In 1899 the settlement at Rogers Pass consisted of the station itself on the south
side of the mainline and, on the north side of the mainline separated from the
station by three sets of tracks, a two-stall roundhouse and turntable for pusher
locomotives. A coal shed stood beside the turntable track. Behind the
roundhouse and beside the storage track, were two bunk cars used to house the
snow-shovel gang. A small section house stood behind the bunk car. Finally in
the rear of the railway yard, near a creek that flowed out of the Hermit slide
gully and directly in front of the old slide path, sat two private dwellings of
those of the Newitt family and telegraph lineman Maxwell and family. A short
distance to the west of the station was a water tower and the entrance to snow
shed #14. (There were a total of 31 snow sheds in the pass.)
At about 4:30 PM on the afternoon of January 31st, 1899 Rogers Pass Station was
readying for the arrival of the Pacific Express train from the east. Rogers Pass
Station was the scheduled passing place for the Pacific and Atlantic Express. The
dispatcher had originally ordered the Pacific Express to go as far as Rogers Pass
station and wait, then changed his mind and had it stop at Donald. A snow slide
had blocked the mouth of snow shed #19. The Atlantic Express was stopped at
High winds were buffeting the fresh snow and the 40 man snow-shovel gang had
been called away to clear the slide at the mouth of snow shed #19. The station
agent, William Cator, was talking with coalman Frank Vogel, while Cator’s wife,
Annie and the Chinese cook, Ah Hou, were making preparation in the kitchen.
The Cantor’s two children, two-year-old Ethel and three-year-old Charles were
also present while the night operator, Frank Corson, was asleep in his bunk
upstairs. The station waitress and housekeeper, Annie Berger, was also upstairs.
A CPR wiper, James Ridley, was asleep in a nearby section house when down
Tupper Mountain to the north came a devastating avalanche.
It first took out the section house and two bunk cars set up on logs alongside of
the shop for the snow-shovel gang to sleep in. Locomotive-wiper, James Ridley,
was killed when the section house was destroyed. Two Chinese caretakers of the
bunk cars were rolled over and over inside the cars but were rescued still alive.
It then demolished the two-stall roundhouse except for one front door. Engine
409 in the roundhouse was tipped into the pit sideways. The debris was carried
on to the station, which was also destroyed, the wreckage carried up the side of
Mount Macdonald to the south.
The station agent, William Cator, was talking with coalman, Frank Vogel,
apparently heard the avalanche. William Cator rushed to the door and was
swept away. Frank Vogel dived under a desk and was later rescued, as was the
waitress, Annie Berger. She was found under the roof with two broken legs and
The entire Cantor family was killed. Annie Cator and the Chinese cook were
found in the kitchen. According to newspaper accounts, Annie Cator still had a
rolling pin and pastry in her hands. The two children, Charlie and Ethel, were
found not far away as was the body of Frank Carson the night operator. Two
weeks later, William Cator’s body had still not been found. The family pets, two
dogs and a caged bird, survived unharmed.
In all seven people lost their lives. That same day a Swedish section worker was
also killed in a slide near Glacier Station, bringing the total to eight.
It remains a mystery why the railway chose such an exposed location to build
the original Rogers Pass Station. After the avalanche the station and yards were
rebuild in a less exposed location a mile west around the corner in a flat
meadow where the Rogers Pass National Historic Site Interpretive Centre is now
The summit of the pass, still a mile further west, was bypassed by the Canadian
Pacific Railway when the Connaught Tunnel was completed in 1916.