Rogers Pass British Columbia - Late on the evening of 4 Mar 1910 an avalanche cut loose from a mountain face in Rogers Pass, burying a large work crew labouring to clear an earlier slide from the Canadian Pacific Railway's main line, then the nation's principal highway.
Only one man would emerge from under the snow of Canada's worst avalanche.
This is one of 15 Canadian stories we present as part the Citizen's Canada 150 coverage.
To railwayman Bill LaChance, the worst avalanche in Canadian history announced itself like a giant bellows.
The wind generated by the massive slide stoked his engine's boiler and sent flames shooting from the firebox.
He had only an instant to be puzzled by the flare before the sledgehammer blow of the avalanche crashed into him, and the 62 men working outside on the railway tracks.
The crew was working by lamplight to clear an earlier snow slide.
"It hit me in the face, and oh, I knew it was a snow slide right then," LaChance told an interviewer more than 50 years after the disaster.
"I knew what it was. I had seen lots of them before. I had been in them before, little ones."
It was 23:30 on 4 Mar 1910.
LaChance would be among the precious few who would live to talk about that terrible night in Rogers Pass.
The narrow pass through British Columbia's Selkirk Mountain was the key to completing the transcontinental railroad promised to British Columbia when it entered Confederation.
Many thought the area could not be breached by rail until former U.S. cavalry officer A.B. Rogers surveyed the eponymous route in 1882, and earned himself a $5,000 prize. (More than $109,000.00 in today's currency.)
Tracks mounted the pass in August 1885.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed three months later with the "Last Spike" driven at Craigellachie.
The railway was a symbolic expression of what came to be called "the national dream."
It knit the country together for the first time, acted as a bulwark against U.S. expansionism, and stoked Canada's commerce, immigration, communications, and tourism.
(Canada's first national park was established in 1885 after two CPR employees stumbled across the hot springs on Sulphur Mountain, near Banff.)
But the country's main rail line was also beset by problems.
Chief among them, winter in the Selkirk Mountains.
James Ross, the CPR's construction manager, warned about the unique danger of Rogers Pass as he was building tracks through it.
"The men are frightened," Ross wrote to his boss, CPR general manager William Van Horne.
"I find that the snow slides of the Selkirks are much more serious than I had anticipated and I think are quite beyond your ideas of their magnitude and danger to the line."
The line through Rogers Pass was temporarily closed soon after it opened because of the avalanche danger.
More than 30 heavy timbered snow sheds were then built to protect the line.
Still, the steep-sided pass required a small army of men to keep it open through the winter months, and to clear the avalanches that regularly claimed lives.
One of the worst avalanches occurred in January 1899 when the CPR station at Rogers Pass was demolished, killing seven people.
Weather conditions in the winter of 1910 made the area ripe for another disaster.
In early March, more than 200 centimetres of snow fell on Rogers Pass in just eight days as part of a weather system that wreaked havoc across the Pacific Northwest.
In Washington State, a 1 Mar 1910 avalanche buried a passenger train parked on the Great Northern Railway Line, near the town of Wellington, killing 96 people.
(It remains the worst avalanche disaster in U.S. history.)
The extreme weather was new to Bill LaChance, a 27-year-old jack-of-all-trades who had left his family farm on Howe Island, near Kingston, to work his way West.
LaChance had picked up jobs as a ranch hand and logger before joining the CPR in Revelstoke.
He was hired to work on the "helper engine," which pushed passenger trains up the steep incline at Rogers Pass.
On 4 Mar 1910 he was ordered to take his steam-powered engine, equipped with a rotary snowplow, to the site of another avalanche in the pass.
The snow slide had come down the face of Mount Cheops, and buried the exposed rail line in about four metres of snow.
The rotary plow could clear deep drifts, but the rocks and trees carried by an avalanche had to be removed by hand since they could break the machine's blades.
A large crew of men worked all day and into the evening to clear Rogers Pass for waiting passenger trains.
At 23:00, the job almost complete, foreman John Anderson walked from the site to a watchman's shack two kilometres away to phone the dispatcher and tell him the line would be open in about two hours.
Meanwhile, LaChance decided to have the lunch he had packed for himself.
He began to shovel coal into the engine's firebox to warm the locomotive's cab, and as he bent over for another load, a tongue of flame leapt out at him.
In the next instant, LaChance was slammed by a wall of snow.
He held his hands to his face to stop the snow from crushing into his nose and mouth, and tried to curl his limbs into a ball.
He was carried out of the cab window, and up the slope of Cheops Mountain.
Incredibly, a second snow slide had cut loose from Avalanche Mountain on the opposite side of the tracks.
It came down a heavily treed slope that gave no indication of being prone to such events, despite the mountain's name.
"I was trying to keep rolled up you see, to go with the snow," LaChance told a CBC interviewer, Imbert Orchard, in 1965.
"And it would roll me up and stretch me out and double me up. Then the pressure come on, oh, just like as if there were tons on top of me."
As the avalanche slowed, LaChance felt himself pushed up by snow boiling beneath him.
He threw his hands over his head.
"When I threw my hands out, why, I had fresh air up there, you see. I dug myself out."
Although his right knee was torn up, his shoulder dislocated and ribs broken, LaChance tried to go in search of survivors.
Unable to walk in the deep snow, however, he sat down and surveyed his surroundings.
He couldn't hear a sound.
"Everything was just dead, that's all. Everything was just dead," he said in his 1965 interview, preserved by the B.C. Archives.
Worried that he might freeze to death, he had no coat, LaChance grew hoarse from calling for help, and began to pray.
"I thought, This is it. I won't stand this cold here with no clothes on, I won't stand it."
Some time later, he saw a brakeman's lantern in the darkness and called out again.
It was John Anderson, the foreman, returned from his phone call.
"He come up and he says, Bill, where are they all?"
"I said, They're all gone. I said, A man never got a breath of air after he got in and the snow hit them."
Anderson left LaChance with his mackinaw coat and hiked back to the watchman's post to call for help.
Anderson would later learn that his younger brother, Charles, was among the dead.
Rescuers encountered only a few survivors, including one man, Duncan McRae, who had been blown by the force of the avalanche on top of a snow shed.
Several others had been outside the avalanche path.
Eventually, 58 bodies were recovered from the site.
Four of the men were not found until late spring.
Most of the dead had been entombed in the railway cut.
Massive snow banks meant that they likely didn't see the avalanche coming.
Many died standing in place.
One man was found holding a lamp, another with a shovel.
"The rotary snowplow had already created a trench," explained Cathy English, curator of the Revelstoke Museum & Archives.
"So a lot of the men were down in the trench, shovelling out, when the other slide came down and covered them in the trench. They didn't have a chance. There was nowhere to go."
Thirty-two of the dead were Japanese labourers.
Horrified by the rising death toll and the expense of maintaining the pass, CPR officials ordered the construction of an eight kilometre tunnel, the country's longest, in 1913.
When the Connaught Tunnel opened three years later, the track through Rogers Pass was abandoned.
Bill LaChance spent several months in hospital after the avalanche.
He married the following year, and stayed six more years in Revelstoke.
He then moved to Burnaby, B.C. where he raised three children with his wife, Stella, and worked as a stationary engineer in a Vancouver hospital.
He returned to Rogers Pass when the Trans-Canada Highway opened in September 1962.
He found the Avalanche Mountain slope, which had been stripped bare by the deadly snow slide, again covered with tall trees.
Eugene William "Lucky Bill" LaChance died from advanced heart disease on 24 Oct 1973.
He was 90.
1981 - Canadian Pacific Railway Set-off Siding Bibliography Turner,
Robert D. "Railroaders Recollections from the Steam Era in British Columbia".
2004 - Avalanche!.
16 Jan 2005 - The Rogers Pass Project.
27 Jan 2009 - Still Humbled After All These Years.
20 Jan 2010 - Film Night First of Series of Events to Commemorate 1910 Slide Disaster in Rogers Pass.
26 Jan 2010 - Research Into Historic Disaster Discovers Japanese Victims' Stories.
23 Feb 2010 - The Deadly Avalanche of 1910.
27 Feb 2010 - Death from Above.
2 Mar 2010 - Commemoration of 1910 Avalanche Victims on Thursday.
2 Mar 2010 - 1910 Avalanche: Town Mourns as Victims Are Dug Out of the Snow.
4 Mar 2010 - Impact of Killer Slide Near Revelstoke has Lasted a Century.
5 Mar 2010 - Revelstoke Commemorates 1910 Rogers Pass Disaster.
11 Aug 2010 - 1910 Avalanche Commemoration Will Bring Families Together.
6 Mar 2015 - Canada's Deadliest Avalanche Remembered 105 Years After it Took 58 Lives.