Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 7, 1914 - The Robert's Steam Tracklayer

Robert's Tracklayer westbound near Tete Jaune Cache

Grand Trunk Pacific. Fort Frazer BC, April 7, 1914. The month of April, we have been observing the 97th Anniversary of the Last Spike Ceremony at Fort Fraser British Columbia, completing Canada's second transcontinental railroad. This is the fourth and concluding installment.

Two men were anxiously monitoring the tracklayer's progress across the 800 mile Northern District between Wolf Creek Alberta and Prince Rupert British Columbia. Bartholomew Kelliher, Chief Engineer for the Grand Trunk Pacific, and the government watch-dog, Collingwood Schreiber, from the Department of Railway Engineering in Ottawa.

The original estimate made by Charles M. Hayes when he sought financial underwriting from the Government was $30,000 per mile. In the closing days, as two tracklayers steadily marched toward their final meet at Fort Fraser, costs were double the original estimate.

I was fascinated by the "mantis-like" appearance of the tracklaying machines and after a considerable amount of research, this is what I learned.

This is the F.A. Robert's Steam Tracklaying Machine. Manufactured in Seattle Washington. The Robert's system represents an evolutionary advancement of the Holman system.

The Holman system require manpower to shove the rails and ties with pike poles along the conveyor system from the supply cars all the way forward over the delivery booms on the pioneer car.

The Robert's Steam Tracklaying machine mounted a 20 horsepower steam engine on the the lead (pioneer) car, driving the conveyor belt to deliver the ties, and powering a derrick to pull the rails forward, to the delivery booms.

The steam engine was supplied with live steam through pipes and flexible fittings, from the locomotive advancing the tracklayer.

Kenneth L. Van Auken wrote the following description of the Robert's Steam Tracklaying Machine, for Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way. It was included in Practical Track Work, published in July 1915.

The train carrying the machine is made up as follows, beginning with the "pioneer car," which always remains at the front. Immediately behind the pioneer car:
  • 8 cars of ties
  • 5 cars of rails
  • the locomotive
  • next comes a car of tie plates when they are used
  • the "trailer," which is a car carrying spike, bolts and base plates
  • a car of plank for crossings
  • a car of cattle guards
  • a tool car and
  • a way car
[Ed Note: "Pioneer" car was the term applied to the leading car on any track laying system. First car on new track. It is common to find incorrect references to tracklaying machines as "Pioneer Track Layers."]

The first car of rail behind the pioneer is "trimmed," that is on it is loaded angle bars enough to lay the amount of steel carried on the train. The angle bars are carried forward over the pioneer car and delivered as needed to the "strap hangers" in front. The rails beneath the angle bars are the last ones laid from the train; the angle bars will, therefore, be cleaned off by the time these rails are needed.

The car next to the locomotive carries short lengths of rail, used to prevent joints from coming close to ends of bridges, etc.

A system of trams, one on each side of the train, is used to carry the ties and rails to the front. The trams are made in sections, each 33 ft. long, the sides consisting of 2 - 4x10 in. planks.

The tie trams are 14 in. wide, and rail trams are 12 in. wide, and they are held together by bolts on which are pipe separators. Near the bottom are live rollers, which complete trough shaped ways for ties and rails.

A 20 H. P. upright engine, installed on the pioneer car, drives the live rollers in the trams by means of a tumbling shaft and gear or cog wheels.
Steam for the stationary engine is piped from the locomotive. The shaft is fitted with "patent couplings," on one end of each section of which there is a casting containing a square socket into which the end of the next rod fits. Each length has a section of the shaft bolted to it, and as the trams are hung the rods are fitted together, thus forming a continuous shaft.

The trams are "hung" on iron brackets or trusses which hook into the stake pockets on the cars. The trusses are made with flanged rollers on which the trams are placed, thus taking care of the slack of the train in starting and stopping. The trams have a coupling device which holds them together, the ones on the pioneer being permanently fastened. The tie trams, 660 ft. long, are operated on the right side of the train, while those for the rail, 240 ft. long, are on the left.

The movement of the ties and rails is controlled by the "dinky skinner," i. e. the stationary engineer, so as to deliver them in front of the train as needed.

A tie chute 53 ft. long provided with dead rollers is attached at the front end of the tram on the pioneer, and through this chute the ties are pushed by the ones coming forward over the live rollers. As fast as they are delivered at the end of the chute they are taken by the "tie buckers" and placed across the grade ready for the rails.

A similar chute attached to the rail tram provides a way for delivering the rails in front of the pioneer. These chutes are supported at the outer ends by cables attached to the rear end of the pioneer car, and carried up over a high frame work or "gallows" at the front end.

A boom, also attached to the front end of the pioneer car, extends far enough ahead to have the cable attached to it reach the middle of the rail when placing it in position in the track. This cable is operated by hand with an ordinary crab. Instead of cranks, a small light buggy wheel is used by the operator to wind up the cable, which lifts the rail and holds it while the "heeler" and his assistants place it in position. (A newer device handles the cable with compressed air.)

The rails are placed in the trams by three men, and are handled in front by four men.
One man on each car places the ties in the trams. The spikes, bolts and base plates are peddled from the trailer as the train proceeds.

The rails are held to gauge by bridle rods until the train passes over, all spiking being done in the rear.

The train moves ahead one rail length at a time, when laying square joints, and half a rail length when laying broken joints. The trams are taken down when the cars are empty and replaced on the loaded cars when a new train arrives; 100 to 125 men are required for a full crew.

Under ordinary conditions, a mile of track is laid in from three to four hours.

The work force ahead and on the machine is organized about as follows:
  • 10 Tie buckers
  • 1 Angle bar peddler
  • 2 Tie spacers
  • 1 Bolt peddler
  • 1 Tie fiddler
  • 6 Rail men on cars
  • 8 Rail buckers
  • 6 Tie men on cars
  • 2 Strappers
  • 1Bridle man
  • 2 Bridle men
  • 1 Line man
  • 1Tie line man
[Ed. Note: At first, I thought there was a typo with this crew sheet; "Bridle man 1, Bridle men 2." Looking further into their functions, I solved the issue. Since the track structure is not fully spiked, bridle bars are placed to hold the rails in gauge, allowing the weight of the construction train to pass over it. So two bridle men install the bars ahead of the machine. A bridle man removes the bar removes the bridle bar when full spiking has been completed some time later, returning them to the pioneer car for reuse.]

The rail was laid on white oak ties, spaced 18 to 21 under a 33 ft. rail on tangent, and 19 to 22 per 33 ft,, on curves. The joints were ordinary four-bolt angle bars with spring nut locks. The heads of the bolts were staggered, i. e., bolts were put in with the heads alternately on the inside and outside of the rail.

The number of ties per rail length was varied, 18 broad-faced ties being used, or 21 narrow-faced ties, on tangents.

The work force back of the machine is organized as spikers and bolters. Track must be kept one-third to one-quarter spiked, close up to the machine, to provide for the return of the empty train."

Tracklayer Speed

During Grand Trunk Pacific construction, using a 150 man crew - tracklayer plus follow up crew - the Tracklayer averaged 2 to 3 miles per 10 hour day. Along the Skeena River in the Mountain Section, crews averaged 2 miles per day.

The Angle Bar Question

The angle bars referred to are those devices used to bolt two rails end to end. We have often heard of those angle bars referred to as "fish plates." The railroad term "fish plate" can be traced back to an Englishman, Charles Wild, who was ostensibly granted "Letters of Patent" on a system for joining, or "fishing," two rails together.

"Fishing" comes from old French. It describes creating a splint, using two beams, lashed securely around a broken or cracked mast on a sailing ship. His patent was vacated as not being "unique" and his case dismissed - "with costs" - in July 1865.

The Tie Plate Question

Before tie plates, the foot of the rail was simply spiked to the tie. The obvious rationale for tie plates was to spread the loading of over a wider contact area with the tie, thereby reducing gouging into the tie, increasing the life span of the tie.

Tie plates had only just come on the scene around 1900. This advertisement is from 1898. It's interesting to note that as late as 1904, the US Department of Agriculture mentions in one of their tomes on tracklaying: "With the increasing width of base of the rails which have been coming into use during recent years, tie plates on timbers like white oak have become no longer absolutely necessary, except where there is a severe strain, as on curves." (sic)

Between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Prince Rupert British Columbia, approximately 7,300,000 ties were laid. On the Prairie Section, ties had to be imported. In the Mountain Section, ties were "found track-side!"

Saving the best for last

I'd like to thank Dave Gagnon for permitting me to feature the magnificent hand tinted color post card of the Robert's Steam Tracklaying machine. I urge you to visit Mr. Gagnon's "Rollie Martin Country," a cornucopia of Canadian Railroad history.

In 1910, as the westbound tracklayer was passing Tête Jaune Cache ("cash" not "cash-A") British Columbia, a motion picture documentary crew from England, traveled thousands of miles to capture the Grand Trunk Pacific nearing completion. They shot the only known silent film of a Robert's Tracklayer in action.

The Valemount (British Columbia) Historical Society, in conjunction with Valemount Community Television, produced a short film documenting their roots with the Grand Trunk Pacific. I accidentally stumbled over this video in the wee hours of the morning, about two weeks ago.

Watch for the Robert's Steam Tracklayer. The scene in the color post card was taken at the same location as the documentary film crew, near Tête Jaune Cache. You can clearly see the tie conveyor in action, along with the derrick positioning a rail.

Then a scene of the work force at the rear of the machine, as I described above.

While the completion of the Grand Trunk Pacific was a source of great pride for Canadians, there was little to celebrate in Winnipeg. It took two years to complete the final audit of construction cost.

Messrs B. Kelliher, Chief Engineer for the Grand Trunk Pacific, and C. Schreiber, Department of Railway Engineering, Ottawa, were in disagreement over the final costs. (See the complete cost analysis in previous post.)

One of the fatal flaws in estimating construction costs was the failure to include the time and expense incurred in shipping rail from Nova Scotia all the way around Cape Horn and up the West Coast to Prince Rupert.

Within a few short years, the Grand Trunk Pacific morphed into the Canadian National Railways.

See Also:
April 7, 1914 - Last Spike Grand Trunk Pacific

April 7, 1914 - The Tracklayers

April 7, 1914 - Track Laying Solutions

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 7, 1914 - Tracklaying Solutions

April 7, 1914. We continue our celebration the 97th Anniversary of Grand Trunk Pacific driving the Last Spike at Fort Frazer, British Columbia.

Photographs of the tracklaying machines used by the Grand Trunk Pacific totally fascinate me. Written accounts by various observers told of hearing the cacophony of racket these "mantis-like" machines created, long before they hove into view!

In my previous post, I cited an example of how "Cart and Wagon" tracklaying, with a good crew, could lay a mile of track in two days! Well, with dozens of railroad projects going on in both Canada and the United States, by necessity, systems began to emerge for speeding up the tracklaying process to span long distances.

From various sources, we learn that the speed with which these "machines" advanced was influenced by a number of factors, including how well the laborers worked with each other, logistics of supplies, the number of bridges or trestles required, and, of course, the terrain.

Last Spike Plaque Promontory Utah 1869

One famous "speed" record for tracklaying - the one everyone remembers - the 10 mile laydown accomplished by the Central Pacific in 1869. Ten miles of track laid in one day. The reality is, materials were pre-positioned, with more than 4,000 workers on site. I consider the "feat" a publicity stunt, one of many to promote the first transcontinental crossing.

It did not represent the reality of track laying.

At the height of construction on the 832.5 mile Prince Rupert to Wolf Creek, Alberta Mountain Section, employment momentarily peaked at 3,000 over the entire project. The spike was due largely in part to two labor-intensive stretches:
  • The troublesome Kitselas Canyon area on the Skeena River east of Terrace, which called for hard rock tunneling and the building of a spectacular bridge over the Skeena.
  • The four crossings of the Fraser River east of Fort (Prince) George, where temporary spans were constructed to allow access of bridge building crews. Moreover, construction engineers were confronted by unanticipated destruction of temporary structures by ice flows.
Engineers struggling with ice and snow on the 3rd Fraser Crossing

Laydown over those bridge construction sites was measured in feet, not miles, per day!

The reality of economics was that for the entire campaign from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert, the average speed of tracklaying was 2 to 3 miles per 10-hour day. This was made possible by employing the Robert's Steam Tracklaying Machine.

Early tracklaying machines were, in reality, material handling systems. They advanced construction material from a string of flat cars to the leading car, where laborers grappled and placed ties and rails. They did not actually construct the final rail structure. I was able to identify at least seven rail material handling solutions:

Drummond System
The Drummond System shows the features of moving material forward onto a boom, which, as we shall see, becomes refined and mechanized.

Harris System

The Harris System featured a "railroad on a railroad." Rail carts moved loads of ties forward to be unloaded at the leading edge.

D.F. Holman System
The D. F. Holman Railway Tracklayer Company, Chicago, was dissolved in 1913. Look carefully at this material handling system, and notice that the ties and rails are being shoved along manually to the head of the machine. The rails are being man-handled off the car onto the ties.

If you mechanize this system, the result is very similar to the Robert's Steam System.

Smith's System
Patented in 1885. Smith's Railway Tracklayer was the invention of George A Smith of Los Angeles California. This drawing was published to entice investors, offering for sale his patent or interest in it.

As I study this design, the question becomes one of; How do the ties get to the forward conveyor? And how did the rails get there?

It is not clear that this machine was ever manufactured.

Two systems that totally avoided man-handling ties and rails included:
  • The Wescott System
  • The Hurley System
The Wescott System

Charles Oscar Wescott of Puyallup, Washington. The Track-Layer & Manufacturing Company, of Tacoma. As can be readily seen from the accompanying illustration, the machine consists essentially of a steel truss, mounted on a flat car, provided with the necessary pneumatic hoists and conveyors to advance ties and rails.

The machine handles both the rails and ties; the ties are distributed by hand, but the rails are laid on the ties in position for spiking, by the machine without re-handling. On the Pacific Traction Company's system the machine laid from two to two and a half miles per day with the following crew:
  • Four men to operate the machine and feed ties and rails
  • Four strappers
  • Eight spikers
  • Four nippers
  • Six tiemen to distribute and space ties
  • One peddler
  • One foreman.

The Hurley Self Propelled System

As with the Wescott system, the Hurley System reduced human handling of ties and rails. Ties were carried forward on a mechanical conveyor, dropping them ahead of the machine for rapid alignment. Study the Hurley system closely. It resembles the Wescott System. The Hurley System was totally self-propelled.

Of interest to us in the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific, the F.P. Robert's Steam Tracklaying System, manufactured in Seattle Washington.

Robert's Steam Tracklayer

Reading through dozens of patent applications, I discovered several joint patents filed by Westcott and Robert's on various material handling - tracklaying - systems. And I discovered they both lived in Puyallup, Washington. I am curious as to the relationship those two men had, but will leave that to others to share.

See Also:
April 7, 1914 - The Tracklayers
April 7, 1914 - Last Spike Grand Trunk Pacific

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 7, 1914 - The Tracklayers

Grand Trunk Pacific, Fort Fraser B.C., Mile Post 1372.7 April 7, 1914. We continue our 97th Anniversary of the Last Spike, completing the second Canadian railroad.

The magnitude of this great undertaking can be gathered from the following, appearing in the Winnipeg Free Press of May 11, 1905 announcing the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific:

"This menues the beginning of a gigantic enterprise which, if completed as projected, will mean the addition of at least 3,500 miles of main line, to the 19,000 miles, in round figures, of track in the Dominion. A conservative estimate of an engineer puts 30 per cent, to this for sidetracks and yards, which would make in all 4,500 miles of additional track.

Mr. C. M. Hays, president of the company, stated the other day that the workers who will be engaged in the maintenance and operation of the road will mean 20,000 persons added to the railway employees in Canada. If this number were only paid $2 a day each, on an average, it would require $14,000,000 a year to meet their wages and salaries.

Taking, for a basis of computation, that the new road will extend from Moncton on the east to Port Simpson, Tucket Inlet or any other point on the Pacific Coast, and that the distance from east to west is approximately 3,500 miles, the material, rolling stock,
et cetera, to be used in the construction, and the rough cost of these things furnish some astounding figures.

  • At 3,000 cross ties to the mile it would take 10,500,000 ties. It would also take 500 men, working steady for three years, to produce them. [ed note: On 19.5" centers, 3,249 ties per mile.]
  • In all there would be 7,000 miles of rails, that is if the rails used for the main line were placed end to end in a straight line they would reach 7,000 miles. [ed note: Sources vary; 33' also 39' lengths] This would mean 1,232,000 rails, or 492,800 tons.
  • In every tie laid there are at least four spikes driven. It would, therefore, take 42,000,000 spikes.
  • There are two angle bars used for every rail and four bolts, four washers and four burrs used for every pair of angle bars, which figures up to 2,454,000 angle bars, and 4,928,000 each of bolts, washers and burrs.
  • Besides these things, there are fish plates, guards and tie plates which would number into the millions.
  • It is estimated 500 locomotives will be required. At an average cost of $15,000, they would cast $57,500,000.
  • At an average of $700 each, 30,000 freight cars would cost $21,000,000.
  • The passenger cars at $10,000 each for 500 would come to $5,000,000.
  • The Grand Trunk has now 909 locomotives in its service, and 38,016 passenger and freight cars.
  • In addition to these materials and rolling stock, there are many other things to be considered in the road. Bridge and trestle timber, bridge steel, stations, telephones, switches, semaphores, water tanks, and terminal facilities. These figure up into the millions of dollars.
  • There would also be fencing, which will cost, it is estimated, on an average of $425 a mile, which would amount to $1,487,500.
  • A telegraph line extending along the road from ocean to ocean would cost in the neighborhood of $700,000, for it is calculated the cost per mile will be $200. which includes the price of material and the cost of building. The poles alone would come to $357,500, reckoning that there are 33 poles to the mile, which, at an average of $3 a pole, would make that sum.
There are many other items to be counted in the construction of a transcontinental highway, but what details have been given are sufficient to show the greatness of present-day commercial enterprises, and the activity which may be justly expected in Canada for the next few years, as a result of vast railway development."

The steps required to build a rail line between points "A" and "B" has not changed much since the early rails from here to there were made of heavy wooden beams:
  • Preliminary Survey
  • Detailed Survey
  • Clearing and Grading
  • Track Laying
  • Ballasting
The backbreaking step of clearing and grading left miles and miles of smooth surface - grade - upon which the track laying crews laid out and assembled the ties to the rails. The "time honored" basic system of using carts and wagons to advance ties, rails, tie plates and spikes along the grade.

Horse Cart and Wagon

For tracklaying by horse cart and wagon, a convenient arrangement is to have a gang of 55 men in charge of two foremen, equipped with three rail cars, one horse, and two portable turntables.

One turntable is placed at the loading and the other at the unloading end of the track.

An ordinary load for the rail car is six rails, and a full supply of ties, splice bars, bolts, nuts, washers and spikes for that number of rails.

If the driver reaches the front before the unloading gang has unloaded all the material from the first car he puts the turntable in position ready to haul the car off when empty, but if the gang finishes unloading before he arrives it runs the empty car off, ready to be hauled back.

On returning to the loading end with the empty car, the driver puts the turntable on the track, and runs the car off onto a pair of ties. He then hitches the horse to the loaded car and goes to the front, while the loading gang runs the empty car back into position for reloading.

The distribution of the men is as follows:
  • 9 men loading truck from construction train
  • 8 unloading truck at head of track
  • 1 with horse hauling the truck
  • 4 spacing ties and aligning them with a cord
  • 6 splicing joints
  • 27 spiking (3 sets of 9 men each)
With such a gang of good men under a smart foreman, a mile of track may readily be laid in two days.

Clearly, when faced with 4,500 miles of track to be laid, there had to be a faster, more efficient system to lay track from point "A" to point "B."

See Also: April 7, 1914 Last Spike Grand Trunk Pacific

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7, 1914 - Last Spike Grand Trunk Pacific

November 1959. Canadian National Railways, Western Region, British Columbia District, Smithers Division, Nechako Subdivision, Fort Fraser Station, MP. 94.3.

The agent at Fort Fraser station placed an order for coal to keep his station and quarters warm. And today is delivery day! Yup, the coal being shoveled right onto the platform!

Fort Fraser Station was located on the Nechako Subdivision. It began at Prince George and ran 115.4 miles to Endako, B.C. Smack in the middle of the Northern British Columbia wilderness. Curiosity drove me to learn how this small settlement and railroad station got the name "Fort Fraser."

(While small in size, community spirit is high!)

All I had to do was "Follow the Money!"

This area was once the heart of New Caledonia, the name ascribed by Simon Fraser. His post with the North West Company was to explore the area to evaluate the commercial viability of establishing trading posts, to broaden the lucrative fur trade.

Pelts were shipped "back east" to assuage the vanity of city folk in the form of hats and coats. There was no market for wolf or small animal pelts. Only beaver, muskrat and swan skins where deemed to have commercial value. The demand required tapping into large wilderness areas.

"Swan skins are employed for much the same uses as goose skins, especially for trimmings to mantles and dresses; but they are getting more scarce, as they can only be obtained during the migration of the birds. We get them through the Hudson's Bay Company, and from Russia, to the extent of 4,000 to 5,000 skins a year." [From "Every Saturday," January 1873.]

In 1806, Fraser directed the construction of several trading posts - forts - one of which was located at the small aboriginal village of Natleh, at the eastern outlet of Kwa Lake.

Operating margins must have been slim. Not only was it expensive, but also time consuming, to transport furs to Ottawa.

An ordinary Northwest canoe, manned by five men, carries about 3,000 pounds, and seldom draws, when laden, more than 18 inches of water. Its average speed with the paddles in normal circumstances is about five miles an hour.

A "portage" as the word implies, is a neck of land or other obstruction across which the canoe and goods were carried, usually by men, but, sometimes, horses are available.

The bowman, on reaching a portage, leaps into the water to prevent the canoe from grating. Instantly then, slings are tied to the packages (" pieces ") in the canoe and the men walk off with their loads, and return for fresh ones. Some "portage's" were up to 100 miles!

The usual weight of a "piece" is 84 pounds, and the strap, which keeps it in place, is broad in the middle and fits the forehead of the carrier.

The journey from New Caledonia to Ottawa took an average of four months

Over time, Kwa Lake became Frazer Lake. Natleh became Fort Fraser. New Caledonia became British Columbia.

Charles M Hays had a vision to see Prince Rupert, British Columbia, become the western terminus for a second transcontinental railroad. And in April, 1914, following seven years of construction, tracklayers of the Grand Trunk Pacific came marching into the area, one machine from the east, Fort George, the other from the west, Prince Rupert.

Scurrying around each giant, mantis-like contraption - organized chaos! One can only imagine the cacophony of sound from steam whistles, ties rumbling along the conveyor system ahead of the machine, the steam winch dragging clanging rails forward to be lowered the ground, and the ringing of tie plates, spikes and angle irons!

Work stopped momentarily as a gentleman by the name of RA Harlow, a surveyor for the Grand Trunk Pacific, and his team, established the finish point stake between the East and West crews - to race to the finish line.

The West end crew cut and placed the last rail in place, after which Grand Trunk Pacific President Edson J. Chamberlin drove in the last spike at Mile Post 1372.7 (from Winnipeg.) There was no special spike. Just an ordinary black spike.

From reading a number of documents, we know there were at least seven ceremonial spikes driven. I was only able to identify two other "spike drivers." Peter Titiryn, construction foreman for the "west crew," and Bartholomew Brosnan Kelliher, Chief Engineer of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.

Most references to Mr. Kelliher are wrong, listing him as H.B. Kelliher. Mr. Kelliher was involved in several major railroad construction projects in the West. And there is a village named in his honor, located in Saskatchewan.

During a reenactment of the last spike in 1964, Jim Morris of Quesnel, one of the only two people present who actually witnessed the original last spike, said "he was amused at the repeated efforts needed to drive today's spike home, remembering that in the old days a "skookum" man could drive home a railway spike in two blows."

The "Vancouver Sun" reported that "no ceremony, and but a small demonstration marked the second greatest chapter in Canadian railway history-the connection of the second transcontinental belt of steel." (The Canadian Pacific had been completed in 1885.)

After the spikes were driven, R.A. Harlow was directed to take a small can of white paint and a brush and inscribe the following notation onto the flange of the 11ft. last rail:

"Point of Completion April 7th, 1914."

This rail was later sliced into quarter-inch-thick pieces, polished, suitably engraved, and distributed among railway officers as paperweights. One of those paperweights is on display at the Prince George Railway & Forestry Museum.

Here is Mr. Harlow's first person account of his participation at the last spike.

West End construction through the Rockies over the Yellowhead proved to be the most problematic. It has been noted that survey crews shot 12,000 miles of trial lines, to complete 186 miles of right of way.

A preliminary summary of Grand Trunk Pacific's march to Prince Rupert, written by Chief Engineer BB Kelliher, was published in the May 1914 edition of Canadian Railway & Marine World. The estimated cost to construct the road from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert contains expenditures as reported by his staff, and expenditures as recorded by Collingwood Schreiber, from the Department of Railway Engineering in Ottawa.

After the "dust had settled" and refinements to accounting ledgers and construction documents, the "First Construction Actuals - 1916" was reported in the Royal Commission to Inquire into Railways and Transportation. These were recorded as the "final construction costs."[2]
  • Total mileage, 1,747.4 (Mountain Section: Prince Rupert to Wolf Creek, Alberta 832.5 miles; Prairie Section: Wolf Creek to Winnipeg, Manitoba 914.9 miles)
  • Total cost, $109,828,588 (Mountain, $78,269,721; Prairie, $31,558,867)
  • Cost per mile, $62,867
In 2010 dollars, about $2.3 billion dollars, or $1.4 million per mile.

One immediately notices the date of the last spike in Kelliher's "official summary" is wrong!


Like many of British Columbia's aboriginal peoples, the Takulli people (literally "the people who go upon the water") who inhabited Natleh - Fort Fraser - were wiped out by the smallpox virus brought by explorers.

The Dakelh or Carrier are the indigenous people of a large portion of the Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

The Nadleh Whut'en First Nations Carrier people, formerly the Fraser Lake Indian Band, still occupy their original living site at the east end of Fraser Lake.

"Carrier" was assigned to the tribe because of their unusual practice that required a widow to carry the ashes of her departed spouse in a basket for three years following his death.

One of the buildings of the original Fort Fraser sits at Beaumont Provincial Park, established at the Natleh village site.

The Vancouver Sun wrapped up the events of April 7, 1914 with

"The future of Rupert is even better than any other coast town. Not only will the voyage to the Orient be shortened by 473 miles, but the time across Canada will be shortened too, as the Grand Trunk Railway throughout most of its length has a grade of four-tenths of one per cent, making it the best railway on the American Continent, with the possible exception of the Pennsylvanian road in the United States."

Today, while there is no station at Fort Fraser, in its own way, transporting wheat, coal, and container trains out to Prince Rupert, the Canadian National continues to achieve the vision of Charles Hays, who never got to experience the joy of seeing his dream come true.

Resources for further learning

[1] "John Tod: Career of a Scotch Boy" edited by Madge Wolfenden, British Columbia Historical Society, 1954. Detailed first person account of exploration for Hudson Bay Company.

Grand Trunk Pacific's relationship with aboriginal peoples:
Library and Archives of Canada

[2] Planning and execution of the Prince Rupert Extension:
"A Thousand Blunders: The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Northern British Columbia."

See Also: April 7, 1914 The Tracklayers

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Electro-Steam Locomotive

Port Townsend, today. Three or four times a year I get a package of “clippings” from my buddy Mike, who lives in England. The package includes articles on this and that. Mostly stuff from Great Britain and the Continent.

That's how I got this gem, the story explaining the development of the electric steam locomotive.

A simple concept, really, that works similar to the immersion heater we use for heating cups of instant coffee or tea. Just pop the coil in the cup and plug it in.

They've been around for a long time. I used one all the time in college for making hot cups of Sanka and Ovaltine - great for those all night cram sessions.

In this case, juice is drawn down from the over head trolley system, heating the water in the boiler, and away she went! From what I understand, the Milwaukee Road took a hard look at this technology, but heating water on a 4-6-2 took quite a while!

So here is the
story of the electro-steam locomotive!