Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Trains and Passes

Hindsight is perfect vision and we know that Vancouver was the ideal, if not only, location for the terminus of the CPR. There were three practicable routes across British Columbia by road: By the Yellowhead Pass and the Skeena to the present Prince Rupert, by the Yellowhead and Chilcotin to Bute Inlet, and by the Yellowhead or a southern pass and the Fraser river to the coast. There was a fourth route, by Bentinck Arm, which was considered but soon eliminated. Further study revealed that only the route terminating at Burrard Inlet offered a practicable approach, a large and secure harbour and room for the growth of a large city.

But back in 1870, the importance of these factors was not apparent. The Bute Inlet route had the best grades to the coast even with the obstacle of Waddington Canyon. Certainly, the canyon was no more difficult to surmount than the Fraser and Thompson abysses. And Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours were large enough to accommodate more shipping than the North Pacific had yet seen. These harbours were more accessible than the Burrard Inlet where windjammers were needed to tow the ships a 100 to 140 miles.  And this argument was occurring 35 years before a visionary Vancouverite predicted the city would have "100,000 men by 1910".

Vancouver wasn't even a pipe-dream at this time. Victoria seemed to be the obvious and only place for a railway terminal.

Of course, Victoria pushed hard to get the railway and this was 16 years before Vancouver was incorporated.  Victoria felt the railway could come by Bute Inlet, crossing the inland water barrier by bridges from island to island with a span resting on Ripple Rock. If it came through the Fraser canyon then a ferry-link located between Port Moody and Nanaimo was needed. The navy preferred the Bute Inlet Line whereas the army liked the Fraser route. Both for strategic reasons.

From 1870 to 1878 the fight to secure the construction of any railway was mingled with the dispute on which route it should take. The former is a matter of Dominion-provincial history while the latter is of vital concern to Vancouver.

Walter Moberly, a surveyor of the Burrard Inlet in 1859, was determined to get the Fraser route. As early as 1865, he discovered the Eagle Pass through the Monashee Range. The following year, Albert Perry went to examine the gap in the Selkirks. This gap became famous after its "discovery" by Major Rogers in 1882. Right up to his death in Vancouver in 1915, Moberly maintained the choice of the Kicking Horse-Rogers Pass route was a serious mistake. According to the impoverished and bitter man, Major Rogers first saw the pass when he rode through it in a CPR train. Moberly had proposed a route to the prairies by the Big Bend and Howse Pass.

As early as 1871, Moberly was in Ottawa pressing the Fraser route on Sir John A. Macdonald. Dr. R.W.W. Carrall of the official B.C. delegation had arrived in 1870 to present Alfred Waddington's plans for the Bute Inlet line.

Just imagine what that must have been like. Carrall, a Victoria merchant, was just as fanatical about the route he was proposing as Moberly was about his.

For example. In the early 60s, Moberly was working on the Cariboo Road through the Fraser Canyon - which he helped to locate. At the same time, Waddington was trying to drive a road through Waddington Canyon below Mount Waddington. His efforts were being prevented by the massacre of 19 of his men by Chilcotin Indians in 1864. Five of the murderers were hanged in Quesnel and this infuriated Moberly. He felt that any action that hindered Waddington was a public service.

Waddington's opposition to the Fraser line continued on into the mid-70s. Then he was associated with a group of Chicago financiers who unsuccessfully attempted to take over construction of the CPR. (Canadian Pacific Railway)

I know I've written on the the railway coming to Vancouver but this is a different look at the struggle.

Thanks to the book Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. InterestingArticle As Usual! And Great Pictures As Always.

  2. I read all your comments and love your stories. Love the pictures too but if you don't hear from me note I keep reading. Thanks for your dedication.

    1. Thank you for your devotion to reading my blog entries.