Binding the WEST With BANDS of STEEL
III.—Railroading Through the Rockies in the Eighties
J. L. RUTLEDGE
THE pioneer railroad construction work in Manitoba might have been expected to present all the conditions that were likely to be found anywhere. Such was not the case, however. The work in British Columbia presented an entirely new set of conditions, that added to its interest as well as its difficulties. In this work the contractors were faced with a different climate, with all the conditions that this different, climate entailed, with a new topography presenting a new series of engineering-problems, and an entirely new labor ele-
Mr. Haney left Winnipeg on March 15, 1883, accompanied by W. H. Armstrong, the master mechanic who had been associated with him in his former work, and two other men. They went by way of San Francisco, and thence by boat to Victoria.
Arriving at Victoria, Mr.
Haney was quick to notice the changed conditions. There was none of the hustle that he was accustomed to farther east.
The people of British Columbia at that-time were largely of more or less immediate British descent, and were inclined to take life easy. With the climate of the province it was comparatively easy to make a living,
and the inhabitants did not intend to make it any harder than they actually had to. They looked with horror on the driving tactics of the men from the Middle West. “North American Chinamen” was the term used to designate these workers.
Not unnaturally the contractor who was endeavoring to complete a great work with workers of such a modest view of what work actually meant did not find that the progress of construction was producing any tangible profit for himself. It was on the advice of certain friends, therefore, that Andrew Onderdonk, the contractor of this work, decided to instil some new blood into the undertaking.
It was in response to this demand for more aggressive management that Haney, who had achieved a reputation for getting the thing done by his work on Section 15, was brought to the attention of Mr. Onderdonk. The work in British Columbia had at this time been under construction for a period of three years, and instead of a profit had shown decided loss. The original plan on which Mr. Haney went to British Columbia was that he should have the management of the work from Yale to Port Moody, a distance of 90 miles. On his arrival on the field, however, the plan was changed and he was given the management of the whole work from Port Moody to Savana’s Ferry at the foot of
Kamloops Lake, a distance of 215 miles, with an estimated cost of construction of fifteen million dollars.
TN speaking’of the’eondition of the work when he took charge, Mr. Haney stated: “I found there the finest body of engineers that I believe have ever been gathered together in any part of the world. Most of them are gone now, but they left a lasting monument to their ability and integrity. I think of all the large number of engineers engaged in that work only two remain to-day. They are Tom White of the C.N.R. and H. J. Camby, who has recently retired in his 84th year from a position he has held since those construction days. These men were all able, clever, and courageous, and absolutely loyal to the interests of the success of the work, and to the interests of the Government.”
Unfortunately the same praise could not be given to the laborers on the project. These descendants of some of the old-time mine workers had grown used to years of Capuan ease, and had no mind to change their ways for all the driving energy of this young engineer now in charge. They argued philosophically that if this new era of strenuous work were to become a fact, that there was no need to remain, they could go down to the coast and live on clams, for there when the tide was out the table was set.
With such a viewpoint it was of course essential that, if any money were to be made on the contract, some change must necessarily be made in the method and speed of getting the work done. So, after Mr. Haney had taken charge, many changes were originated, and a stricter method of discipline was adopted. These men were not let out, but certain indications that the good old days had
passed away gradually seeped through to their
practically dormant senses, and they disappeared for
regions where a man could draw wages without un-
duly straining himself. For
instance, there had been a practical disregard of running time on the road. The first order after Mr. Haney took charge was to this effect:
“Speed of trains on construction lines shall not exceed 60 miles an hour.”
These Capuan laborers looked at it sadly. They saw in it the suggestion of the hustling ways of those North American Chinamen whom they so much despised, and they decided it was no place for them.
However, it was possible to replace them with a hardier set of workers, who at this time began to drift in from the older construction work in the Middle Wrest. There was a different feeling in these men. They knew the type of work they were facing, and they knew also that the man who would work would be retained at a good salary.
The Advantages of Chinamen
TP HE common labor was largely done by Chinamen, and -*there were some ten or twelve thousand of these employed on the work. When properly supervised by foremen, this type of labor, according to Mr. Haney, was the best for the money ever employed on any public work.
They were paid from $1.00 to $1.25 a day as compared with a wage of $2.00 to $2.50 for white labor. They proved exceedingly adaptable, they were obedient, self-reliant and cleanliving, and caused no trouble as long as they were fairly treated. Moreover, they had one great advantage. They were capable of looking after their own wants, and for that reason were easily and expeditiously transported from place to place in large numbers.
As an instance it was possible to move two-' thousand Chinamen twenty-five miles and have them at work inside of twenty-four hours,, whereas the movement of a similar sized body of white men could not be done in much less than a week. The white man required a camp to go to, a cook and cookee, a substantial variety of provisions and all the paraphernalia' of a first-class camp. The Chinamen on theother hand was ready to take care of himself. He could move into a wilderness and set up his own camp, and incidentally he would pack all his belongings and provisions and camp equipment on his back. The white man, on the other hand, could hardly be constrained to carry his own shirt.
The Chinamen were steady workers, and had a type of fatalism that was rather useful in this work. There were many slides both of rock and earth, and notwithstanding thatr often enough Chinamen were injured in these slides, and on some occasions even lost their
lives, there was no tendency on the part of these who were working with them to become stampeded. As soon as the trouble was over, they stoically went back to work, satisfied that the bones of the victim would be sent back to China, and that therefore there was no reason to woîry.
THERE was very little sickness among these Chinamen.
They did their own doctoring and when it happened that a Chinaman got so sick that he could not be expected to get better, he had a habit of slipping off with a rather surprising celerity that was inclined to suggest a certain element of assistance from his brother Chinamen. As an instance in point Mr. Haney tells of calling at a tent where a sick Chinaman had been taken.
“Have you a sick China boy here?” he asked the book-
The bookman grunted an affirmation.
“Will he get better?” Mr. Haney asked. The bookman shook his head.
“Will he die to-day?”
“No, to-morrow, thlee clock,” replied the Chinese bookman. And at “three o’clock to-morrow,” to the minute that China boy died.
To secure the necessary supply of labor, that could not be secured from any other source, arrangements were made with a Chinese company to provide the necessary workers, for which the contractor would settle with the company. These Chinamen were divided into gangs of thirty-three men, a bookman, who kept count of the payments to be made to the individual Chinamen, a cook and an assistant cook or cookee, and thirty workers. They were supplied almost entirely with food and clothing from China, and the list of articles imported for their use totalled three hundred and ninety-eight. There was some little difficulty at first in making the Chinamen eat meat and vegetables that were necessary as a precaution against scurvy. The Chinamen simply did not see it and would not eat these foreign foods. Finally coercive measures were adopted and each Chinaman was charged so much a month for meat and vegetables. Whether he ate this food or not did not matter, "and, being provident souls as well as docile, when they discovered this they soon acquired a meat eating habit.
The mere matter of handling the supplies for these workers was no small proposition. Stores were opened at various points. The stores were manned by perhaps two white men with some twenty-five Chinese assistants, and there were no instances of theft or insubordination.
“In my whole experience of dealing with Chinese companies or the individual Chinamen,” says Mr. Haney, “I do not remember a single instance of dishonesty. In all cases they lived up to their contracts, and they had so much confidence in the management, that where they had differences with the sub-contractors, it only needed the presence of a representative of the contractor to assure them that their grievances would be considered, to send them cheerfully to work again. It is a noticeable fact, too, that apparently in all that time there was not a single instance of a disagreement between the individual worker and the Chinese company who paid them their wages.”
The Story of the Dead Chinaman
ONE day while riding over the work Mr. Haney came upon a part where there were some two thousand Chinamen sitting around idle. It was not only an unusual, but an unpleasant sight to the man who was trying to speed the work. He enquired of the walking boss who was in charge of the gang just what was the trouble. He was informed that a Chinaman had fallen over the bank and was lying dead on the rocks below. Looking over the steep bank of the Fraser River, he caught a glimpse of the dead Chinaman. His brothers above did not seem to be greatly affected at the dead man’s fate, but, while he was lying out there on the rock, they would not go back to work. The walking boss argued and swore, and the two
thousand Chinamen listened to him patiently with smiling faces. Work they would not. It was quite a problem. The bank was a sheer precipice, and it was impossible to reach the body from the river by boat.
“Well, what do you propose to do?” asked Haney. “Can’t have these Chinamen standing around here till that China boy disintegrates.”
The walking boss scratched his head. “There's an Indian,” he said, “who promises to move that body for ten dollars. I’ve tried to make a deal with him but he won’t budge on that price and it’s too much.”
“Never mind how much it is,” said Haney. “Pay it and get those men back to work.” And he went on down the line.
Returning the next day to the same spot he found the Chinamen all working diligently and cheerfully.
“Whet happened to the dead Chinaman?” he asked. “Gor e,” replied the walking boss.
The boss had not seen the thing accomplished, but contributory evidence had made it possible to outline the Indian’s probable line of campaign. The clues were these: There had been a theft of several sticks of dynamite and some powder. During the evening there had been a sharp explosion down in the canyon, and the body was gone. From which the boss deduced that the Indian had lowered some sticks of dynamite down beside the body and deftly blown the offending Chinaman into the river. However, that might be, the Chinamen, once they were assured by their own senses that the body was not there, went contentedly back to work without any indication of profound sorrow for the departed.
The Indian and the Potlatch
TN much of the rock work on the most treacherous parts of the canyons “Siwash” Indians were worked intermittently. They were fearless in disposition and firstclass rock workers. There were many places in the construction of the line along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers where an Indian was lowered over the side of the canyon by a rope till he reached the line level, and held there till he had succeeded in blasting out a foot-hold on which men could stand to work. In such perilous work, the “Siwash” were unsurpassed, and they would have made a great difference in the labor problem if they could have been kept at work persistently. The Indian however would only work till pay day. When he had gathered sufficient money he would give a “Potlatch” or feast to all his friends. This was the end toward which all Indians worked. They wanted “money enough to give a “Potlatch.” The idea of the feast was not wholly disinterested. True the Indian host dined his guests in the most approved fashion, but it was not so much to do them an honor as to establish his own credit. The giver of a “Potlatch” was in a position for a year to demand from the guests who had shared with him anything they possessed that he desired, from a fish to the guest’s wife or horse, and according to the custom this request could not be denied. The giver of the “Potlatch,” therefore, gave it so that he could remain idle for the balance of the year.
The construction work proceeded both east and west, of Yale, and with its rapid progress there was an incessant demand for supplies. These were brought from Victoria up the Fraser River to Yale. The steamers were sternwheelers, similar to those in use on the Mississippi, and the service and accommodation was excellent. From Yale the supplies were carried by ox-teams or mule back up the Caribou trail to their destination.
Mr. Haney tells of an incident on one of these river trips that indicates how peculiar superstitions or “hunches” sometimes took possession of those who had lived there for long. Captain John Irving was supervising the loading of his steamer at Chilliwack, when he discovered a clergyman about to board the steamer. Leaning over the side he called to the mate to prevent the parson getting on board. The parson argued at first mildly and then with growing warmth, but Captain Irving was adamant. He had, he said, had all the experience he required to prove his case. A parson and a gray mare should not travel together. He had carried such a combination three separate occasions, and On each occasion he had met with an accident, and as he had a gray mare aboard at the present time parsons were barred. The parson was, in fact, left protesting angrily as the boat drew away from the
'TVHE Caribou trail, prior to the completion of the railroad line, was the one great artery that served the whole interior. Built originally in the gold rush days it remained to serve the needs of the few isolated ranchers that lived far inland. The trail began at Emery’s bar, four miles below Yale, and extended for a distance of 350 miles, passing along the north side of the Fraser River, and thence crossed the river by means of a suspension bridge built by Sir Joseph Trutch in 1860. The wire to support this bridge was brought from England in single strands and twisted on the spot. After crossing the river the road cut through the bluffs almost at the river level for a distance of nearly 25 miles, then gradually ascending till at Jackass Mountain it rose to 2,000 feet above the river level. It descended again to the river level at Lytton and thence by the south bank of the Thompson River to Ashcroft. Along this road for twenty years had gone the traffic of the settlements and isolated homesteads of the interior. It was the only link with the Coast, and it was the only road for the onward march of civilization in the person of the railroad pioneers.
The progress of the work was all too frequently delayed by rock and gravel slides, that often resulted tragically enough. Considering the hazardous nature of the work such accidents though were remarkably few. One of these slides brought away some thousand acres of gravel on the banks of the Thompson River. This enormous slide naturally dammed the river effectively, bringing the river level above the slide two hundred feet higher than its normal, while below the river bed was merely a network of rivulets and sand. This was a chance too good to be missed and Chinamen and Indians laid down their tools
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and rushed to the river bed to recover gold, the gold that in those c^ays was still comparatively plentiful. Some of these enthusiasts were very successful and secured the equivalent of $150 to $200 a day. Finally, however, the rapidly mounting river behind the slide reached the top, and the water, once flowing oyer, quickly began to eat away the bank of sand. Before many days the river was following its accustomed course and the gold-seekers were once more placidly engaged in grading the railway line.
Blasting through the Rockies
'T'HE twenty-five miles of work along the Fraser River from Yale to Boston Bar was considered at the time of its construction to be the heaviest work of its kind ever constructed in any country. It was constructed at an average cost of $150,000 a mile even at the moderate contract figures of those days. In this stretch of work there are innumerable tunnels, varying in length from 250 feet to 1,600 feet. In construction work of this character accidents from falling rock were unavoidable. On one occasion an engine pulling a train near Keiffer Station struck one of these rock slides, and the -engine, becoming detached from the train, plunged over the bank, a distance of 250 feet, turned at right angles to the track and landed right side up on the rock debris at the river edge. The engineer and fireman, who had gone over with the engine, were later discovered considerably frightened, but, barring a sizable array of bruises, unhurt. In order to recover that engine it was necessary to secure some heavy tackle. There being none among the supplies on hand, Mr. Haney went to Victoria to secure what he needed. Arriving there he found all the stores closed. It seemed strange as it was only Wednesday. Hunting about the town, however, he finally discovered a ship’s chandler whom he knew, who told him that a baseball game was in progress at the park and that all the merchants had agreed to close for the event. Haney argued and protested that the building of a transcontinental railway was of more importance than a baseball game, but apparently the shop keepers thought differently and resolutely refused to open their stores to supply him with what he needed. As a result it was three days before he was able to get a boat back to the work. “I confess,” says Mr. Haney, “that I was considerably surprised at the very evident lack of interest of a great number of the people in a project that was to make their province an integral part of the whole Dominion.”
When Haney took over the management of the construction work in British Columbia the work showed a loss of something like two and a half millions on the three years. This was partially the fault of the type of labor employed, and partially due to the slow handling of necessary materials, and delays in transportation. In all departments following his arrival there was a speeding up and systematizing of work. The necessary supplies that had to come from Victoria on mule back along the Caribou trail entailed of course a long trip and many detours. As the work progressed Haney solved this difficulty in some degree by transporting goods over the Upper Fraser by cables across the chasm, where they were reloaded on pack mules and despatched to their destination. This obviated the necessity of following the trail till the bridge across the river was reached. There were innumerable gulches and rivers to be crossed and, as iron bridges had at that time not come into general use, these were spanned by wooden trestles. Here it was, Haney discovered, that a very material element of delay occurred. The trestles were necessary for the advance of the work, yet there was often a very serious delay in cutting the timbers, and later in shaping them at the point of use. His first work, therefore, was to develop saw-mills and timber gangs capable of providing the millions of feet of timber necessary. It was not long before he had a mill capable of producing 150,000 feet of timber a day, which was shaped there and sent forward ready for immediate erection. In this way the greatest element of delay was overcome and the bridges were built well ahead of
the track. It was under his management too that the first cantilever bridge built in America was constructed on the Fraser canyon, of steel brought from England by way of Cape Horn.
Haney also decided to produce his own nitro-glycerine, large quantities of which were used in the work along the Fraser. He developed a large plant in which they produced their own nitric and sulphuric acid, so that it was only necessary to bring in the glycerine. Just when this plant was completed a tremendous explosion took place that wrecked this plant and broke every window in the town of Yale. However, the plant was immediately replaced and the production of explosives on the spot was another factor in speeding up the work.
Rushing the Governor-General
Ij'ROM Savana’s Ferry to Eagle Pass, a -*■ distance of, 150 miles, the work was being done for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The company was most anxious to have the line connected through to the coast, so an effort was made to force the construction. Mr. Haney made it a point to go over the whole work twice a month. He travelled mostly on horseback, and had horses at different points along the line. In this way he would often make 100 miles a day. He was thus in constant touch with his foremen and superintendents, and was in this way able to correct loose methods and prevent losses and to make a satisfactory profit for the contractors.
Before the line was completed Lord Lansdowne, then Governor-General, in company with his aide, Lord Melgund, later Lord Minto, went over the line. Lord Lansdowne was a singularly quiet man and hardly made an enquiry or a remark during the trip, though he took a great interest in everything. He and Lord Melgund were travelling on the engine with Mr. Haney, and the engineer, anxious to show how well the track was laid, switched that train along at a good 70 miles an hour. Stopping at a small station to take water Lord Lansdowne broke his long silence by the enquiry:
“How far is it to Port Moody?” Something about 48 miles, he was told.
“Will you be running as fast the balance of the way?” he then enquired.
Haney, not unnaturally thinking that the exhilaration of the ride had pleased him, informed him that there was a good road-bed thàt far and they could probably beat the past pace.
Lord Lansdowne steeled himself to a further effort of speech. “I have a wife and family in Ottawa,” he said, “and I am rather anxious to see them again, so if you are continuing that rate of travel, I think I will just stay here.”
Naturally the trip from there on was continued at a somewhat more modest
Some Interesting Characters
’"PHE pioneer days in the West produced *some interesting and striking characters. One of the men that Mr. Haney met in these days was the Rev. Mr. Irving, who became known over the line and throughout the better part of British Columbia as “Father Pat.” He had come out from Dublin in ’83 to assist the English clergyman at Yale. Mr. Haney met him in Kamloops and had dinner with him. Sitting down after the dinner he casually mentioned that he had to go and baptize the children of a settler living across the river eighteen miles up the Thompson River. In answer to a query as to how he intended to go, he replied that he figured on walking.
A rancher who was present overheard him and informed him that he had a horse in the barn that he could use if he wished. “Father Pat” thanked him and accepted the offer. Thereupon the rancher went in the barn, blindfolded the horse and brought him out. No sooner had Father Pat mounted and the bandage been removed from its eyes than the horse began to buck madly. That was a novel experience for Father Pat, and it was not long before he and the horse parted company. However the horse had misjudged his man. He managed to unseat him four times, and distribute him in various directions about the landscape, but the fifth time Father Pat stayed put, and the horse
j quietly moved off on the errand of the church. • *
Left behind, the rancher who had hugely ; enjoyed the sport, was overcome with gloom at the departure.
“I brought that there hoss down here to sell,” he remarked aggrievedly, and that Id parson has rid off with him. He’ll ; get pitched over the bank and the horse I with him.”
The rancher was just as misguided about Father Pat as was the horse, however, j They arrived—priest and the horse—at the i river, but the rancher’s home was some ! distance back on the other side, and did ! not hear his halloa! But he had come to j baptize those youngsters and baptized I they should be, so stripping on the bank, he piled his clothes on his head and swam across that icy mountain stream, dressed, found the cabin, baptized the children and was hack in Kamloops long before anyore expected to see him, much to the surprise of the rancher, who had been so certain that he had seen him for the last time that he had even ceased to mourn for the horse.
Father Pat was one of those little men who have a lion’s heart. He was travelling one day with the superintendent of track-laying, a man named Thomas Garvin. Garvin was a giant in frame with a strength to match. Long association with the vagaries of railroad gangs had also given him a vocabulary replete with blasphemous invectives which he used with freedom. Father Pat remonstrated with him on various occasions, pointing out that if he did not respect him he might at least respect the cloth. However, Garvin was quite unconscious that his speech was offensive and continued to express himself fluently.
Father Pat turned to some of the other men in the car, explaining to them that garbed as he was as a parson he could not very well administer correction, but that if someone would agree to hold his clerical collar safely, he thought he might feel far enough divorced from the cloth to teach the giant better manners. There were : willing hands offering to hold the collar j and the clerical coat, whereupon Father i Pat started to administer the lesson.
! Garvin could have squeezed him to pieces with one hand, but Father Pat was careful that he should not get the chance, and ! as Garvin knew nothing of the manly art ■ and Father Pat knew a good deal, the giant was soon calling for mercy.
Later Garvin and he became firm friends.
Father Pat went up later to the Rossland mining camps and many stories are told of his activities and his influence. Years later he was found frozen to death near Montreal. No one seemed to know just how it happened. He was stopping at a place near Montreal on his way for a visit back to Ireland, and being a great walker he had evidently undertaken to walk to the city.
IN November of the year 1885 the final spike was driven by Lord Strathcona at Craigellachie, ß.C., linking the lines East and West, leaving only some finishing work yet to be done. On the taking over of the line by the Canadian Pacific Railway there was some dispute as to the construction of the line, which the company claimed was not according to specifications. In describing parts of the line the then General Manager, William Van Horne, described several spots as “hellholes.” In response to this criticism, however, it was pointed out that the company were operating trains on the line and had a schedule calling for a running time of 30 miles an hour even over the places of which they so bitterly complained. When Sir William was asked to explain this fact he replied that the schedules were printed on yellow paper.
Owing to the difference of opinion between the Government and the C.P.R. Haney, acting for the Government, spent three months going over the tracks of the Union Pacific securing information regarding these lines, as it had been agreed that the standard maintained on these lines in 1873 should be the standard set for the C.P.R. in 1885. The Government stated that the company had no claim, that the work had been done according to contract. Finally as a result of arbitration proceedings the company was paid an amount that the Government had been ready to pay before any discussion had taken place.
The line at the present time remains substantially the same as it was when built in ’83. In some places grades have been made somewhat easier, and the wooden trestles have been replaced by steel, which was little used in the early construction days, but aside from that the bit of railroad construction that seems so appalling to the average passenger, with its combination of rushing torrents and the mountains towering five thousand feet above the road level was then, as it is today, one of the safest parts of the whole Canadian Pacific Railroad system.