Getting Here From There
Revelstoke Museum and Archives
Revelstoke, British Columbia
5. Danger in the Mountains: Part 2
1Danger in the Mountains: Part 2
The winter of 1909 to 1910 was especially severe throughout the northwestern United States and western Canada. The extremely heavy snowfall throughout the whole area triggered avalanches, which resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives. In Rogers Pass, it snowed more than seven feet in nine days and the wind howled continuously.
2The Mail-Herald of January 14 1911 reported: "On March 4, 1910, the Pacific Express was held at Rogers Pass station, and the Atlantic Express at Glacier, because a slide had come down near the summit of the pass, covering 600 feet of track. Roadmaster John Anderson had 63 men, a rotary plough, and locomotive 1751 at work clearing the track. At duck he went to the watchman's shack near snow shed #17 to phone Chief Dispatcher Charlie Cotterell in Revelstoke that the track would be cleared in another two hours. He had not gone far on the way back when he realized that things did not look right. He could not see the beam of the headlight, nor the glow from the engine firebox reflected on the snow. At once he knew what had happened. A second slide had come down - this one from the other side of the narrow valley - and covered everything in its path! As he got closer, Anderson thought he heard a faint cry above the howling of the wind. Following the sound he found the locomotive fireman Bill LeChance, who had been sucked out of the engine cab and tossed 50 feet away, sustaining two broken legs. Anderson dug him out and made him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, then went back to the watchman's shack to phone Revelstoke and tell them what had happened. While waiting for help to arrive, he did what he could by himself. D. McRae, a bridge carpenter, was blown to the roof of #17 shed, but survived. A Chinese cook had a miraculous escape when the cars of the work train were overturned. Two linemen were some distance from the path of the slide and escaped. Conductor R.J. Buckle was rescued, but died of severe burns."
4Heading from Mail Herald article regarding the avalanche at Rogers Pass, March 4, 1910.
5Crew clearing avalanche at Rogers Pass.
4 March 1910
Rogers Pass, Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia, Canada
6Crew clearing avalanche at Rogers Pass, March 4, 1910.
7Of the 58 men killed in the slide, 32 were Japanese labourers. A Memorial Service held in the community listed the Japanese men separately. The Japanese men had all been hired as labourers by the Nippon Supply Company, and that firm was responsible for sending the bodies of the deceased men back to Japan.
9Front and back page of Memorial card for those killed in the March 4,1910 slide at Rogers Pass.
11Inside of Memorial card for the March 4, 1910 snowslide at Rogers Pass.
12The local superintendent, Thomas Kilpatrick, sent personal letters to families of many of the men who were killed. Wages owing to the men and any personal effects were sent to the next of kin. The company was not shown to be negligent or criminally responsible for the deaths of the men and they were not required to pay compensation, but in some cases of family hardship, the company did make some payments to families.
13C.P.R. correspondence regarding one of the men killed in the avalanche.
15 June 1910
Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
14Letter from Superintendant to F. Baker regarding a letter from the brother of one of the men killed in the March 4 1910 snowslide.
15Letter from Thos. H. Martin regarding his brother's death in the avalanche in Rogers Pass.
21 April 1910
16Handwritten letter from Thos. H. Martin of England regarding his brother's death in the March 4, 1910 snowslide in Rogers Pass.
17After the slide, there was a massive effort to remove the bodies of the 58 men and to clear the railway. Many Revelstoke residents volunteered for this job, working alongside CPR work crews. A letter from an East Indian crew boss to the Revelstoke CPR Superintendent tells of their experience:
We, the undersigned beg to state that when we reached Revelstoke on the 4th of March that day most of the men told us about the snow slides of Rogers Pass and told us that Rogers Pass is very cold place but we did not refused to go to Rogers Pass. When sixty men died under the slide, we never frightened, and been working all the time in the slides, in such dangerous places, where a man would never work for $4 a day, and we been working heartily whether it was day or night, whether we were hungry or thirsty, thinking that it was bad time on the company, and it was bad time on us too. During the slides our car and blankets was at Glacier and we were at Rogers Pass, and we passed six nights, sitting all through the nights in the engine shed without blankets, we suffered so many troubles that time, that we never had in our life that time one or two gang of Hindoos went back from Revelstoke hearing that death accident during the slide, but we did not care a bit of dying and worked hearty for the company.
You, yourself know that we received one letter from the Great Northern Co. $1.75 per day and we received one or two letters from the sawmills $2 per day. But we did not quit the job even that time, thinking that if we will quit the job the Company will think that the Hindoos are no good. The Road Master is here since two three days, he annoys us too much. He abuse us all the time, and catches us by the neck and shoulder, and gives us push and kicks us with his legs. Six, seven men have gone seeing his such treatment and now all the rest of the men are tired of his such treatment, and since the Italian Gang came here, he gives us too much trouble, abuse us all the time, we do not like to be abused, even for hundred $, and he never says a word to the Italians, we been working here in this country since two three years, we never saw such treatment by the Road Master towards the boys, we do not want to work under this Road Master. We are ready to work in any other Division, if you do not get job for us, then please send us to Vancouver, because there is no fault in us, we are poor men. In the time of the slide I supplied 26 men to the Company.
We shall be highly obliged to you for this kind act of yours.
Hoping favourable orders, and you can ask the Foreman (Geo Lodge) about our work and ask any other Foreman under whom worked. You yourself can see our work with any other Gang.
Mehar Singh, Hindoo Boss and all other men, of the Gang
19Page 1 of a letter written by workers of Hindu descent to the superintendant of the C.P.R in Revelstoke.
21Page 2 of a letter written by workers of Hindu descent to the superintendant of the C.P.R in Revelstoke.
22On January 28, 1929, the bridge at Cutbank, over Surprise Creek Bridge, east of Rogers Pass, collapsed under the weight of Engine 5767. Engineer Bert Woodland and fireman Jeff Griffiths both died when the engine fell into the ravine. A new bridge over the ravine was in place by February 17, 1929.
24Collapse of Cutbank Bridge 1929.
25As a direct result of the 1910 snow slide, the decision was made to construct a tunnel through the mountains of Rogers Pass, bypassing the most treacherous avalanche areas. The tunnel was five miles long and shortened the main line by 4.5 miles, reduced the summit elevation 552 feet and eliminated 2600 degrees of curvature. Work began on the tunnel in August of 1913 and it was opened on December 9, 1916.
27Inside the Connaught Tunnel during construction, c. 1915.
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