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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

Glacier Station.

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

other injuries.

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

located..

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.

 

Posted March 25, 2014

 

1889 Avalanche at Rogers Pass

 

The original Rogers Pass Station

The original location of Rogers Pass Station was between Mount Tupper, to the right, and Mount

Macdonald, to the left. The two-stall roundhouse can be seen in the centre of the picture and

photograph along with the station, to the left across the yard tracks. The water tower and the entrance

to snow shed #14 can be seen in the distance.

 

The original Rogers Pass Station with Mount Macdonald in the background.

In addition to serving as a station stop, the station fed the snow-shovel gang and the station agent, his

family, a maid, and the night operator also slept upstairs.

 

Path and destruction of the avalanche.

The one remaining door of the two-stall roundhouse can be seen in this photo taken looking north from

the slopes of Mount Macdonald behind where the station once stood. The path of the avalanche from

Mount Tupper can be seen in the background.

 

The original Rogers Pass Station (the photograph was taken in the summer of 1898, less than a year

before the avalanche).

In the photograph, William and Annie Cator can be seen with their two children Charles and Ethyl,

along with the waitress Annie Berger (in the white blouse and dark skirt).

 

The roundhouse, section house and bunk cars, which house the snow-shovel gang, with the dwellings

of the Newitt and Maxwell families in the background.

 

Rogers Pass looking east towards the Beaver valley with Mount Carroll in the background.