Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through
By the end of the 1884 construction season track laying from the east
had reached Beaver River (now Beavermouth), 28 miles (45 km) down
river (north) of present-day Golden.
The Beaver River Valley
In the spring of 1885 construction through Rogers Pass commenced.
The track first had to ascend the Beaver River valley, high on the
northwest slope in order to reach the pass.
This necessitated the construction of spectacular bridges over a series
of deep gorges. Following Mountain Creek, the line ran over Cedar
Creek, Raspberry Creek, Surprise Creek, Snow-Bank Creek,
Stoney Creek and, finally, Cascade Creek.
In addition to traversing the shortest route, Van Horne was
determined to build the railway by the least expensive and most rapid
means possible. Building tunnels, fills, and masonry bridging were too
time consuming. The absence of an iron works precluded iron
bridging. Instead Van Horne relied on the abundance of timber in the
region and had built, in some cases, massive wooden trestles.
Mountain Creek bridge was, at the time, one of the largest wooden
structures in the world. The bridge was 164 feet (53 m) high and 1,086
feet (354 m) long and contained over 2 million board feet (650,000 m)
Surprise Creek bridge consisted of three Howe trusses on high wooden
towers. The Howe truss is a rectangular trussed frame of wooden
diagonals and vertical iron tie rods. William Howe, a farmer turned
inventor, invented the bridge design which was a standard railway
bridge design in the 1800’s.
Stoney Creek bridge was a series of Howe truss spans totalling 453
feet (147 m) in length and supported by three timber towers. The
central tower was an imposing 292 feet (95 m) high.
Rogers Pass Hazards
Rogers Pass was plagued by avalanches. Rogers Pass station was moved
five times before a location was secured which was relatively free
from avalanches. The second location was wiped out by an avalanche
on January 31, 1899 killing 8 people including the station operator, his
wife and their two children. Today avalanches in Rogers Pass are
controlled using Howitzer guns.
The Illecillewaet River Valley
Beyond Rogers Pass the line had to negotiate the rapid descent to the
Illecillewaet River valley floor. To achieve this track was laid in a
double loop along the base of three mountains, which, while it added
3 miles (5 km) to the length of the section, enabled the rails to be laid
along the valley clear of the most formidable slide areas. Four wooden
trestles needed to cross Loop Creek and the Illecillewaet River
together measured over a mile in length. The bottom of what became
known as "The Loop" ended in the valley of the Illecillewaet, from
whence it descended to Revelstoke.