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THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 15

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BONANZAS BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS

It was the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 that finally opened the Kootenays to commerce and settlement.   Its mineral resources had been known for forty years, but its isolation behind the mountains had been broken only by brief rushes up its rivers to wash out gold which a man could carry out on his back.   The Canadian Pacific was labouring toward the Columbia, it was true, but over a difficult pair of passes, and having difficulty paying its contractors.   For Canadians the Kootenays remained a hinterland, the land behind all those glaciers and mountains, moated by a pair of swift rivers that encircled it in their icy arms.   

Approached from the east, the Kootenays lay somewhere back of the  Rockies, accessible only by a few Indian trails.  From Victoria and rest of B.C. the Kootenays were a hinterland,  a few hundred Americans and the same number of Chinese, at the end of the infamous Dewdney Trail.   Each attempt to establish a line of communication had proved a ruinous chimera to the Province; no one was ready to throw more money at another ten week bonanza.    And it was all Americans, anyway; no one from the Coast had ever done well in the Kootenays, unlike the wonderful Cariboo that had made Victoria and New Westminster rich.

From the South, from Washington State, however, the mountains ranges, beginning north of the Spokane River, looming blue against the sky and rising steadily higher as one crossed the line into British Columbia, were welcoming arms stretched out southward, sheltering long, north trending valleys.   Up those valleys easy trails and navigable rivers led into the Kootenay mineral country.   Nearly every old timer had been up those rivers and those valley trails in the Fifties and Sixties panning gold for a season or two below those distant peaks where a half-comical little Englishman and his constable had kept the camps orderly and peaceable, and taken fifty cents tax out of every ounce of gold.   There was more mineral in those B.C. mountains; everyone was sure of that, and any young man would be keen to go and find it if someone would only stake him.

With practical transportation for mineral ores via the Northern Pacific Railway which skirted the southern reaches of Kootenay, now possible, three experienced and well financed  American entrepreneurs reached for control of the Kootenays and its mines.    They were Captain John C. Ainsworth, Portland transportation magnate; Daniel Chase Corbin of Spokane Falls who had built a narrow gauge line into the Coeur D’Alene mines to connect them to the Northern Pacific, and begin the Coeur D’Alene mining boom;  and the young Butte copper millionaire, Augustus Heinze, who would enter in the 1890s when a rich copper-gold deposit would be found close to the Columbia River.   The British Columbia capitalists, badly stung by the Big Bend fiasco, had turned their backs on Kootenay, a virtually uninhabited  place, impossible to reach, and, they believed, of dubious value.

The Ainsworths had sold their Oregon Steam Navigation company to the Northern Pacific Railway as soon as it was clear that railways, not steamers, were the future on the  American Columbia.    As major stockholders allied to the NP, they devised a scheme to control  the new silver-lead mining  district on Kootenay Lake.    The B.C. Board of Trade was sick with frustration at the thought that the NP might build  a spur line to Bonner’s Ferry and via steamboats take the Kootenay Lake trade for Portland and itself.   They were wholly unaware that John C. Ainsworth had been the owner of the sternwheeler, Forty Nine, which had stolen the Big Bend Trade in the 1860s, and were apparently unaware of his connection with the NP.    The Ainsworth Syndicate, Captain John C., his son. George, and Enoch Blaisdel, working through their B.C. agent, road builder Gustavus Wright and the B.C. Board of Trade, proposed a counter to the supposed NP threat.    In 1883 it was generally believed that the CPR was bankrupt, and would not complete its transcontinental line.   It was not even yet certain what by what route that line would enter B.C.   A northern route via Yellowhead Pass was favoured by Vancouver Island people, reaching the Pacific at Bute Inlet with some sort of monstrous bridge to their Island.   

The Ainsworths proposed to the B.C. legislature that Wright would  build a wagon road over Eagle Pass, linking the steamers from Kamloops running up the South Thomson and into Shuswap Lake with the Columbia at Big Eddy.   The Ainsworths would then put a steamer on the Columbia and institute a service to the mouth of the Kootenay River.   Here, they would build a 40 mile portage railway around the rapids and falls of the lower Kootenay River to Kootenay Lake.   With this all-Canadian link, Kamloops to the Kootenay mines, the ores could come out to Victoria via the Cariboo Road, and British Columbia merchants would provision the mines.   In exchange, the Ainsworths asked for a grant of 750,000 acres of land of their choosing in the Kootenays.     In 1883 the B.C. Legislature passed a bill incorporating the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company authorizing the railway and the connecting steamer services.    At the same time Gustavus Wright, who was running a store at Farwells, (now Revelstoke) was given the contract to build  the Eagle Pass road. The government of B.C. was making one more attempt to reach the distant Kootenays, but this time economically using the Amercans’ money and handing them Kootenay land in exchange.

The CPR, though in serious financial difficulties, saw the Ainsworth’s scheme for what it was, a deliberate move to shut the CPR out of the Kootenays before it could reach them, and to establish NP dominance there.   As well, the land grant was deemed by many British Columbians, to be excessive,  a scandalous giveaway to American interests.   By the terms of the bill, the Ainsworths could pick and choose, 3/4 of a million acres of the best land in the Kootenays, farm lands, mineral lands, potential townsites, and potential transportation corridors.   With CPR urging, the Dominion Government disallowed the C&K bill as an American incursion contrary to Canadian interests.   The Dominion Inspector of Railways pointed out something which should have been obvious to B.C. Legislators, but was not.   The Ainsworth’s wagon, steamer and rail corridor could deliver American goods to Kamloops and drain all the trade southward to Portland. It all depended on how you looked at the map.    From Kamloops the Ainsworth’s route looked like a connection to the Kootenays; from Bonner’s Ferry it looked like an American route to Interior B. C.

The Ainsworths began a seven year battle in Ottawa and in the courts to get their  bill reinstated, joined by many British Columbians who bitterly resented the Dominion government’s nullification of their legislation.   It may have been a bad bill, but it was intolerable to be dictated to by a senior government which was still in violation of its pledged word to build the Pacific Railway.   As the struggle continued, it became clear that the huge land grant was the plum, the portage railroad around the falls, a minor consideration.   Whoever promised to build the railway could have the grant, and various groups with no interest in the railroad,  but greedy for that huge grant,  came forward volunteering to take over the Ainsworth’s plan. 

  Against all expectation, the CPR managed to get Dominion government backing for its railway bonds, and with new financing was finishing its track twisting over the Rockies and Selkirks and down to the Coumbia at Farwells in 1884.    The Ainsworths, shipping the ore from their Kootenay Lake mines out through Bonner’s Ferry to the NP at Kootenai Station, though blocked in their grand plan by the CPR in Ottawa, shipped the small steam launch Alpha up the Northern Pacific to Spokane Falls, and then wagon hauled it to Marcus, where it was launched on the Columbia.   Captain Pingston was promoted from his rowboat, and given command of the Alpha.   The Ainsworths put it to work hauling provisions up the Columbia and through the Arrow Lakes for the CPR construction camp at Farwells.   Although the rival railway was laying track on Gustavus Wright’s wagon road over Eagle Pass, the Ainsworths contracted to supply its camps with provisions.

The Alpha was too small, or the Ainsworth’s rates were excessive, for the next year the American contracting firm of Henderson and Mc Cartney who were building portions of the CPR through the Columbia region, built the sternwheeler, Kootenai, at Little Dalles, where a wagon road connected with the NP at Spokane Falls.   Materials for the railway construction were shipped west on the NP, wagon hauled to Little Dalles and put aboard the Kootenai under Captain Lindeman, for the construction camp at Farwells.   The Kootenai was a big, ugly work boat, powerful, but with few amenities for passengers.    She was 140 feet long, by 25 feet wide with 14 x 72 inch cylinders and 557 gross tons.    In 1885 she ran on a rock and was towed to Nakusp for repairs.    By the time she had been patched up, the CPR had been completed, and with no work for the Kootenai, she was beached at Little Dalles, awaiting a call to service.

  William Brown, merchant and ferryman of Marcus, Washington had had his business reduced by the collapse of the Big Bend and the financial panic of 1873.   In the 1880s he was supplying  just 200 Chinese who still worked the bars of the Columbia and Pend Orielle.   There had been a short boom supplying the CPR camp at Farwells via the Kootenai , but now, that too was over.   Like other merchants in the Colville Valley he hoped for another mining rush and the return of boom times.    Selling salt, sugar,and tea to Indians and farmers was a dull trade.   Miners, though, were always free spenders and paid in gold nuggets, not credit, not barter.   

In an effort to get something going in 1886, Brown grubstaked a party of local men to go north, cross the border and search more untested Canadian creeks for gold.   The party consisted of the Hall brothers, Winslow and Osner, with Winslow’s five sons, Osner’s adopted son, three men of the Oakes family, Charles Brown, William White and two Indians, Dauncy Williams and Narcisse Downing.   Numbers of versions of the story exist, as in later years each member of the party told the tale the way he remembered it with his own embellishments.    The following account seems the most probable.

The fifteen men crossed the mountains to the northeast of Colville on the old Kalispel Indian trail to the Pend Orielle River.    They then went down river, cutting a trail as they went,  to cross the border into British Columbia.   At Jolly Jack Thornton’s old placer claim on the Pend Orielle, they turned up the Salmo River and moved slowly upstream, cutting trail, and testing the creeks on both sides.   It is odd that they missed Ymir Creek which was to prove such a rich source of lode gold in later years.   Possibly, a pan taken from some barren spot and washed out, discouraged them, and they passed it by.

By the time the party got to what is now Hall Creek, they were low on food, and nothing of worth had been found.   The discouraged party decided to give up the search and return to Colville.   The boys were sent up into the alpine meadows to bring in the horses which had been turned loose to forage.   While hunting the horses in that alpine country, the boys found chunks of brightly coloured peacock ore.   The Hall brothers recognized copper and suspected silver.   In haste they staked four claims: The Silver King, the Koo-in-oor, American Flag, and Kootenay Bonanza.   There was no one to record their claims nearer than Revelstoke, a 150 mile trip up the Columbia.    So, with their carefully collected samples, they returned to Colville.

There, Colonel Nelson Lindsley assayed their find, and told them it was insignificant; the copper was not worth packing out of such a remote spot.   But he questioned them so persistently about just where they had found those valueless rocks, that the Halls became  suspicious: they had heard of assayers giving low values to uneducated prospectors like themselves, in hopes that they would abandon their claim, allowing the assayer to claim it for himself.   They then took their ore to another assayer, Jake Cobaugh, who found high silver values in it..   Since the Halls had not been able to record their claim, they took Cobaugh into the venture to purchase his silence.    Although the Halls refused to divulge any information about what they had found, the secret did leak out.   In the spring of 1887 they were closely watched by all in Colville to see which route they would take out of town when they headed for their discovery. 

The Hall party departed, this time rowing up the Columbia, and followed discreetly by other parties of Colville prospectors.   At Beaver Creek, the Halls pulled in to shore, cached their boats and supplies and hid in the bush until the following prospectors rowed by, some continuing up river, some ascending Beaver Creek on the old Dewdney Trail.   When all had passed, the Halls rowed back to Marcus and took the road to Colville, now emptied of prospectors.   From Colville they took the Kalispel Trail again to the Pend Orielle River and the trail they had cut the year before to Hall Creek on the Salmo.   They then cut a trail up onto what  they called “Mineral Mountain” and their discoveries, all undetected.   By September of that year, their location was known, probably from the Halls making trips out for supplies.   Just where and with whom they recorded their claims is undiscoverable.   Alfred Wheeler at the Ainsworths’ Hot Springs Camp is a likely guess.    Although he was an American citizen and not eligible to be named Mining Recorder, he may have arranged to make records of the locations and forward them to the recorder at Fort Steele (Wild Horse.)    In view of subsequent developments, the recording of the Halls’ Mineral Mountain claims may have been deliberately muddied by interested parties.

The Colville merchant, Charles Montgomery, went in to the discovery that year, and found 30 men at work.   Other prospectors were present as well.   The Americans, Ben Thomas, Charlie Townsend, J.R. Cooke, James Fox, Newlin Hoover, and  A.H. Kelly were staking other locations on what was called Mineral Mountain, or by some, Toad Mountain.   The first shipment of the Halls’ ore was packed out to Colville, and from there sent by wagon to Spokane Falls and put on the Northern Pacific for one of the Montana smelters.    It returned $7000 after paying shipping and smelting charges amounting to $80 per ton.    This first ore assayed $3.03 per ton in silver, $2.50 in gold, and an extraordinary 28% copper content.   This news galvanized the whole Northwest.   Prospectors and miners from the Coeur d’Alene mines, broke camp, bought maps and  supplies, and headed for the new strike.

The high cost of shipping the Hall’s ore was substantially reduced when Joe Wilson from Colville, cut a trail from Toad Mountain north down Cottonwood Creek to the West Arm of Kootenay Lake where the Hendryx Company’s new steamer, the Galena, could forward scows loaded with Hall brothers ore to Bonner’s Ferry, and then over Herndryx’ toll road to the Northern Pacific at Kootenai Station.

In this year, 1887, four railroad towns existed in Kootenay: Field, Golden, Donald and Farwell’s/Revelstoke.    Beyond the CPR line, were only Wild Horse, (now called Fort Steele), the Ainsworth’s Hot Springs mining camp, and  cluster of cabins on Toad Mountain around the Hall’s Silver King mine.   All the non railroad towns got their supplies from Spokane or Colville by pack train or boat on the Kootenay Lake and river.

    At Farwell’s Landing on the Columbia, the CPR was unwilling to purchase lots in the townsite for its station and shops.   Instead, it platted a townsite a half mile to the east, to be called Revelstoke.    Since the new Revelstoke had the railway station, the hotels, eating houses and commercial establishments quickly moved east to the CPR site.   This procedure would be standard for the CPR, and indeed, for all major railways in North America.   Existing towns would be invited to donate lands to the railway for its use; if they refused, the railway would preempt a townsite at some other location, and the businesses would be obliged to pick up and follow.   Once the tracks had arrived, the railway station would become the centre of the settlement, the place where arriving visitors could be solicited for accommodation, the place where mail was dispatched, and where all goods from the outside arrived. 

Like the Halls in 1887, other American prospectors were opening silver mines in the Kootenays.   When the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, Revelstoke became a new centre of mining enterprise for the silver-lead deposits found up the Illecillewat River.    Daniel Chase Corbin, a mining and railway entrepreneur of Spokane, with J. P Kennedy, bought the Jumbo Mine, and with the CPR nearby, were able to ship its ores to England for smelting.  The generous returns from the Jumbo convinced road builder, G.B. Wright, the Ainsworth’s agent in British Columbia, to form the Selkirk Mining Company and buy the Lanark mine for the Ainsworth syndicate.   The Lanark and the other Ainsworth mines shipped 237 tons of ore to England by the CPR in 1887 for a return of $17,000. 

  Silver needed smelting to release it from its ores, and to promote a smelting industry the British Columbia legislature passed the 1886 “Act to Encourage the Erection of Smelting Works” which would pay a bonus of $2 per ton of ore smelted.   A smelter was built in Vancouver in 1888 by an English company, and George De Wolfe bought the Monarch mine near Field and shipped 600 tons of ore over the CPR to the Vancouver works.   The Vancouver smelter proved to be a failure, probably because of inexperienced management.   At its first run the metal hood over the blast furnace connecting to the stack overheated and the furnace had to be shut down.    The metal hood was replaced by a brick flue and the furnace fired up again.   This time, after about two hours of running, the slag in the furnace froze and the furnace had to be shut down again.   The difficulty was thought to be an excess of lime and sulphur, which should have been removed by preparatory roasting.   But the investors were not willing to spend more money and the smelter was closed down.

  The smelting of ores is a highly  complex process, a fact not appreciated by early mining men in the Northwest.   They had the naive idea that one simply cooked the rocks in a big iron pot until the silver and lead ran out in gratifying streams with the government subsidy cheques arriving in the mail.   The B.C. government subsidy encouraged other investors to put up lead-silver smelting works in the Kootenays in the 80s and 90s, all but one of which failed.   Again, inexperience was the cause, together with the fact that the subsidy was paid on ore smelted, whether the smelting was sucessful or not.   It was not a program which encouraged careful management.

As 1888 opened the activity in the Kootenay Lake mines became a rush and the British Columbians, once the American had demonstrated its value, made a determined, if frugal effort to get in on it.   Bob Lemon, who ran a store in Revelstoke, built a scow in May and loaded it with goods for the Toad Mountain mines.  George Owen Buchanan, lumberman,  recorded his first trip. 

“I made my first visit to Kootenay Lake in May of 1888.   R.E.. Lemon constructed a scow at Farwell of 20 tons capacity, loaded it with merchandise and with the help of one half dozen men navigated it to Sproat’s Landing.   I went along as a passenger.   Several American outfits were camped on the banks of the Columbia.   Lemon pitched a tent, opened out his stock, and continued to do business there….  then walked to Nelson, the principal feature of which was John Ward’s tent hotel.   The trail extended out from Sproat’s Landing 8 miles only.   Beyond this we walked on windfalls and tore our way through thickets of willows and rose bushes… We ran down the Slocan River  on a raft of our own construction and crossed the Kootenay, narrowly escaping the descent of the rapids below the junction. We reached Kootenay Lake in 2 days, and the next day went to the Hall mine.   A snowstorm was raging and we found the Halls in their cabin.”

  The rush of American prospectors warranted appointing surveyor Henry Anderson (who had laid out that first trail over the Cascades) mining recorder for the new district and sending him in.   Anderson laid out a townsite he called Salisbury, on the lakeshore where the ore from the Silver King was transferred to the Galena to be forwarded to Bonner’s Ferry.  Later in 1888 Gold Commissioner, Gilbert Malcom Sproat, a pompous Englishman, contemptuous of every opinion but his own, arrived, and curtly began wielding his authority without reference to local sentiment.   He officially renamed “Mineral Mountain,” “Toad Mountain,” and with a short piece of rope began laying our lots along “Vernon Street” in the townsite he called “Stanley,” about which he boasted , “…could we but keep out newspapers and lawyers, the town of all towns for civilized habitation. ”   Both Anderson and Sproat were stubborn, self important men, and the lakeshore camp continued to be known as “Salisbury” by the Mining Recorder, and “Stanley,” by the Gold Commissioner.   It was not until it applied for a Post Office as “Stanley,”  that the name was changed again, a “Stanley” Post Office being already in existence.    The new and final name was “Nelson.”

Up on Toad Mountain the Americans had built some 25 log cabins, and called their camp “Fredrickton,” with an office building for the new mining companies, a sawmill, a school, and the “Grandview Hotel.”   Down on the lakeshore in cabins, tents, and shacks “Salisbury” or “Stanley” was being built along Ward Creek by Americans from Bonner’s Ferry and Spokane Falls, and British Columbians coming  in from the railroad towns of Donald and Revelstoke.   Denny and Devine, from Spokane Falls operated their American store; Bob Lemon from Farewells was building his Canadian store.    

The isolation of the Nelson camp and the lack of a decent trail to Sproat’s Landing meant that mail went out with U.S. stamps on the Galena to Bonner’s Ferry and the U.S. Post Office system.   Even when the Canadian Post Office was authorized  and a man contracted to carry the mail on his back to Sproat’s landing, the U.S. route was quicker and cheaper.   For its first two years, a third of the stamps sold in the Canadian Post Office were American.

In far off Victoria the B.C. Board of Trade was disturbed that once again the Americans had the trade of the miners in the Kootenays.   They wanted the Hall brothers’ ore to go out by an All-Canadian route via the Columbia River to the CPR at Revelstoke and be smelted in B.C.   However, as against the easy boat and wagon haul to the NP at Kootenai Station, there was only the crudest prospector’s trail from Toad Mountain, down 49 Creek to the Kootenay River and along it, scrambling over bluffs to the Columbia.   And from there some means must be found to get it upstream 160 miles to the railway.   Clearly, this was uncompetitve.

Gold Commissioner Gilbert Sproat was consulted as to how the trade of the Toad Mountain camp might be saved for B.C.   He recommended that the CPR be urged to build that Ainsworth portage railway to connect Kootenay Lake with the Columbia, and that a steamboat service be established from Revelstoke to his new townsite of Sproat’s Landing he had laid out with his knotted rope at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia.   He further urged, that until the railway were built, an all-weather trail be built from Sproat’s Landing to the Toad Mountain mines, and ferry franchises be granted for the two river crossings required.   In a typical bad-tempered reversal, he then observed that the U.S. government did not spend money on miners’ trails, but left that to the gumption of the citizens involved.   The American miners, he thought, (for there were few Canadians at the Toad Mountain camp), should build the trail  themselves.

His advice on the latter was not taken; at the urging of the Board of Trade, the B.C. legislature appropriated money for a government trail along the right bank of the Kootenay River.

A ferry franchise was granted to Frank Fitzgerald for a crossing of the Slocan River near its mouth, and to “Long Tom” Ward for a ferry across the Kootenay at Big Pool.   The trail was then to run up 49 Creek to the Toad  Mountain camp.   No provision was made for a link to Nelson, for that settlement, like Ainsworth and Bluebell, was an American camp on the U.S. route to Bonner’s Ferry, the NP railway and Spokane, and the B.C. legislature did not choose to further it.   L. Macquarrie took the contract, and with a crew of Indians, set to work building the government trail.   1000 tons of ore lay on the Silver King dump and the Halls waited to see which route would give them the best rates.

As soon as the appropriation for the government trail was passed,  three Revelstoke  merchants, J. Fred Hume, William Cowan and Captain Robert Sanderson found the confidence and funds to build the steamer, Despatch, and put her on the run from the CPR connection at Revelstoke to Sloat’s landing, from which the government trail led to the Toad Mountain mines.

The Despatch was a 54 foot catamaran sternwheeler  of 37 gross tons  with 2  8 x 24 inch cylinders.   She was reportedly a cranky vessel, difficult to steer, but with shallow draft.    Except for a crude cabin at the stern containing a galley and a few bunks, she was enclosed with nothing but canvas, and offered a single chair on the roof from which a passenger might admire the scenery.    With the Kootenai beached at Little Dalles, it was the Despatch that hauled Silver King ore packed out by Joe Wilson to Sloat’s landing, to the CPR at Farwells.   The Canadians had at last, and very modestly entered the Kootenay trade.

The Hall brothers were uneducated men, and their method of running a mine was to dig the ore in sight, sort it, and send it down to the lake by Joe Wilson’s pack train.   When the receipts arrived from the Montana smelters, they would head to town to spend them somewhat extravagantly, and when the money was gone,  go back to dig more ore.   The Halls were typical “good ole’ boys,” and refused to accumulate working capital for a professional development of the mine.   They had found their dream, a fine, rich mine from which they could at need dig out a shipment of ore, have it packed  down to the lakeshore and wait for the cheque from the smelter.   They spent the money on whiskey, tobacco, horses, and fine living, and were wonderfully content.

Professional miners and businessmen were sure the Silver King  could be operated much more efficiently and productively.   Richard Day Atkins, an Irishman who had mining experience in South Africa, and his partner, E.  Ramsey, a Montana mining engineer, visited the Hall’s mines in July, 1888, coming in via the government trail.  They were impressed and offered to buy the Halls out.  The Halls scorned Atkin’s nominal offer.   They had no wish to sell, they told him, and put their price at a contemptuous $1 million.   Another investor, M.S. Davys offered them $350,000 but was also premptorily refused.

  Atkins located in Nelson and continued his efforts to buy the mine.   He offered the Halls a $20,000 loan, and took a mortgage for that amount on the property.   However, instead of using the money to develop the mine, the Halls spent it.  Money was money in their view, and it was best spent in good living.   Atkins loaned them more money, took more mortgages.   In a year, the Hall brothers were deeply in debt to Atkins.

Atkins then took advantage of the uncertainty regarding the staking of the Hall claims.   Secretly, he hired three men from Victoria to jump the Hall brother’s claims and file suit in court for possession.   Atkins, as an educated man, was now able to convince the Hall brothers that they would probably lose their mine in a court fight and be ruined.   He, however, would be willing to fight the case for them and cancel the mortgages he held, if they would make over a half  interest in their properties to him.   The Halls, facing the loss of all their claims, panicked and agreed.  Atkins then by means unknown, had all legal proceedings stopped, perhaps by persuading the claim jumpers to withdraw their suit.   But now the half owner of the enormously rich Silver King Mines, Richard Atkins never profited from his skullduggery.   On August 17, 1890, he died of pneumonia in the Nelson House hotel. 

  All this time the Ainsworths C&K bill continued to wind its way through a succession of court battles.   With the new silver excitement in the Kootenays, some resolution was obviously  essential; a railway to connect Kootenay Lake with the Columbia was needed, and it must be a Canadian enterprise.    It was finally, the CPR’s Superintendent of its Pacific Division, Harry Abbot, who put together the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Navigation Company to do under the CPR flag what the Ainsworths had proposed.   The B.C. Legislature was convinced this was the way to resolve the issue.   In 1890 they passed a bill authorizing the Harry Abbot’s C&K Company to build the portage railroad, and operate a steamer service on the Columbia and Kootenay Lake.   The land  grant, however, was reduced to 200,000 acres.   The Dominion Parliament then kicked in a cash subsidy of $3,200 per mile, and declared the work to be “For the general advantage of Canada.”   At once the CPR leased Henry Abbot’s  C&K for 999 years, and began building the railway themselves in 1890.   The American contractors, brought the Kootenai off the beach at Little Dalles and used her to haul rails, timbers and supplies from Little Dalles to the construction crews.

Up at Revelstoke,  British investors, counting on the easy availability of the Monarch and Lanark ores, organized the Kootenay Smelting and Trading Syndicate in 1889, and built a smelter on the banks of the Columbia at Revelstoke, south of the present High School.   The lessons of the Vancouver smelter had been heeded and a reverberatory furnace was installed ahead of the blast furnace to roast the feed to reduce its sulphur content.  It was blown in on July 20, 1891, and appears to have operated successfully using coke fuel imported from the U.S. and a much cheaper, locally produced charcoal.   This time an experienced smelter man was in charge, and had laid in supplies of the various fluxes required  for the different ores received.

Lead bullion was produced and sent to the U.S. for refining and silver-gold recovery.  This was the first successful Canadian lead smelter.    However a continuous source of zinc free galena ore was not available.   The smelter could not efficiently operate on intermittent shipments from the local mines, nor could it successfully smelt the zinc-rich Monarch ores.    After a year’s operation was closed down.   A foolish dispute with the Provincial Government over who was responsible for the Columbia River undermining the clay bank beneath the smelter led to a stubborn refusal to act on the part of the owners, and eventually the smelter was washed away by high water in the Columbia, probably in the flood year of 1894.         

A second company, the Galena Mining and Smelting Company went after those tempting Monarch ores –the mine being located just yards from the CPR tracks a few miles east of Field.    A smelter was erected at Golden .  But the zinc content of the Monarch ores again proved refractory to smelting.    In melting, the zinc would alloy with the lead, forming a eutectic with a higher melting point than either led or zinc, and the whole mass would “freeze up” in the crucible and have to be laboriously chiseled out by hand.   In the Revelstoke smelter apparently, the zinc-rich Monarch ores were carefully diluted with enough of the straight galena ores from the Illecillewat mines to overcome the problem.   At Golden, not enough of the zinc-free ores were available, and after a few unsuccessful runs, the smelter was closed.

A third smelter was erected at Woodbury on Kootenay Lake to treat the Ainsworth District ores (and collect the Provincial subsidy).   However, its crucible cracked at the first firing and its inexperienced operators gave up.

Despite the failures of the Kootenay smelters, the presence of numerous deposits of silver-lead deposits, some of them very rich, and the profitable Silver King, silver-copper mine, continued to attract investor attention.    Kootenai Station on the NP was established as the American railhead for the Kootenay district.   Dr. Hendryx’ 35 mile wagon road led to Dick Fry’s camp at Bonner’s Ferry, and then from there the Kootenay River was navigable to Kootenay Lake except when closed by ice in winter.   The steam tugs, Bluebell, Galena, Halys, Midge, Idaho, and Surprise operated during the Eighties bringing ore out and provisions into Dr. Hendryx’ Bluebell Camp, the Ainsworth’s camp across the lake, Nelson and the Silver King mine on Toad Mountain.   The Canadian connection operated via the Despatch from Revelstoke, and the pack trail to Toad Mountain with the C&K under construction.

  But a new and second American reach for the Kootenay mines was underway.   In Spokane Falls, Daniel Corbin who had invested in a number of B.C. mines, was putting together financing to build a railway running northwesterly from the Northern Pacific at Spokane Falls to the Columbia River, and on to Kootenay Lake to compete for that Silver King and Ainsworth ore.

 

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 14

5

POLITICS AND RAILROADS

Canada had come into existence in 1867 as a confederation of the Eastern Colonies, independent of Britain, although its citizens remained British subjects.   Union with the new Canada was seen as one solution to the depressed economy in British Columbia.   Once the miners had departed from the Cariboo, Wild Horse and Big Bend, the flow of gold ceased, and many of the businesses supplying the miners failed.   There was a net out-migration from the Colony.

Protectionist sentiment in the U.S. had imposed a 10 per cent duty on imports from B.C., and the lumbermen, farmers and fishers of Oregon and the new Washington Territory were supplanting British Columbia in the California markets.   In 1854  the San Francisco lumber firm of Pope and Talbot had come north to set up the first steam sawmill in the American Northwest at Port Gamble on Puget Sound.   To allow B.C. lumbermen to compete in the U.S. market, the government’s royalty on timber was lowered, beginning a practice which continues to this day: letting U.S. market conditions determine the price British Columbia loggers pay for trees.

As well, the Colonial status was now seen as a hindrance to progress, an obsolete and inefficient form of government unrepresentative of the people’s wishes.   It was absurd to have all political decisions subject to ratification by London and the 6 months it took to get a question to the Colonial Office and a reply back.  The great trade centres of British North America were on the Atlantic seaboard; B.C. customers were in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii, still an independent kingdom), Hong Kong, 5000 miles to the west and the modest settlements of Oregon and the Washington Territory.   If a wagon road could be built to link British Columbia with Lake Superior, B.C. merchants believed they could then enter into partnerships with the great eastern houses.   Walter Moberly was given the job in 1864 of surveying a route for a coach road over the Selkirk and Rocky Mountains and east toward the new nation of Canada.  In 1868, Joseph Truch, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works for the Colony, presented a Minute to the Colonial Assembly, An Overland Coach Road to Canada.  In it he outlined three possible routes and recommended one that would go by the Cariboo Road  to Cache Creek, its branch to Savona’s; by sternwheel steamer to Eagle Pass Landing (Sicamous); over the Eagle Pass to Farwell’s (Revelstoke); up the Columbia around Big Bend and over Howse Pass to the navigable North Saskatchewan River.   From there sternwheel steamer would be used down the North Saskatchewan and Saskachewan Rivers to Lake Winnipeg, and by the Red River cart road from Fort Garry to Fort William on Lake Superior where lake boats connected to Toronto and Montreal.   Truch thought of the project as a coach road only, as the many transfers from wagon to boat and back to wagon would make the shipment of freight uneconomic; it could better be sent by ship around the Horn.   

The chief sentiments animated those British Columbians who sought union with the Canada were the wish for representative government, and the hope of profitable trading partnerships with the east.   Above all, it was essential that a union with Canada “must be to the material and pecuniary advantage of this Colony,” Dr. Helmken insisted in the Legislature.  Amor de Cosmos, representing the populist view, envisioned a more radical kind of democracy,

“I would not object to a little revolution now and again in British Columbia, after Confederation,

if we were treated unfairly; for I am one of those who believes that political hatreds attest to the vitality of the state.”

Among the opponents of Confederation with Canada were those who would lose their Colonial appointments.   Judge Haynes, speaking for the appointed officials asked that some means be found to place them “…in safety, in view of the changes likely to take place on this Colony entering Confederation.”   The officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well, were opposed to union, reluctant to lose their commercial ascendancy.    They would, however, make no common cause with the other anti-confederationists, whom they regarded as effete and snobbish drones.   There was also, among most British Columbians, a disdain for and dislike of  Canadians, who were found to be joyless and heavy Methodists, grasping and materialist.   To be obliged to accept these crude social inferiors as the Senior government, and lose their direct contact with Her Majesty and her Ministers was an intolerable thought for Anglophiles.   

With opinion divided in British Columbia, Governor Musgrave, who had succeeded Governor Seymour, suggested to the Colonial Secretary in London that, “If a railway would be promised, scarcely any other question would be allowed to be a difficulty.”   Like the idea of the Great Coach Road, a Railway from Montreal to the Pacific was to politicians but a line on a map, something that could be casually turned over to the Engineers for execution.    This was serious politics, and no one questioned the expense, the formidable mountains to be crossed, the availability of financing.   How sincere was this promise of a railway remains an unanswered question.   The suggestion seems to be that, should British Columbians appear likely to reject the terms of union with Canada, the promise of a railway, that red line on a map, would swing the vote in favour of confederation.   Once B.C. was in, the question of actual construction of such a work could be addressed, and its practicality and timing considered.   

In British Columbia, however, the railway was seen as real, an actual timber and steel line of unbroken track, a functioning link with the commercial centres of the east.  The railway, infinitely more than political union with the despised Methodists, would link its merchants with prosperous Eastern houses, and rescue the Colony from bankruptcy which now loomed since the gold diggers had departed.    

The terms of union were agreed on by the British Columbia and the Canadian delegations, and the proposal went to Parliament in Ottawa for ratification.   The terms provided that the Dominion of Canada would assume the Colony’s debt, and that the new Province of British Columbia would be granted an annual subsidy of $216,000.   Half of this sum was supposed to be a payment for a Provincial grant of a “Railway Belt,” 40 miles wide, along the route of the proposed track.   The future sale of these  Railway Belt lands were to pay for the construction of the line.   The railway construction was to be begun within two years, and be completed by ten.   Further, Canada would pay the salaries of the Lieutenant Governor, the judges, would maintain a postal service, a telegraph service, customs, militia, a penitentiary, and a geological survey.  Those Colonial officials who would be displaced would receive Canadian pensions, and the new province was to introduce responsible government whenever that might be desired by the inhabitants.

South of the border, however,  another railway was being projected for the Northwest, the American Northern Pacific line which was to run from Lake Superior to Puget Sound.   In the deliberations of the U.S. Congress the Northern Pacific was seen as a line which would open the Northwest of British North America to American annexation.   In  July, 1866, before the Confederation of the Canadian Colonies, Congressman, General N.P. Banks, introduced his Northern Pacific railroad bill to provide for, “…the States (sic) of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia (sic) are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States.” On December 9, 1868 Senator Ramsey of Minnesota moved a resolution that asked, “ That Canada, with the consent of Great Britain, shall cede to the United States the districts of North America west of Longitude 90º on the conditions following…”

     Senator Ramsey proposed that the U.S. should pay the HBC $6,000,000 for its claims and rights.   The U.S. would also assume the debt of British Columbia to the amount of $2,000,000, and that the Northwest Territory should be organized into three territories with the same rights and privileges and government as the Montana Territory.    Further, the U.S. government should guarantee dividends of 5% on the stock of the Northern Pacific Railroad.   It is obvious that in the American mind the Northern Pacific Railroad was to be built to exploit the British as well as the American Northwest.  The resolution was passed and sent to the Railroad Committee for detailed consideration.   In their report, released in February 1869 the Committee noted that:

“The line of the North Pacific (sic) runs for 1500 miles near the British possessions and when built will drain the agricultural products of the rich Saskatchewan and Red River Districts east of the mountains, and the gold country of the Fraser, Thompson and Kootenay Rivers west of the mountains…  The opening by us of a North Pacific Railroad seals the destiny of the British possessions west of the 91st Meridian.   They will become so strongly Americanized in interest and feelings that they will be in effect severed from the new Dominion and the question of their annexation will be but a question of time.”

It was the view of politicians in the U.S. that the Northern Pacific Railroad was to Americanize the Canadians, while to the Canadians, the proposed Canadian Pacific Railway was to Canadianize those difficult British Columbians.   It is not at all evident that the Canadians in Ottawa followed the railway debates in the U.S. Congress.   From whatever they thought of the proposed Northern Pacific Railway, they seemed to suppose that Great Britain would not permit it to enter British Columbia.

But from the beginning, doubts were expressed, both in Ottawa and B.C., that the railway promise was sincere.   Building the railway would require a country of but 3 million to build two thousand miles of track to link up with only 10,000 Europeans and perhaps 30,000 Aboriginals.  It seemed to the hard headed, and the Canadians were certainly these, that it was a mad enterprise.   Nevertheless, south of the border, on February 15, 1870, the Northern Pacific began building  west from the head of Lake Superior headed for Puget Sound.   The next month debate on the motion for Union with Canada.   In the British Columbia Assembly Dr. Helmken expressed his deep misgivings, and suggested that if the Canadian railway were not in place in ten years, the Province would demand compensation and have good cause to secede.    He may well have been thinking that the Northern Pacific would be completed by then and ready to extend its tracks across the border into British Columbia.     

In Ottawa Parliamentary ratification of the terms of union was not automatic as had been assumed at the start.  Debate began on April 1, 1871.   Two weeks previous the Northern Pacific began construction on the western end of their line, by grading north from Kalama on the Columbia toward Puget Sound.   Whatever the Canadian parliament decided, the American railway would soon be in place to capture B.C. trade.   In Ottawa the opposition Liberals argued that the railway promise would bankrupt the country if built.   The governing Tories were unwilling to be bound by that ten year promise.  Debate began on April 1, 1871, and the government found itself in difficulty with its own members at once over that promise to begin construction in two years and complete it by ten.   Joseph Truch, who was a member of the Legislative Council of B.C. proposed to win over the recalcitrant  government members by softening the promise.   He apparently told the caucus that the people of B.C. would not hold them precisely to their promise, a statement which he had no authorization whatever to make.  Publicly he produced a masterful equivocation: British Columbians, he said, were a reasonable people and it would be a fallacy to assume that they would demand the railway promise “ to be carried out in the exact interpretation of the words themselves, regardless of all expectation.”   Truch was a British Colonial Officer, and these words reflected the genteel mendacity with which the British had for a century been administering their colonies.

Back in British Columbia, however, Truch’s statement was considered treasonous.   He had sided with the hated Ontarians, and betrayed B.C.   But the weasel words had worked.   The Union was approved, Truch was rewarded by being appointed Lieutenant Governor of the new Province of British Columbia in place of Amor De Cosmos who would have been the popular choice.

By betraying B.C. aspirations, Truch had accomplished two things, he had achieved union, and he had kept the populist leader from power in Victoria.    He had done the will of Great Britain and the Ontarians.   As Lieutenant Governor, Truch represented the members of the old HBC hegemony in British Columbia, and he attempted to govern it in the manner of the old Colonial despots, Simpson and Douglas.   He used his power as Lieutenant Governor to pick an utter non-entity, John McCreight as Provincial Premier, when again, the choice should have gone by popular will, to Amor De Cosmos.   And in a further perversion of his powers, Truch insisted on sitting in on all Cabinet meetings.    This would not be tolerated in Britain, nor anywhere else, and it was a bad beginning to a Provincial government which was to perpetuate in future legislatures, a tyranny of the government over the opposition.

In choosing union with Canada, the majority of British Columbians had opted for political change, for representative government.   What they had gotten, thanks to Joseph Truch’s betrayal, was the old Colonial system of appointed officials domineering over elective representatives.   The force for change, however, was stronger than Truch expected.   At the end of 1872, the ineffective Mc Creight was forced out, and Truch had to grit his teeth and call on De Cosmos, the only candidate with the confidence of the Legislative Assembly, to form a government.   De Cosmos took over and refused absolutely to hold a cabinet meeting with the Lieutenant Governor in the room.   Truch was obliged to distance himself, and finally, painfully, representative government was allowed to begin functioning in British Columbia.

Interior B.C. was, except for the old Colonial officers, quite untouched by the union with Canada.   The Langevin Report for 1870 stated that the Kootenays had 103 white males, 5 white females, 2 coloured males, 139 Chinese males, no Chinese females.   Aboriginals were not recorded. Of these 249 persons, 6 were employed in agriculture, none in manufacturing, 20 in trading, and 222 in mining.   The occupation of the one missing person is not recorded; perhaps this was the magistrate.     The HBC traders at Fort Shepherd and Tobacco Plains, the miners, some thousand or so Indians, and a judge comprised the population, the majority of which was Chinese.   Probably most of them had not heard of the Union.

  The Union was a fact, however, and the District of Yale-Kootenay was to send one member to the Dominion Parliament.   No one but Captain Houghton could be bothered.   Now, in 1871, he made his way to Yale on horseback to the nomination convention.   But astonishingly, there could be found but two eligible voters in Yale willing and able to participate. Nor was there any other candidate.   Captain Houghton was nominated by a vote of 2 to 0, and elected by acclamation.   It is doubtful if anyone in Kootenay, knew or cared.     

The Provincial Legislature continued a contentious body.   There were no political parties in British Columbia at this time.   In the Colonial Administration the Colonial Council had divided always into the majority of appointed members, representing the Governor, and the minority of elected members, the opposition.   Now, with a fully elected house, the members broke into local factions, which carried on the old quarrel between the two colonies, the Vancouver Island members opposing the Mainland members.   Those few from the Interior opposed both Coastal interests.    

In Ottawa B.C’s six members had no party affiliation, but were bound to support Prime Minister Mc Donald whose government had promised the railroad.   By the terms of Union, railroad construction was to begin by 1873.  The year came; there was no sign of construction.   Amor De Cosmos, who had promoted Union, and fought for it so vigorously, was now in trouble.   He went to Ottawa to lobby for the promised railway.   But the problem for Mc Donald and his Conservatives was to find someone to finance this extremely costly undertaking.   The efforts to put together a syndicate of wealthy men resulted in a corruption scandal that brought down the government.  The new Liberal government under Mc Kenzie was firmly set against building the railway until it could be afforded.   He suggested to a desperate De Cosmos that the terms of union be renegotiated with the railway time clause eliminated.    De Cosmos was devastated; he was now the man who had led B.C. into a union with a government which was refusing to honour its promises.    The best De Cosmos could get from Mc Kenzie was an immediate $1 million cash loan, and a further cash grant in lieu of the promised drydock.    But for these he had to agree to let the Dominion government indefinitely postpone the railway.

De Cosmos returned to B.C. to find a Legislature and a people wholly opposed to any changes whatsoever in the terms of union until Mackenzie should publicly and unequivocally promise the railway.   Now one of those salutary little revolutions that De Cosmos had previously favoured, took place.   A mob, insistent on presenting their demands for a referendum on any changes to the terms of union, stormed the legislature chanting, “We’ll hang old De Cosmos on a sour apple tree.”   Disorder followed.   Clubs were brandished, guns were drawn, the Legislature was thrown into tumult.   Although no blood was spilled, De Cosmos was obliged to lock himself in his room for safety, and the Speaker hastily adjourned the house and fled the assembly.

A victim of the “political hatreds attesting to the vitality” of British Columbians, De Cosmos resigned his seat in the legislature, but kept his seat as a Dominion member of parliament, and fled east to orderly Ottawa.    When the B.C. Legislature met again, it acknowledged the wishes of the people that the mob had represented, and passed a resolution that no change could be made in the terms of Union without the consent of the electorate.

With De Cosmos’ departure, Anthony Walkem became Premier and spokesman for the forces against the mendacity of Ottawa.   However, a split appeared in the pro railway forces, whether innocent or manipulated cannot be determined.    As the province was spilt politically between the Island and the Mainland, the railway supporters split as well.   Two routes for the Railway had been proposed, one would be a northerly route, reaching salt water at Bute Inlet, cross by boat (or improbably by a very long bridge) to Vancouver Island, and proceed by rail down the Island to Victoria.    The other route, equally formidable, would come down the Fraser canyon and reach tidewater at Burrard Inlet with a ferry connection to Victoria.  Premier Walkem chose the Bute Inlet route, since that would make Victoria the terminus of this transcontinental railway, while the Fraser Canyon route would put the terminus and its port on the Mainland.

The Imperial Government, which was responsible for introduction of the railway promise into the terms of union, now feared that separation was a real possibility if something substantial were not offered the disaffected Canadians of British Columbia.   It certainly did not wish to reassume the financial burden of the bankrupt Colony.    A compromise was proposed.   An immediate start was to be made on a railway to link the two Island cities, Victoria and Nanaimo, and railway surveys were to begin on the mainland.   A wagon road and a telegraph line were to be built from the Red River to the Pacific.   It was promised that $2,000,000 were to be spent annually on railway construction, but no firm completion date was mentioned.   These were the Carnarvon Terms from London.

This compromise could have been accepted by both parties in Ottawa and would have got the Dominion government out of an embarrassing spot.  For, if B.C. separated from Canada, the Americans stood ready to purchase her with their own Northern Pacific railway line which, delayed by mismanagement and failure of financing, was slowly creeping toward completion. In 1874 its trains were running from Portland to Tacoma, although the line through the Rockies was still to be built.  In Ottawa the influential Liberal, Eward Blake was implacably opposed to any subsidies whatever to the Pacific Province, and was quite willing to see it secede if that would preserve financial prudence.   Blake’s opposition tied MacKenzie’s hands and the Carnarvon Terms were rejected by the Dominion Senate. 

As a shamefaced sop to B.C. Mackenzie and Blake offered a cash payment of $750,000 as compensation for delay in beginning the railway.   This offer was greeted with intense suspicion by British Columbians and the Walkem government.   The cash offer could be interpreted as a payment for future as well as past delay.  Accepting it could be seen as releasing the Dominion government from its promise.   Standing on these principles, the offer was rejected in 1876, and a resolution was passed calling for secession from Canada.   The then situation in B.C. was intolerable; in joining Canada the province had been obliged to give up its chief sources of revenue, the Customs and Excise collections, to the Dominion government.  Without a revenue, B.C. was reduced to subsisting on humiliating handouts from Ottawa.   Without the railway there was no hope of integration into the Canadian economy which could have saved it.

With B.C.’s rejection of the cash grant and its threat of separation, the Liberal Government in Ottawa lost its nerve and dithered.   De Cosmos angrily attempted to insert an amendment into an unrelated bill calling for work on the Esquimalt to Nanaimo railway to begin at once.   Only six eastern members joined the British Columbians in voting for the amendment.   This vote made it clear to B.C. citizens just how little regarded they were in central Canada.   Their threat of separation had been met with casual indifference.   The Walkem government was  disgraced and driven from office.  It had stood on principle and refused the cash offer.   It had threatened separation, and Canada had not cared.   

Andrew Elliot, a former Colonial magistrate, took over as Premier.   His government was as ineffectual as Walkem’s.   The citizens of British Columbia were in a foul and angry mood and ready to lash out at anyone.    The Government in London had the Dominion Governor General  make a Viceregal tour in the old Imperial way, with smashed wine bottles and flag raisings.   The populist faction of the citizenry were unimpressed.   They erected the traditional arches festooned with fir boughs to welcome the Marquess of Dufferin, but pointedly hung signs on them threatening secession if the railway were not commenced at once.   His Excellency, equally pointedly, refused to pass under any arches so placarded.   Amid all this archaic symbolism, the situation worsened.   In 1878, De Cosmos rose in parliament to utter a new threat.  If the railway were not begun at once, British Columbia would have no other alternative but to seek annexation to the United States.   De Cosmos hated Americans from his time in California.   He made the threat, which only spite would have made him carry out, to try to make parliament understand the depth of feeling and legitimate anger of his constituents.   Parliament’s response was little more than a yawn.

In British Columbia the feeble Elliot government fell, and Walkem came back, promising to solve the railway impasse.   British Columbia had but one card to play, that of secession.   On August 9, 1878 Walkem moved an address to the Queen, asking Her Majesty, in light of the broken promises of the Dominion Government, to grant British Columbia the right to withdraw from the union and receive compensation for the defaulted pledges.   The motion passed, 14 to 9.

But at this point Walkem lost his nerve.    Instead of sending the message to London where it would have elicited some sort of action, he weaseled and sent it to the Dominion Secretary of State in Ottawa for forwarding to Her Majesty.   This made it clear to the MacKenzie government that the message was just one more threat directed at it, and not a serious move to separate.   MacKenzie’s government simply “mislaid” the Address to the Queen, and it was never transmitted.   Shortly after, MacKenzie’s government was defeated and Mac Donald was back with his Conservatives and a new National Policy in which the Railway to the Pacific was a major plank. 

The decade of political turmoil and mendacity of the 1870s had all been quite absurd.   The Province of British Columbia had for six years begged, cajoled, threatened and gone to the brink of secession over the railroad with the Dominion government.   Now, with a simple election, the railroad was to be built.  It should not be thought that the MacDonald had announced  his railway policy to mollify British Columbians, or to redeem the promise of 1870 as the residents of the Pacific Province believed.  Mc Donald had cleverly annouced the railway as a  National Project that would project the commercial interests of Ontario and Quebec onto the Pacific Coast so that they might enter the lucrative Asian trade.   This was the Conservatives’s railway policy, an expansion of Central Canada’s power to the Pacific; the wishes of 10,000 British Columbians were quite insignificant in Ottawa.

Amor De Cosmos, who had been politically destroyed by the railway issue, rose in bitter anger in the house in April of 1879 to excoriate the members of both parties for five years of hostility to British Columbia.   In wild sarcasm he challenged them to do in fact what for five years they had done by indifference, moving a motion to exclude B.C. from Canada.    British Columbia, he said, “has been called an excrescence, and incubus, has been accused of endeavouring to gain something from this Dominion without any equivalent.   I ask the honourable members who say they wish to get rid of this province, to second the motion.”   The house was silent.   Not even one of the five other B.C. members would second De Cosmos’ motion.   He concluded with the angrily prophetic  statement,  “The people of British Columbia have as little faith in one side (party) as they had in the other.”    De Cosmos, now eclipsed, had expressed the bitter judgment of the people of B.C.: the Dominion government, under whatever party, would never be trustworthy.    They wanted a Canadian commercial front on the Pacific, but they would never be willing to pay the price for the union of British Columbia.   It is a distrust of the Ottawa government, and an anger at central Canada that subsists in B.C. to this day, and is regularly exploited by Provincial politicians of all parties.     

The actual construction of the long promised railway was, if anything, even more difficult and frustrating than the five years of political wrangling over whether it was to be built at all.   First, the Dominion government had to find that syndicate of wealthy men able to raise the funds for 1900 miles of construction through an uninhabited country, four mountain ranges and six hundred miles of solid and barren rock north of Lake Superior.   Sir Sanford Flemming, who had surveyed the route through the tumultuous Seventies, had estimated it would cost $100 million, an astronomical sum for a country of but four million.

The wealthy banker George Stephen, whom MacDonald had with difficulty persuaded to lead the syndicate to built the CPR, held out for concessions without which he absolutely refused to undertake the project.   

First, was a monopoly clause in the contract, prohibiting any other railway from building between the CPR and and the U.S. border.   This was directed at the Northern Pacific Railway which had been completed in 1883 and had become the de facto link between British Columbia and Canada.   One took a steamer from Victoria or New Westminster to Tacoma, rode the Northern Pacific to St Paul, the Milwaukee Railroad to Chicago and the Grand Trunk to Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal.  All freight went in bond via this route as well and U.S. line was planning an extension north up the Red River Valley to Winnipeg.    The Dominion Government could enforce this prohibition in the empty Northwest Territory where it had sole authority.   In Ontario and British Columbia, MacDonald promised to have the Dominion Government disallow any Provincial Railway charter for a line in this CPR claimed territory.    This promise was redeemed  in 1883 when the B. C. legislature authorized the American Ainsworth Syndicate with mines on Kootenay Lake, to build a 40 mile portage railway around the falls and rapids on the Lower Kootenay River.   The Dominion Government found the Ainsworth’s railway to be essentially an entry of the Northern Pacific into the lands promised the CPR as its exclusive territory.

Second, the syndicate insisted on a cash subsidy of  $25 million and a land grant of 25 million acres along the right of way.

Third, that whoever built the railway should “run it forever.”

Fourth, that the syndicate would receive those portions of the railway already built or contracted for by the government.

These were enormous gifts, but the undertaking was even more enormous.   By its completion in 1885, it would very nearly bankrupt the syndicate, and nearly defeat the government as more and more loan guarantees had to be made to keep the work from collapsing.

No one knows to this day what it cost; $150 millions is a probably a good guess.

STEEP AND CROOKED … by Late Writer, Artist & Castle Builder Bill Laux

3

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

RED MOUNTAIN: BOOM AND DECLINE 1900 – 1997

Trail_Smelter_in_Year_1929

Trail Smelter 1929 – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

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.

 

STEEP AND CROOKED … by Late Writer, Artist & Castle Builder Bill Laux

6

THE MINING RAILROADS OF THE CANADIAN BORDER

 By Bill Laux

CHAPTER TWELVE

JIM HILL BUILDS TO PHOENIX 1903 – 1905

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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.

 

STEEP AND CROOKED … by Late Writer, Artist & Castle Builder Bill Laux – Chapter III

4

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STEEP AND CROOKED: THE MINING RAILROADS OF THE CANADIAN BORDER

 By Bill Laux

CHAPTER THREE

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.

 

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