinze’s mines in Butte. Amalgamated was withholding 7,500 tons of copper from the market to drive the price up Granby was engineered to produce copper profitably at 12 cents; at 25 cents, it was paying liberal dividends and ores previously thought too lean to mine were now commercial. The smelter’s eight furnaces were smelting 80 carloads of ore every day. Three GN ore trains brought down most of the Granby ore and two CPR trains hauled the non Granby ore destined for the Trail and Greenwood smelters.
In spite of the boom in the copper market, Granby’s exploratory tunnel and shafts probing the 400 foot level of the great Knob Hill ore body were returning troubling news in 1905 On the 200 foot level the ore deposit was 300 x 300 feet.
But down at 400 feet the ore body had shrunk to 150 x 150 feet. Worse news was to come. At 430 feet down, the ore bottomed out. This was kept a close secret between Yolen Williams, Graves and Abel Hodges, all of whom had substantial stock holdings in Granby. Graves quickly bought the Gold Drop, Curlew and Monarch claims, on the east side of Knob Hill for Granby and opened them. The extent of their ore bodies were unknown, but Graves hoped they would keep Granby going when the Knob Hill was exhausted. As a further precaution, Graves sent Yolen Williams out to find other copper claims that Granby might buy into. Williams found three promising deposits, and Graves presented them to the New York Directors, who were being kept in ignorance of how near the big Phoenix ore body was to exhaustion. The Directors chose the Hidden Creek deposit, on the Alice arm of Observatory Inlet, just north of Prince Rupert, B.C. It was purchased for $400,000, and just in time, for in 1910, the storm broke.
In 1909 Abel Hodges had stated in the Granby annual report to its stockholders, that, “Our ore reserves are largely increased and we have ore in sight for many years to come.” Still, in Grand Forks, the local rumors could not be silenced. Miners working at Phoenix knew what the exploratory tunnels had found.
In 1910, Abel Hodges, Granby’s Superintendent and the most important person in Grand Forks, unexpectedly announced that he was leaving to take a position in Peru. A great farewell banquet was mounted. Hodges was toasted in champagne and presented with a gold watch, his wife with a diamond ring. But as the celebrants made their way home through the windy March streets, certain suspicions crystallized.
The next morning, those who held Granby stock, quietly instructed their brokers to sell.
The rumors from Phoenix, the stock sales, reached the market in New York and Granby prices began to sink. The directors sent a geologist, Otto Sussman, to Phoenix to take over from Hodges and investigate. His report exploded on the boardroom table like a bomb. Hodges had high-graded the mine, he reported; Granby ores would be mined out in five years. The mining industry raged. Granby, capitalized at $15 million in 1905, was a bust, five years later. Hodges was blamed, but he was unreachable, safe in Peru. Jay Graves was summoned from his comfortable wintering spot, the Hotel Maryland in Pasadena where he spent his days playing poker with Otto Mears, the Colorado mining and railroad entrepreneur, also a winter resident. Busy with his Inland Empire Railroad, Graves had not been to Phoenix for 18 months; he disclaimed any knowledge of Hodge’s deception. After all, he had been cut off from the board, by the 1905 reorganization.
The mining world was deeply shocked by the disclosures. The Engineering and Mining Journal editorialized, “No event has done so much to destroy public confidence in mining investments.” The company was obliged to bare the facts to the public. Its 1910 report advised stockholders that but 4-1/2 years of ore were left.
Howls of outrage went up from the stockholders and the Granby share price plunged.
Jay Graves, again, was phenomenally lucky. He was able to calm the storm with the Hidden Creek property, an ore body richer than Phoenix, which had been bought on his urgent recommendation. Granby was saved by Graves’ perhaps not so innocent foresight. Plans were made to develop Hidden Creek as the Phoenix ores were exhausted. The crisis passed; Graves and Aubrey White buying all the Granby stock they could manage at its low level.
The massive tonnages being mined, feeding five smelters, would have indeed exhausted the ore bodies along the crest of the Boundary Range if it were not for the outbreak of World War I. The copper price in 1914, which was between 11 and 13 cents per pound, rose precipitately, climbing steadily to an unprecedented 26 cents in 1918. This meant that lower grade ores, below the 1 percent copper, that Granby had been mining, were now commercial. The 4-1/2 year deadline could be extended. Old workings were reopened and new mines were brought on line. The depressed Granby stock, which Graves had bought on credit in 1910, rose to $120. Jay Graves, grasping once more for control of Granby, approached Jim Hill. Many of Nichols’ associates had either died or disposed of their Granby stock in the debacle of 1910. If Mr. Hill would supply him with money Graves, argued, he would now be able to acquire a majority control of Granby for himself and Mr. Hill. Graves suggested that he then “…might be elected president and be a dominating influence in the company.” Hill refused the bait. As previously, Jim Hill would use Jay Graves where he could, but he would not permit himself to be used by Jay Graves.
The 0-4-0 Davenports working at the smelter were now needed at the Curlew and Gold Drop mines as they went into full production. An Alco 0-6-0T, No. 20, was bought for smelter switching duties. Two more 0-6-0 switchers appear on the roster, but they were evidently sent to work the new Hidden Creek mine and its smelter at Anyox.
The end for Phoenix came in 1919. Copper prices plunged with the end of the war, and the low grade ore Granby was mining was now uneconomic. Worse, a persistent series of strikes in the ill-managed Crowsnest mines shut off the supply of coal and coke. Coal could be obtained from other mines, but Crowsnest had the only coking ovens in the Northwest. As well, Jim Hill was dead. His son, Louis, taking over, could see no reason for continuing the feud with the CPR , and began closing down the uneconomic British Columbia lines.
There were vast reserves of low grade copper still under Phoenix, the rail network was in place, the miners and the machinery were at hand. With careful management and an ore concentrating plant, the low grade might still be smelted at a profit. The strike in the coal fields, however, continued unresolved, and in Grand Forks the smelter furnaces went cold for lack of fuel. The directors decided to move everything to Anyox and close the Phoenix mines.
The town of Phoenix, 1750 inhabitants, emptied at once. People simply took what they could carry, walked out of their houses, and boarded the train, thankful that the tracks were still in place. Many expected to return when the strike in the East Kootenays was settled and the coke began to arrive again. But the strikes continued, and in Phoenix neither houses, stores or businesses could be sold. Most of the miners who remained moved to Greenwood where electricity and other amenities were to be found.
At this time, the Canadian Pacific, remembering the old Columbia & Western location along the Kettle River in the U.S., queried the Great Northern about using their water level grade from Grand Forks to Midway. This would eliminate the helper grades over the Eholt summit. But the Great Northern, even with the great Empire Builder gone, was still infected with his dark suspicions of the CPR. If the CPR transferred their Boundary service to the GN tracks, they reasoned, then they might be permitted to abandon their Phoenix line at once and leave the GN with a legal obligation to continue a Phoenix service. The Great Northern refused, and hastily pulled its Phoenix rails. By the end of 1919, they were gone, removed back to Copper Junction.
The spur to the smelter was kept for another year in case it should open again and receive Republic ores. In 1920 it was pulled and the tracks cut back to the Weston yards and the Grand Forks station. The CPR, as the last rail link, was obliged to continue service to Phoenix until the government convened hearings on abandonment.
In the thirties, with traffic diminishing on its Curlew – Oroville line, the Great Northern reversed itself and opened discussions with the CPR about leasing them the Kettle River Line. But the CPR remembered the 1919 snub, rejected the idea. It would be better, they believed, to let the GN abandon its Curlew – Oroville line, and leave the CPR as the sole railroad serving the Midway – Rock Creek district. In 1935, the GN pulled its rails back to Curlew and the subject was closed. The old antagonism between Van Horne and Hill still hung ghostly over railway policy in the Boundary district.
The smelters at Greenwood and Boundary Falls were closed at the end of the war and their machinery moved out. Up in Phoenix the CPR hung on for a few years, moving small lots of ore from local miners leasing the old diggings. All those pillars of ore that had been left underground to support the roof of the workings were mined out, one by one, with wood cribbing put in place to hold up the roof. The cribbing was intended only as a temporary measure while the miners removed the last bits of commercial ore. After that, the wood slowly rotted and collapsed, with the abandoned town of Phoenix above sinking slowly into the old pits. The buildings first sagged, then leaned, and finally, year by year, sank into the flooded workings below.
By 1921, the CPR had won permission to pull its tracks. The last train left Phoenix forever with engineer, Thomas Needham pulling the throttle. Needham, who had brought the first train into Grand Forks twenty years before, sounded a continuous note of farewell on his whistle as he brought his cleanup train of miscellaneous cars down the steep grade past a score of abandoned mines and through a young forest growing up on the mountainside so laboriously cleared by the woodcutters of 1900 – 1905. Like mining camps all over the West in the post war years, it was finally all over.
Well, not quite. William Bambury, Robert Denzler and some 30 miners moved into the best houses in town and stayed, leasing old pits and working outlying pockets of high grade ore too small to have been of interest to the large mining companies. Adolph Sercu, known as “Four Paw,” or “Forepaw,” for the iron hook he had in place of an arm, closed his livery stable and moved into the old City Hall. There he appointed himself constable, and with a large billy club and a tin star cut from the bottom of a tomato can pinned to his shirt, he patrolled the sagging, sinking buildings until his death in 1942.
Phoenix was now mined for boards, windows, doors and plumbing fixtures. Over 200 buildings had been salvaged for their lumber or moved away by 1927. As one hotel was being stripped for its fine interior paneling, a hidden room was discovered with full gambling equipment in including a roulette wheel. The gamblers had been in too great a hurry to leave to bother taking it with them. The indoor skating rink was sold to a Vancouver buyer. With the proceeds, a cenotaph was commissioned to commemorate the Phoenix war dead of 1914 – 1918. It still stands on the road overlooking the site.
William Bambury, a genuine eccentric, “a man of polished education and widely read,” remained in Phoenix, its last inhabitant. He had come from England as a carpenter and located in Phoenix in 1902. He had seen the entire rise and fall of the town, and now, as a pensioner, was determined to stay. With he departure of the population, he had the pick of the houses in Phoenix, and chose to live in Dr. Boucher’s fine home rent free, his presence a guarantee to Mrs. Boucher that the building would remain unvandalized. An omnivorous reader, he made minute corrections in the margins of everything he read, and carried on a voluminous correspondence, sticking stamps with the likeness of King George VI on his envelopes upside down as a mark of loyalty to Edward VIII, “the true King of England.” Daily, he observed the slow caving of the abandoned town into the underground workings. His diary for May 28, 1950 reads,
“Little traffic besides a Grand Forks boy named Cochrane, who came up with his girlfriend on a motorcycle. “In strolling around this morning I observed the wreckage of the King’s Hotel with that of the Bolivia Hotel seems to have sunk considerably, giving the impression that a mine cave-in has caused the subsidence. Water not far below apparently. No sign of a break in the ground outside the wreckage. Cut some wood.”
Local miners bought the Granby claims and continued to pick at the remaining pockets of ore. In the 1950s, with copper prices over $1.00, the Granby Company bought back its claims from W. E. Mc Arthur and dug out a huge open pit under what had been Phoenix. The ore went out through a tunnel to a concentrator on the east slope just below the old C&W grade. The Phoenix ore was supplemented by ore trucked from the Lone Star mine across the border on what was to have been the C&W spur surveyed to that mine in 1905. The open pit operation closed in 1978. There still remain a million tons of low grade in the Monarch and Rawhide claims awaiting exploitation. Nothing whatever remains of Phoenix but the cenotaph. Where the town existed, is now a huge, raw hole in the ground half a mile across and 400 feet deep.
RED MOUNTAIN: BOOM AND DECLINE 1900 – 1997
When standard gauging its Rossland line, the CPR moved the Rossland yards to a flat between Second and Third Avenues, extending from Washington to Butte. A commodious station was built on the site now occupied by the Rossland fire hall. On the north side of the four track yard, a freight shed was erected, and at the east end, near Butte, a two stall engine house. Alongside the yard tracks private interests put in a coal yard, a feed store, and a drayage warehouse. Down in the lower town at Cook Avenue, a roofed platform for passengers was built at the water tower. As in its narrow gauge days, this was still called “Union Avenue.”
With both the CPR and the Great Northern in town, their bitter rivalry was not long in breaking out. At the west end of Rossland, the Red Mountain Railway had a spur up behind the present museum which hauled ore from the Black Bear mine, delivered coal for its power plant, and timbers for mine props. Further east and some hundreds of feet up Red Mountain was the second class dump of the great Le Roi mine. The Northport smelter had installed a concentrating plant and now wanted that ore.
Accordingly, in the first days of November, 1900, the Red Mountain Railway sent out its engineers to stake out a line climbing west from the Black Bear spur to a switchback on the Annie claim. Reversing there, the line climbed back east to the Le Roi second class ore dump and on to the end of the CPR track at the War Eagle ore bunkers. This line would allow the Northport smelter to bid for both the Le Roi second class ore and for the War Eagle ores.
For once in its long life, the CPR moved with dispatch. On the Ninth of November, the train from Nelson brought a full crew of workmen, engineers, and their tools. The next morning, as the dawn sun was glimmering through the fog-shrouded town, the CPR men with teams and scrapers assembled at the War Eagle ore bunkers. Running west and slightly downhill was the line of Red Mountain survey stakes. After a careful sight through his instrument, the CPR engineer pronounced the Red Mountain grade suitable. At once the CPR crew began to grade it with shovels, picks, wheelbarrows and horse drawn scrapers. It was not until the next day that an outraged Red Mountain crew arrived from Marcus to find the CPR had graded their own line down to the Black Bear mine on the Red Mountain survey and were preparing to lay ties and rails
. Howls of indignation went up, but this was Canada, and no pistols were drawn. The Red Mountain telegrapher in Rossland sent out an SOS to Spokane. Spokane wired Jim Hill in St Paul. The mighty Empire Builder raged. His Spokane lawyers were roused from their beds at midnight and bustled onto a hastily assembled special train at the Spokane depot. They were to be in court in Rossland promptly at ten in the morning. On came the Lawyers’ Special, storming up the hill to Rossland, and screeching to a halt at the Spokane Street station. A squad of shivering and sleepless attorneys descended, and clutching their briefcases, hurried down to the courthouse on Columbia Avenue.
But, as they were to learn, the CPR was a power in Canada. The legal arguments were many, learned, and passionate. Still, the owners of the mining claims over which the disputed rails passed, raised no objection; they were quite delighted to have rails at their mine mouths. His Honour could find no injured party.
On December 14, the judge upheld the CPR rails and the Spokane lawyers departed. On the 16th, the Red Mountain capitulated, and connected its rails at the Black Bear with the CPR tracks. Both lines could now compete for ore from the Black Bear, the War Eagle, and the Le Roi second class dump. Belatedly, on the 23rd, the CPR published its “Notice of Application to Build a Branch Line to the Black Bear Claim.” That closed any legal loopholes, and the Red Mountain Railway resigned itself to the interchange track.
With the end of regular sternwheeler service, the CPR removed the tracks from Bay Avenue and the Trail station to a more central location at Cedar and Farwell (where the Super Valu market now stands). A wye was installed here to turn the engines. The War Eagle and Centre Star mines were bought in 1906 by the newly organized Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (COMINCO) which began a policy of buying mining properties to assure the smelter of a continuous and predictable supply of ore. The Northport smelter was still bidding for ores and faced uneconomic shutdowns when they were not forthcoming. As Rossland entered the present century, the results of the early high grading days became evident. The Red Mountain mines had been opened in a virtual wilderness by the Spokane Colonels and Canadian Honourables when only the richest shoots of ore could pay their way to a railway siding by pack team or rawhiding.
In 1896 the ore shipped out ran an average of 1.45 oz. in gold, 2.34 oz. silver, and 40.9 pounds of copper per ton. That rich ore was worth $32.64 per ton. The charges at the pioneer smelters were high, between $10 and $14 per ton, reflecting the high cost of getting coke and coal to the smelters by the roundabout rail and water routes. Two years later, the average ore being mined contained only half as much gold, but owing to a doubling of the copper price, was still bringing a profit of about $20 per ton.
The Le Roi, hoisting twenty six carloads daily in 1901, could claim ore values of only $13.16 per ton. With the CPR bringing coal and coke directly from the Crowsnest fields, the smelter charges were more modest. Combined mining, haulage and smelting charges averaged just $10.72 per ton. This yielded a profit of $2.44 per ton, a tenth of what it had been three years earlier. $2.00 per ton remained an average profit for the red Mountain mines for some years thereafter. High grade ore shoots were still being uncovered from time to time; each was announced with great fanfare in the mining press. But breathless publicity was largely a device to bolster stock prices and keep investors buying. As the mines went deeper, the tenor of the ore steadily declined. Smelter managers sent ore buyers into the field to purchase ores with a high sulfur content which would reduce the amount of coal required in the furnaces. For this reason it was economic to bring in the bornite and chalcopyrite ores from Phoenix to blend with the lower sulfur Rossland ores. The much lower mining costs at Phoenix where the massive deposits could be worked with power shovels from huge glory holes, more than offset the cost of hauling these ores over the Monashees to Trail or around by Marcus to Northport.
With a progressive decline in the quality of ore as their mines went deeper, the Rossland mine managers blamed their inability to pay dividends on high labor costs.They refused to honor the legally mandated eight hour day, and instituted a change from an hourly wage to a contract system, paying their miners so much per ton or per foot of tunnel dug. The Rossland miners refused and struck on July 11, 1901. The strike was long and bitter, but eventually failed as the local union broke away from the Western Miners Federation in Denver, uncomfortable with its openly Socialist ideology. With the miners now on a contract system, the mine managers were no longer able to blame their failure to produce rich dividends on excessive labor costs. The truth was was that the Le Roi, the Centre Star and War Eagle had been bought from the Spokane Colonels at vastly inflated prices in the speculative boom of 1898. The ore being mined after 1898 could simply not pay the dividends demanded. General informed belief was that the miners had been scapegoated. The British Columbia Mining Record editorialized that the real reasons for the unprofitability of the Rossland Mines after 1898 were, “…the exaggerated anticipations on the part of investors; extravagance and incompetence on the part of the representatives of the investors” (the mine managers); “over taxation… and extensive swindling on the part of company promoters.”
To reduce mining costs Aldridge of the Trail smelter proposed uniting all the major producers into one company. All were interconnected underground; amalgamation would allow all hoisting to be done through one shaft, and a single compressor station and lighting works would serve all the mines. The owners refused, believing the proposal to be a CPR grab for monopoly control. Aldridge was persistent; he believed that if the CPR did not buy the mines, the Great Northern would.[v] Gradually, opposition weakened, except for Mc Millan, manager of the Le Roi. He was especially obstructive, attacking the condition for merger that gave the CPR all the haulage of the combined ores, and the Trail smelter all the treatment. Aldridge saw Mc Millan as representing Jim Hill’s interests. This was true. J.J. Hill, in far off St Paul, had been myopically buying shares in the declining Le Roi for the express purpose of preventing the CPR from getting hold of it, and denying Hill’s Red Mountain Railway of its traffic.
In 1905 Aldridge was able to buy the War Eagle/Centre Star (already consolidated) from the Gooderham-Blackstock families in Toronto for $825,000. With these and other purchases, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, Ltd. (COMINCO) was created in 1906. Cominco was capitalized at 5 million dollars, a wringing out of the excessive capitalization which had hamstrung the separate companies. It comprised the War Eagle,. Centre Star, the Trail smelter, The Rossland Power Company (an ore concentrating works), and the St Eugene mine, a lead-silver property in the East Kootenay which Aldridge optimistically expected to replace the Le Roi as the primary supplier of ore to the smelter. The St Eugene was largely owned by the Spokane Colonels. They had its manager, James Cronin, working his miners overtime in the months before the merger, a repetition of their 1898 stripping of the Le Roi, by removing as much of the high grade ore as possible to show a high valuation. The St Eugene, as a result of the Colonels’ manipulations, was assigned 49.8% of the new Cominco stock, while the War Eagle-Centre Star got 33.2%, the Trail smelter, 15.8 % and the unsuccessful Rossland Power Company 1.2%. Turning over their virtually depleted St Eugene mine to Cominco, the Spokane Colonels retired with half the Cominco stock, having fleeced the Canadians once again.
Five years later, the worked out St Eugene was abandoned to a few leasers to pick its bones foe what they could find. Cronin, when the deception was discovered, was unceremoniously removed from the Cominco board. Mc Millan of the Le Roi, doing Jim Hill’s bidding, refused to join the merger. But Hill’s intransigence could not save his mine. Five years later, in 1911, the Le Roi went into liquidation and was sold to Cominco for $250,000. As the supplies of copper-gold ores diminished in quantity and value, Cominco switched its interest to the huge deposit of low grade lead-silver ores of the Sullivan mine at Kimberly in the East Kootenay.
This had been another of the Spokane Colonels’ properties, but here they had lost their shirts. They had spent millions building a smelter to process its zinc-contaminated ores. Then the usually shrewd Colonels became victims of their own exuberance. Hiring by mistake, the brother of the engineer they had intended to employ, the smelter he built for them was an utter failure. They sold out to the Guggenheims’ American ASARCO combine. Asarco as well was unable to treat the Sullivan ores successfully, and Cominco picked up the mine nobody wanted in 1910 for $116,000. The separation of the troublesome zinc was finally achieved with a flotation process, and the Sullivan, together with the Bluebell (the deposit the Indians and Hudson’s Bay Company employees cast their bullets from in the 1840s) on Kootenay Lake furnished the bulk of Cominco’s ores until the 1970s.
Still, copper-gold ores continued to come down the steep and crooked rails from Rossland, though, after 1916 in diminished tonnage. By 1910, the CPR M4 series Consolidation locomotives were assigned to the Rossland run, and for these heavier engines the existing 60 pound rail was replaced with 85 pound steel. Rails on the tight 20 degree curves had to be braced against the weight of these engines with ties wedged between the outside rail and the embankment. On other curves the outside rail was cabled to an iron pin driven into bedrock.
Braking on the downhill runs was always a problem. The older cars with wooden brake beams often arrived at Smelter Junction with the beams so badly scorched they would need to be replaced before the car could be sent up the hill again. A judicious handling of the brakes was required so as not to burn off the brake beams and lose the train brakes. In the Twenties all steel gondolas arrived with steel brake beams and the problem was eliminated.
In the early years, the Rossland branch used tiny 4 wheel cabooses just 15 feet long. These had been built in 1907 and 1908. They lasted until the CPR banned 4 wheel equipment in the 1920s. They were replaced by standard plan cabooses which had been shortened by ten feet. A home made flanger, built on the single car truck, lasted well into the 1940s.
After WWI the end was in sight for the Rossland mines. They were following leaner and leaner veins down into the mountain, almost down to the level of the Columbia. A plan was mooted to drive a tunnel from Warfield to intercept the deep workings and allow the ore to come out near present Haley Park. This would have eliminated the need for trackage above Warfield. The tunnel was begun, but too late. The Red Mountain mines were nearing exhaustion and further expenditure was not justified.
The Northport smelter had closed after the war for lack of ore. On July 1, 1921, the last Great Northern train departed from Rossland and the Red Mountain Railway was closed. In 1922, the rails were pulled and a one lane gravel road graded, most of it on the old railway line. The great Columbia bridge at Northport was given a wooden deck for automobile traffic. It served, an increasingly shaky structure old timers remember, until 1948, when one span collapsed and a ferry had to be put in service until a new highway bridge could be built.
With the closing of the Phoenix mines in 1919 and the diminishing amounts of ore coming out of the deep levels of the Red Mountain mines, Cominco decided in 1929 to close its Rossland mines. The next year it ended its copper smelting operations, and smelted exclusively lead-zinc-silver ores from the East and West Kootenay. A good many of the Rossland miners found work in the Trail smelter, and a Rossland-Smelter Junction commuter coach was added to the 6:00 AM passenger train to Nelson. The coach would be dropped off at Tadanac, as Smelter junction had been renamed. On the return run from Nelson, the train would pick up the miner’s coach at 4:15 PM and haul them back up the hill to Rossland.
When the great depression struck in the Thirties, the demand for metals dwindled and many smelter workers were laid off. To assist these men, Cominco leased its Rossland mines from 1933 to 1940 to its laid-off employees. A truck dumping facility was established on Washington Street. The miners would truck their ore to the ramp and raise the body with a chain fall to dump the ore into the CPR gondolas. The ore cars ran again in the three times per week service the CPR maintained to Rossland.
A paved highway down the hill to Trail opened in 1937. The miners then established their own commuting bus service to the smelter, a fifteen minute trip, as compared to an hour by train. That year, all passenger service to Rossland was withdrawn. Still, the freight climbed the hill three times a week, as Rossland, high above the smelter fumes, became the favored bedroom community for Trail employees.
Conversion from coal to oil fired locomotives came in the late 1940s. In 1953, diesel locomotives replaced steam. In 1962 the line down the gulch to the Trail City station was lifted, and in March, 1966, the Rossland line was abandoned. Track was lifted down to Warfield where the Cominco fertilizer plant still requires regular freight service bringing in phosphate and potash rock for conversion into fertilizer with the sulfuric acid formerly wasted up the stack.
The Red Mountain mines and the steep and crooked line that served them, had outlasted Phoenix which had sunk into its own pits. Rossland today remains a thriving community, and the Trail smelter, one of the world’s largest, processes ores brought from Alaska’s North Slope to Sayward up those historic Spokane Falls and Northern rails. At the Sayward transfer facility, the ores are transferred to trucks for the remaining six miles to Trail. The failure of Fritz Heinze, in 1895, to keep his promise to Dan Corbin to lay track from Trail to Sayward is perpetuated today in that costly and irrational trucking operation.
The inexplicable failure of the CPR to underbid BN for the Alaska ore traffic, has ended the procession of heavy ore trains from Cranbrook to Nelson to Trail, and the line from Yahk to Warfield has been sold to its employees. The Canadian Pacific, reluctant in the beginning to enter the Kootenay-Boundary country, has hastened to leave it, abandoning its rail future to the always aggressive Americans. BNSF trains still call at the old Great Northern points, at Sayward, at Salmo, at Grand Forks, at San Poil, and Curlew. The departing CPR has sold the Trail Smelter, and pulled all of its track west of Castlegar. Kootenay rail transport is back to where it was in 1899.
SLOW DEATH:THE DEMISE OF THE HOT AIR LINE 1902 – 1921
After the arrival of the W&GN rails in Republic in 1903, the production of the mines was split between the two railroads. Approximately 1000 tons per week was going out, with the GN taking the largest share. Most of this ore had been stockpiled at the mines awaiting the rails. Almost all of the 30 carloads a week being shipped, went to the Granby smelter. Very high grade ores went to Everett and Tacoma, Washington where the smelters were willing to pay premium prices for Republic ores with their high silica and lime content, to blend with their “wet” (high in sulfur) ores to make a desirable slag in the furnaces.
Once the stockpiles of ore had been shipped, traffic began to dwindle from 35,000 tons with a value of $350,000 in 1903 to a mere 195 tons with a value of $9,000 in the panic year of 1907. It was not an indication that the mines were exhausted. Recovery of the gold values was the problem, not exhaustion of the deposits. When better concentrating methods were installed in the larger mines, production increased.
With better concentrating machinery installed in 1908, shipments began to pick up with 584 tons shipped for a value of $20,000. Shipments steadily climbed to 44,000 tons in 1911 with a value of $900,000. Meanwhile, the Hot Air line limped along, with Republic Agent O.E. Fisher, picking up what business he could. He contracted log hauls to sawmills along the line, and organized rail excursions on Sundays to the popular picnic grounds on Curlew Lake The Great Northern’s W&GN, however, with its direct connection to Spokane, took the majority of the the passenger business.
Train No. 256 from Spokane dropped its buffet car at Curlew, and continued on west to Oroville where it terminated. Return train, No. 255, originated there at 6:30 AM, and stopped in Curlew to board passengers bound for Grand Forks or Spokane, and to pick up the buffet car. The 2-1/2 percent grades on the Midway – Oroville portion of the line made it prudent to leave the heavy buffet car at Curlew, since the locomotives assigned to this service were older machines from Dan Corbin’s SF&N with limited pulling capacity. At Karamin, not listed in this timetable, but at Mile 163, passengers and freight were set out for the narrow gauge Belcher Mine Railway which pulled its single passenger car 8 miles up Lambert Creek whenever Conductor Ike Mc Clung had paying traffic.
In the Teens and Twenties of this century, Marcus, Washington was the center of action for all these mining lines. Daily, at noon, the town came to life with sudden energy. No. 259, the morning train from Nelson would arrive at 12:40 with the passengers and express that had come down the Red Mountain Railway to board at Northport. The passengers would hurry into the restaurant, a neatly panted two story building just west of the station, congratulating themselves on being the first to arrive with a choice of tables. No. 259 would be quickly wyed by its crew and set out beside the station on the north leg of the wye to return to Northport and Nelson as No. 260 after lunch. Once parked on the house track, its hungry crew would make their way to the table in the restaurant reserved for GN employees.
At 12:50, No. 255 from Oroville, Curlew and Grand Forks would come rumbling across the great Columbia River bridge to halt on the west leg of wye opposite the restaurant and its passengers would pour off and crowd into the building. At he same time, 12:50, No. 256 was arriving from Spokane and its passengers were on the vestibule steps ready to make a run for the restaurant, shouting their orders as they crowded through the door.
No. 255 was due to depart for Spokane in ten minutes, so its passengers had time only to pick up their box lunches ordered by telegraph from Laurier. At 1:l0, both No 260 for Northport and Nelson, and No. 256 for Grand Forks, Curlew and Oroville were whistling for departure. The diners cursed, shoving last mouthfuls of food into their faces, put down their napkins and hurried out to their trains, suffering the first pangs of heartburn and damning Jim Hill for his belief that twenty minutes was ample time to order and consume a noon meal. The trains, probably a few minutes late, chuffed off, leaving the restaurant employees time to sit down, put their feet up and enjoy a smoke. The whistle blasts from the three trains, resounding from the mountains, died away, the long rumble from the Columbia Bridge was silenced, and the sleepy, riverfront town of Marcus relaxed into a quiet afternoon snooze. It would all happen again at noon the next day.
In Grand Forks, the Hot Air management, defeated by Jim Hill’s competition at Republic, had turned to their North Fork line. They had built 18 miles up the river and then stalled for want of funds at Lynch Creek. An arrangement with the CPR allowed the Canadian Pacific’s trains to use the Hot Air track through town, and its station on 4th Avenue in exchange for Hot Air trackage rights from Westend to Smelter Junction on the CPR line. The North Fork line then ran alongside Smelter Lake, serving a sawmill there, and on up the valley through the settlements at Niagara, Troutdale and Humming Bird where ore from nearby mines was loaded. At two places north of Humming Bird, the wagon road was side by side with the tracks, and to keep the locomotives from frightening horses on the road, a high board fence was erected to separate the track from the road. The road was frequently impassable in bad weather and couples would then resort to pumping a hand car down the Hot Air rails to attend dances at Volcanic Brown’s Camp. The Hot Air was a home town railroad and when locals needed transportation, borrowing a railroad hand car and pumping down the line was customary practice.
The Franklin Camp gold mines, 40 miles to the north were the line’s immediate goal. An ambitious extension was planned to cross Monashee Pass and reach the Okanagan at Vernon, and beyond to the coal mines of the Nicola Valley. However, no one wanted to risk investing in a line Jim Hill had publicly announced he would destroy. A hotel was built at Lynch Creek, the jumping off place for prospectors and miners, and a wagon road to Franklin Camp brought out its ore to be loaded on the Hot Air cars for the Granby smelter.
In 1919, the Trail smelter was interested in getting fluorite from the Rock Candy mine to use as flux. The CPR built the Lynch Creek bridge and extended the Hot Air rails two miles to Archibald where an aerial cable way brought the fluorite to a loading bunker. This, together with log shipments to the sawmill and cedar utility pole shipments, allowed the Hot Air to maintain a weekly service, since the copper mines along the line had shut down with the closing of the Granby smelter.
In the 1930s, the Hecla Mining Company, of Wallace, Idaho, bought the Union mine at Franklin Camp. They built a concentrator and mill, and shipped their concentrates by truck to the Hot Air at Archibald, staving off the line’s abandonment for a few more years. In 1921 the Hot Air’s wooden bridge over the Kettle River between Cuprum and City Station was damaged and there was no money to repair it. That part of the line was abandoned and the CPR trains backed and out of City Station. That accounts for the mileage on the timetable above being figured from Westend, which was the CPR interchange. By 1935 mine traffic on the North Fork line had ceased and the sawmill at Lynch Creek had closed. With no remaining traffic, the CPR pulled the rails. The present steel highway bridge across the North Fork at Bumblebee is the only remaining artifact of the North Fork branch. In September, 1952, the CPR ceased backing its passenger trains into the downtown station and those tracks were pulled. The Great Northern pulled out of Grand Forks on June 15, 1943, closing its station, and pulling its tracks back across the Kettle River to the “Big Y”, three miles south of town where a tiny station was maintained for passengers. Ever since the Hot Air lost most of the contracts for hauling ore from the Eureka Creek mines to the Great Northern, the managers of the Trusts and Guarantee Company back in Ontario had wanted desperately to unload this ailing railroad. In 1906 they sent out James Warren, the former manager of the White Bear mine at Rossland, to either make the Hot Air profitable, or abandon it.
Warren saw at once that the Republic line, in direct competition with Hill’s Great Northern branch, was a loser. It’s only salvation could be as a Canadian Gateway Line for one of the four American transcontinentals in Spokane. Accordingly, the Hot Air had been reorganized in 1905 as the Spokane and British Columbia Railway with lawyer, W.T. Beck, of Republic as president. The line claimed three locomotives, two passenger cars, and sixteen freight cars. These, lettered for the Spokane and B.C.., ran on all Hot Air branches, from Eureka Creek to Lynch Creek. Beck and Warren sent out surveyors to stake out a grade from Republic to Spokane. The location survey ran down the San Poil river to the Hedlund Lumber Company Mill at West Fork which was expected to provide substantial traffic. To encourage investors, a short length of isolated track was laid here, just as had been done on Clark Avenue in Republic in 1902. The survey followed the San Poil south to the Columbia at Keller where the Indiana corporation was planning to build a smelter to process ore from the Keller mines. The Granby company, as well, had issued bonds in 1902 to finance the extension of the Hot Air to the Keller mines so that it could bid for their ores. From Keller, the S&BC was to run along the north bank of the Columbia to the mouth of the Spokane River. A bridge was to cross the Columbia here and the line was to ascend the Spokane River and enter Spokane across the flat prairie north of town. The line was announced with great fanfare in Spokane, and purchases of land were made, not so much for right of way, but as speculations on the development of north Spokane should the S&BC ever build track. A further scheme was announced by which the S&BC would skirt the north edge of town and connect with Dan Corbin’s Spokane International which he had built to bring the Canadian Pacific into Spokane from Yahk, B.C. The idea was to provide a water level coal route from the Crowsnest mines to the Granby and Greenwood smelters, bypassing the CPR’s costly barge route across Kootenay Lake with its “double dockage” charges on every carload of coal, and that costly haul, with double-headed freights, over Mc Rae Pass. Such route, if built, would break Jim Hill’s monopoly on coal to the Granby smelter, something that the CPR dearly wished for. Jim Hill, for his part, sent his surveyors to stake out a parallel line. It was graded, Bluestem to Hawk Creek, and that was a sufficient message to potential investors. The message was received, and the S&BC languished.
Warren and the Hot Air were not alone in these schemes to bring cheaper coal to the Kootenay and Boundary industries. Frederick Blackwell, who had completed his Idaho and Washington Northern Railroad from a Spokane connection to Metalline Falls, a few miles from the Canadian border, maintained a cutoff line from Blanchard to Athol on Corbin’s SIR, so that coal could come over over his line to Trail, B.C. if only the CPR would build a 35 mile connecting line from Trail, up the Pend Orielle River to tie into his rails at Metalline Falls. CPR officials looked at the proposal. It would give them an easy grade to Trail and bypass the awkward Kootenay Lake barge link. But in the end, they rejected the scheme. For the same amount of money required to build up the Pend Orielle, they could put CPR rails around the south end of Kootenay Lake to Nelson, eliminating the barge line and having an All-Canadian line. Having made this decision, they then characteristically omitted to build the Kootenay Lake Line, and barging went on until the 1930s.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee bought Blackwell’s Idaho and Washington Northern in 1912. Warren and the Hot Air approached the Union Pacific with their Spokane and B. C. Gateway proposal. The UP considered, but in 1917, opted for 50% of Corbin’s SIR and an interchange with the CPR at Yahk. This American timetable gives times and mileage only from the border at Danville. The Belcher mine had closed the previous year, though there are reports that the Mine Railroad still hauled logs for the sawmill at Karamin.
As with the Canadians up the North Fork, the American residents of Danville used the railroad’s hand cars to attend dances in Curlew. Since trains did not run on Sunday, the baseball teams would use the handcars as well to get to games in Republic. With the destruction of the Hot Air’s Grand Forks depot and offices by fire in August, 1908, the early records of the line perished. However, U.S. sources record that from the period March 1, 1909 until June 30, 1915, total revenues of the American segment of the line were $122,956, and expenses $292,461. Possibly, revenues from the North Fork line may have offset this loss to some extent, but it is doubtful that the Hot Air ever operated in the black. Certainly, the Republic line was always a loser. One trip, related by Harry Lembke, illustrates the parlous state of the Hot Air line in its last years. The Lembkes were buying logs from the Trout Creek area and having them brought to Curlew by the Hot Air train. On one trip to pick up logs, the Hot Air locomotive began to lose water through cracked boiler tubes. With the tank empty, they stopped on the Trout Creek Trestle and tried to dip water from the creek with a rope and bucket. But they found the engine was losing water from her boiler as fast as they could pour it in the tank. The crew took the train to the siding just south of the trestle where all piled onto a flat car and coasted all the way back to Danville. (More likely to Curlew, and pumped a hand car from there to Grand Forks.) Another locomotive was fired up at Grand Forks and run down the line to bring back the leaking locomotive and its train.
With the failure to peddle the Spokane and B.C. to an American railroad, J.J. Warren turned to the last remaining asset the Hot Air Line possessed, that charter authorization to build west to the Coast. It was fanciful to believe that the Hot Air, a bankrupt railroad, barely able to run its trains, could be the corporation to accomplish that “Coast to Kootenay” railroad that British Columbians had wanted for so long. But, astonishingly, Warren thought it could. He somehow convinced the CPR that the way to beat Jim Hill’s “Third Main Line” to the Coast, was to lease the Hot Air for its charter, and then finance it to build the long hoped for line. In 1913, the CPR agreed, and leased the Hot Air. Warren and his directors renamed the corporation again (the Canadian part). This time it became “The Kettle Valley Railway,” and with CPR backing, began building west from the Columbia and Western’s dead end at Midway. Under Warren’s direction, and with CPR money, the Hot Air finally succeeded with a hair-raising mountain line through to Hope B.C. and a connection with the Canadian Pacific’s main line to Vancouver.
The Republic line, under its U.S. charter as the Spokane and B.C.., was allowed to declare itself bankrupt in 1920, and ceased operations. It was not worth saving; the CPR in 1921, allowed its assets to be auctioned off and its rails pulled up for salvage. Washington State Highway 21 was built on its grade from Danville to just north of Curlew, and from the present Curlew High School south to Karamin. The Karamin turnoff follows the grade to Trout Creek and the upper part of the Barrett Creek road is on its grade to Swamp Creek.
The Great Northern trackage up Eureka Creek was seeing slight use in the 1930s as the mines were now using a cyanide process to recover the gold and smelting was no longer required. When a sudden flood washed out the north approach to the great looping trestle over Granite Creek trapping a train up Eureka Creek, the railroad decided to pull its tracks back to the Republic station. A temporary fill was put in to rescue the stranded train, and in 1940, the tracks were lifted and an ore loading platform was built near the station to accommodate carload shipments to the Tacoma smelter.
The Day Brothers of San Francisco, bought and consolidated a number of Eureka Creek properties in the 1930s, and kept them in production with modern concentrating machinery and methods. Hecla Mining Company acquired the Day Company’s Eureka Creek properties in 1981 in an unrelated transaction. Hecla engineers, in inspecting the Day properties in Eureka Creek, found them worth working. Hecla worked the mines until 1995 when the Knob Hill mine was finally closed. It had been an extremely long run; 99 years of nearly continuous production from a single mine, extracting 2 million ounces of gold, surpassing Phoenix and Rossland.
Today, (1997) Echo Bay Mining operates several low grade properties on Cooke Mountain, not far from the old Belcher Mine. Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation has leased the Golden Eagle claim from Hecla and is drilling on it to assess its value as a possible open pit mine. Republic, the longest lived of the three Boundary Bonanzas, still thrives as a mining town.
Paradoxically, a fragment of the Hot Air Line has outlasted the Canadian Pacific in the Boundary District. When, in 1995, just after completing a tie replacement program on the C&W Midway-Castlegar line, the Canadian Pacific, apparently suffering another panic attack, pulled its tracks back to Castlegar, the industries of Grand Forks were left without a rail connection. The Burlington Northern was still running down its line to Republic, south of town and a surviving piece of Hot Air track still ran from Cuprum to Coopers’ Wye (“Big Y” locally), the BN interchange. To serve the Grand Forks industries, the CPR stationed a diesel switcher at Cuprum and taxied a crew over from Nelson once or twice a week to perform industry switching and interchange cars with the BN. This was wasteful and ridiculous. The crew taxied over from Nelson had to be paid railroad mileage for the trip as union rules required, and the switcher, unprotected from the weather, had to be idled all winter long to keep the coolant from freezing.
Pope and Talbot, operators of the sawmill undertook to form the Grand Forks Railway Company to take over the switching job. Each morning the personnel of the Railroad, Dennis John, Manager, Mario Savaia, Conductor, and Miss Shelley Dahl, Engineer, switch the Grand Forks industries and run the loads down the 1-1/4 miles of Hot Air Track to the BN interchange at Cooper’s Wye. Pope and Talbot provide a shed for winter storage of the switcher. Headquarters is at Cuprum.
HISTORY BECOMES NOSTALGIA
Today the Boundary Bonanzas are nearly forgotten except in Republic where miners still extract the low grade deposits of Cooke Mountain. The Burlington Northern has cut back its Republic line to the sawmill at San Poil Lake. A weekly freight makes the run from Kettle Falls to Republic picking up loads of lumber and abrasives from the industries at Grand Forks and lumber from the San Poil mill.
Phoenix is utterly gone. Only the WWI cenotaph with its list of the fallen of 1914 – 18 stands at the rim of an abandoned pit a half mile across and 400 feet deep, where the town once roared with life. The graveyard, a mile down the road, had no copper under it, and has survived, visited by curious tourists each summer.
Rossland continues a vibrant city, a bedroom community for the smelter workers commuting to Trail each day. The mines have been leveled and sealed. The huge dumps of waste rock have been hauled away to fill the gulches that once fingered through the town. And excellent museum and underground tour of the Black Bear workings give visitors a sampling of Rossland’s glory days. Red Mountain today is renowned for its ski hill and the champions who got their start there.
The great smelter at Trail roars night and day, processing the ores of the Sullivan mine at Kimberley and the Red Dog mine in Alaska. The sulfurous fumes that once kept Trail children indoors on bad days are now collected and converted into sulfuric acid from which fertilizer is made at the Warfield plant. Each morning a pair of diesel locomotives with three or four cars of chemicals crawls up the 4.6 percent grade from the smelter to Warfield and the fertilizer plant.
At Northport the smelter has long since been demolished, and a sawmill operates on its site. The great railroad bridge is gone, but the Burlington Northern trains still run up Dan Corbin’s Spokane Falls and Northern tracks to Sayward, Fruitvale and Salmo.
In Grand Forks Shelley Dahl and Mario Savaia pilot their switch engine down the fragment of the Hot Air Line that has outlasted the mighty CPR in the Boundary, and the Canadian traffic goes out on the Burlington Northern. The CPR which rushed into the Boundary District in a panic in 1900, abandoned it in another irrational panic in 1995 and Jim Hill’s line, under the old Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern charter, remains, still hauling Boundary products to Spokane
Of the men and women who found and developed the Boundary Bonanzas, only photographs of those confident, Nineteenth Century faces remain. Joe Moris lived out his long life in Rossland under the slopes of the mountain that made him famous. Joe Bourgeois went on to discover the Sullivan mine in the East Kootenay, now, after a hundred years of exploitation, nearing exhaustion.
Colonel Topping never did find his “Second Le Roi,” although he spent most of his fortune looking for it in Oregon, Washington and northern B.C. After Frank Hanna’s death in Texas, he and Mary Jane were married in Rossland in September, 1906. They moved to Victoria to live out their lives in retirement. Colonel Topping died January 17, 1917, at the age of 73. Mary Jane moved to Ventura, California to live with her daughter, Estella.
Fritz Heinze died in New York in 1914 of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 45, surrounded, as he had been all his life, by a cloud of litigation. He and his brothers had held off the established Eastern financial community until the panic of 1907 when he was driven from his bank. In the end, worn out, sick and perhaps unfairly discredited, he died in disgrace.
Jay Graves was caught up in the Interurban Railway boom of the Teens and Twenties. With his profits from Granby, he built a 117 mile electric line from Spokane to Colfax, Washington and Moscow, Idaho, and a hydroelectric plant of the Spokane River to furnish its power. His Inland Empire Railway was a pioneer of 25 cycle, single phase, alternating current for electric traction and his electric locomotives were the most advanced of the day. Unfortunately, the building of his interurban railway came at the beginning of the automobile revolution. As all season roads were built, patronage dwindled and his line slid into bankruptcy in the 1920s. He was able to sell it as a steam operated freight line to the Great Northern, which held most of its debt.
Jay Graves invested what funds remained to him in a series of unsuccessful mining ventures. Like Colonel Topping seeking another Le Roi, Graves counted on a second Knob Hill. He never found it, dying in retirement in California in 1948, leaving his widow $45,000 and the worthless stock of six mining companies. In a curious irony, eighteen years later, the International Nickel Company opened a glory hole on Jay Grave’s old California mine ground on Red Mountain and mined molybdenum from it until 1972.
The pompous Charles Mackintosh remained Rossland’s resident “Guinea Pig,” the nominal head of the BAC company, until its mines passed to Cominco. He and his wife than bought the Halcyon Hot Springs on Upper Arrow Lake, built a spa and hotel, and bottled the springs’ lithia water for sale in England.
James J. Hill died of infected hemorrhoids in 1916. With his passing, the great railway war subsided. His son, Louis, took over the Great Northern, and free from his father’s obsession with the CPR, suspended work on the “Third Main Line” (Spokane to Vancouver). Hill’s incursions into southern British Columbia are barely mentioned in his biographies and are given only cursory mention in Great Northern Railway histories. Hill’s total investment in his Canadian subsidiaries exceeded $38.5 million. Of these lines, only the Crowsnest Southern ever paid a dividend. The rest were, in the words of Hidy, Hidy, Scott & Hofsommer”s recent history, The Great Northern Railway, “costly failures.” The reason cited by American railroad historians for building these B.C. lines, was to offset the Soo Line’s rate making advantage from Minnesota and North Dakota to the West Coast. If that were truly the case, the Canadian expenditures were wasted. The Soo was not defeated. Hill never obtained control over it. It flourishes today as the successor to the Milwaukee Road’s Midwest lines.
William Cornelius Van Horne resigned from the presidency of the Canadian Pacific on June 15, 1899, frustrated and worn out from his long struggle with J.J. Hill and the machinations of George Stephen. After his departure he built railroads in Cuba, even selling four shares worth $200,000 to Jim Hill. In his retirement he collected French Impressionist paintings and divided his time between Cuba and his summer home in New Brunswick. He died on September 15, 1915.
Thomas Shaugnessy took over the CPR from Van Horne, and held the presidency until 1918, when he turned the position over to Edward Beatty, the first Canadian to become CPR president. Shaugnessy died in 1923, grief stricken at the death of his son, Fred, in the Great War.
Tracy Holland became an unpopular mayor of Grand Forks, probably owing to the unusual method that put him into office without a vote. He had to face at least one public meeting calling for his resignation. At the conclusion of his term he moved to Vancouver and disappears from the record.
Volcanic Brown lived to see four railroads running from Grand Forks to the Cardinal Points. He was among a group of prospectors who located the great Sunset Copper mine near Princeton, B.C. He sold his interest in it for $45,000 and had a dentist make him a set of solid gold false teeth. Thereafter, children on the streets of Grand Forks would beg him to smile for them, which he obligingly did. Brown died a prospector’s death in 1930. At the age of 82, the unstoppable Volcanic Brown went up the Pitt River alone, searching for John Slumach’s gold discovery. When he did not return a search party went in to look for him. They found his abandoned camp and a screw top glass jar with 11 ounces of coarse gold on pieces of quartz. His body was never found, nor to this day, the source of that gold. .
The Boundary Bonanzas demonstrated in the space of ten years, a single pattern of economic development, three times repeated. A rich mineral strike was followed by both an American and a Canadian railroad making their steep and crooked way to the mines. A period of fierce rate competition ensued, with each of the lines intent on monopolizing the traffic. In each case, as soon as the ores were exhausted, the foreign railroad withdrew at once, leaving the domestic line to furnish government mandated service until abandonment could be granted.
It might be thought that the construction of these duplicate lines was wasteful and unnecessary. Paradoxically, the opposite was true. The savage competition reduced haulage rates to “bare cost” or below. This in turn made the low grade ores commercial and permitted the processing of many thousands of tons of ore which would have been left in the ground if only one rail line, making its own rates, had served the mines.
This mining beyond normal returns by artificially low haulage rates, extended the life of the mines, and supported with substantial payrolls, the growth of the cities of Rossland, Trail, Phoenix, Greenwood, and the town of Republic. Equally important, an agriculture was initiated in these districts otherwise remote from markets, to feed the thousands of miners and related workers. Although fewer than one in a hundred mining claims made a mine, and fewer than one mine in twenty made money, it was the “wasted” investments in unsuccessful mines that made the boom. “Wasted investments employed miners, created retail businesses, established farms and ranches, built railroads, set up banks, and started lumbering and saw milling that exists to this day. Capital does not always move rationally; “wasted” money is never wholly lost.
Although by 1912, the Roaring Days of Rossland were over with the mines consolidated into one enterprise and the town settled into a normal course of life, the wild days of gold and glory were fondly remembered in Spokane. For those who had been there in ‘94 and ‘95, the experience had been unforgettable. The intensity of life in a bonanza mining camp was like nothing else on earth. Poor men were made rich overnight. Substantial investors were fleeced of their very boots. Wages were the highest in North America, and were spent with careless extravagance. It was a roaring, woman-less town of three thousand with forty-two saloons, seventeen law offices, and five dance halls. Men worked harder than they ever had in their lives before; more money passed through their hands than they had ever seen. Optimism was not just the pervading spirit, it was the only spirit, and it infected everyone. And then, slowly, the bankers took control, the mines consolidated, and it was all over.
The American Mining Congress met in Spokane in 1912. To entertain the delegates, local mining men constructed a replica Rossland, called “Spokane Diggin’s” in a hockey rink. The intent was to recreate those gaudy days on Red Mountain with a saloon, gambling tables and a dance hall.
The “Diggin’s” were a huge success with the public who were delighted to celebrate those days of gold and unreason. By the second night, 5000 people crowded into the “Diggin’s” to relive an exotic past. The evening was climaxed by a dance hall girl stripping nude on the stage and scampering off to the whistles and stamping of an enthusiastic audience.
This slightly scandalous recreation of Rossland’s notorious International Dance Hall brought out the Spokane clergy, its women’s groups, even, curiously, its Socialists, to indulge themselves in a public display of moral indignation. There were some aspects of the past, they felt, that ought not to evoke nostalgia.
This early Theme Park demonstrated the public hunger for a nostalgic re-creation of the Roaring Days of but a few years before. That wild intensity of life, which was a bonanza camp, seems available to us now only in the chemical bonanza of drugs. The rest of us pay to have our past slicked up and served to us in a thousand theme parks and Hollywood fantasies. We are today much too cynical, much too timid, to pick up a shovel and begin digging furiously on a wild hope. The real bonanzas are out of bounds for us now.