Reducing the hazards through Rogers Pass
The Canadian Pacific was not initially interested in building the most
economical road with low grades and slow curvatures, but in building
as quickly as possible. Thus the route through Rogers Pass clung to the
mountainside with steep grades. The eastern approach up the Beaver
Valley to Rogers Pass was an average 89 feet per mile. The descent to
the second crossing of the Columbia at Revelstoke was only slightly
less severe at 62 feet per mile.
In 1912-13 more than 6,100 trains passed over this section. To keep
this traffic moving, a large force of pusher engines, snowplows and
equipment shops were stationed in this section. It was one of the most
costly divisions from an operating point of view in the whole system.
In winter, despite miles of almost continuous snowsheds in Rogers
Pass, avalanches at times held up traffic for days. In 1910 a
The Connaught Tunnel
The solution, the Connaught Tunnel, a five mile long tunnel through
By 1913, the necessity for this tunnel was so great that the Canadian
Pacific, everything else being equal, favoured the party who could
guarantee completion of construction in the shortest time. The
partnership of Foley, Welch & Stewart won the bid.
To expedite construction Foley, Welch & Stewart proposed to bore a
small “pioneer” tunnel then making crosswalks to several locations of
the main. This allowed work to be started at many spots on the main
tunnel inside the mountain instead of the usual practice of the time of
drilling from one end.
Another novel idea was to use mechanical shovels run by compressed
air. These, along with the drills run on compressed air, required the
use of large boilers and exceptionally powerful pumps and
The tunnel openned in 1916. On July 18, 1916 a special train carried
the Duke of Connaught, the Governor-General of Canada, through the
tunnel. At a western portal ceremony he officially named the tunnel
the “Selkirk Tunnel.” However, later it was renamed
“Connaught Tunnel” in his honour.