1 Dec 2000

 Map - Click to enlarge
Map of British Columbia.
Map by Mapblast

 Watertank demolition
See the demolition of Revelstoke's old wooden enclosed water tank.

 1890 - Revelstoke station
This is the second Revelstoke station and was built some time in the 1880s or 90s. The first station was a simple boxcar.

 1936 - Filming movie at third station
The third station was constructed in 1905 and is shown here in 1936 during the filming of the British Gaumont motion picture "Silent Barriers". Notice the 4-4-0 wood burning locomotive number 522 to the right.

 Locomotive 522
Locomotive 522 - location unknown.

 Locomotive 374
Locomotive 374 at Golden during filming.

 Locomotives 522 and 374
Locomotives 522 and 374 at Golden during filming.

 2000 - Revelstoke station today
In 1978 the current station replaced number three. Mild temperatures caused a late arrival of snow this season in Revelstoke. The snow has even begun to melt at this lower altitude. Eagle Pass to the west is maintaining its snow level while to the east Rogers Pass has a good base that is growing.

 Revelstoke Railway Museum simulator
Revelstoke boasts an excellent railway museum containing CPR steam locomotive number 5468, a 2-8-2 Mikado and business car number 4 plus many interesting smaller reconstructions and displays. One of which is a GP-9 cab simulator complete with prototype controls. Visuals are provided by a wide-screen television. It costs $1. for each 3 minutes you run it. There are great sound effects including a large rush of air on brake release.

 1944 - Columbia River bridge
Steam locomotives pull a train west from Revelstoke to cross the Columbia River at Farwell.

 2000 - CP 9674 West on Columbia River bridge
CP 9674 West crosses the latest Columbia River bridge at Farwell during brief sunshine hours.

 CP 9591 West passes Summit Lake
To the west of Revelstoke, and immediately after crossing the Columbia River, the railway begins it's climb to the summit of Eagle Pass near Clanwilliam. Three short tunnels in a straight line are located on the north side of Summit Lake. Track reaches the summit just beyond the last tunnel. The scanner reported an interesting conversation between Conductor and the Diesel Doctor while waiting for this photo. A ground relay dropped out on one of the new SD-90MAC units climbing the hill. The sick unit was isolated then restarted after some trouble shooting. Apparently the whole truck must be shut-down if only one traction motor fails. Consequently the unit is only capable of 55 percent of optimal power with one truck pulling.

 CP 9114 East near milepost 89
To the east of Revelstoke the railway follows the Illecillewaet River to Albert Canyon and Glacier where it enters the Connaught Tunnel. Rogers Pass was abandoned by the railway long ago as too costly to maintain. The Connaught Tunnel was built in 1916 to avoid the Rogers Pass by tunneling through Mount MacDonald. In 1988 a second tunnel was completed at a lower elevation permitting directional traffic. Heavy westbound tonnage usually uses the newer tunnel while the empties head east through the old Connaught Tunnel. This photo of CP 9114 East, an empty coal train, heading for the Connaught was taken near milepost 89 at Ross Peak during a light snowstorm.



1885 was a pivotal year for the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway, founded only four years earlier in February 1881. Almost complete, Canada's "National Dream" was on the verge of bankruptcy.
A small town named Farwell was also close to the important historical events taking place in 1885. First surveyed by Arthur Stanhope Farwell, a clergyman's son born in Derbyshire England in 1841, the town was located beside the Columbia River in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia. It consisted of one main street and several wooden shacks. Some designated as, quote, Hostess Houses, unquote. Farwell had done some surveying work for the British Columbia government so he was well aware of where a railway would cross the Columbia. He staked a claim to 175 acres and laid out the townsite fully expecting the CPR to pass through his land thereby making him wealthy. It didn't happen. The CPR found another location for it's station and the town of Farwell and it's future moved there with it. A.S. Farwell sued the CPR and won the court battle but ultimately lost the war. But we're getting ahead of our story, let's step back a bit.
In 1881 the Federal Government had granted $25 million and 25 million acres of land for construction of a railway to the Pacific Coast across a relatively new nation. The government stipulated the railway must be complete by 1891. Some considered this to be far too extravagant a gift. Upon the incorporation of Canadian Pacific Limited, in 1881, the principal directors immediately purchased $5 million in shares providing cash to start building the railway.
Construction commenced, the Canada Central Railway was merged, and sections of railway previously built by the government were absorbed into the new company. William C. Van Horne was hired in December 1881 and immediately went to work in Winnipeg while George Stephen, with his banking experience, looked after financial affairs from Montreal.
During 1881-82 the company raised $9 million from the sale of land grant bonds but following this the market was exhausted. The land boom had ended. By 1885 only an additional $1 million had been sold from the $15 million available. During this time construction furiously devoured cash. In some instances, in British Columbia, one mile cost 3/4 million dollars. By 1883 the company had raised just $20 million which included the $5 million subscribed by the directors through the purchase of common stock.
The railway's floating debt kept increasing just as three principal directors quit; Hill, McIntyre, and Kennedy. Stephen had no option but to buy them out. Had their stock been dumped on the open market it surely would have been the end of the company. So, by 1883, permanent capital was exhausted and they were surviving on loans.
Shares were used to gain an additional loan of $5 million while three directors, Stephen, Smith, and Angus put up almost $4 million of their personal holdings from the Saint Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad to secure this loan.
Public money was no longer available as Stephen wrote to Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald in 1883:  "Something must be done at once to put the company out of discredit or we better give up and let the government step in and carry on the business of the company". (Archives Canada MacDonald Papers Vol. 268 #122029)
This was the start of many pleas to MacDonald, known as "Old Tomorrow", requesting help.
Eventually, after acrimonious debate in the House of Commons, the government responded with an advance of $7.5 million along with stringent conditions making the railway subservient until the loan could be repaid. All the company's assets were now tied up by the government making it impossible to borrow anywhere else.
By December 1884 a total of 3,474 miles had been assembled from Montreal to the West and yet tracks were still not connected on the east and west of Farwell.
In February 1885 money was so tight Stephen and Smith pledged the last of their personal fortunes to meet a dividend of $650,000 which came due while construction still proceeded.
A letter from Van Horne in April stated: "Have no means of paying wages, pay car can't be sent out, and unless we get immediate relief we must stop. Please inform Premier and Finance Minister. Do not be surprised, or blame me, if an immediate and most serious catastrophe happens". (Archives Canada MacDonald Papers Vol. 268 #122104)
Not far from Farwell at end-of-track, fueled by liquor, the workers struck. Superintendent Sam Steele's, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, constable shot and wounded the striker's ringleader during a riot. Quieted, the labourers grudgingly returned to work.
Photo Edward Baring, Lord RevelstokeAbout this time, farther east in the province of Saskatchewan, one of Canada's significant historical events occurred. The Riel Rebellion. Troops from Ontario, sent west via the incomplete and dangerously close to bankrupt railway, arrived to crush the rebellion. Suddenly the importance of our first nation-wide railway became apparent to all.
Stephen continued to press for relief from "Old Tomorrow". As MacDonald hesitated, one of his ministers pointed out that "the government and the party would sink with the CPR" if support were not provided. Finally, on July 10th, the House of Commons voted in favour of a relief bill.
With this demonstration of support by the government Stephen was able to sell CPR bonds in England. Baring Brothers, a financial firm headed by Edward Baring, Lord Revelstoke, took the entire issue producing enough cash to complete the railway. Out of gratitude the town of Farwell was renamed Revelstoke to honour Lord Revelstoke.
Canadian Pacific A Brief History
J. Lorne McDougall - 1968
McGill University Press
The Last Spike
Pierre Burton - 1971
McClelland and Stewart Ltd.
History of the Canadian Pacific Railway
W. Kaye Lamb - 1977
MacMillan Publishing Co.
The CPR West
Hugh A. Dempsey - 1984
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.
Canadian Pacific in the Selkirks
Jan Booth - 1985
Rail Tales from the Revelstoke Division
Ruby Nobbs - 2000
Friesens Corporation
Associated Links
Canadian Pacific Railway

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