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On the 'White Pass' pay-roll Graves, S. H. 1908

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Array   f
Oxford  and   Cambridge   University   Glnb
Pall   Mall, S. W. 1 ^\
J  I f
G  1
Ui  I
1908 Copyright, 1908
Entered at Stationers' Hall
All Rights Reserved.
F5? of
£hf ILakesttie press
Conditions in Skaguay in 1898
Construction of First Section
Construction of Second Section
Commodore William Robinson
Concerning Bears
Rail Division
River Division   .
October, 1903
Burning of the "Columbian"
Winter Mail Service .
A Night in a Sleeping-Car .
View of Skaguay .       Frontispiece
On the Old White Pass Trail     . .    $4
Inspiration Point . . . . .42
Heney and Hislop on Winter Trail    . £2
John Hislop and his Friends . . -52
Cutting the Grade on Tunnel Mountain . 60
Navigation on Summit Lake    . .86
Mrs. "Cinnamon Bear" and her Cook        .  104
Engine of Passenger Train Waiting at Bennett Station while Passengers Lunch      .  116
White Pass Rotary Snow Plough at Rest
and in Action .        .        .        .118
Rotary Snow Plough No. 2 Overturned by
Avalanche . . .        .136
Four-engine   Train   Crossing   Cantilever
Bridge near Summit of White Pass . 138
White Pass River Steamer . . .146
"Columbian" before and after the Fire . 208
Double Dog Team . . . . .218
White Pass Winter Mail Service Sleigh      .  228
[vii] f PREFACE
Ten years have not yet elapsed since it fell
to my lot to build the " White Pass" railway
through unsurveyed mountains a thousand
miles from any base of supplies. The territory was in hot dispute between Canada and
the United States, and the ''Klondike" rush
made the labour problem a nightmare. Ten
years is a short time, but already the conditions have become so changed as to recall
those stirring times as little as a Sunday
school reminds one of a "free-for-all" fight;
while of the men to whose work, we were then
chiefly indebted for success, none are left today upon our pay-rolls. This does not mean
that we have no men left who were with us
in those days. Some of our most valued and
trusted "wheel-horses" to-day were with us
then, but they were not upon the "firing
line " in those days.
Every year, at the annual meeting in
London of the shareholders of the White
Pass & Yukon Railway Co. Ltd., when I respond briefly to the thanks of the meeting for
the services of the staff and employees, I feel
[9] t
that it is incumbent on me to make some attempt to explain the nature of those services.
But this being impossible on such occasions,
I have prepared these few rough notes from
our official documents and reports, and from
my own personal knowledge, in the hope of
enabling our English friends to understand
more clearly what manner of men we have
upon the White Pass pay-roll, and what is
the nature of their service. But inasmuch as
it is not within the power of written language
to transmit the original scenes and surroundings amidst which our men do their work, I
cannot hope to be able to transmit to others
my own deep sense of obligation to "our
It must be understood that it is not the
object of these notes to give a history of the
building and working of the White Pass and
Yukon Route, but of the life and work of the
men on its pay-roll. Consequently little or
nothing has been said of the work of Hawkins and Heney, to whose skill and energy we
are chiefly indebted for the success which
attended our construction work and the
overcoming of the innumerable difficulties
and dangers incident to it. Our obligations
to them are well understood and recognized Preface
by our English friends, and need no words
of mine to emphasize them. It is therefore
the work of the men under them which I have
attempted to describe and explain. Similarly, in the working of the Rail and River
Divisions and of our Winter Mail Service,
I have not dwelt on the work of the men at
the head of our various departments, who are
our valued chief officials. Their work also
is well known and recognized by our friends
in England, and their names are familiar to
everybody interested. It is the work of their
subordinates and of the rank and file that
I have attempted to explain and illustrate in
these notes.
I regret the frequent recurrence of the first
person singular, but it is difficult to avoid this
in quoting from reports made at the time or
in testifying to what one has seen or heard
We do not pay extra for "Carnegie" or
any other special brand of heroes. All the
men on our pay-roll are expected to be able
" to hold down their jobs," and it is the sole
object of these notes to give our English
friends some understanding of how they do
it. It is manifestly out of the question to
attempt anything in the nature of a day-to-
[ii] Preface
day journal of their lives and work, and I
have therefore only selected a few out of the
hundreds of similar incidents which have
come under my notice, in the hope that they
may illustrate the conditions of our service,
both during the early construction days and
since then, in the working of the "White
Pass." Some of the incidents may seem
trivial, but life in the Yukon, as elsewhere,
is chiefly made up of trivialities, and I have
endeavoured, therefore, to give a fair selection
of the little as well as the big things, in order
to convey as correct an impression as possible. The task of selection has been difficult,
from the wealth of material and the fact that
other people than our employees are necessarily involved. For this reason, and to
avoid the possibility of any feeling by any
of our men that they have been overlooked,
these notes are only intended for private
circulation, and I have thought it best to protect them by copyright, which must not be
supposed to imply any mistaken notion as
to their having any value except for our own
friends. S. H. G.
[12] PART I
construction period
The situation at Skaguay in the spring
and summer of 1898 was briefly as follows:
Winter had blocked the White Pass and
closed the Yukon River, so the rush of gold-
seekers had accumulated on the coast where
they were unloaded by the steamers. The
country between the sea and Log Cabin, 30
miles inland, including the White Pass, was
hotly claimed by both Canada and the United
States, but the latter held de facto possession
with a company of soldiers at Dyea. Canada kept two or three mounted police in
Skaguay to support a claim to possession,
but they were not allowed to exercise jurisdiction and had merely the status of private
individuals. The town-site was claimed by
a Company, but was in the possession of some
ten thousand squatters in tents and wooden
shanties. There was no law under which
any municipal government could be organized, nor was there any Federal law, or courts,
or police, or authority. The only representative of the Federal Government was an
[15] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
official known under the imposing title of
" Deputy United States Marshal," who was in
fact in league with the criminal element which
in the circumstances described had things
all their own way, until the railway builders began to oppose them on behalf of decency and order, and to form a nucleus round
which the law-abiding element could rally.
The criminal element, though numerous,
were in the minority, but they had the advantage of being thoroughly organized and
armed, and skillfully led by a man named
"Soapy" Smith, who was the uncrowned
King of Skaguay. He was not a constitutional monarch, but his word was all the law
there was.
War having broken out that spring between the United States and Spain, this
man seized the opportunity to arm and drill
some 400 of his followers and offer them as
"Volunteers" to the President, who (as
Smith had clearly foreseen) was obliged to
decline them, and thereupon "Soapy" framed
the President's autograph letter of thanks
and hung it up in his gambling and drinking
bar, and kept his Volunteers under arms
for his own service at home. He was a tall,
handsome, well-spoken man, but rather
[16] Conditions in Skaguay in i8q8
looked down upon in the upper circles of
Crime as being wanting in "nerve," until he
had killed a man a couple of years previously in a particularly cold-blooded manner.
But he seldom took an active part in crimes
of violence, which he regarded as the work
of underlings to whom he issued his orders
through his lieutenants. All the plunder,
however, was brought to him and divided
according to his absolute will amongst his
gang. His own share was moderate and
never questioned, especially as he invariably
lost it at once in gambling with his subordinates who were much more skillful "sure-
thing" men than himself.
His character is well illustrated by an event
that occurred soon after we began surveying
but before we began building the railway.
A zealous "preacher" somehow drifted into
Skaguay in pursuit of gold or sinners (both
were plentiful), and was horrified at the un-
spiritual condition of the town, which, if properly supported, he proposed to remedy. He
was advised to apply to "Soapy" by some
ungodly wag, who probably expected to see
him sent to instant execution. But the King
received him affably and told him he thought
his idea was a good one and worthy of
1 On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
support, and handed over to him $300 in
cash. Much encouraged, the good man
prosecuted his canvass and when " Soapy's"
myrmidons "held him up" and robbed him
that night they took from him " Soapy's"
original $300 and $3,000 more as profit on
the investment for twelve hours.
Open violent robbery by " Soapy's" gang
was a daily occurrence. They met all steamers arriving as regularly as the "hotel" touts
and "went through" any likely looking passengers.
Such was the state of affairs when I landed
on July 2, 1898, and declined a courteous
invitation from "Soapy" to join him in
riding through the streets at the head of the
Fourth of July procession. But matters
reached a climax when on July 6th " SoapyJs "
men robbed a young man of $3,000 in gold
dust which he had just brought out over the
White Pass from the Klondike. It was felt
that whatever might be tolerated as regards
people "going in," the line must be drawn at
robberies of gold dust coming out, if Skaguay
was to retain its boasted preeminence as the
"Gateway to the Golden North." What
followed was described in my reports at the
time, from which I quote: Conditions in Skaguay in i8q8
"Skaguay, July 8, 1898.
* * * * << * jn times of peace, prepare for
"war—and there's 200 cartridges, anyway'
"said the Purchasing Agent, coming into the
"engineers' mess tent, where we were at
"breakfast this morning, and laying them
"down with four Winchester repeating rifles
" (one for each of us) on the breakfast table.
"It seems that the 'citizens' have deter-
*' mined to call' Soapy' to an account and have
"notified him that the stolen gold dust must
" be restored within 24 hours, and that' Soapy'
" is not inclined to comply, saying the money
"was lost I in a square game.' The ' citizens '
" have called a mass meeting to consider what
"steps are to be taken, and it means a fight,
"and they look to us to lead them.
"After breakfast Heney, Hawkins, Hislop,
"and myself received urgent invitations to
" attend a small and select meeting of prominent 'citizens,' hastily summoned because
"of the feeling that nothing definite was
*l likely to result from mass meetings. Seventeen of us attended this meeting (euphemistically called the 'Merchants Committee,'
"but in point of fact a Vigilance Committee
"pure and simple), but no action was taken
"beyond electing a chairman and adjourning
Iiq] r
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'to ii p. m. when it was quite understood
'by all present that 'active measures'
c were to be adopted. Being manifestly the
' least qualified for such a position, you will
'easily understand that I was unanimously
'chosen for chairman, despite my protests.
'However, I have fortunately our 'Three
' H 's' (Heney, Hawkins, and Hislop) to ad-
' vise me, and it would be hard to duplicate
4 such a trio. (That sounds more Irish than
'it really is.) The first thing we decided
'upon was to send Heney and Hawkins up
' the Pass to prepare our camps for the hard
'fighting which seems inevitable, leaving
' Hislop and myself in Skaguay to deal with
' the local situation and attend the meeting
' to-night. Of course we shall keep in touch
' with one another by our private telephone
'to the various camps.
"Having attended to these matters and
' our daily grist of construction affairs (which
* must be attended to irrespective of revolu-
'tions), I found an Italian bootblack and
' made a contract with him to black my boots
'for 25 cents (a shilling), which seems high
'unless you saw the boots. But he had
'hardly got himself into action when I felt
' a light touch on my shoulder and saw Hislop
[20] Conditions in Skaguay in i8q8
'apparently deprecating the performance.
"It is hardly wise just now' he said in his
'gentle tones. I thought he meant that it
'was a poor investment in view of the fact
' that the boots would soon be as bad as ever.
'But he explained that the public feeling
'was very excited and ran high, and that
'while it did not necessarily follow of course
'that a man was honest because he had
'dirty boots, on the other hand there was
' an irresistible presumption that if his boots
' shone, he must earn his living by question-
'able methods. The idea may be concisely
' formulated ' the lustre of a man's character
'varies inversely with that of his boots.'
' I felt that my character was not sufficiently
'established to run any risks, and reluctant-
'ly cancelled the Italian's contract, but I
'had to pay him just the same. What did
'he care about my character!
"There are excited crowds all day on the
'streets, but 'Soapy's' 'Lambs,' as he
'calls his Volunteers, are working just like
'London police, breaking up the groups.
'One almost expects to hear the familiar
"Move on now—move on please'— * * * *
'' July gth. The unexpected has happened.
"Soapy' Smith is dead and his lieutenants
[21] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
" (including the United States Deputy Mar-
"shal) are in irons under guard of the Merchants Committee, and hardly a shot fired.
"It would be impossible to say which side
"was the most taken by surprise, but we recovered first and consequently reaped an
"almost bloodless victory. It happened this
'' way.
"The mass meeting was assembling at
" 9 last night on one of the wharves and two
"of their number had been detailed to hold
"the entrance and allow none of 'Soapy V
"friends in. No one was expecting any im-
" mediate fighting, and there was only one
"revolver in the crowd carried by a man
"named Reid, who was one of the two men
"holding the entrance. Our committee was
"not to meet till n, and no one expected
" any action before about 2 or 3 in the morn-
" ing. A ship had just arrived with 1500 tons
" of rails and sleepers that we were in a hurry
"for. She had been berthed at.the adjoin-
" ing wharf, and Whiting (our Division Super-
"intendent), and myself had been down to
"see that they began unloading promptly.
"On our way back we had casually noticed
"the crowd assembling on the other wharf
"for the mass meeting, but neither of us
[22] Conditions in Skaguay in i8g8
paid any attention to it, till we had left our
wharf and were in the street leading to the
wharf the crowd was on.
"We were about 50 yards from the two
men holding the entrance, and the crowd
was about 75 or 80 yards farther on down
the wharf when suddenly Whiting said,' By
the Lord, here comes 'Soapy' — now look
out!' 'Nonsense,' I said, 'he's only bluffing.' While I was speaking he passed
near enough to touch me. He was ostentatiously armed with a couple of big revolvers and a belt of cartridges and carried
a double barrelled Winchester repeating rifle
across his arm, as he shouted to the crowd
to l chase themselves home to bed.'
" I stood laughing till I saw he was followed
about 25 yards behind by a bodyguard of 14
of his picked men who were grimly silent and
displayed no arms, though they were notoriously always armed to the teeth. These
men followed ' Soapy' past me and shut out
my view, so I moved to the 'sidewalk'
and saw ' Soapy \ go up to Reid and make
a bluff to hit him over the head with the
barrel of his rifle. Reid put up one hand
and protected his head by catching the
barrel. 'Soapy,' failing to shake off
[23] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'Reid's hold, jerked back the rifle suddenly
'which brought the muzzle against Reid's
' stomach. Reid still held' Soapy' s' rifle with
'one hand as before, but he put the other
' slowly in his coat pocket, and without tak-
'ing it out again commenced to shoot his
'revolver. 'Soapy' at the same instant
\ began to pump shots from his Winchester
' into Reid's stomach.
"It would be impossible to say which
'fired first, the shots were absolutely simultaneous. Each fired four shots, though one
' of Reid's first shots had gone clean through
" Soapy's' heart. It was not murder so
'much as a sort of spontaneous killing.
' Neither man had any intention of killing a
'moment before, but they must have seen
'death in each other's eyes at the last mo-
'ment and both fired together. They fell
' together in a confused heap on the planking
'of the wharf, 'Soapy' of course stone
' dead, and Reid dying. It all happened in
'an instant.
"Meanwhile, his bodyguard were within
'25 yards of the two prostrate men and of
'the remaining entrance keeper, a little
'Irishman named Murphy who worked for
'us. When his Guards saw 'Soapy' fall,
[24] Conditions in Skaguay in 1808
'they gave a ferocious yell and drew their
"guns' (as they call their heavy revol-
' vers), and sprang forward for vengeance on
'the unarmed crowd, and it looked as if
'what I had mistaken for a comedy was
'going to become a shambles. But the
'little Irishman was the right man in the
'right place and rose to the emergency, as
' our White Pass men have a way of doing.
'' Begob, Sorr,' he said to me an hour later,
'' I had nawthing but a pencil whin I saw
'thim tigers making jumps for me.' But
'he had his quick wits, and like a flash he
'had snatched 'Soapy's' Winchester from
'the dead man's hands, and the leading
"Tiger' saw Murphy's eye gazing at him
'along the sights. Involuntarily, the 'Ti-
'ger' checked his rush and was passed by
'another of the Guards. That instant
'Murphy shifted his sights and covered the
'new leader, and the same thing happened.
' By the time he had in turn covered a third
'leader, the 'tigers' behind realized that
"the three or four first of them were sure
"to be shot and they were not in such a
"hurry somehow. Then the men in front
"realized that they were not being supported
"and looked round to see why — the rush
[25] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
was over, and in another moment the whole
fourteen ' Tigers' broke and fled.
"At that instant the crowd on the wharf,
that had stood paralyzed with terror,
became a blood thirsty pack of wolves and
with a yell they started in pursuit, unarmed.
It was lucky that I had moved aside on to
the sidewalk. The 'Tigers' swept past
me and in another moment the crowd,
jumping over the dead 'Soapy' and the
dying Reid in their mad rush, tore by me
yelling 'Get your guns, citizens.' When
they had gone by, I ran over to our office
tent and telephoned to Heney at Camp 3
and Hawkins at Camp 5 what had happened, and arranged with them to hold the
Pass and let no one go by without a written
order signed by Hislop or me, and to hold
their men ready to come down and help
us to clear up the town if we called for help.
But it wasn't necessary.
" We put armed guards on all the wharves
; with orders to shoot on sight if anyone tried
to escape in a boat. Thus escape by land
or water was cut off, and we proceeded to
round up the gang. Some tried to get
away in boats and were caught by our
guards. Some tried the Pass, and Heney
[26] Conditions in Skaguay in i8q8
' and Hawkins got them, and the rest we got
'by an organized search of the town before
' they had time to rally, except a few who
' took to the mountains where we shall
'starve them out. But we got more than
' we could find jail room for, so we selected
' thirty-one of the leaders, and let the rest go
'with a warning to get out of town, and
'keep out. Now our problem is to save
'the men we have in jail from the
' infuriated mob which is clamoring for their
'blood. * * * *
"July II: ***** We have got the
'men who escaped up the mountains, in-
' eluding three of ' Soapy's' head men. But
' Reid's death has made the feeling very
' bitter, and we are at our wits end to guard
' our prisoners from the fury of the mob. We
' have no jail of course to keep them in —
'nothing but a board shanty where they
' have hardly standing room — and huddle
'together like sheep, while the mob, night
'and day, howl round the shanty for their
'blood. We have detailed some of the
'Railway men whom we can depend on to
'guard the shanty.
"Meanwhile, the Committee is taking the
' evidence of the prisoners one by one, partly
I On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
" in the hopes of implicating some of the merchants and 'Hotel' keepers who are sus-
"pected of having had secret dealings with
"'Soapy,' but chiefly to give the mob time
"to quiet down. We tell them (the mob),
"that if they hang any of the prisoners they
"will close their mouths effectually and
"frustrate our efforts to get at the men we
"want the most. Up to date this has been
"effectual in preventing bloodshed, but the
"mob is getting impatient. Two men on
"our Committee are opposed to our policy
"of holding the prisoners in terror and examining them, and advocate 'turning the
"whole bunch loose,' and letting the mob
"do as they please. We suspect these men
"of being themselves implicated, and that
" their idea is that if the prisoners were loosed,
"the mob would either hang the ones who
"know anything, or if not, that there would
"be no longer any reason for them to give
"any evidence. In either case their mouths
"would be closed, which seems to be what
" these Committeemen want. *****"
"July 13th: ***** The mob is gradually quieting down and there is less danger
"of  bloodshed.    The   prisoners   have   disclosed nothing of any value to us, and
[28] Conditions in Skaguay in i8q8
"encouraged, we think by their friends on
"the Committee, were beginning to talk
"about 'their rights.' They could give us a
"good deal of trouble if they dared, because
"of course we have no shadow of law to
"warrant their imprisonment, and still less
"for taking the money found on them and
"using it to pay for the stolen gold dust and
"for a fund to pay the expenses of legal
"prosecutions against those that we have got
"legal evidence against, and to pay the cost
"of 'deporting' the others. This being so,
"before the mob got too tame, I took one of
"the prisoners who referred to his 'rights,'
"by the shoulder and led him to the window
" of our room from which he could look down
"on the mob, and said to him, 'You are quite
"right, we have no authority for holding
"you a moment against your will. If you
" say the word, I will turn you loose into that
"mob this minute. What do you say?'
"This was more than he had bargained for,
" so he began to hedge, as I expected. Then
" I said, ' If you don't want us to turn you
"loose this minute, you must sign this
"paper,' and I drew up a written request to
"the Committee to hold and protect him
"until he could be handed over to lawful
[29] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'authorities, and in consideration of our
'doing this full authority was given us to
'apply all money found upon him for the
'uses of the Committee.
"He rather 'jibbed' at signing this, and
' wanted to consult the other prisoners, but
' I said, ' No, sign or step outside. We can't
'be bothered with you any longer.' So he
' signed. Then we put him in another room,
' and sent for all the other prisoners, one by
'one, and repeated the same proceedings
' until all had signed before we allowed them
' to confer with one another.
" This not only got us out of a false position
' but provided funds (i) to pay for the stolen
' gold; (ii) to carry on the prosecution of the
'six or seven (including the United States
' Deputy Marshal), against whom we have
' legal evidence and (iii) to deport those that
'we can't prosecute. The first batch (14)
'of the latter go South on the 'Athenian'
'to-morrow, and I am going on the same
' ship, as the work of the Committee is now
' accomplished anyhow, and I have to go to
'Victoria to see the Provincial Government
' about the high handed refusal of the Cana-
' dian Government to let us work beyond the
'Summit, in spite of our Canadian and
[30] Conditions in Skaguay in i8p8
' Provincial Acts of Parliament, and in spite
'of the fact that the ground in question is
'within the Province of B. C.
"We have got a letter from the officer in
'command of the Mounted Police at Log
'Cabin, saying that he has orders from
'Ottawa to stop all work on the railway,
' and that he proposes to do so. As he has
' a lot of police with Gatling guns, he could
'make it rather warm for us if we resorted
' to force in support of our undoubted rights
'under our two Acts of Parliament, and
'besides, there is no sense in putting our-
' selves in the wrong. They can't stop us,
'all they can do is to annoy us and make
'it cost us more if we have to work in
'winter." *****
So terminated the episode of the killing of
"Soapy" Smith, but before leaving the subject I may say that the men we sent for
trial were all convicted and given heavy
sentences, including the "Deputy United
States Marshal." The deported men who
went south with me in the "Athenian" had
the bad luck on landing to run into the very
arms of the Seattle Chief of Police, waiting
at the gangplank to meet his sister-in-law.
He recognized some of them and took in the
[31] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
lot on suspicion. It turned out that most of
them were "wanted " in various places in the
States, and several were hanged, and others
given long terms in jail for their previous
After the events just described, the want
of some more orthodox body than a Vigilance
Committee was felt, and the citizens decided
to hold an election, which was done without
a vestige of legal warrant, and a Mayor and
City Council elected, a Chief of Police appointed, and in short a complete municipal
organization was perfected. This body
granted franchises (we got one ourselves for
our Broadway track), and carried on the
City government for a year or two till Congress passed a law providing for municipal
elections in Alaska. The reaction from the
"Soapy" Smith r6gime was so complete
that not a single one of the acts or transactions of this unique body were ever questioned at the time or since, and the first legal
municipal body elected in Skaguay ratified
and adopted them "en bloc."
The town of Skaguay was hemmed in between the sea on the south and high trackless unexplored mountains on the west, north,
and east. Its sole line of communication
[32] Conditions in Skaguay in i8g8
with the interior was by the trail leading
over the White Pass and thence via Log
Cabin to the head of Lake Bennett.
Most people have an idea that a trail
means a sort of a bridle path more or less free
from serious obstructions and adapted for
travel. But the White Pass trail was far from
answering this description. It was simply
the line of travel used by the Indians before
the Klondike was discovered. Then came
the rush of gold-seekers in mad haste to
reach their Eldorado, and the Indians piloted
the first of these over their trail to Bennett
and helped them to carry over their belongings at the rate of two shillings or upwards
per pound weight. The Indians were good
climbers, and like all Indians, too lazy and
improvident to do anything more than was
absolutely necessary for the exigencies of
the moment, so of course they made no
attempt to improve their trail. They had
never seen a horse, and considered that any
rocks, boulders and fallen timber which a
man could climb over and any swamps and
streams which he could wade were no objection whatever to a trail or line of travel
from one place to another.
As the rush of gold-seekers increased they
JP On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
began to bring pack horses with them in the
hope of being able to use them on the trail,
and the owners of the first horses were compelled to do a certain minimum amount
of work in order to make the Indian trail at
all possible for horses. But the moment
that a horse could by any means be got over
the trail, all further improvement ceased and
was never again resumed. The first horses
were got over when there was no great crowd
and it was possible to unload a horse and lead
him light over a bad place, reloading him
on the far side. But as the rush increased
this could no longer be done, and it was then
that the trail became so fatal to horses as to
earn the sinister title of the '' Dead Horse
It led from the head of the gravel flat
upon which the town of Skaguay was situated, and followed the rocky banks of the
Skaguay River to the foot of the White Pass
where it left the River, and turning sharply
to the left, ascended the bottom of the White
Pass Canyon to the summit of the Pass.
Then in order to get round the network of
small lakes lying between the Summit and
Log Cabin, it ascended a thousand feet further on Turtle Mountain and down to Log
[34] On the Old White Pass Trail  Conditions in Skaguay in 1898
Cabin in the Tutshi Valley. From there it
climbed again over another pass into the
Bennett Valley. During the rush the narrow trail was blocked ("Standing room
only"), for the greater part of its distance
of 40 miles so that neither man nor horse
could go faster or slower than the speed of
the huge living serpent that slowly wound
its way over the Pass. To try to go faster
was to be stopped simply; to go slower for
a man meant climbing the rocks up or down
"off the trail," but a horse could not do this
and had to keep in line or fall on the trail.
A fall meant death, as a rule, unless he could
get up again pretty quickly, which, overloaded and exhausted, he seldom could.
The lot of the horses on the trail was
awful beyond description. Their owners,
mostly ignorant, often brutal, sometimes
both, began by overloading them at Skaguay, and as the distance was only 40 miles
"guessed the horse could rustle through somehow" without food to Bennett. But though
the distance wras "only 40 miles," it was over
a rough, rocky trail often so steep that a foot
placed wrong meant a fall to any horse, and
especially to a tired and overloaded one.
When a delay occurred, the horses for miles
[35] f
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
back had to stand loaded, as no one could
tell at what moment travel would be resumed.
After 24 hours of this, with no refreshment beyond the tightening of his pack
girths, a horse would find his load an intolerable burden, but would usually not yet
have reached the Summit, and still have
the dreaded climb up Turtle Mountain, and
then the dangerous descent to Log Cabin,
upon which his salvation depended on his
exhausted and trembling fore legs not giving way. If he reached Bennett alive, his
owner would sell him, to be led back to
Skaguay and resold to a new owner until he
fell on the trail—and that was the end.
The law of the trail was this—that a man
be given time to remove his pack from a
fallen horse, and then the procession "moved
on." Sometimes an owner or bystander
would take the trouble to kill the poor
wretch, and sometimes not. The first time
I went over a bad part of the trail, I saw a
horse that had fallen and broken his leg a
few minutes before in a place where the
trail passed between two large boulders. His
pack had been removed, and some one had
mercifully knocked him on the head with an
[36] Conditions in Skaguay in 1808
axe, and traffic had been resumed across the
body, which was still warm when I passed.
When I returned that evening there was
not a vestige of that horse left except his
head lying on one side of the trail and his
tail on the other. The traffic had ground
him up.
The lucky horse was the one that died
first, and some of them realized this themselves. There are a number of well authenticated cases of horse suicide told by our
men. The only occasions upon which our
people ever got into any altercation with
the public was when they interfered on behalf of the wretched horses. But the isolated
cases that were thus relieved were few in comparison to the volume of animal suffering
that marked the awful "Dead Horse Trail."
Our men had plenty to be proud and thankful for when the rails reached the Summit,
but nothing gave them keener satisfaction
than the knowledge that they had put the
unspeakable Dead Horse Trail out of business forever.
In those days drinking was rife in the
"Golden North."   A man who refused to
drink had a fight on his hands straight off.
It was the custom of the country.    It was
[37] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
a custom that ruined hundreds of good men
and made it almost impossible for Companies to secure good management. No matter what care might be taken in selecting
the Manager, a few months after he "went
North," he "went wrong," as a rule. If a
man was invited to have a drink by one of
a group he had either to refuse and fight,
or if he accepted, another member of the
group would soon say to the barkeeper,
"Take the orders—this is on me," and this
meant another drink all around, and so on
till all present had "set up the drinks." By
that time probably other people would have
joined in, and said the usual formula, "This
is on me," and so the drinks would follow,
round upon round.
A well known and popular man who spent
his time and money in this way died up
North in the early days, and as usual in such
cases, his assets were insufficient for funeral
expenses. But his friends subscribed and
not only buried him but ordered a handsome
tombstone. There was a debate, however,
as to what to put on it. It was felt that
the deceased's name and age would be hardly
sufficient, while on the other hand religious
expressions would be clearly inappropriate.
[38] Conditions in Skaguay in 1808
Finally the deceased's favorite words "This
is on me," were decided to be doubly appropriate on a tombstone, and it was so ordered,
and the tombstone was considered by all
as being an ingenious "straddle" of a difficult problem, and is an object of interest to
this day.
A man who didn't drink was popularly
regarded as hardly human and quite outside
the pale of society. Consequently the steady
habits of the "railway men" sometimes
placed their friends in a difficult position
in attempting to defend them against criticism. I remember an amusing instance of
this on my first trip into Atlin. The others
of the party had gone off to forage for food.
But Atlin food didn't appeal to me that day,
and I had remained in our "headquarters,"
which was a small room, separated by a curtain from a drinking bar above which we
slept. (It called itself the " Nugget Hotel.")
Presently a man came in and invited the barkeeper to '' take something'' with him. Then
he went on to remark, "Say, Tom, I've been
"keeping an eye on them Rail-
"way men since they've been in this camp,
" and they're nothing but a lot of
" ," (the reader must supply his
[39] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
own explosives. I could, but I won't!). This
broadside, delivered in a confident manner
and loud voice, evidently took my friend Tom
rather aback, as he knew perfectly well that
I must have heard every word of it through
the curtain. To gain time to think, Tom
said, "Oh, I don't know, why do you say
" that ?" " Well, I've watched them careful,
"and I can't see where they have ever asked
"any man in the camp to have a drink, or
" have taken a drink themselves even.    I call
"them nothing but a lot of ,"
(fireworks as before). But by this time Tom
had decided on his line of defense, and without hesitation he rep1 Vd philosophically,
" Well, you see, men are different. Now you
"and I spend our money in Booze, but these
"railway chaps, they blow it in at Faro."
This silenced our critic. In an apologetic
tone he said, "Oh, is that so?" We were
human after all! "Assume a virtue if you
"have it not," may be all right in other
climes, but in the Golden North, sometimes it
is necessary for your friends to endow you
with imaginary vices in order to protect your
When our Surveyors reached Skaguay in
May, 1898, they were dumped ashore, like
everybody else, on a gravel flat, which filled
the narrow valley between two snow-clad
mountain ranges towering six or seven
thousand feet above their heads. The gravel
flat was called Skaguay and already overcrowded with human beings living under
the conditions described in the previous
chapter. Our men with difficulty found
room to pitch their tents and establish themselves. All they had to do was to find the
best way through those mountains to Lake
Bennett, and to find it "quick."
Except the trail, the entire country was
a wilderness of steep mountains, averaging higher than Mont Blanc does above
the surrounding valley levels. The sides of
these mountains were so thickly timbered
to the snow line with small spruce that half
a mile an hour was good progress for an active man, and of course no levels could be
run or preliminary surveys made without
clearing the line of sight. The densest
[41] f
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
ignorance prevailed as to the topography of
the country. People knew where the White
Pass was, and that was all. (Some of them
didn't know this and strayed into "False
Pass.") The relations of the mountains to
one another in a range or where the waters
in the streams had their source, no one knew
or cared. Yet our men had not only to find
a way through this 40 miles of mountain
wilderness for our locomotives, but it was
important to find the best way, and to find
it "mighty sudden."
Five surveying parties took to the hills
and vanished for weeks, and in the end we
had five complete surveys covering both sides
of the Skaguay River and of the White Pass
as far as the Summit. The distance as the
crow flies is only 14 miles from the Summit
to the sea, but making the most of the contour of the mountain sides in order to "gain
distance" (i. e., to get easier gradients at the
cost of increased mileage), it was possible to
get the line of 20 miles which was built, and
it is a curious thing this line was made
up of bits from every one of the five lines
surveyed, and that with our present full knowledge of the country it has turned out to be
the very best line possible.
L42]  ^-J Construction of First Section
Hislop was in charge of all the surveying
and vibrated between the camps directing
and checking everything. In doing this he
had to cross rivers, mountains, glaciers and
snow fields with the speed and certainty of
a mountain goat, and as the work at the five
camps kept him busy when he reached them,
he had little time for sleep or rest dining the
weeks his camps were scattered through the
mountains. But sleep or rest or even food
were secondary matters to him while he was
"running his lines."
Besides keeping in touch with his five
camps and pushing the surveys of the White
Pass, Hislop had another and equally important duty imposed on him, i. e., he had
to satisfy himself that the White Pass was
in fact the true "Gateway to the Golden
North." Our Act of Parliament could not
make it so, if a better route existed. On this
point there were all sorts of rumours.
One of the most robust of these was the
"Warm Pass" Legend. It was said to be
i,ooofeet lower than White Pass (which is
2,865 feet above sea level), and to be approached by easy grades, and to descend
through smiling valleys to the waters of Taku
Arm, part of the chain of Great Lakes on the
[43] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Upper Yukon. Hislop no more expected to
find "Warm Pass" anything of this sort
than he expected to pick orchids in it, but he
had to find out.
Opinions differed widely as to where
"Warm Pass" was to be found. Some said
up the East Fork; some said up the North
Fork, while some opined that its tide water
approach was "down the Lynn Canal a piece."
It being Hislop's habit to find out for himself,
this conflict of evidence did not worry him.
He began by climbing Mount Dewey (not
then named), and from a height of 7,000
feet, could see to the south nothing but
mountain tops separated by an immense ice
field, from which the glaciers descended to
the valleys of the Lynn Canal. This confirmed his own view that there was no
"Warm Pass" entrance "down the Canal a
piece" and narrowed the investigation down
to the East and North Forks of the Skaguay
River. From a trip up the East Fork he
learnt that if there were any warm or other
passes at its head, a railway would have to
jump a good healthy glacier (now known
as Denver Glacier), to reach them. So by
a process of exhaustion, he convinced himself
that if the "Warm Pass" existed at all, it
must be sought up the North Fork.
[44] Construction of First Section
No one knew where this branch of the
Skaguay River went or what was at the head
of it, or on the other side. Sooner or later if
one could only "keep on going," one would
come to some part of the chain of Great
Lakes and, as they were then clear of ice,
they were navigable. But navigation presupposes a boat, and none would be available along its hundreds of miles of shore line,
except for a short distance between Lakes
Bennett and Marsh, followed by the gold-
seekers bound to Dawson — and Hislop
wasn't going to Dawson. The success of the
expedition depended on the question of
whether one could get through to some point
on the line of Dawson travel with what food
could be carried with one. Having exceptional powers of covering the ground and
going without food or sleep, Hislop decided
(Heney not being available), to go alone
rather than hamper himself with companions who could not keep up with him. He
also decided that it was better to travel light
than load himself down with blankets and
food. In reply to objections he quietly remarked, "Well, if one doesn't start, one
won't get there," and putting a few biscuits
in the pocket of his light shooting coat, off
he went.
J2 On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
We were very apprehensive that he might
meet with some small accident like a sprained
ankle, which would mean death, as we would
not know where to search for him if he did
not turn up. But we could at least organize
an expedition to patrol the shore line of the
Lakes and watch for him, and this was done.
Forty-eight hours after he started up the
North Fork with his biscuits, this expedition found him exhausted (and without his
biscuits), at the mouth of Windy Arm. He
had in that time covered over 50 miles of
mountains and swamps and snow fields, and
reached the head of Windy Arm, almost
barefoot and with his clothes in tatters, and
feet bleeding. He followed the shore of
Windy Arm until he came to an insurmountable rocky cape projecting into the Lake
and further progress on foot was impossible.
The icy coldness of the water gave no hope
of swimming round the cape. Most men
would have lain down to meet their fate,
but not Hislop. He found two small dead
trees, driftwood on the beach. With the fibrous roots of spruce trees, he converted
them into a sort of raft, and with the branch
of a tree for motive power and rudder, he
launched himself on the stormy waters of
[46] Construction of First Section
the well named "Windy Arm." After passing the Cape, the wind blew the raft out into
the Lake, so he could not resume his journey
on foot if he had wanted to.
His greatest difficulty on the dangerous
and tedious voyage of ten miles down the
Lake, he told us afterwards, was to keep
awake. He fell overboard twice, but climbed
back. Finally he managed to land, where
our men found him an hour or two later.
His first words (modest as ever), were,
"Well, boys, I didn't find Warm Pass!"
And no one else has ever found Warm
Pass from that day to this — and no one
ever will.
In the early days of construction, there
was naturally the keenest interest felt in
London as to the nature of the country, and
the progress of the work. It has never been
even hinted at, but I should not be surprised if
there had been some misgiving as to the quality of the work. Such misgiving would have
been natural, in view of the fact that personally I knew nothing in those days of railway building, and American construction
was generally supposed in England to be
cheap and flimsy in its nature, and it was
known that the men I had selected had all On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
been trained in the American school—though
Heney and Hislop were Canadians by birth
and education. In view of these facts it
was important to secure good photographs
of the work and country, and for that purpose we engaged a special photographer,
who was very daring and successful. His
photos were collected in albums in their
proper order, and sent forward with descriptive explanations, and were much appreciated
by our friends in London. But the work
of securing the negatives could not be appreciated by anyone who was not on the
Soon after he entered our service, Barley,
the photographer, was seriously injured by
a blast which he was attempting to photograph. I quote from my report at the time.
"We have now our own photographer—or
"what remains of him—and he is hard at
"work up the line. But he was nearly killed
"this morning, and his camera demolished.
"He was trying to 'catch' a big blast, and
"he caught it all right—on the leg. A big
"boulder fell on the camera and obliterated
"it. Luckily the boulder just missed him
"and he was only hit with a small piece of
' 'stone about the size of a man's head. WTien
[48] Construction of First Section
"he was picked up he was conscious but
"speechless, and pointed in disgust to where
"the legs of his camera were sticking out
"from under the boulder. He won't be able
"to walk for some days, but is putting in his
"time developing and printing at the Hos-
"pital at Camp 3, where he was carried after
"the accident. He nearly broke his neck
"three days before trying to climb a preci-
"pice with his camera. The man with him
"had turned back, saying he was not used
"to such 'high life.' You will see that if he
"lives a few weeks longer you will be likely
"to get some 'risky' pictures. He says he
"will photograph the sound of a big battery
"blast for you and stuff the echo and send
"it over to you. So you ought to be satis-
"fied." This illustrates the way our men
cheerfully exposed themselves to danger
even when their work was not supposed to
be dangerous.
As construction progressed it became
necessary for the Trustees for the Bondholders to send an Engineer of their own
selection to watch the work and see that it
was in accordance with contract. When
our men heard of this, the idea was not at
all popular. Hawkins was by nature very
[49] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
proud and sensitive, and though he said
little, one could see that he resented the
notion that he required watching. Heney
and Hislop chaffed about the fun they would
have with the "Trustees' man," and evidently
expected the usual type of English "Consulting Engineer"—a type with which they
were familiar, and from which the Yukon is
no more exempt than other portions of the
globe. Therefore, when Mr. Brydone Jack
turned up one day and presented his credentials, I hoped rather than expected that relations would be cordial.
I don't know what his instructions were,
but he evidently thought he had better be on
his guard and watch things pretty sharply.
But he did his duty so considerately and
showed such mastery of his profession, that
our men realized at once that he was no '' Consulting Engineer" and soon learned to respect
him. Jack's engaging personality did the
rest and before long our men had admitted
him to their friendship and confidence. For
convenience in working they invited Jack to
share their tent and live with them and Jack
gladly accepted, as this gave him closer insight into their ideas and plans than would
otherwise have been possible. From that time
[50I Construction of First Section
forward they became inseparable and worked
in common. No stranger could have guessed
which one of the three men was to keep
watch on the others. Jack helped our men
in their work for the sheer love of it, as his
own duties only occupied a small part of his
time, and were little more than clerical, once
our men admitted him behind the scenes.
We were indebted to Jack for many helpful
suggestions, while he in turn became imbued
with the spirit of our men's work and prouder
of it, almost, than they were themselves.
As the winter progressed the sympathy between the three men living and working and
sharing dangers and hardships in common became deeper and deeper till they were more
united than most brothers.
But there was one moot point that never
was settled. Heney and Hislop were like
mountain goats upon a trail. Long before
Jack's advent they had "tried one another
out" in many a terrible day's climbing and
covering ground, until each had admitted to
himself that the other was his equal on the
trail. Then Jack came to live with them
and because he was as a brother to them
they watched his performance on the trail
with affectionate interest. Now Jack was
j On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
physically a magnificent man, and his pluck
was unsurpassed and moreover, it so happened that he rather prided himself in never
having met a man who could "stay with
him" on the trail. Any man who bumped
up against either Heney or Hislop in such
a mood was likely to meet with trouble.
But for a long time they had no suspicion
of it, and merely thought he did very well
indeed. Of course no word was spoken between them of all this, but gradually it
dawned on Heney and Hislop that Jack,
whose performances they had been watching
with pride and interest, was in reality " going
jealous" of them and anxious in a perfectly
friendly way to establish his supremacy on
the trail. This state of affairs could not last.
Without a word said—all felt that the question had to be settled when they started on
their last trail together in this world, one
morning early in February, 1899.
The snow was deep, the trail was heavy,
the cold was bitter, the wind on the summit
of the Pass was fierce, almost preventing
progress at times, part of the time there was
a "blizzard," and at all times the trail was
steep. Jack had never seen Heney and Hislop in real earnest before nor ever come across
[52] Heney and Hislop on Winter Trail
John Hislop and His Friends
(Snap-shot taken from ambush on the Skaguay river)
>,  Construction of First Section
their like. Few men could have stayed with
them that day till noon when they halted
for food and rest. Jack however was one
of the few. But he had not been hardened to fast work on the trail as they had
been by keeping company with each other
for many months previously, and his exertions had begun to tell on even his magnificent physical powers when they "hit the
trail" again after the brief noon interval.
He was now on the defensive and doggedly
he stuck to it all afternoon in the failing light
and through the increasing cold.
In vain they urged him to " take it easy''—
the more they protested, the more he persisted, with failing strength but unfaltering
determination not to give in. When they
reached camp at dark Jack was exhausted
and never knew that his generous friends
were any less so. It was a bitter night, the
thermometer far below zero, and the tent
gave little protection from the fierce wind to
the exhausted man. The morning found him
enfeebled, unrested, and feverish. But he
scorned the idea of going down to our Hospital at Skaguay. Some days passed in
camp, in miserable anxiety by Heney and
Hislop, and increasing fever on Jack's part.
^ On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Then came the day when they carried him
in his blankets to the engine of the "Work
train" and uncoupled her to run him down
to Skaguay.    Pneumonia had set in.
In the short time he had been on the WTiite
Pass he had endeared himself to everyone
with whom he came in contact and the fireman shovelled in the Company's coal and
"got her hot" though he knew that the engine could fall down the hill "cold" and
would need steam only for her air brakes.
Then they started. " Better run some," said
Hislop to the engineer, who saw his agitation
and forgave him the unwarranted suggestion
that any urging was necessary to the man
upon whom perhaps Jack's life depended.
The way that engine "ran the hill" that day is
spoken of still as an instance of the intervention of Providence. She jumped and rolled
and plunged around the sharp curves of the
unfinished track in a way that no engine has
ever done before or since (not even the one
that "ran away" with a green fireman when
he tried to back her out of the Glacier siding
without his engineer and finished on the
beach at Skaguay). But she "got there"
with the sick man and they knew something
was coming by the way she whistled for a
[54] Construction of First Section
clear track coming into Skaguay and pulled
up at the Hospital.
It was all to no purpose—poor Jack was
doomed and in spite of every loving care he
died the next day—and every man on the
pay-roll felt as if he had lost a brother.
Heney and Hislop for months went about
their work as men bereaved. Hawkins and I
had not had the same intimate association
with poor Jack, but we too had learned to
value him as a " White Pass man.'' We met
his coffin at Vancouver and as we stood beside
his open grave we felt a gap in our ranks almost as great as when a few years later death
claimed Hislop on his honeymoon.
I don't know what Jack reported to the
Trustees about our work, but when the time
came to fill his place it was offered to Hawkins to his intense satisfaction, and he accepted,
resigning his post as our Chief Engineer, to
which Hislop was appointed in his place. It
was a graceful act on the part of the Trustees,
and a very wise one as well, because Hawkins—himself the soul of honour—was so
touched with this proof of their confidence
that their interests were doubly protected
in his hands, if any protection had been
[55] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
It would be tedious to attempt any detailed account of the work of building the
First Section of the railway through the
mountains to Lake Bennett. Our initial difficulties, after Hislop and his "path finders"
had found the way for the locomotives, consisted in the distance from the base of supplies, and the difficulty of securing an adequate supply of labour. Skaguay is 1,000
miles from Vancouver, Victoria, or Seattle,
which are the nearest bases of supply, and in
1898 the steamers in the Skaguay trade were
slower, smaller, and fewer than at present
and their capacity was fully occupied by
the gold-seekers. They were therefore not
available for the carriage of our supplies and
material. The war between the United
States and Spain had resulted in the sale or
charter of every vessel on the Pacific that
would float (and some that wouldn't), to the
United States Government. So it was a serious problem to arrange the transport of the
immense tonnage of supplies, equipment, and
material needed for the construction of the
We solved it by the use of "wrecks"—
i. e., large ocean-going sailing ships that had
been wrecked, and sold cheap by the under-
[56] Construction of First Section
writers to local owners who had re-floated
and partially repaired them. Some of them
had no masts and spars, and none of them
were sea-worthy for an ocean voyage. But
the voyage to Skaguay is more sheltered
than the lower Thames, and we were able to
arrange to have these wrecks, which were
euphemistically called'' barges,'' towed backwards and forwards with our men and material, and were able to get insurance on their
cargoes. But at the best it was slow work,
and the absence of telegraphic communication in those days added greatly to our difficulties.
The labour difficulty was still more serious. It was obviously out of the question
to engage men in the ordinary way and convey them in hundreds at our cost to Skaguay,
because while the gold fever was at its height,
the moment they set foot ashore in Skaguay
would be our last glimpse of them. We
therefore had to refuse to convey labourers
at our expense to Skaguay and this at once
shut us off from all the ordinary sources of
labour supply. Heney had a number of
skilled men whom he could control, and
these formed the nucleus for our gangs—a
sort of " skeleton battalion" which we had to
[57] r
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
try to fill up by voluntary enlistment at Skaguay. So far as numbers went we were more
successful in doing this than might have been
anticipated because Skaguay at that time
was full of men of all sorts on their way to
the Klondike, but temporarily detained,
waiting the arrival of friends, or money, or
for other reasons. These men were glad
of the chance to get not only free board
and lodging in our construction camps,
but to earn money instead of having to
spend it.
As a general rule, they were immensely
superior to ordinary labourers in education
and intelligence, but most of them were quite
unused to manual labour. However, they
soon got hardened to it, and their quick intelligence enabled them to learn rapidly. But
the great drawback to them was that by the
time they had become useful, their friends,
or their money, or whatever they were waiting for, would arrive, and they would resume
their journey to the Klondike. In the words
of Camp-foreman Foy, "There was always
some a-coming, and some a-going, and some
working." Amongst them there were lawyers, doctors, artists, college graduates,
French chefs, schoolmasters, and in short
[58] Construction of First Section
every conceivable sort of occupation —
except labourers. Probably no other railway in the world was built by such highly
educated men as worked on our First
By August 8th, 1898, we had got our working force up to a little over 2,000 men. On
that day the news came of the new gold discovery in Atlin, comparatively near our line,
and the excitement spread like wild fire
through our camps. Our men left in droves,
most of them without waiting to draw their
pay, but on the other hand most of them took
with them our picks and shovels. In 48
hours our working force was reduced to below 700 men and it was October before we
were able to fill up our ranks again.
By that time, winter was upon us, and we
had to fight the forces of an Arctic winter as
well as the natural difficulties of mountain
railway construction. The strong winds
and severe cold made the men torpid, and
be-numbed not merely their bodies but
their minds, so that after an hour's work, it
was necessary to relieve them by fresh men.
The result was that in consequence of the
Atlin "stampede" and the delay caused by
the advent of winter, instead of reaching the
[59] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Summit of the White Pass by Christmas,
1898, our track did not get there till February 22nd, 1899. Then the camps were
moved over to the Bennett end where there
was comparative shelter in the timber and
the rest of the winter was more or less free
from the awful hardships which attended
the work in reaching the Summit.
The nature of this work added immensely
to the difficulty of winter construction. It
was necessary to blast the road-bed out of
the solid granite of the precipitous mountain
sides which in many places were so smooth
and polished by the action of extinct glaciers
that there was no foothold for the men and
they had to build working platforms secured
to crowbars drilled into the polished granite.
The wind was so strong that the men in exposed places had to be "roped" while at
work in order to prevent their being blown off
the mountain side. By October, 1898, the
work had got above the " timber line," so the
men were exposed to the full fury of the
Arctic winter.
Between Skaguay and Fraser, near Log
Cabin, a distance of 28 miles, there was not
a wheelbarrowful of gravel or loose earth,
the line was entirely on solid rock or bridges.
[60] ^
Cutting the Grade on Tunnel Mountain
I  Construction of First Section
This will give an idea of the heavy nature of
the work. The ballast for the track had to
be hauled from the bed of the Skaguay River
at the one end and from the gravel pit at
Fraser at the other.
Without going further into details, it will
doubtless be clear that the construction of
the First Section was a remarkable performance in railway building, and that the men
who did the work earned their money and are
entitled in addition to be held in kindly remembrance by the men who provided the
In spite of the hardships to which the men
were exposed, Heney took such good care of
them, and fed and housed them so well, that
their health was remarkably good. There
was no serious sickness, and very few serious
accidents. Our Hospital was chiefly occupied by cases of sprains, frostbite, hurt fingers or feet, and occasional sickness of a temporary nature.
Heney's rule about liquor was strict and
simple—''No Liquor allowed in camp.'' When
Camp 3 (at Rocky Point), was started one of
"Soapy" Smith's gang set up a gambling
and drinking tent near by. Heney ordered
him off.    He refused to move his tent and
[61] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
said he " guessed it had as good a right to be
"there as Heney's," which was true, of course.
But Heney was not the man to split straws
over nice questions of technical rights.
He sent for Foy, the camp foreman, and
pointing to a big rock, just above the drinking den, he told Foy in the hearing of the
owner, "That rock has got to be out of that
' 'by 5 to-morrow morning—not a minute later,
"mind." Then he walked off, and left
" Soapy's" friend to think it over. He evidently concluded that it was a bluff and
went to bed with an easy mind.
Next morning early Foy sent a rock gang
to put a few sticks of dynamite in the rock.
They reported "all ready" at ten minutes
to five. At five minutes to five he sent a man
to the tent to wake its occupant. He refused
with bad language to get up so early. Then
Foy went himself and said, "In one minute
" by this watch I will give the order to touch
" off the time fuse. It will burn for one min-
"ute and then that rock will arrive here or
"hereabouts." The man in bed told Foy
to go to Hades. Foy replied, "I'm too busy
"to go this morning but you will unless you
"jump lively—Fire!" Then he used the 60
seconds left to retire in good order behind a
[62] Construction of First Section
sheltering point of rock, where he was joined
ten seconds later by the tent owner in his
"under-wear" (it was another custom of the
country to sleep in them), and together they
witnessed the blast and total destruction of
the tent and its stock of liquors. Then Foy
went up to Heney's tent and reported, "That
"rock is down, sir." "Where's the man,"
asked Heney. "The last I saw of him he
"was going down the trail in his underclothes,
"cursing." "That's all right," said Heney,
and we had no more bother of that sort.
The first train from Skaguay ran into Bennett City on Lake Bennett on July 6th, 1899,
a year after construction had commenced
on an active scale. Forty miles of railway
through the mountains connected the waters
of the Pacific Ocean with the head waters of
the Yukon River, and completed our First
Section. Considering the difficulties of surveying the line, the immense amount of
heavy rock blasting, bridging and other difficulties of construction, our men had every
right to congratulate themselves on their
rapid work. But for the delay occasioned by
the Atlin " stampede " we could have reached
Bennett more than a month earlier.
No time was lost in attacking the Second
Section from the head of Lake Bennett to
the foot of White Horse Rapids, a distance of
a little over 70 miles. The first 27 miles
runs along the East shore of the Lake and
involved heavy rock blasting. But till
this portion could be completed the Lake itself would form a connecting link with the
[64] Construction of Second Section
line beyond. It was therefore decided to
establish camps for the rock gangs only,
along the shore of the Lake, and to transfer
the rest of our forces and equipment to
Caribou Crossing at the foot of the Lake and
push work between there and White Horse.
This programme involved getting sufficient
rails, engines, rolling stock, and material
assembled at Caribou Crossing before navigation closed, in order to finish the line from
there to White Horse by the time navigation
opened again the following year. This was
done; but unexpected difficulties occurred
from what is called " frozen ground," i.e.
ground frozen not for a few feet below the
surface by surface frosts, but frozen to great
depths by the intense cold of the glacial
There was no time to thoroughly test the
entire line for frost by sinking test pits, and
such tests as were made were encouraging.
But notwithstanding, we met with frozen
ground where we least wanted it in actual
construction, and it added greatly to the cost
and the time of construction. However, on
June 8, 1900, the line was finished and trains
running between Caribou Crossing and White
Horse. By that time too, navigation was
[65] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
open on Lake Bennett and the Lake was used
to connect the two ends of our line for traffic.
In this way by the beginning of June 1900
we were working a connected service for
passengers and goods between Skaguay and
White Horse.
Meanwhile, the rock men had accomplished
their task along the shores of the Lake, and
the line was ready for the grading and track
laying gangs who were transferred from the
White Horse end as fast as they finished up
their work there. By the middle of July
Heney announced that he would be ready
to drive the "last spike" on August 1st,
and arrangements were made accordingly.
Heney invited Mrs. W., the wife of the Major
in command of the Northwest Mounted Police
at Dawson, to come up the River and drive
the spike. Before going to Dawson the
Major had been in command at Tagish, and
we had all received so many kindnesses from
the gallant Major and his charming wife that
it seemed particularly fitting that she should
put the last touch to our work for us. But
the Fates willed otherwise. However, before
coming to the last spike, it will be better to
give a few incidents of the winter's work.
On the Bennett end of the line there was
[66] Construction of Second Section
nothing but continuous heavy blasting all
winter and some remarkable results were
accomplished, but the only special event was
the sinking of a train with all hands, which
happened in this way. A great deal of the
heaviest rock work consisted in cutting
through the precipitous rock points or capes
jutting out into the deep water of the Lake.
The debris from these cuttings had to be
disposed of and where possible was used for
filling in embankments across the shallows
at the heads of the numerous little bays
between the rock points, thus avoiding curvature of the line as far as possible. One of
the largest of these embankments had stood
perfectly solid till the track came to be laid
on it and heavy work trains began to rumble
over it. Then one day while a work train
was crossing, part of it suddenly sank under
water, taking with it the train except the
engine and front cars. Most of the train
crew were riding on the engine, so that only
one man actually went down with the train.
Being a White Pass man he calmly swam
ashore, shook himself, and said "Well, I'll
be d—d!" All the cars but one were recovered, and that one broke its coupling and
got away down the submerged side of the
[67] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
mountain and for all any one knows to the
contrary may be going yet.
Upon investigation it turned out that the
shallow water at the head of this bay was
caused by the gravel and debris of ages
washed down the sides of the mountain and
held in place by a submerged shoulder of
rock. Probably the heavy blasting may have
loosened things up a bit under water, and
the jarring of the trains finished the job,
but anyhow a large mass of the gravel forming the bottom of the bay slipped off the rock
shoulder and so part of the bottom " fell out"
and took our train with it. When we rebuilt
the line, we ran it on solid rock and dry land
round the head of the bay, and took no
chances with any more short cuts in that
bay. When the ice on the lake melted, we
carefully sounded outside all the other embankments, and found gradually sloping
formation under water making our work
perfectly solid, as time has proved. But
it is not every railway that has had a train
"go down with all hands."
After the terrible severity of the preceding winter's work on the Summit of White
Pass the construction of the Second Section
of the Railway from Bennett to White Horse,
[68] Construction of Second Section
although carried on during an Arctic winter,
was looked on in the light of a picnic. The
gangs had "shaken down," the weaklings
had been weeded out, and the men left on the
pay-roll had become identified with the
"White Pass Railway" and were as proud
of it and as keen for its success as if they
owned it themselves. This "White Pass"
spirit was one of the remarkable things about
our later construction days.
I overheard a good illustration of it a few
days after the last spike was driven. The
north and the south bound passenger trains
were to meet at Pavy on the shore of Lake
Bennett. The train I was on got there first
and pulled into the siding, leaving the main
line free for the other train. While we were
waiting for it the passengers, full of interest in
their surroundings, got off and began taking
snap-shots with their kodaks, gathering wild
flowers, etc. One scientific-looking person in
spectacles (he turned out to be an Eastern
Professor of Geology on his vacation) began
chipping away at the rocks after the manner
of his kind. Suddenly with great excitement
he rushed up to an Irish section man who
was tamping ballast into the new track.
" My man, I say, my man — do you know that
J On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
that broken stone you are using for ballast is
a highly mineralized paleozoic formation?"
(geology not guaranteed). The Irishman
calmly lit a match, held it in his fingers after
the manner of his kind till it was nearly burnt
out before he relit his short pipe, took a few
good puffs, and then said, "Well, phwat of
ut ?" The Professor saw he had to deal with
a benighted man and said, " Why, I want you
to understand, my man, that that ballast is
probably worth not less than ten dollars a
ton!" But the Irishman, instead of dropping
dead, looked the excited Professor calmly
in the eye and said, " Well, and I want you to
undhersthand, Misther Man, that the bist is
none too good fur the White Pass. So now
ye can give yerself a rest wid yer tin dollar
rock—so ye can!" And with a snort of indignation he turned to resume tamping the
precious mineral into what, with true White
Pass spirit, he regarded as his track.
In this spirit the heavy work of the Second
Section was pushed through the winter with a
romp and swing that made light of all troubles and hardships. The men and horses were
well sheltered and fed on the very best, and a
spirit of rivalry between the camps increased
the pressure under which the work was pushed
[70] Construction of Second Section
Heney's "Master of Horse" and head
of the grading gang was William Robinson, at least that was the name in the
family Bible at home. But his real name was
"Stickeen Bill" and the camps and all the
North re-echoed his unfailing fun and good
nature and high spirits and amusing stories. .
If he had never done anything else he was
worth his weight in gold (and that was something enormous, but like Jorrock's, it was
a secret between himself and his horse, and
nobody else's business), for the spirit he infused into the work. He did not think you
could pay too much for a good horse, and
would not take a present of a bad one. When
he had got the horse he did not believe you
could work him too hard (in reason of course),
or feed him too well, and his test of a horse's
value was the amount of oats that could be
got into him and the amount of work that
could be got out of him.
He had one fault and, in a tent, it was
a serious one. He snored loud enough to
overthrow the walls of Jericho, let alone a
tent. He was an immense and very powerful man and his chest capacity gave him
exceptional powers in this line. When
"Bill" was asleep everybody else had to
[71] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
stay awake. Heney and Hislop and the
rest expostulated in vain with him. Like
all snorers he used to indignantly deny the
imputation. But one night at Camp 10,
he gave such a terrific blast as to waken
himself. There was a moment's dead silence
in the tent — and then the others, who had
been kept awake for hours, heard him mutter
softly to himself, " you!   It is
you, Bill."
The antithesis of Stickeen Bill was Charley
Moriarity (otherwise known as the "Snow
King"), the head of the track-laying gang.
He was a silent, red-headed Irishman and
the only point he had d common with Bill
was his capacity for working himself, and
getting others to work. He could distinguish
one end of a horse from another, and could
"pull him by the face" as he called leading
him. But his horsemanship had ended there
until one cold winter's day, when they were
a long way from camp and supper, Bill succeeded in inducing him to mount a horse.
The horses were as keen as their riders to get
their suppers and Bill kept riding on a little
and "fidgetting" the "Snow King's" horse
who couldn't make out Charley's style of
riding in the least, and became half crazy.
[72] Construction of Second Section
At last, on the middle of a high railway
embankment, Bill by a little dexterous maneuvering, managed to get Charley and his
horse over the edge and they rolled together
in the deep snow to the bottom, while Bill
sat rocking in his saddle with ribald mirth.
The "Snow King" however was at home
in snow, and kept hold of his horse as they
regained their legs, and "pulled him by the
face " in grim silence to the far end of the embankment where he regained the grade, and
mounted his horse (on the wrong side but he
"got there"), then he said in tones hardly
above a whisper " you, Bill,—wait
till I get you on a hand-car!"
When these two had got their gangs
transferred from the north end of the line to
finish the gap along the shores of Lake Bennett, intense rivalry developed between their
respective gangs. The grading gang under
Stickeen Bill had of course to complete
the road-bed before the track layers could
begin work on it, and Charley accused Bill
(wrongfully) of holding him back. Bill
therefore bet him "a new suit of clothes,"
that the track layers couldn't catch him, and
the "fight was on." The gangs became excited and worked like demons, and the betting
[73] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
became ruinous. For the last two weeks
each gang worked continuously, the men
snatching a few hours sleep in sections.
Once the " Snow King'' claimed that he had
a few feet of his rails projecting beyond Bill's
"dump," but before he got the other ends
spiked and fish-plated up, Bill got the grade
made good and the track layers lost time
waiting for the work train to bring up more
sleepers and rails. In the end the graders finished well ahead, and the bets were declared
a draw by Heney, to whom the matter was
referred. I saw the horses being watered
the next morning and they were kicking and
squealing on the shore of the Lake like three-
year-olds in a pasture. They had come
through a tremendous winter's work and for
the last fortnight they had hardly had their
harness off. There were over ioo of them,
and not a sick one or one with a scratch on
him amongst them.
The result of the betting between the graders and the track layers was that the track
was finished three days ahead of time.
When I asked Stickeen Bill how he came to
do this he said, "Well, I couldn't help it.
That d d Irishman" (Moriarity) "stampeded on me."
[74] Construction of Second Section
Mrs. W., with a party of friends, was in the
" Victorian " on the way up River from Dawson to drive the last spike for us on August
ist, the date fixed for it. But she could, not
arrive until the night of July 31st and we
couldn't wait, as there was too much traffic.
So we had to go ahead without her. In default of the lady, we invited the Colonel in
command of the American troops at Skaguay
and the Officer in command of the Canadian
Mounted Police at White Horse and a number of other public officials "of sorts" to cooperate in the driving, and "the boys" insisted that I must give it the finishing " lick.''
I now quote from my report made at the
"July 29th, 1900. I left Skaguay with a
"party to drive the last spike this morning.
"As we came down the Lake on the 'Australian' and neared Caribou Crossing we
"could see the track layers at work on the
"shore, with about half a mile of track still
"to lay at 4:30 P. M. They had to carry
"the rails forward from the work train that
"followed a few yards behind the rear spike
"drivers, mark the sleepers for the rails, lay
" the loose rails in place, and then four gangs
"of men drove home the spikes (4 spikes to
[75] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'each sleeper, 36 to each rail—72 to each
' 30 feet of track), in a continuous cyclone of
'sledge hammers. Then the work engine
' pushing a couple of cars of rails would creep
' cautiously forward and behind it the fish-
' plating gang fished the joints and the new
' track was laid where a few moments before
' was nothing but the bare grade.
"There was a great crowd at Caribou, in-
' eluding the White Horse people who had
'come up on the special train for the spike
' driving. They had been waiting some little
'time and were evidently in a jovial mood,
' and welcomed the Skaguay delegation in the
' 'Australian' with fraternal and other
'spirits. Very soon the track layers were
'on the bridge over the Lake Crossing, and
' then they were across it, then at 5130 the
' ends of the rails touched and the gap in our
'line was closed.
"All the spikes were driven except the last.
' Heney was called on for a speech, but dodged.
' Hawkins and I both had to say a few words,
' but no one wanted speeches. Out of cour-
'tesy to our 'guests,' being on Canadian soil,
' I asked the American Colonel to give the
' spike the first blow. The ' Snow King' was
' there with his spike and a suppressed grin.
[76] Construction of Second Section
'The gallant Colonel swung the spike-maul
' (a long-headed long-handled sledge), in the
' approved style and brought it down with a
' dull sickening thud on the sleeper some
'inches wide of the spike. The populace
'howled their glee as the Colonel handed
'over the maul to the next man. Warned
'by the Colonel's fate, he only raised the
'maul a couple of feet and gave the
'spike a lady-like tap on the head that
'suggested laying carpets. This produced
'an ironic cheer. The next man had been
' 'straightening his eye' while waiting at
' Caribou Crossing until he had overdone the
' process and saw two spikes, and greatly to
' his credit, he hit one of them a good wallop
'on the side, but he knocked it flat.
"After that it wouldn't stand up properly
' and no one had any luck with it, till it was
' a pretty tired spike when it came my turn
'to drive it 'home.' It reminded me of a
' man that had been round town all night, in
' being a great deal farther from ' home' than
'when it started, a nice, clean, straight spike
I a short time before. The 'Snow King's' smile
' broadened to a grin as I took the maul, and
' I knew he was thinking of the box of cigars
I which custom prescribes as the tribute of any
[77] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"luckless 'railway man' who misses the spike.
" (Something as unspeakable as 'missing the
"globe' at golf). I would have liked to go
"behind a tent and take a practice swing,
"but' the fierce light that beats upon' a President forbade, and so thinking 'keep your
"eye on the spike' I swung the maul round
"with the orthodox full swing. Do you
"know the feeling at golf of getting off a
"rather good ball from 'a bad lie.' That
'' was my feeling as the head of the maul con-
"nected with the head of that disreputable
"spike. But I didn't hit it quite fair, and
"the spike was bent before, so though it went
"half home, it was far from upright for the
"next blow. The 'Snow King' however
" was as gratified as if he had won his cigars
"and most generously whispered, 'You can't
"swing on to it that way, tap it home side-
"ways'; and I did, with heartfelt gratitude
"to our 'Snow King.' "
"Then everybody cheered and a contin-
"uous clicking noise announced that the
" films yet remaining in the kodaks were be-
"ing used up, and there was a lot of hand-
" shaking. In the middle of this the corner
" of my eye caught the ' Snow King' sneaking
"up with a 'spike puller' which he stealthily
[78] Construction of Second Section
applied to the dilapidated last spike. Poor
thing, it didn't take much pulling—it was
glad to go, and Charley quietly marked the
hole with a piece of chalk for the subsequent attention of his track men. I was
rather pleased with this evidence of his
strict attention to business even in the
midst of pleasure."*
" White Horse, August ist, 1900.
"After the spike driving I came here on the
"same evening with Hawkins. Before the
"White Horse 'Special' could start, it had
"to wait for a long train of 'empties' south
'' bound for Skaguay. These cars, before the
"gap was closed, had been working on the
"north end of the line. Now that the gap
"has been closed, they of course go to Skaguay
"to be loaded and in fact formed the first
"through train to pass over the line, thus
"justifying the comment of one of the ' Snow
"King's' Irish trackmen, 'Be Jakers — the
"first thrain into this counthry was a thrain
" Hawkins and I intended to leave for Daw-
Con on the 'Canadian' the next morning,
*When I received a photo of the spike a few days
later with Heney's compliments, a side light was
thrown on Charley's assiduity.
[79] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
leaving Heney to make our peace with Mrs.
: W. But' the boys' had got up a farewell
1 dinner for Heney, and wired Hawkins that
; we must be there, and that I must preside,
: so of course we had to go back. We there-
; fore returned on yesterday's train to Caribou
Crossing. The dinner was to be on board
the 'Australian' and she came down from
: Bennett to Caribou Crossing to pick up
Hawkins and myself and the boys from the
: north end of the line. In order to prevent
Heney from bolting (he hates being made
' a fuss over), he was led to suppose that the
; dinner was in my honour. As we steamed
into Shipwreck Bay (now known as Camp
H. ), we saw a man riding out of camp as
if the Devil was after him and the boys
shouted, ' By the Lord — Heney has stampeded. '
" However it was not so, and Stickeen Bill
came on board with the reassuring news, ' I
have him coralled in his tent, putting on a
: white shirt.' We had a great dinner and
Heney never smelt a mouse—though he
seemed to think it hardly the thing for me
to take the chair at a dinner given in my
honour. But the boys assured him it was
no time for formality. When the dinner was
[80] Construction of Second Section
"over, Hislop got up and proposed Heney's
"health, saying that the boys who were so
"soon to part wished to mark their appreciation of his never failing kindness and
"courage through all the dangers and troubles
" of the past two years. Hislop made a mag-
"nificent speech (fancy the shy, silent
"Hislop). It was one of the finest tributes
"to the good qualities of an old and tried
"comrade that could be put into language.
"Poor Heney was horror stricken—and yet
"pleased beyond words. After the ap-
"plause had died down, he stood silent before
" attempting to reply but soon found his voice
"and words, and made a manly reply.
"Hawkins then got up and presented Heney
"with the gold watch and chain from the
"Then Hawkins presented the Engineer
"Staff boys with gold souvenir clasps and
"medals with the 'White Pass' device (the
'' open Gateway to the Golden North). Then
"there were a lot of clever and witty speeches
" (mine was the only dull one and it was short)
"and Stickeen Bill was excruciatingly funny.
"He preached us a Nigger sermon, and after
*See Appendix for facsimile copy of the Resolutions, etc
[81] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"a while a Scotch one, and both were better
'' than anything I ever saw on the stage. But
"there was an undercurrent that was not
"laughter to the festivities, and I could see
"that Stickeen Bill felt that he must keep
"things humming at any cost to prevent
"these men who had faced death and had
"fought and conquered nature in her fiercest
"aspect, and stood shoulder to shoulder for
"the past two years, from being oppressed
"by the sadness of the coming separation.
" Things were kept going till two in the morn-
"ing before anyone found courage to break
"up the last dinner, and then we all stood up
"and sang ' Auld Lang Syne,' and that was
"the end.
"As we went sadly ashore, our spirits were
"revived by the ludicrous sight of Heney's
"men cooks and waiters at Camp H. dressed
"in their white uniforms and aprons, danc-
"ing 'lady' with the men of the camp on
"the shingly beach. The 'ladies' were evi-
"dently in great demand and no wonder.
"The way they pranced around with their
"heads on the shoulders of the stable men,
"graders, and track layers would have in-
" fused vitality into any effete ball-room.
" I forgot to mention that during the dinner
[82] Construction of Second Section
' the ' Gleaner' on her voyage from Bennett
' to Atlin came alongside and fired a salute,
'which interfered somewhat with one of
' Stickeen Bill's funny stories. ' Give .'em a
' few snores, Bill,' some one rudely interrupted.
' But, ignoring the suggestion as it deserved,
'he stuck to his story and brought it to a
'triumphant finish. I regret to say that
' under cover of the salute, some of the' Glea-
' ner 's' crew are suspected of having taken a
'barrel of beer from Heney's store tent to
'help out the festivity of the night. Any-
'how, the beer was gone, and so was the
' 'Gleaner.'
"At five o'clock this morning we all met
' for the last time in Heney's tent for break-
'fast, but it was a failure. We had only
'broken up the dinner at two, and at the
'best, five o'clock breakfast is seldom gay.
'At 5130 the 'Australian' took some of us,
' including Heney (who goes to Dawson with
'us), Hawkins, and myself to catch the 6
' o 'clock freight train from Caribou Crossing
' to White Horse, while the work train picked
' up others, and ' No. 2' took the rest to
'Skaguay—and so we separated.
"As we proceeded towards White Horse
' on our freight train, Heney got a telegram
[83] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
' announcing Mrs. W.'s arrival at White Horse
' last night, and that she was on' No. 2' bound
'for Skaguay. To say that consternation
' fell upon us would be a mild way of putting
'it. Our trains would meet at Dugdale in
' one short hour, and what was worse, Mrs:
'W.'s train would be there first, so we could
'not 'take to the tall timber.' Hawkins and
' I were quite firm and unanimous that Heney
' must get off and offer himself up in sacrifice,
'while we escaped. But Heney could not
' see it in the same light and was provoking-
ly obstinate. What was to be done ? We
' finally resolved upon a desperate expedient.
' ' No. 2' being a passenger train would
'proudly stick to the main line, while our
' freight train humbly crawled into the siding,
'which was a long one. There was just a
' chance to ' run the siding,' i. e., pull through
'without stopping, with a smart switch-
'man on the cow-catcher of our engine to
'jump off and run ahead and 'throw the
'switch' at the far end and let us out on
'to the main line without having to stop at
"It was so ordered, and just then we whis-
' tied for the siding at Dugdale.    We three
'guilty culprits lay down out of sight on
I Construction of Second Section
"the floor of the guard's van or 'caboose'
"and held our breath as our train dragged
" slowly through the siding. We heard our
"train crew exchanging the light badinage
"of the road with the crew of 'No. 2.'
" Then we felt our trucks run over the points
"on to the main line—our rear brakeman
"dropped off, closed the switch, and signaled
" the engineer, and as our engine whistled ' all
"clear' we got up off the floor and tried to
"look as if that was the way we always
"passed another train." *    *****
1 In due time we all confessed and made our peace
with Mrs. W., and she has often laughed since with us
over what would have happened if our plan had miscarried, and she had descended on the three of us lying
flat on the floor of that freight "caboose."
To prevent any misunderstanding it may
be explained at once that this is our old
friend Stickeen Bill in a new aspect—that's
all. He came from the good old State of
Maine, where the men are all web-footed, and
besides that, he was understood to have a
cousin who had married a Purser, or other seafaring person. Anyhow, Bill took to water
like a duck as soon as the track reached Summit Lake, or rather as soon as the ice on it
(which was six feet thick) was too rotten to
be safe for his horses.
Besides getting our construction material
forward from rail-head at the Summit, Bill,
in the spring of 1899, was the general manager of the "Red Line Transportation Company, "as he designated the very excellent
service which Heney organized to fill the gap
between the end of the railway and Bennett
before our line was finished. By this service
he carried forward from the Summit an immense number of passengers and hundreds
of tons of freight, including material, engines,
[86]  LL_L
U— Commodore William Robinson
and boilers for a number of large steamers
built at Bennett that spring.
As soon as the ice on Summit Lake became rotten, in the spring of 1899, Stickeen
Bill blasted out a channel six miles long
through it, which he navigated with a 20-
foot gasoline launch, towing a "home-made"
affair which he had nailed together out of
boards and which he called a "dory"—-what
his passengers called it is unfit to print. Bill
was the sole crew of the combined fleet, and
the boys used to say that he took all' the
pretty women with him on the launch while
he towed the male passengers behind in the
" dory." However this may be, he managed
to deliver them all safe at the far end of Summit Lake to his " stage line," which ran from
there to Bennett after the ice got rotten.
His channel through the Lake was, of
course, full of big cakes of ice which he had
blasted loose in making the channel, and he
used to navigate his launch through these
with as many turns and twists as a "dog
in a fair." Thus the "dory" towed behind
was often pulled sideways or across an intervening "iceberg," to the terror of its passengers. But Bill with a smile turned a deaf
ear to all their expostulations, and when
I) On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
they threatened to shoot used to re-assure
his lady passengers by saying, "Bless you,
they won't shoot — they know they can't
get ashore without me, and if they did the
boys would lynch them."
When the rails reached Bennett of coursed
navigation ceased on Summit Lake. But
we had to devise some way to carry an immense amount of rails, sleepers, stores, construction plant, and rolling stock down Lake
Bennett to Caribou Crossing, where they must
arrive before navigation closed, as explained
in the preceding chapter. For this service
the "Torpedo Catcher" was designed and
built at Bennett. She was a huge "scow"
with a carrying capacity of about 150 tons,
and carried all her cargo upon her deck for
convenience of loading and unloading. In
shape she was a flat oblong box with sloping
ends which, projecting over the shore, facilitated loading and unloading. Having in
those days no ship-yards of our own, Bill, as
a labour of love, superintended her construction. When her hull was finished it became
necessary to decide which end was her stern
before her engines, boilers, and propellers
could be installed. Bill walked all round her
with the foreman shipwright and inspected
[88] Commodore William Robinson
both ends carefully—it was a weighty matter. Finally he said, "I think we will make
this end her stern." Whereupon the foreman shipwright, being a prudent man and
anxious to avoid future arguments, took a
fat piece of chalk from his trouser pocket and
marked, in large letters, STERN on that end
so that all the world might see for themselves
which end it was. In this way the other end
became the bow.
This being happily settled, the next thing
was to install three ordinary upright boilers,
with engines attached, of the kind contractors use for hoisting, pile-driving, etc., which
we had to spare These were put as far aft
as possible on the overhang of the stern so
that she would "sit down" on her propellers
and keep them under water when she was
light of cargo. The engines were connected
with some shafting and three propellers.
Then the craft was launched, with steam up
and Stickeen Bill at the helm. She was
launched in such haste that they omitted
to give her a name, but the speed she developed on the trial trip which ensued was such
that on her return to shore she was at once
dubbed the "Torpedo Catcher," and loaded
with rails for Caribou Crossing.
[89] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Bill was promoted to the rank of Commodore, and shipped as his engineer a man who
had been " donkey-man" on one of the Skaguay steamers and was therefore highly qualified. The responsible post of fireman was
allotted to a stranger who was understood to
be "wanted" in San Francisco on account
of crimes of violence, but Bill did not mind
violence, and the candidate looked a good
strong man, so he was shipped. Bill then
blew his starboard whistle and backed out
from the wharf
He was heading south and his course was
north, so as soon as he was clear of the wharf
he proceeded to show the assembled crowd
what he could do in the way of turning his new
craft in her own length with her three propellers. He therefore kept his port engine going
full speed astern while he went full speed
ahead with his starboard engine. As the
"Torpedo Catcher's" beam was great in proportion to her length there was a corresponding turning leverage with the engine on one
side going astern and the engine on the other
side going ahead, so she soon began to pivot
round without moving through the water or
having any steerage-way. Once she began
to turn the 150 tons of rails added to her
[90] Commodore William Robinson
turning momentum, and when Bill finally
stopped his port engine backing and went
ahead with it and his mid-ships engine, she
was spinning merrily and wouldn't stop,
especially as her rudders were no use, not
having any steerage-way. The crowd ashore
saw what was going to happen as soon as
Bill realized it himself, and set up a gleeful
There is someone in most crowds on such
occasions who fits popular music to the event,
and accordingly a shrill falsetto voice struck
up the words of the then popular song:
"Waltz me around again, Willie,
"Around, around, around—"
The crowd took up the burden of the song
and made it re-echo from the Bennett mountains. Bill, making a virtue of a necessity,
stood up and took off his hat and bowed his
acknowledgments repeatedly, while the confounded "Torpedo Catcher" indulged herself
in a complete extra round turn that was not
on the programme. But while he was bowing Bill was also attending to business, and
backed his starboard engine enough to check
the merry waltz, so that by the time the
" Torpedo Catcher" was heading north again
he had her under control, and was able to
[91] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
commence his voyage in earnest amid the
cheers of the delighted crowd ashore.
There were no watches kept on the "Torpedo Catcher," because when Bill was at the
helm everybody else on board would naturally keep watch in any case, and Bill was
always at the helm when the craft was under
way. The crew space was under deck aft
between the propeller shafts, while the commodore's suite of apartments was in the bow.
In due course they arrived at Caribou Crossing, and Bill got his rails ashore and went
"up town" (i. e., to the railway camp) for
Upon his return about midnight he found
the chief engineer on deck very drunk, and
when Bill ordered steam for four in the morning the ex-donkeyman became both abusive
and quarrelsome. The fireman hearing his
" chief" in trouble came on deck, also drunk,
and with an ugly looking clasp-knife in his
hand. Bill realized with pain that he was
confronted by a mutiny. So he immediately
kicked the knife out of the fireman's hand, and
incidentally almost broke the hand. Then he
took the " mutiny " and knocked its members'
heads together violently a few times, while
he was thinking what else to do. Acting on
1 Commodore William Robinson
the theory that it was bad whiskey rather
than any innate bad disposition that had
caused the trouble, he proceeded with the
mutiny to the stern of his craft, one mutineer
in each hand, and threw them overboard
well clear of the ship one by one, like a man
drowning puppies. The "Torpedo Catcher"
was only drawing about a foot, and he knew
there was only about four feet of water and
a sandy bottom, and his idea was that by the
time they had regained their feet, recovered
from their fright, waded the length of the ship,
and gained the shore, the fright and the icy
water combined would have sobered them and
the mutiny be at an end.
However, while all this was in progress, it
struck Bill that his crew once on dry land
might try to desert, so he started for the
shore to head them off. They not unnaturally misunderstood his motives, and feared
another ducking or something worse. So,
panic-stricken, they ran yelling "Murder" up
the beach, till they met a mounted policeman
in scarlet uniform coming to see what was the
matter. This check enabled Bill to get up
and explain matters. The sobered fireman
at once realized that Bill was a far less dangerous companion for him than a policeman
[93] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of any sort, and the engineer was also quite
willing to let bygones be bygones. So the
Commodore and his crew returned in amity
to their staunch craft. The first rays of the
morning sun peeping over the mountain lit
up Bill's rosy smile as he proudly steered for
Bennett and another load of rails.
It was not always sunshine on the stormy
waters of Lake Bennett and there were times
when the "Torpedo Catcher" in spite of her
speed could barely hold her own. Bill's rule
on these occasions was a simple one—"Stick
"by the ship — as long as she can make three
"knots an hour. When you can't get that
"out of her, tie her up and go at something
"else. " He was a busy man and could not
afford to waste time. But fair weather or
foul, there were no more mutinies nor any
thought of mutinies. Bill had broken in his
crew, and they became so devoted to him that
when the " Torpedo Catcher" was finally paid
off and put out of commission, the parting of
the crew from their respected Commodore was
quite one of affection and mutual esteem.
They were not upon the pay-roll, but they
were intimately associated with us on the
White Pass just the same. The bears were
there before we were—they did not like the
gold-seekers—and retreated into their mountain forests, where our surveyors found them.
At first there was mutual distrust, but our surveyors were not "after bears" and the bears
soon began to realize that they had nothing to
fear from the newcomers in their forests.
A bear has two characteristics that never
fail—curiosity and hunger. Sometimes one
is for the moment uppermost, sometimes the
other—but both are always there, and both
impelled towards the investigation of our
camps. Very soon this became a nuisance
to our people. Nothing was safe unless you
sat up all night to watch it, and nothing
edible came amiss. Bacon, hams, flour,
butter, all were popular. But the tinned
milk and the strawberry jam — yum yum —
any true bear would gladly sell himself to the
Devil for one just one go at them. A pot
J 1
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of jam was easy from the bear point of view
if he could once get hold of it—that was the
job. But most of the jam came into the
bears' country in horrid glass jars with screw
tops, and the jar had to be broken and it was
difficult to lick up the delicious jam without
getting badly cut, but it was worth it—well
worth it. On the whole, however, the jam
and cream in tins were preferable. It was
true that when a tin was squashed flat in the
powerful paws its contents would squirt all
over the scenery—but even so a good deal
would be sure to go on the bear's own fur
coat to be licked up first, and then there was
the excitement of scenting out every precious
drop that had gone astray and licking it up
again off the scenery.
When our people began blasting work,
the poor bears didn't like it. They were
inclined to revise their good opinion of us.
Frankly, they were disappointed in us. We
had seemed so nice at first, and now all of
a sudden we began making such dreadful
noises, and shaking the ground, and it was
not at all certain that we were not trying
to hit them with the stones and rocks that
we sent flying in every direction. On the
whole the bears thought it was better to keep
[96] Concerning Bears
at a respectful distance. However, soon
they became quite satisfied that they had
wronged us. We meant no harm after all.
In fact, properly understood, the incessant
blasting was a good thing, the bears thought,
because it saved a lot of trouble for a hungry
bear to be able, under cover of a good healthy
blast, to skip out while the men were away
in shelter, and steal their dinner pails.
They were very nice, those dinner pails, not
so entrancing of course as the milk and jam
tins, but still a great deal better than berries
and ground squirrels, and an occasional salmon,— oftener than not, one that had been
dead for a considerable time. The bears soon
got to know the foreman's warning shout
before a blast and sheltered like our men
till the stones had done falling, and then a
quick rush for the dinner pails was so often
successful that our people had to guard
In Alaska, if you want to escape a bear
you climb a tree. Elsewhere this would be
equivalent to giving yourself as a present to
him. But not in Alaska. No Alaska bear
ever climbs a tree; he knows the tree would
fall down. The reason is because the roots
only go down a few inches on account of the
J On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
frost in the ground. Hence it is an easy
thing to pull an Alaska tree over and the
bears won't trust themselves to them.
Having heard with surprise of this peculiarity of Alaska bears, two young rod-men
fresh from college, in one of our surveying
camps, began to practice climbing trees
quickly, one evening after supper. Finally
they attracted the attention of the engineer
in charge of the party, and he asked, "What
in thunder are you boys up to?" When
they explained, he said, "Well, see here, you
" don't need any practice. I was born and
" raised in a prairie country where there are
" no trees, and when I came up here first I had
"never climbed anything but a stepladder.
" But just the same I ran for a tree the first
"time I saw a bear coming, and a squirrel
" started up before me, but I passed him be-
" fore he was half way up. You boys don't
'' need to practice.''
The line from Caribou Crossing to White
Horse, instead of following the River and
Lake, forms the cord of a bow, and goes up
the Watson Valley away from the water highway previously followed by both Indians and
white men. The wild creatures of this Valley,
a few miles back from Caribou Crossing, had
[98] Concerning Bears
never seen a man and didn't know what a
brute he was. They had no idea that he
killed for mere amusement. So when our
camps were first established in that country
in the autumn of 1899, its inhabitants were
perfectly tame, thus confirming our old
friend Robinson Crusoe, who I think describes a similar state of affairs.
Amongst the old families of the Valley
none stood higher than the Bears, or were
more universally respected. When our people
first moved in, the Cinnamon Bears considered the important question of whether they
should call on us or not. Being divided in
opinion they consulted their cousins the
Black Bears. The latter thought there was
no hurry, perhaps we were not the sort of
people they would care to know and then
it would be rather awkward. But Mrs.
Cinnamon Bear, who liked people to take
one side so that she could take the other, said
she had no patience with that sort of narrow
talk, and her notion was that they ought to
take every opportunity to expand their knowledge by meeting strangers, from whom perhaps they might pick up some new ideas.
For her part she meant to call, and if Mr.
Cinnamon Bear hadn't the manners to
[99] 51©-.
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
come with her, she would go alone. And
she did.
She called one afternoon soon afterward at
our Camp 10, newly established at the head
of Watson Valley, but unfortunately there
was no one but the cook at home. He explained the situation as best he could and
offered her light refreshments in the form of
treacle in a tin cup. When she declined he
invited her to stay to supper so that she could
meet the others, but she excused herself by
saying she was afraid that Mr. Bear would
be expecting her home. Now the cook knew
perfectly well that this was a mere excuse,
and he knew that she was dying to investigate the tin cup and its contents but was too
shy. So when she said good-bye, he ostentatiously took the tin cup and left it a little
distance off in the woods—his bear manners
were perfect. Soon afterward he went and
got his empty tin cup.
Next afternoon, without waiting for the
cook to return her call, she repeated her visit
and gave the cook to understand that she
thought the treacle was heavenly, but that
it was not quite the thing for lady bears
to partake of it in public. The cook, of
course, rose to the occasion and filled her cup
[ioo] Concerning Bears
and left it as before a little way out in the
woods, but this time, as they both understood one another and it was merely for the
sake of appearances, he didn't take the
trouble to go much beyond the camp clearing,
and Mrs. Bear on her part made no pretence of
not watching where he put it, and in less than
five minutes she came back and said how
good it was, and he asked her if she liked
Now she had no more notion whether she
liked ham-bones than whether she liked
Wagner's later operas, so she pretended to
be busy admiring the camp and evaded an
answer. Having too much tact to repeat
his question, he took a ham-bone and threw
it absent-mindedly near the edge of the clearing where, with equal absence of mind, Mrs.
Cinnamon Bear immediately afterwards found
it. She was "picking up new ideas" with
a vengeance! But the return of the men to
camp broke off her visit for that evening.
Next afternoon when she called round to
see how her friend the cook was getting on,
she was annoyed to find her cup of treacle
on a stump quite close to where the cook
was chopping firewood. In a lady-like way
she called his attention to his oversight, but
te=fe_s^J6__£_is=^ if
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
the stupid wretch—so like a man—failed to
catch her meaning and left the cup where it
was. Of course there was nothing for it
in the end but to forget her objection to taking treacle in public and go and get it for
It was the old, old story. She had taken
the first step—the one that counts. In vain
Mr. Bear hoped that her folly would not lead
her into trouble—that her confidence in that
cook person might not prove misplaced.
For his part he did not trust the man and
could see nothing in the least attractive about
him. However, that was her affair. So
he washed his paws of the whole business,
and soon afterwards went to sleep for the
winter. But Mrs. Cinnamon kept awake
and every night, unblushingly she visited
the cook. By the time Spring came again
it was, of course, the scandal of the whole
Valley, and Mr. Bear said he had had enough
of it, and went off on his own hook to the
Wheaton Valley with a nice young lady bear
that had only just come out that spring.
Of course, people will talk—you can't stop
them—and in time the gossip about the friendship of the cook and Mrs. Cinnamon Bear
spread as far as Skaguay and reached the ears
[102] Concerning Bears
of Barley the photographer. Eager for business, he wrote to ask the cook whether there
was any truth in the rumours, and expressed
a desire to be introduced to Mrs. Cinnamon
Bear and to take her photograph. After
some correspondence, it was finally arranged
that upon a set day in the following week
Barley should come over on "No. i" train
and take the picture, which was duly done.
But Mrs. Bear's unconquerable shyness with
strangers (and cameras) rather interfered
with the cook's efforts to pose her effectively.
Probably this is the first time that a fully
grown wild bear has made an appointment
for a photographer to come ioo miles to take
her picture.
When the camp was about to break up
some pot-hunters from Skaguay thought it
would be a great opportunity to get a bear
without risk, and they were right so far as
Mrs. Cinnamon Bear was concerned. Her
acquaintance with mankind was limited to
her friends at Camp 10, and she would fall an
easy victim to designing strangers. But the
pot-hunting sportsmen reckoned without the
cook. Like most cooks he had a hasty temper, and when they disclosed their mission by
offering him a dollar to entice poor Mrs. Bear
[103] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
for them, his language conveyed most picturesquely but plainly that he would do nothing
of the kind, and that furthermore, if he ever
heard of the smallest injury to Mrs. Bear he
would hold them personally responsible to
such an extent that it would take a clever
doctor to sort the pieces. The cook was
known to be a man of his word in such matters, and the result was that, so far as we
know, poor Mrs. Cinnamon Bear still lives to
lament her vanished cook.
When the railway was finished between
Caribou Crossing and White Horse the trains
were at first a pleasing novelty to the bears,
but our trainmen not being as used to these
animals as the men living amongst them in
our construction camps, failed to appreciate
their curiosity. One morning a freight train
had been dispatched from White Horse at
once after the regular passenger train. The
latter after proceeding a few miles had to
stop to repair an air brake, and as usual on
such occasions the rear brakeman was sent
back to "flag" the train coming behind.
The stop had been made just beyond a long
deep cutting with a sharp curve in it, so that
the flagman was soon out of sight. But not
for long. Almost at once he re-appeared
[104] PQ J Concerning Bears
flying for his life, and hurled himself breathlessly on to the rear platform of the last car
panting, "I d-don't t-think he s-saw me!
And if he d-didn 't see me then h-he h-hasn 't
seen me since." The conductor took the
flag and went back down the line to see what
was up. Round the curve he found an enormous bear standing in the middle of the
track, but just then the freight train came
in sight and the bear climbed up the side of the
cutting and disappeared in the woods. The
gravel bank of the cutting showed plainly
where he had scrambled down to investigate
as soon as he had heard the first train go by.
It was the same with our steamboats on the
River. The bears back in the woods used
to hear the paddles and come running to see
what it all meant. Then the passengers on
the steamers used to get excited and hurry
for guns and rifles and come wildly running
along the decks, loading as they ran, in the
hope of getting a shot. This being more a
source of danger to the passengers than to
the bears, had to be prohibited.
On my first trip up the river from Dawson
we were due at Hell Gate about four in the
morning, and I left orders to be called before
we got there as I wanted to study the channel
\l i
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
and its approaches. Accordingly I found
myself in the pilot-house soon after half past
three. It was a calm summer morning of
brilliant sunshine. As we swung around a
bend about a mile below Hell Gate, the pilot
who was steering sang out, "See the bear in
the river!" and sure enough there was a big
fellow about a third of the way over, leisurely swimming for the other shore. He just
looked at us and continued his course across
our bows. We were going faster than he
thought, and it was doubtful if he could clear
us. Still he resolutely stuck to his course and
would have just cleared us if we had stuck
to ours. But at the last moment, before I
realized what he was up to or could stop him,
the pilot gave her a couple of spokes of port
helm and ran over him. As our bow wave
ploughed him under, he turned his head and
gave a furious snarl. Angrily I expostulated with the pilot at what I called his coldblooded murder. But he said, "Why—he's
all right." I retorted, "I suppose you'd be
all right, too, if you went under that wheel"
(and indeed it looked as if our big stern wheel
must smash up anything that went under our
fiat-bottomed hull). "Well, you watch" he
said, laughing.    Half hoping he might some-
[106] Concerning Bears
how be right, I kept my eyes on the big waves
in our wake, and sure enough about 50 yards
astern up came Mr. Bear, none the worse, but
angrier than when he went down. He was
simply beside himself with rage. His face
was the angriest thing I ever saw. (I wish
Barley had been there to take his picture.)
He put up one huge forearm out of the water
and shook it at us and screamed with rage.
Before I had done laughing the pilot said,
"You bet that fellow dived till he struck
" bottom. He wouldn't let the wheel touch
" him for a dollar," and so it seemed.
It will be seen that any account of the history of the "White Pass" in our earlier days
would be incomplete without some reference
to the bears and their relations with our
people. Though those days have gone,
and bears are now seldom seen from either
our trains or steamers, passengers hear innumerable bear stories and become either very
keen to see a bear or, in some cases, very apprehensive of doing so. In the summer of
1906 a party of New York ladies and gentlemen made a tour of the Yukon, with a suite
comprising a man-servant and two ladies-
maids (French and English respectively).
The suite had heard a good deal about bears
[107] Ill
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
on the voyage up to Skaguay, and on landing
there their nerves had got a further shock
by the sight of two or three bear-cubs playing
about in the street. They did not know that
these cubs were as friendly and playful as
kittens and were kept as an advertisement
to attract custom to an " Indian curio " shop.
They failed, however, to attract the New York
servants, who fled to the hotel and only left
it in the hotel 'bus to take the train.
I went to Atlin in the " Gleaner" with the
party, and as we were all going on to Dawson
together, and were only going to remain one
day in Atlin, it was arranged, in order to
economize time, that the "Gleaner" should
start at once on our return in the evening and
dinner was to be served after starting.
We had a busy day and got back rather late
to the "Gleaner" and were met at the gangway by incoherent talk of a bear having
attacked the ladies-maids and man-servant
and some of the crew. But no two stories
seemed to agree, and as I caught the chief
engineer in the act of winking at the purser,
I suggested that we would all be late for dinner unless we hurried up and dressed.
Then I followed the chief engineer to his
engine-room to get at the actual facts.     It
[108] "1
Concerning Bears
appeared that some of the stewards and the
second officer had found out in the course
of conversation with the ladies-maids that
the man-servant was in terror of bears (they
said nothing of their own nervousness), and
then of course it became obviously necessary
to give him some justification for his fears.
One of the stewards was cast for the part of
the bear and the second mate was to risk his
life to save the girls. But it was felt safest
not to give them any hint of the treat in store,
for fear they might by some incautious remark
put the intended victim on his guard. The
plot had to be modified a little on account
of unexpected difficulties in his " make up,"
rendering it impossible to allow the bear to
do more than keep in the background with
an old, moth-eaten, torn bear skin that had got
past doing duty as a mat and had been thrown
out into the store-keeper's woodshed.
After lunch the gallant mate invited the
girls to come ashore with him and gather
wild-flowers, but they objected on the score
of bears. He reassured them by saying they
would keep within sight of the boat, and that
anyhow the bears never came about in the
afternoon, which they spent playing "bridge"
or sleeping. No anxiety was shown to secure
[109] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
the company of the man-servant, as the second mate rightly considered that this was the
best way to insure his going ashore with the
girls.    So off they all went.
The wild flowers were beautiful and the
second mate interesting and time passed
rapidly, till there smote on their horrified
ears the most awful roar from the hill above
them, and quite near at hand. A second
roar followed almost at once and still nearer.
(The " bear " being nervous on account of the
deficiencies of his "make up" was rather overdoing his roar business. As a matter of fact
bears don't really roar, but of course the
main thing is to interest your audience.)
The second roar was the mate's cue, so he
said to his male companion, "Run for the
boat. I will protect the ladies till you return
with help." He didn't have to speak twice,
the New Yorker was off like a rabbit.
But the "ladies" unluckily showed more
inclination to trust to their heels than to the
second mate, and were off, too, and he couldn't
rally them. They simply flew when they
saw a great hairy-looking animal in the background emitting a third of his justly celebrated roars. The second mate had to make
the best of a bad job and re-arrange the plot
[no] Concerning Bears
on the spur of the moment. It was his part
to be a hero, so as the ladies wouldn't let
him save them, of course he had to die for
them. So he shouted out, " Save yourselves,
I will keep the bear engaged till you are safe,''
and jumped for a small dead branch of a tree
(that could be depended upon to break with
a loud crack), and when it broke he fell to
the ground before their distracted eyes as
they fled. He must have been hurt by his
fall, they thought, because he failed to get
on his feet again, and in another moment he
and the bear were rolling over and over on the
ground making the most blood-curdling yells
(between their fits of laughter), till finally
the second mate got up and said, "There!
that will do; I guess I 'm dead all right—and
anyhow your skin has come off." Then he
sneaked on board by way of the engine-room
gangway, while the fugitives were busy explaining his untimely but gallant end.
A few minutes later the steward who had
acted the bear strolled on board whistling,
"Are there any more at home like you," and
spent the rest of the afternoon comforting
the agitated girls, and telling them not to
mind about the second mate as the Company
had lots more of them,
[in] ill!
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Having got these facts, I dressed quickly
for dinner and sat next the lady who claimed
the services of the French ladies-maid. The
talk, of course, was all about the dreadful
calamity, and I expressed a fear that she had
not found Elise as efficient as usual and wondered how she had managed to get her hair
so nicely done. But she was so upset about
the second mate that I had to explain, " Oh,
he's all right. You see the bear was a friend
of his—in fact, that's the bear handing you
the vegetables." Thereupon the "bear"
and the vegetables vanished, and the truth
came out.
But we all agreed that it would be too cruel
to deprive Elise and her companions of their
narrow escape, so we kept the facts to ourselves, and doubtless this blood-curdling
"bear story" still continues to thrill the upper circles in New York and Paris servants'
halls, authenticated as it is by three such
prominent members. Still—things are not
always what they seem; and it is evident that
"nature faking" is not confined to magazine
writers, but has its votaries also amongst the
steamboat men on the Yukon.
•***■ PART II
Before the railway was completed, we had
the usual prognostications of trouble in working the line, especially during the winter.
The "wise men" who make it their business
to volunteer advice and opinions in such
cases, were quite emphatic about the impossibility of our attempting to run trains in
winter-time over the storm-swept White
Pass. We were told what the storms were
like by men who had never been on the Pass in
winter, and who possibly forgot that we ourselves had built the line over the Pass itself
during the previous winter.
While we were receiving these warnings
on the one hand, we were urged by some of
our English friends to keep down the first
cost of the line at all hazards and to build a
"light tramway" rather than a railway,
and not to be so particular about our gradients. These "economists" apparently supposed that if a line was "located" in the
first instance for a cheap line with heavy
gradients, it could afterwards be changed,
J/ f*T
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
and failed to understand that this would
involve "re-location" and rebuilding of the
line. We used to wonder how these economists would propose to work their suggested light tramway with heavy gradients,
especially during the winter, and how they
would avoid accidents on their heavy gradients when they tried to run heavy loads over
their light tracks in the busy summer season,
and how many tons one of their light engines
would be able to pull up the hill, and what
the cost per ton would be.
The railway line was built in the belief that
the line that would pay best was a well located
one, with the lowest possible gradients and a
very solid roadbed over which heavy engines
could haul heavy loads up the hill in summertime, and which would admit of modern appliances for snow fighting in the winter. It
was believed that with the aid of such appliances the line could be kept open throughout the entire year in spite of what the "wise
men" said.
But the first essential for successful snow
fighting on a railway, especially in the mountains, is a solid roadbed, able to stand the
enormous strain involved in the working of a
big  rotary snow  plough   pushed into the
[116] •*
PQ  Rail Division
heavy snow banks and drifts by two and
sometimes three heavy locomotives. As
rotary snow ploughs are not common in
England, it maybe well to explain that they
consist of a long, narrow sort of house on
trucks, enormously strong, and containing a
large boiler and powerful engine for working
the rotary knives. These knives are set in the
form of a wheel on the front of the machine,
having a large diameter and revolving at
right angles to the track at great speed inside
a hood, but open at the front where the knives
come in contact with the snow bank or drift.
The revolving knives slice away the snow as
the "rotary " is pushed forward by its attendant locomotives, and the snow as it is sliced
away by the knives is thrown into the hood
and whirled away by centrifugal force to a
great distance clear of the track. These
machines can deal with snow-banks up
to about 12 feet deep, but in deeper snow
they "tunnel" or choke themselves, and it
is then necessary to prepare for the "rotary "
by trimming down the snow-bank with shovels to about 12 feet deep.
The speed at which a rotary can eat its
way through the snow-drifts of course depends
on the depth and hardness of the snow, but
[117] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
varies from one to about five miles per hour.
When the snow is drifting, or inclined to slide,
it fills in the cut made by the rotary in a few
minutes, and this is especially true on the
White Pass where the storms are so fierce.
Consequently it is necessary to have the train
for which the rotary is clearing the track
follow the rotary through the cuts very closely, and as the line is almost immediately
blocked again behind the train, it is obvious
that once a train has started there is nothing for that train to do but keep treading on
the heels of the rotary until it gets to the other
end. Sometimes in heavy snow fighting the
rotary, or one of its attendant locomotives,
runs short of water at a distance from a
water-tank, or breakdowns may occur which
delay proceedings.
We had a trying experience in our very
first big snow fight, which began on December
17,1899, and lasted continuously for a month.
The drifts were from 8 to 12 feet deep all the
way from Skaguay to Bennett, the wind blew
a continuous heavy gale from the north, and
the temperature ranged from 300 to 6o° below
zero. During this month sometimes a rotary
or train crew would be on continuous duty
for over 48 hours. But even this record
[n8] i7^
- jwSMrt^fc,"."-        .    :jj
■ w--
^fc^             ^
1              -'■^m^*
[ft ®w
White Pass Rotary Snow Plough in Action
White Pass Rotary Snow Plough at Rest  m
Rail Division
was surpassed in the terrific storm of March
7, 8, 9, io, and n, 1900. On that occasion
the rotary and train crew leaving Skaguay
on March 7th reached Bennett (40 miles) on
March nth, after 105 hours' service of which
90 was continuous. The passengers of the
train testified to the exertions of the crew
in the following testimonial: '' Lake Bennett,
"B. C, March n, 1900. On board passen-
"ger train, W. P. & Y. R.: We, the under-
" signed passengers, deem it only a slight
"matter of justice to express our thanks to
"Charles Moriarty, Road Master; Murray
"B. Miles, Conductor; Robert Simpson, Engineer; J. C. Quinlan, Conductor of Rotary,
" and all other members of the train crew for
"the perseverance they have displayed in
"landing us safely here; notwithstanding
"their having been on duty constantly with-
"out rest or sleep, for over ninety hours, in
"one of the hardest blizzards that any of us
'' have ever experienced.''
The following extracts from our official
reports give a pretty clear idea of what 90
hours of continuous service on a rotary snow
plough involves in the way of work, danger,
and   hardship:
"Skaguay, Alaska, March 27, 1904. At
[119] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"2:30 p. m., Friday, March 25th, a snow-
"slide came down at Mile-post 15, 500 feet
"long, 10 to 38 feet deep. It was found that
"the snow contained a great deal of water,
" this causing it to pack like ice. The section
"crews were bunched and men put to work
"to cut it down to 12 feet, so that the rotary
"could handle it. The rotary ploughed into
" the slide on the north end about 40 feet, and
"encountered a boulder about 3 tons. She
"stripped herself of the knives and the boul-
" der was pulled out with chain. Afterwards
"the rotary was sent into the slide again.
"This time she made about 15 feet, encount-
*' ering another boulder weighing about 5 tons.
"Any remaining pieces of knives that she had
" on her wheel were knocked off by this second
"boulder. This boulder was disposed of in
'' the same manner as the first one. After dig-
"ging out about 15 feet more of the slide, we
"encountered another boulder, weighing
"about 10 tons, of a triangular shape. This
" boulder was disposed of in the same manner
" as the former ones. The snow was so hard
"and the rotary was wedged in the slide so
" that in taking the slack of the coupling the
"front head beam on Engine 61 was broken.
"Word was then sent to Skaguay to start
[120] 1
Rail Division
' the other rotary and two more engines out.
'We again put the first rotary outfit into
' the slide. She was doing as well as could
' be expected until she broke the cross timber
' that the casting is fastened to on the rotary,
'between the rotary and her tank. This
' put the machine out of business and we had
' to dig out the balance of the slide with the
* rotary from Skaguay. In some places the
'men had to cut the slide down 26 feet. It
' was a very dangerous place to work and the
' men were afraid that the slide would cave
' in on them.    However, we managed to hold
* them up to the work and got through the
' slide at 1 :oo a. m., arriving at Skaguay with
'Train No. 2 at 2:30 a. M., Saturday, March
"Skaguay, Alaska, January 24, 1906.
'A severe cold snap set in on the Rail
'Division on January 19th. Thermometer
'dropped from 150 to 480 below between
'Skaguay and White Horse, and a strong
'north wind blowing, and drifting snow
' between Fraser and Glacier.
"On the 20th, thermometer dropped from
' 200 below at Skaguay to 640 below at White
' Horse; wind increasing in velocity.
"On the 22d, thermometer ranged from
[121] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'220 below at Skaguay to 68° below at White
' Horse, and the wind still blowing hard from
' the north between Fraser and Skaguay.
"On the 23d, 18° below at Skaguay to
156° below at White Horse.
"The rotary has been making trips as far
'as Fraser, and owing to the severe cold
'weather it has been almost impossible for
' rotary crew to keep from freezing in the ma-
' chine. To-day it is from 140 below at Ska-
' guay to 480 below at White Horse, with
' a light snow and a very strong wind from the
' north, and drifts all the way from Fraser to
' Skaguay. Snow reported 15 feet deep on the
'track on north end of section 3, and south
' end of section 4; or between the tunnel and
' steel bridge. This is four feet deeper than
' the rotary can handle, and it is so cold that
' it is impossible to keep men out to cut down
' the drifts without freezing.
"The rotary crew have great difficulty in
'keeping the oil on the machine owing to
' the oil cups freezing up. We have had to
' put an extra engine crew on rotary and re-
' quire them to keep torches burning around
'the oil cups."
Having now acquired some idea of what
snow fighting means, the reader will perhaps
[122I Rail Division
be better able to share the wonder of our
officials as to how our English "economist"
friends would propose to keep things moving
on their suggested light tramway with heavy
gradients; and will also realize that there was
some foundation for the gloomy forebodings
of the "wise men " who told us we could never
keep our track clear.
We thought we could; and to that end we
equipped ourselves with two powerful rotary
snow ploughs, and took special pains to select
picked men to run them. One of these men
was H. R. Simpson, better known as " Rotary
BUI," who was the engineer on the rotary
mentioned in the passengers' testimonial.
We shall come across him again before closing
the story of the work on the Rail Division.
Enough has perhaps been said to make it
clear that '' snow fighting'' is not an occupation to be attempted by anyone lacking in
courage, stamina, quick resourcefulness, and
iron nerve. If anybody doubts this let him
imagine himself the engineer of a rotary on
the White Pass. He leaves Skaguay with,
say, three snorting monsters of locomotives
behind him pushing him up the mountain.
The first snow-bank is soon reached and the
rotary started. As soon as it is running
[123] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
steadily its engineer gives the signal to the
snorting monsters behind and they commence
to force him relentlessly into the hidden
dangers of the snow-bank. But a rotary
engineer is not supposed to worry about hidden dangers—he confines himself to the situation in hand, regulating the speed of his revolving knives and the speed at which he is
being pushed into the snow according to the
exigencies of the moment. There are many
places on our line where the roadbed is notched
into the mountain side and where nervous
passengers, even in summer, prefer not to
look down into the canyons below. But the
engineer on the rotary must not waste his
time speculating what would happen if there
were a rail loose under the snow-bank into
which the three monsters behind are blindly
forcing him forward. It is equally futile to
wonder what would be the outcome if there
should be a fallen rock or boulder hidden in
the snow to throw him off the track, or if
harder snow should be suddenly encountered
and the monsters behind should push him
into it faster than he could "eat it up," which
would mean either forcing him up in the air
or sideways off the track. Neither is it of
the slightest use speculating about the result
[124] Rail Division
should the snow on the mountain above begin
to slide.
One's ears are deafened by the noise of the
monsters snorting behind and by the roar of
snow as it is whirled through and out of the
hood. In the midst of this bewildering din
stands the rotary engineer with his hand on
the throttle and his eyes all round him, ready
for anything, but expecting nothing. Clearly it is no place for a weakling. Then perhaps the water runs short, and your oil cups
freeze, and your feet freeze, and you have
been 48 hours on your legs, and the " worst is
yet to come." But still you must stick to
it like a bulldog and get the train through.
And you do — if you are a White Pass rotary
Sometimes, in spite of all precautions, there
is an accident, though these have happily
been rare and unattended by serious injury.
The most serious was the derailment of rotary
No. 2 by an avalanche near Mile-post 18 at
noon on Sunday, February 12, 1906. Simpson (Rotary Bill) was the engineer in charge
of the rotary, and locomotives Nos. 61 and 62
(two of our biggest) were pushing him through
a five-foot snow-bank at the rate of about
five miles an hour, when suddenly the snow
[125] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
on the mountain-side above began to slide,
and before the locomotives could back the
rotary clear she was caught in the avalanche
and carried with it off the track and over the
side of the mountain. Luckily she broke
her coupling to the leading locomotive, so
both locomotives remained on the track.
The avalanche in striking the rotary turned
her clear over, and she was left with her "feet''
(as they call locomotive wheels) in the air.
Simpson was not hurt, but his fireman and
another man on pilot duty in the rotary were
slightly injured. However, a few days in
our hospital at Skaguay set them right. The
tender of the rotary was got back on the
track again, but the rotary itself had to be
taken to pieces where it lay in the deep snow
on the side of the mountain, as there was
danger of starting the snow sliding again
if any attempt were made to right the rotary
preliminary to hauling her up on to the track
again. The pieces, of course, were rebuilt at
our Skaguay shops, so that in a few days
Rotary No. 2 was back in service again, none
the worse for her slide down the mountain.
It must not be supposed, however, that all
our troubles on the Rail Division are confined to snow fighting and the winter-time.
[126]   ■»
Rail Division
In spite of the utmost vigilance and care, a
broken coupling, a defective air brake, or a
hundred other similar trifles which cannot be
foreseen or guarded against, are capable of
creating a serious emergency on a mountain
line like the White Pass. Hitherto our
men's nerve and resourcefulness have proved
equal to the emergencies that have arisen,
and have avoided any serious accidents.
But the following cases illustrate how narrow is the margin sometimes between an
accident with trifling results, and a catastrophe.
On September 10, 1901, Train No. 2,
from White Horse to Skaguay, reached the
summit of White Pass "on time" and proceeded to run down the 20-mile hill into
Skaguay. It happened to be a heavy train
on account of a large number of passengers
who had arrived at White Horse that day
from down river in the course of the regular
autumn exodus. Most of the passengers
were very keen to see the line between the
Summit and Skaguay, and for that purpose
a great number of them, in spite of the warnings and remonstrances of the train crew,
crowded onto the rear platform of the rear
coach. Numbers of others who had failed
J On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
to secure a position on the rear platform, established themselves in the rear end of the
coach, while scarcely anybody happened to
be in the front end of that particular coach.
Just south of the tunnel, the line crosses a
deep rocky canyon on a high bridge. Coming
out of the tunnel onto this bridge there is a
momentary glimpse on the left of the view up
the canyon, then the interest suddenly shifts
to the view on the right down the canyon.
The rear coach had got about two-thirds of the
way across the bridge, when Engineer Mackenzie, on Engine 59 in charge of the train,
noticed that the forward trucks of the rear
coach were off the rails. The engine and all
the train but about the two last coaches were
off the bridge, and Mackenzie had his train
so well in hand that he could have stopped
in the length of a coach. Instinctively he
reached for his air brake, but before his hand
could obey the instinct, his mind taught him
that as soon as he used his air brakes, he
would throw his rear coach (whose front
trucks were off the rails) " skew-ways" across
the track, with the probable result of throwing it off the bridge into the canyon below.
Then he did what required some nerve. He
deliberately kept his train running at the
[128] 1
Rail Division
same speed until he saw his rear coach was
off the bridge and on solid ground. Then,
and not till then, he used his air brakes, with
the result that his rear coach was in fact
thrown skew-ways across the track and its
front trucks went into the left hand ditch,
so that the coach toppled over inwards
against the precipitous mountain-side. No
one was hurt and no damage done beyond
some broken windows. But had Mackenzie's brain not worked quickly enough to
check his instinct that rear coach and its 50
occupants would have gone into the canyon,
and a catastrophe would have resulted that
would have engaged the attention of the
world in the following morning's papers.
Investigation showed that the roadbed
and rails were in perfect order, and the truck
and entire coach also in perfect condition.
The left hand rail showed where the wheels
of the truck had gradually mounted the rail
and dropped off onto the sleepers outside,
but no possible cause for their doing so could
be discovered. We were finally forced to
the conclusion that the weight of passengers
at the rear end of the coach, and suddenly
transferred in watching the scenery from
the left to the right side of the coach, must
[129] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
have caused it to lurch and jump the
track. This view was strengthened by the
fact that the coach happened to be one
of our earliest ones and only weighed a little over twelve tons, which is very much
lighter than our recent coaches. The accident resulted in a strict enforcement of our
rule prohibiting passengers from standing on
the coach platforms, and in our selling our
light coaches for service on lines where the
gradients and curves were easier, and where
the consequences of derailment would be
less serious.
Early in August, 1905, we had completed
a big embankment with a dry retaining wall
of large stones and boulders, for the purpose
of straightening the line at a curve where
the snow "pocketed" every winter, and
also for the purpose of doing away with
bridge 17 D. The new embankment and
dry wall was 56 feet high at the highest
point, and averaged about 35 feet high for
about 300 feet in length. The embankment
was completed on July 2 2d, and after allowing a couple of weeks for it to settle the
track was transferred to it from the old
line on August 6th and most carefully
tested before being opened to traffic. In the
[13°] Rail Division
first six days 26 heavy trains and 70 locomotives ran over this embankment and
found it perfectly solid. On the night of
August 1 ith a heavy goods train passed over
it on its way from Skaguay to the Summit.
This train, besides the regular train engine,
had two "helper" engines to take it up the
hill. Arrived at the Summit these two engines were detached and proceeded about
midnight to drop down the hill to Skaguay.
Engine No. 66 was leading, in charge of Engineer Simpson (Rotary Bill). As the night
was very dark and it was raining in torrents,
he was running very cautiously and keeping
a good look out for fallen rocks, which are the
bete noire of an engine-driver on a mountain
line on a dark wet night. When he got to
the new embankment at 17 D, which he had
passed over with the heavy train only a
short time before, he thought he saw
through the dark and the driving rain that
"there was a sag in the track towards the
far end." Instantly he blew a warning
whistle to the engine following him down the
hill, and ordered his fireman to "jump,"
while he himself set his air brakes and eased
his valve. By this time he was well on the
embankment, and having done everything
-    -m&~^ On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
possible for the safety of his engine and of
the engine following him, he jumped from
his engine just as it ran onto the "sag."
The next moment the engine and the "sag"
and a good part of the new embankment
"weren't there." They had gone down the
mountain. Simpson escaped without injury,, and Fireman Moriarity got off with a
broken rib. Before morning our track-layers
had the track relaid on the old line so that
traffic was not interrupted.
Daylight revealed Engine No. 66 on her
back about ioo feet down the steep mountain-side. Her tender was still coupled to
her. On August 12th and 13th our men
built a temporary track down the mountain
to the tender, and by the evening of August
13th had the tender safe and sound back
on the main line again. But the engine
was not so easy, because the side of the
mountain where she lay was so steep that any
attempt to turn her right side up would have
started her off down the mountain-side for an
indefinite distance. It was therefore necessary to excavate the mountain side behind
her till space had been made to turn her
over safely and put her on her "feet" again.
This having been done, the track used for
[132] Rail Division
the tender was extended to the engine and
two immense sets of blocks and tackles with
steel wire ropes were attached to her. As
the gradient of the temporary track was
62J %, i. e., a rise of 62J feet for every 100
feet of track, it will be understood that these
tackles were necessary, bearing in mind the
fact that Engine No. 66 weighed sixty tons.
The hauling ends of the wire ropes from the
two sets of tackles were attached to Engines
62 and 59 respectively and the former started
to pull up the track towards the Summit,
while the latter started to pull down the
track towards Skaguay, keeping an even and
steady strain on the two sets of tackles,
which were of course carefully watched and
tended during the operation. Foot by foot
Engine No. 66 mounted the temporary track,
and before long she was safe on the main line
once more. After a couple of days in our
Skaguay shops she was back in service again,
none the worse. All the work was done by
our regular gangs of bridge-men and section-
men, and all the material used was taken up
again and saved, so that the cost of this
accident was merely nominal. But if that
embankment had gone out while a heavy
train instead of a single engine was passing
[133] It
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
over it, we should not have got off so
Investigation showed that the continuous
torrents of rain, which had lasted for over a
week previous to the accident, had caused the
interior of the embankment to settle, with a
disturbing effect on the large boulders forming the lower portion of the dry retaining
wall. The whole thing must have occurred
very shortly before Engine No. 66 reached
the embankment, because the "track-walker"
had only just left there about half an hour.
As the result of this accident we continue
to use our old line in spite of the winter
snow pockets, but we have filled in bridge
17-D solid so that the snow fighters have a
better track to fight on.
When the railway was first finished our
scale of charges averaged about 10 to 15
per cent, of the amounts the public had been
previously paying for very much worse service, and of course on heavy or bulky articles,
such as machinery, there was no basis for
comparison, because such things could not
be brought in at all before the railway was
opened. The rush of the public to avail
themselves of our facilities taxed our carrying capacity to the utmost. People began
[134] Rail Division
trying to bribe our men to give their goods
preference or priority over others, while at
the same time these same people raised an
outcry against our "extortionate charges."
We suffered in this respect for the sins of
the steamboat owners, who brought the
goods to us at Skaguay and took them from
us at White Horse. Their steamers carried
cargo on what is known as the "weight or
measurement" basis, which is universally
employed by vessel owners all the world
over, to protect themselves in carrying light
but bulky goods. "Weight or measurement" means that the vessel has the option
of charging by the ton weight or of calling
40 cubic feet a ton measurement. Hay,
for instance, would thus be carried on a
measurement basis, while coal, say, would
be carried on a weight basis. This is perfectly fair, if the measurement is fair. But
the difficulty is for the consignee to check the
measurement to see that he is not being overcharged, and in the early White Pass days
the overcharges by the steamers on measurement goods were outrageous. The story is
told of a wagon which was driven down to
the wharf in Seattle for shipment to Skaguay. The horses were taken out and the
J On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
wagon left on the wharf. The steamboat
people measured it before they took the pole
out and on reaching Skaguay presented us
with their bill of charges, which we had to
pay and treat as "back charges" in collecting the freight from the consignee.
From the very first everything was
charged on a weight basis on our railway,
so we had nothing to do with these measurement overcharges. But the consignees, perhaps not unnaturally, blamed us as if they
were our charges. Finding our protests to
the vessel owners unavailing with respect
to improper measurement, we finally took a
determined stand and flatly refused to join
in through bills of lading except upon a
strict weight basis, and no longer "took up
back charges" based on measurement. Of
course this involved classifying the goods,
but it did away with the measurement overcharges. However, we got no credit, and
the public continued to abuse us and denounce our "extortion."
We had an amusing case of this in Atlin.
The good people of that district shortly
before the close of navigation one autumn
got up a "Gun Club" and sent out a "rush
order" for a supply of clay pigeons. These,
I Rail Division
however, did not arrive at Caribou Crossing
till after the close of navigation, and consequently had to be warehoused there till the
following season. When they reached Atlin
on the first boat, Jimmy Lipscombe, our agent
there, notified the Gun Club of their arrival,
and they sent down the town drayman to pay
the freight and get the pigeons, which he did.
There are people everywhere who regard
any money paid by them in taxes or to a
railway company as something that they
have been swindled out of, and in Atlin such
people. have always seemed particularly
numerous and indignant. They had been
rumbling and grumbling all winter about
the "White Pass high-handed system of
robbery," and were only waiting for a good
instance of it to explode. Plenty of them
belonged to the Gun Club and scrutinized the
freight bill on the clay pigeons. It was the
usual sort of document, made out in the usual
sort of abbreviated hieroglyphics adopted by
billing clerks all over the world. No one presumably ever saw a freight bill made out in
plain language. However, the Atlin people
managed to make out the gist of the document down to the last item which read
"C. S. on pigeons 25c." They knew the last
[137] i"
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
portion to denote that there was 25 cents to
pay, but "C. S. on pigeons" puzzled them till
the butcher said " C. S." always means " cold
storage." Then the explosion occurred. At
last they had caught us in the act! We were
so ignorant as not to know that the pigeons
were clay pigeons, and so dishonest as to
pretend falsely that we had kept them in
cold storage all winter when everybody knew
that we had no cold storage plant at Caribou
Crossing. Here was the chance to make us
sit up. Accordingly the matter of our flagrant overcharge was referred to the "Atlin
Board of Trade" for appropriate action.
The Atlin Board of Trade is a nebulous
body, composed, so far as I understand, of
everybody who has nothing better to do
than attend a meeting. The editor of the
local paper was its secretary, and got up the
meetings apparently with a view to filling his
columns. Judging from the reports in those
columns the people attending the meetings
could neither be bought nor intimidated, and
found themselves in perpetual antagonism
with organized attempts to trample on the
liberties of " the peepul." So they were able
to approach our cold storage charge in a
fitting spirit.
[138] <
ft ; | ■"I
Rail Division
Before the meeting some of them sounded
Jimmy Lipscombe as to what he thought of
anyone who would make a cold storage
charge on clay pigeons, and Jimmy speaking
in his private capacity and not for publication, admitted that personally he thought
such a charge would be improper.
When the meeting convened it was evident that the champions of the liberties of
the people were in their very best form, and
the speeches denouncing us were hot enough
to warrant cold storage.
At last, when everybody had uncorked his
views, the secretary took the largest sheet of
folio paper in town, wrote the date at the
top, and the heading "The Atlin Board of
Trade in Meeting Assembled," and then he
" whereas'd " himself all down the front page,
setting forth our iniquities in general and in
connection with clay pigeons in particular.
Then he turned over the page and took a
fresh start, "Be it therefore resolved" and
off he went with a string of resolutions demanding restitution of our ill-gotten plunder
in general and of the 25 cents for cold storage of clay pigeons in particular, and wound
up at the foot of the page with "Be it fur-
" ther resolved that the secretary be and he is
[139] If
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"hereby instructed, failing full restitution
" and satisfactory assurances as to the future,
" tobring the facts before the Right Hon. the
" Minister of Railways, and before the Attor-
" ney General of this Province " (and a lot of
" other potentates set forth), " with a view to
" securing such legal proceedings as may by
"them or any of them be deemed proper."
Then the document was read and carried with
acclamation and the meeting adjourned.
The secretary enclosed a copy of this document in a portentous-looking envelope and
launched it at the unsuspecting Jimmy next
morning in our office, and intimated that
prompt action was expected. Jimmy's smile
broadened as he read. Then he took a red
ink pen and wrote upon the virgin third page
as follows:
"Pi's, note letters'C. S.' herein rf'rd to
signify Caribou Storage. There is no cold
storage ch'rge.
" R'sp'ctfully,
"Jas. Lipscombe, Agt."
And that was the last we heard of the Atlin
Board of Trade for some time.
When the line was finished to White Horse
in the summer of 1900, we supposed in our
innocence that our troubles were over—not
knowing that one's troubles are never over.
Our idea was to take things easy and rake in
the dollars lawfully accruing to us for carrying the passengers and goods through their
worst dangers and difficulties with safety
and dispatch. At White Horse we turned
them over to an irresponsible mob of river
steamers that competed for the business in
much the same fashion as cab-drivers outside
an ill-managed railway station. Innocent
passengers were fought over, through shipments of goods were split up, Customs papers
lost, goods stolen on the boats, and in short
perfect anarchy prevailed. Many of the boat
owners were not responsible financially, so
that the passengers with through tickets and
the goods owners with through bills of lading naturally preferred to make their claims
against us, leaving us in our turn to recover
from the delinquent boat owners — if we
[ 141']
1 On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Before the end of the season of 1900 it
was obvious that in self-defense we must
organize our own river service. This we
accordingly did during the coming winter,
building our own steamers at our own shipyards at White Horse. When navigation
opened in 1901, we began running these boats
under our own flag and have continued to do
so ever since. This service we call our River
Division, to distinguish it from the rail portion of our service, which we call our Rail
The distance by river from White Horse
to Dawson is 460 miles; allowing for detours
to landing-places, wood-yards, etc., the round
voyage is nearly 1,000 miles, of which half the
distance has to be made up stream against a
current never less than 5 miles an hour and
in some places more. One might suppose
that the disadvantage of an adverse current on the up-stream voyage would be offset by the favourable current on the down
voyage. But on the contrary a steamer's
greatest effort on the down-stream voyage is
put forth in backing. The turns are so sharp,
and the channel so narrow, and the current
so swift, that it is impossible to keep a
boat in the channel with the rudder alone,
[142] River Division
especially as the effect of the rudder on a flat-
bottomed boat is to make her "slide," like a
motor-car skidding. Therefore, at every turn
where the channel is at all narrow or shallow,
it is necessary to back the engines hard, thus
holding the boat stationary against the
stream while she slides at an angle into the
desired position.
The operation requires the greatest skill
and judgment, because often it is necessary
to place the boat almost to an inch in taking her through a crooked, rocky channel
where the stream is running like a mill-
race, and usually diagonally to the ship's
course. The speed of the ship through the
water, her speed over the ground, and the
set and the speed of the stream, all have to
be taken into account and combined successfully from moment to moment in the pilot's
brain in order to enable him to move his helm
and engines at the exact moment, and in the
exact manner required to give the desired
result. There must not be an instant's delay in the response of the engine to the pilot's
order. This is one cause of the traditional feud between the pilot-house and the
engine-room on "swift-water" steamboats.
A pilot or captain may accuse an engineer of
[143] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
breaking any or all of the Ten Commandments rather than even hint that he is not
quick on his "bell." There are six rudders,
three between the stern paddle-wheel and
the hull and three behind the wheel, so that
whether the wheel is going ahead or backing
it throws a powerful stream against three
rudders, the effect of which is that the
steering of the boat does not depend, as in
other craft, on her having steerage-way, but
on the movements of the stern paddle-
It is of such vital importance to have the
steering quickly and accurately done that
going down stream, or in a difficult place
coming up, a "swift-water" pilot would as
little think of trying to instruct a quartermaster how to steer for him as how to make
a difficult shot at billiards for him. The
rudders are controlled by an ingenious steam
steering gear, designed and patented by Captain Turner, one of our captains, which is so
rapid in its action that the ordinary hand
steering-wheel (which is always kept connected in case of accidents) spins round so
quickly that it is impossible to see its spokes.
It will be understood, therefore, that a
voyage down stream in a " swift-water"
[144] ■1
River Division
steamboat means concentrated attention by
the pilot and engineer on watch.
People read Mark Twain's accounts of
steamboating on the Mississippi, and think
they know all about river steamboats, and
in the early days on the Yukon a number of
Mississippi pilots and other steamboat men
were brought up to run boats, and some of
them remain to this day and have become
good "swift-water" men — after they have
learned the business. But it is quite a different game to what they had been used to,
and most of the Mississippi men, in spite of
the better pay on the Yukon, drifted back
again to their sluggish, muddy, old "Father
of Waters." It was the same with the Mississippi type of boat. A number were built
for the Yukon in the early days, but experience showed that they are hardly adapted
for "swift-water" work.
Until the railway was finished to White
Horse, the only way to get a steamer of
large size on the Yukon was to build her at
Portland, Seattle, Victoria, or some similar
place, and send her by open sea 2,500 miles
to St. Michael at the mouth of the river, and
thence 2,100 miles up river brought her to
White Horse. These early boats were either
JD On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of the regular Mississippi type or else resembled the "swift-water" boats in use on the
Snake, Willamette, or upper waters of the
Columbia river.
But the service between White Horse and
Dawson involved special features which demanded a special type of boat, adapted to
carry her load down stream on a very light
draught and come back empty against the
stream. The first essential was enormous
backing powers, without which no boat could
safely carry a heavy cargo down the rapid
stream. Then for the long voyage back
against the stream it was essential that when
the boat was empty her wheel should nevertheless be sufficiently immersed to take up the
power of the engines without racing. To get
this result without having the wheel so deep as
to make her sluggish in backing when loaded
was a difficult problem, and we evolved a
special model for ourselves with the boats we
have built at White Horse.
These boats carry ioo first-class passengers
and about 300 tons weight of cargo on a
draught of water of about 4 feet, and have
a mean draught of about 18 inches without
cargo. They steam about 15 miles an hour
through the water, and can almost throw a
[146] rA  River Division
man off his legs when they back suddenly.
The cargo is all carried on deck a few feet
above water, for convenience in loading and
unloading, and with the engines and boilers,
is housed in by a light structure known as the
freight-house, about 11 feet high, covering in
the entire boat except the bow. On top of
this freight-house is the passenger accommodation in a sort of second story, and on top
of this again, on the " Texas " or upper deck, is
the galley and accommodation for the officers
and crew other than the engineers and firemen, who live on the main deck. On top of
all is the pilot-house, some 35 feet above the
water and commanding a clear view all
round. Such craft are obviously not adapted for rough water, and yet on Lake La Barge
they have often to contend for thirty miles
with heavy gales and heavy seas, and it is
wonderful how well they do it.
Ordinary craft, when confronted with less
water than they will float in, have to remain
on the near side of the obstacle. The captain says to himself, "Fourinto three and a
half won't go—and I can't go either." But
the Yukon practice is different. Up there
"four into three and a half" has got to go,
and so has the boat drawing four feet of
[147] ''ill
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
water when there is only three feet and a half
across a bar. The first thing is to get the
boat as far as she will go of her own accord,
and then to make her go the rest of the way
with artificial aid. After the boat is finally
hard and fast aground, the methods pursued vary according to circumstances.
Sometimes the bar is loose enough to admit
of washing it away from under her by simply
backing intermittently as hard as possible
with the big stern wheel, the wash of which
added to the swift current may gradually work
away the gravel, so that the boat slowly drags
across. But generally it takes more forceful
methods. Of these the two chief ones are * lining" and "sparring," which are sometimes
used separately and sometimes in conjunction.
To "line" a boat over, you lower a row-boat
and load her with flexible wire cable and send
her off to some point in the desired direction
where a "dead man" can be set and made
fast to. A "dead man" is a heavy log of
timber buried deep in the ground at right
angles to the direction of the cable made fast
to it, and has to be used because trees are
seldom available and if they were the tree
would come to the boat instead of the boat
going to the tree when the steam capstan
[148] River Division
begins to pull on the wire cable. If she
doesn 't move under this stimulus, they put a
" strop " on the cable and rig a purchase tackle
and take that to the capstan, increasing the
power two or four fold. Something has got
to go, and very often it is the boat.
"Sparring" is quite a different game, and
you play it by getting out the two huge spars
or " legs " carried on all the boats. The ends
of these you stick in the bottom on each side.
These spars are set and held in position by
swinging derricks, and there are enormous
three-sheave blocks fastened to the tops of
them by heavy wire strops, while corresponding blocks are made fast to the sides of the
boat. Then the tackle ropes are taken to
the steam capstan and by degrees a large
part of the weight of the boat and cargo is
transferred to the spars or legs. When this
has been done the engines are moved ahead
and, if the operation is successful, she takes a
step forward like a sick grasshopper. Having done so, the lower ends of her spars point
backwards and the spars are taken up and
reset for another step. Sometimes the spars
are set, not for a "jump " with the engines, but
to be used to push the boat afloat, in which
case, of course, they are set in the direction in
[149] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
which it is desired they shall exert their pushing power. If the boat is desired to move
partly sideways, instead of straight ahead,
the two spars can be used on the same side,
or sometimes a spar on one side and a " line "
on the other may give good results. At any
rate it will be seen that a number of powerful
stimulants can be applied to induce the boat
to think better of it and get to the far side of
that bar. If everything fails, the crew keep
on working away just the same, till another
boat of the fleet comes along and goes to her
This rather long description of "swift-
water" work is necessary in order to enable
strangers to understand the incidents which
I have selected to illustrate life and service
on our River Division.
I may as well begin with some recent ones.
During the summer of 1907 the material and
machinery for a large dredge had been assembled at White Horse for carriage to the
mouth of the Forty Mile River, some 50 miles
below Dawson. But some of the important
pieces were delayed in reaching White Horse,
and the shipment was held back for them
till it became very late in the season. If
the stuff failed to reach Forty Mile before
[150] River Division
navigation closed, it would mean the loss of
a whole year to the owners, as they could only
move it up the Forty Mile River over the
winter ice. There was about 500 tons in all,
making a good load for a steamer and barge,
and the "Victorian" was assigned for the
job while on her way up river from Dawson.
On her arrival at White Horse, however, it
was learnt that her pilot was too ill to work
and had to be sent to the hospital. There
was no other pilot available, as it was so
near the close of the season that all our extra
men were busy. Unless the boat could be
loaded and sail at once, it would be too risky
to send her at all, for fear of being caught in
the ice. When Captain Whelan heard the
difficulty he said, "That's all right — get
her loaded and I will take her through single
handed." Then he went to sleep while they
loaded the "Victorian." This only took a
few hours, and he was off on his daring voyage,
which involved about forty-eight hours on
watch, as the progress would be slow because
of the low water and lateness of the season.
It will be understood that forty-eight hours
on watch in the middle of the Atlantic or
some place where there is plenty of room is
one thing, and forty-eight hours on watch
[151] i
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
down stream in a "swift-water" boat late in
the year is quite another. Every minute
meant nervous strain and concentrated attention. But the successful completion of the
trip justified the Captain's confidence in hi§
powers of endurance.
The wrecks of the "Bonanza King" and
of the." La France " and the incidental salvage
operations in 1907 furnish good illustrations
of the work our river-men are called upon at
times to perform.
The swift current of the river takes out the
ice below Lake La Barge several weeks before
the lake itself is clear, and during those weeks
there is a good deal of traffic which goes over
the ice on the lake to boats in waiting on the
river below. To accommodate this traffic
we always winter one or more steamers and
some barges below the lake.
In the spring of 1907 the " Bonanza King"
was one of these steamers and had made two
trips to Dawson. But the ice being still solid
on the lake, on May 28th she was ordered to
load a cargo of coal for Dawson at the coal
mine at Tantalus, and to tow (i. e., to push)
the barge "Big Salmon," also loaded with
coal for Dawson. She started from the coal
mine   about   midnight  and  reached   Rink
affir^ifflig ■I
River Division
Rapids early in the morning of May 29th.
Going through the rapids her engines failed
to back quickly enough at a critical moment,
and she struck the submerged rock in the
middle of the rapids and sank at once.
Her barge was not injured.
In order to get help to her it was necessary
to force a passage from White Horse through
the still solid ice on Lake La Barge. As the
lake is 30 miles long, and the ice, though
rotten, was several feet thick, forcing a
passage was no easy matter. The steamer
"White Horse" with a salvage outfit and
wrecking crew on board was sent to make the
attempt, and left White Horse on May 29th,
a few hours after the wreck occurred. She
could only get about half way through the
lake, whereupon the salvage crew, under
Ship-yard Foreman Askew, left the steamer
and took to the ice and succeeded in crossing
to the lower end of the lake where the river
was open. But they were, of course, compelled to leave the heavy portion of their salvage outfit on the steamer, to follow as soon
as possible. They took canoes with them
across the ice and in these they completed the
voyage of 200 miles to the wreck, where they
arrived during the night of May 31 st. Askew
M On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
reported the " Bonanza King" badly hogged,
twisted sideways, "hog chains" broken, and
after-end of main deck under water, and that
he was afraid she would break amidships if
the river rose materially before he coul4
pick her up.
Meanwhile, upon the failure of the " White
Horse'' to force a passage through the lake,
the " Victorian " and barge " Pelly " had been
sent from White Horse on May 30th to make
another attempt, and they succeeded after
having taken on board the salvage outfit
from the "White Horse." They reached
the wreck on the night of June 1st. The
coal cargo was thereupon transferred to the
" Victorian " from the " Bonanza King," after
which she was slung between the two big
barges ("Pelly" and "Big Salmon") and
her uninjured compartments pumped out.
This being accomplished, the work of raising
her was successfully carried out, and the
wreck hanging between the two barges was
convoyed by the "Victorian " to Yukon Crossing, the nearest place where she could be
beached in slack water, with a view to patching up the hole, or at least getting tarpaulins
under it. All such attempts failed, however,
and it therefore became necessary to attempt
[154] River Division
to move the wreck while still hanging from
the barges to our Dawson ship-yards, a distance of some 250 miles of difficult navigation,
including the passage of the notorious Hell
Gate. The skill of our crew proved equal to
the task and the wrecked " Bonanza King,"
hanging from a barge on each side but under
her own steam, reached our Dawson shipyard safely on June 12th and was hauled out
on the '' ways.'' She was repaired and back
in service again on July 10th.
On June 29, 1907, the "La France" while
returning from a special trip struck a rock in
the Pelly River four miles above Fish Hook
Bend, and immediately sank. She was
nearly 200 miles from the junction of the
Pelly River with the Yukon at Fort Selkirk.
An attempt was made to salve her with the
aid of a small independent steamer secured at
Selkirk, but was unsuccessful on account of
the rapid fall of the water in the river.
When we learnt on July 29th, of the failure
of this attempt, we sent a salvage outfit and
crew (again under Foreman Askew) up the
Pelly in poling boats and canoes. Poling a
heavy loaded boat nearly 200 miles against a
five-knot current is quite a different game to
punting in a Thames back-water, but Askew
[155] I:
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
and his men reached the "La France" on
August 5 th. They found it was necessary
to haul her completely out of water instead
of attempting to float her — but I had better
quote our official report:
"After arriving at the wreck Askew pro-
'ceeded to get out 'ways,' sink 'dead men'
'and haul the boat out instead of attempting
'to float her. This was accomplished on
'August 12th, after a lot of hard, heavy
' work. In the first place they had to grade
'down a steep bank in order to get a low
'enough beach so that their tackle would
'stand the strain. On August 13th and
' 14th they put bulkheads around the hole
'in the boat, which was approximately $yi
'feet wide and 18 feet long, and on the 15th
' they launched the boat and started out for
' Selkirk at 7 p. m., made three miles for that
' day and tied up for the night. August 16th
'they spent mostly in cutting wood. They
'had to keep two pumps going continu-
'ally and in that way used up a lot of
' wood. They found the channel very shal-
'low, and in nearly all cases had to get
'out lines and haul the boat over shallows.
'On August 18th they reached the entrance
' to Harvey Canyon at 5 p. m., and found the
[156] River Division
"water so low there that they could not get
"through. They unloaded everything, in-
"eluding the spare boiler tubes, gear, tackle,
"etc., into the poling boat, which they took
"through the canyon first, and brought the
"steamer through afterwards. They found
"the boat was settling underneath the
"boiler and they were catching on the
"bars right underneath it, so they got out
"two extra 'hog-posts' and hauled the
"boiler up, which enabled them to clear some
" of the shallower bars. Got through Harvey
"Canyon on the 19th, with the addition of a
"fewmore holes and soft patches. OnAu-
" gust 21st they were only six miles below the
"canyon and were 'lining' and 'sparring' over
'' nearly every riffle they met. Askew reports
" that in order to get the boat over some of the
"places they would have to throw her side-
"ways on the stream, and when the water
"dammed up sufficiently, they would turn
"her around quickly and back her over.
"On the night of the 22d it rained quite
"steadily and the river rose considerably,
"so that on August 23d they made over
" fifty miles. On August 24th they reached
"Granite Canyon at 1 p. m., and found the
"channel on the left bank dry, so they had
J River Division
'to take the right hand channel in amongst
' the boulders. Struck a boulder one mile in
'canyon and the boat swung head-on to
' the bank, stern swung around and struck a
'reef, putting several holes in her. They
'hauled her bow up stream and made fast
'to the bank and put soft patches over the
'holes. The boat was then leaking badly
' and they were out of wood. Had to climb
'a bluff and go scouting for wood. At
'2 a. m. they were able to get about a cord
'of small willows into the boat. This kept
'her afloat until morning. They got her
' fixed up and under way again August 26th,
' but had to tie up again and go scouting for
'wood early in the day. On August 27th
' they got under way and reached Selkirk at
'11 a. m. ; from there we ordered them to
' Dawson. They arrived there the next day
' and hauled out. Askew in concluding his
' report says that he thinks the ' La France'
'was nearer 200 miles from Selkirk than
' 180. The' La France' is now on the 'ways'
'in Dawson."
The river had been very low in 1903 and
our boats had been unable to carry full cargoes, while on the other hand shippers had
delayed ordering their goods till very late
that season. The result was that at the
beginning of October, when in ordinary circumstances shipments should be practically over, the warehouses at White Horse
were filled with goods destined for Dawson,
and there was reason to fear that unless the
greater portion of them reached their destination before navigation closed there would
be suffering before the winter was over. Accordingly we decided to keep our boats
running later than usual and to make every
effort to cope with the situation.
On October 13th there was a sudden fall
in temperature to below zero and the smaller
tributary streams were frozen up, thus causing a rapid fall of the water in the main river.
At the same time the larger tributaries began to throw immense quantities of heavy
ice into the Yukon. The low water and the
[159] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
floating ice combined to render navigation
almost impossible at a moment when we had
twelve steamers working on the river and
two on the lakes. But the latter, not having
shallow water or heavy drift ice to contend
with, were not involved in the difficulties that
beset our river fleet. At other times the crew
of some particular boat has been called on
to meet an emergency, but in October, 1903,
every boat on the river was in trouble and
every crew called upon simultaneously to
show what sort of stuff they were made of.
The logs of the various boats are most interesting reading. But it would be too monotonous to set them all out and take up too much
space, so I will attempt to condense the stories
contained' in them. The events group themselves into practically three heads, viz., the
voyage of the "Mary Graff," the voyage of
the "Columbian," and the troubles at Kirk-
man's Crossing and Steamboat Slough which
involved nearly all the fleet.
As regards the "Mary Graff" voyage I
do not think I could tell the story as well as
Captain Jackman has done it in his official
report to the superintendent of our River
Division, which I quote verbatim:
"On October4, 1903, I left White Horse
[i6ol October, IOOJ
at s :2o a. m. in command of steamer 'Mary
Graff,' being trip No. 9 north, with 236
tons freight and 5 tons express matter, drawing 4 ft. forward, 4 ft. 6 in.
amidships, and 3 ft. 10 in. aft, for port of
Dawson. Proceeded to Wood Camp No. 2,
arriving there at 6:45 A* M*» took on ten
cords of wood and left at 7:55 a. m.
Passed upper La Barge at 9:15 a. m,,
lower La Barge at 12:40 p.m.
"At the lower end of Thirty Mile River,
while engines were backing up, the starboard tiller broke; we proceeded to Hoota-
linqua and there made necessary repairs
and tied up for the night.
" Left Hootalinqua the next morning,
October 5,1903, at 5:3c Arriving at Wood
'Camp No. 5 at 6 a. m., took on ten cords
of wood and left at 7130 a. m. ; passed
1 Big Salmon at 10 a. m.
"At 1:2o p. m. we hit the sunk rock lying a
' quarter of a mile above the mouth of Little
Salmon River, Pilot Barrington at the wheel,
engines working ahead at half speed, the
: steamer being at the time making the cross-
' ing from the right to the left bank. I went
1 below immediately and found boat making
water rapidly, several timbers on starboard
[161] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"side broken, therefore ordered steamer
"beached, as she was sinking very fast. At
" i :4o p. m. we beached the boat just below
"the point of the island above Little Salmon
" Police Post, about one mile below where she
"We landed her on a sand-bar beach with
"about five feet of water over it, no damage
"being done to boat or cargo in beaching. I
"had ordered all siphons started immediately
"after we struck, and when we beached the
"boat there was about 20 inches of water in
" hold. We first proceeded to remove cargo.
"After this had been done and on further
"examining the hull of boat, I found sixty-
"one timbers broken and the planking dam-
" aged in several places. I put on twelve soft
" patches, using blankets, bacon, sacked flour,
"etc., then shored all broken timbers back
"into place from deck, using ship's fenders,
"wheel buckets,* and arms for bracing.
" On October 6th at 11:3o a. m. the steamer
"'Columbian' came alongside. I got a 6-
"inch siphon from her, and she assisted us
"off bar and over to wood yard across the
"river, detaining her one hour.
"Arriving at Taylor and Drury's Wood
* Paddle floats.
n&si October, IQOJ
"Camp at 12 noon, we connected up the 6-
"inch siphon, took on seventeen cords of
" wood, left at 4 p. m. We then proceeded to
"Whitney & Pedlar's Wood Camp, arriving
"there at 5:30 p. m., took on eight cords of
"wood, and tied up for the night.
" The next morning, October 7th, we were
"held up by fog untill 11 .'20, when we proceeded on our way to Tantalus Butte, where
"we landed and tied up for the night at
"October 8th left at 5:30 a. m., arriving
" Devern's Wood Yard at 7:3o a. m., took on
"nine cords of wood and left at 9 a. m.
"Arrived at place where scows were tied
"up above Five Fingers at 10:30 a. m. We
"unloaded 96 tons of hay and oats into scows
"and left Five Fingers 6:30 a. m., October 9,
" Passed Mackays at 8 .-20 a. m. Stopped
"at island above Slack Water Crossing at
" 10:35 a. m. to repair connecting rod, delayed
"25 minutes. Arrived at Minto Crossing at
"11:45 a. m., hit on bar, delayed three
"Arrived at McCabe's Wood Yard at 2:45
"p. m. Took on ten cords and left at 4:40
" p. m. Arrived at upper end of Hell Gate at
f 1631 On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
'5 p. m., tied up at island, as boats on bar
'blocked channel.
"October ioth at noon we got signal from
' other boats that channel was clear and pro-
' ceeded down. When crossing over at lower
'end we hit on bar at 12 .'20 a. m. and stuck
' hard. The steamer 'White Horse' standing
' by to render assistance to us.
" October 1 ith: Got off bar at 4 p. m. and
'proceeded once more, arriving at Selkirk
'at 5 p. m. The steamer 'White Horse'
'following behind us stuck fast at the
' island above Selkirk. We signalled to her
' from Selkirk, and she replied, therefore we
'went to her assistance. Returned to Sel-
'kirk at 9:30 p. m., took on six and a half
' cords of wood and tied up for the night.
" October 12th: Left Selkirk at 5 .'50 a. m.,
' arriving at Egleson 's Wood Yard at 11:3b
'a. m., took on ten cords of wood. While
' lying at wood yard steamers ' Dawson' and
"Thistle' passed down. Left wood yard
'at 12:45 p- M-
"About two miles below Egleson's Wood
' Yard hit on bar very lightly, the port side
'knuckle-streak hanging on while the boat
' swung off. This side of the boat was worn
f very thin from frequent hitting on that side
	 October, 1903
' in Hell Gate. In swinging off this bar she
' punched a hole in her side the full width of
'the plank in between the timbers. The
' boat began sinking so rapidly I ordered her
' beached. After doing so put on soft patch
'over hole, siphoned her out, and started
'off.    Delayed one hour.
"Arrived at Kirkman* at 6:40 a. m., got
' down to lower end of Steamboat Slough and
'stuck. Steamer 'Columbian' came to our
' assistance at 2 .'30 p. m., got off and through
'at 3:15 p. m. Arrived Thistle Creek 4:10
' p. m. Arrived at White River Wood Yard
' 5 130 p. m. Took on eight cords of wood and
' tied up for the night.
"October 14th: Left White River Wood
' Yard 6 :o5 a. m. Below mouth of Excelsior
'Creek we hit bar and stuck. 'Selkirk'
' came to our assistance at 1130 a. m. She
'pulled us off, but in doing so the stern of
'our boat swung with the current and hit
'bar, disabling steering gear. Steamer
"Selkirk' then took us in tow, arriving in
' Dawson at 7:3o p. m. Temperature 8 below
So ended this remarkable voyage, covering
ten days while the usual time is under two.
* We shall hear more of this place later.
[165] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
Six times the boat was aground, involving
practically continuous "sparring" and "lining" to get her over the bad places. Twice
she had to be beached to prevent her sinking.
Twice her steering gear was disabled, the last
time beyond repair; her planking in places had
been worn so thin from constant grounding
that it was almost dropping off her, and her
bottom with sixty-one broken frames or timbers had been so bulged up by dragging across
the rock that it had to be forced back into
place by shores and braces from the deck
beams, but she "got there." Captain Jack-
man's report illustrates the way our boats
help each other when in trouble.
The "Mary Graff" was not one of the boats
we built ourselves and was only used as an
extra boat in cases of emergency, her draught
of water being too great for economical service.
It will be noticed that the " Selkirk " towed
the "Mary Graff" from Excelsior Creek to
Dawson. This feat of the "Selkirk's" was
a truly remarkable piece of swift-water
navigation as it involved taking the "Mary
Graff " in an unmanageable condition over the
Indian River crossing, one of the worst places
at that time on the river, as we shall see
[166] October, IQOJ
from the following account of the "Columbian's" voyage.
This boat left White Horse at 8 p. m. on
October 8th, with 234 tons of cargo, mostly
perishable, such as fruit, potatoes, etc.; she
had a large loaded barge in tow. She proceeded without incident till 1:2 5 a. m. on 10th,
when she grounded in 3 3 Point Cut-off, remaining aground nine hours. The next trouble
was in Hell Gate, where she arrived at 3:45
p. m. on 1 ith.   Captain Turner's report reads:
" There were four boats ahead of us in Hell
"Gate and we tied up to allow them to get
<' through. When the passage was cleared, we
"started to go through but got aground at
" 5 :3o p. m. We got off next morning at 8,
"thence to Coffee Creek, where we tied up for
"the night at 6130, leaving at 6 a. m. October
"13th, at Kirkman's Crossing the "Mary
"Graff" was aground, so we tied up at 7:30
" a. m. Took on ten cords of wood and went
"to the assistance of the "Mary Graff" get-
" ting her off at 3:3o p. m. We tied up for the
"night at White River Mill, the 'Graff' and
"'Clifford Sifton' being there also. At In-
" dian Post, 6 miles below Stewart River, we
"grounded in the heavy ice and were fast for
"about 30 minutes."
\i IP
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
And now she is getting near Indian River
Crossing, where her real troubles began. The
incidents so far the superintendent in his
report simply refers to as "the usual grounding on bars." It will be noticed that the
"Columbian" aided the "Mary Graff" twice
during the latter's voyage, once when the
"Columbian" was on her way up river and
met the " Graff" at Little Salmon and pulled
her afloat on October 6th, and again when the
"Columbian" on her return down river next
voyage caught up the "Graff" ashore at
Kirkman's Crossing on October 13th, and
pulled her afloat again.
I now continue to quote from Captain
Turner's report, feeling that these men can
tell their own story infinitely better than I
"On coming in sight of Indian River Bar
"we saw two steamers, the 'Dawson' and
"'Sifton,' aground and approached under
"a slow speed in order to see which side of
"them to pass. The ice was running very
"heavily at the time, and the draw of the
"outer channel drew us onto the head of the
"bar at 5 .'30 p. m., October 14th. On ground-
"ing I immediately sent some men ashore
"to put in a 'dead man' and run a line.
[168] October, ipoj
" At 7:3o p. m. the S. S.' Dawson' passed up
"and refused to assist, saying that the S. S.
"' White Horse' would be along shortly.*
"At 5 a. m. on the 15th the second officer
"succeeded in getting the 'dead man' in,
" after using up half a cord of wood in thaw-
"ing out the gravel. The S. S. 'Thistle'
" passed up at 10 :a.o a. m. October 15th, and we
"hailed her, but she could give no assistance.
"Hailed the S. S. 'White Horse' at 4:2o p. m.
"October 15th and she ran a line for us to
" the ' dead man.' We then transferred 20 or
" 30 tons of perishables to the' White Horse.'
"The captain then reported that the ice,
" which was running very heavily, had caused
* Cant. Williams, of the "Dawson," explains this
by saying that he had 97 passengers on board and
could not feed them if he was delayed very long in
reaching White Horse — that he could do nothing for
the "Columbian" that night — and that the "White
Horse" would be with her before next morning, and
thus by continuing his voyage through the night and
leaving the "Columbian" for the "White Horse" he
was acting on his best judgment. As a matter of fact,
he was wrong because he got stopped at Kirkman's
Crossing and the "White Horse" caught him up there,
as we shall see later. However, an error in judgment
is no crime and we shall come across Captain Williams
again some three years later in command of this same
"Columbian" under circumstances that require no
apology. It should be explained that boats going up
stream can navigate at night with the aid of their big
electric search lights, but coming down they have to
"tie up" during the dark hours, as the search lights
illuminate too small afield. Of course, this does not
apply in summer when it is daylight all night.
[169] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
' his vessel to leak in two places. In holding
'the 'White Horse' in to the 'Columbian'
'a corner of the barge was driven through
' the side of the former about 8 inches above
' the water line. The freight was then trans-
'ferred back to the 'Columbian' and the
'' White Horse' proceeded up river about two
' miles and tied up to the bank at 2:3o a. m.
'October 16th.
" The S. S. 'Selkirk' came alongside at 7 .'15
' a. m. October 16th. The ice was too heavy
'to remain alongside, so she left again at 8
'a. m. At noon October 17th the pilot,
' purser, and one man left in small boat with
' provisions for two days to obtain help from
' Dawson. At this time the water had fallen
' nine inches since we grounded. Made the
'barge secure and sheathed it with bucket
' planks* to protect it from the ice. Ran
' timbers along the upper side of the boat to
' form a guard against the ice and closed all
'holes on freight-house and deck to protect
'the perishables from the frost. We made a
'sled and started to haul wood from the
' island over the shore ice and along the bar,
' a distance of over one and a half miles.
"The S. S.    'White Horse' and 'Selkirk'
* Spare paddle floats.
[170] October, igoj
"left the bank two miles above us at 2 p. m.
"October 18th.
"We made several attempts to run a wire
"cable to the south shore, but owing to the
"heavy ice could not do so. Ice jammed
"about 80 feet above the boat on the star-
" board side and the water fell 3 inches on
"the night of October 18th. Morning of
"the 19th the barge was hard aground on the
" ice jam. All hands out cutting and hauling
"wood. Hailed the police at Indian River
"Post to come and take off the passengers
" (two policemen came from Yukon Crossing).
"Crossed the river twice in the canoe, but
"could not handle the wire rope.
"October 22d. Purser, pilot, and one
"man returned from Dawson and reported
"having wrecked the boat on the way down,
"and having completed the trip along the
"shore ice.
"October 23d: Pilot and one man re-
" turned to Dawson.
'' October 26th: During this time all hands
"were cutting and hauling wood to the vessel,
"bringing about one and one-half cords per
'' day. The water started to rise during the
"afternoon. By the morning of the 27th
"the water had risen 6 inches.    Tried to On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
' run wire cable to south bank twice during
'the forenoon but failed. Managed to get
'the wire rope across at 5 :io p. m., ice being
'then much lighter, river rising slowly.
' Cut ice clear from steamer and barge.
" From 5 p. m. October 27th to 1 a. m. Octo-
'ber 28th the water rose 6 inches, making
'a total rise of 16 inches. Water remained
' at a stand from 1 a. m. to 4:30 a. m., and by
'8 a. m. October 28th had fallen one inch.
' Discharged the perishables onto the ice on
' the port side. The ice broke through and
'part were submerged. Hauled steamer
'off the bar at 10:50 a. m. October 28th.
'Reloaded what perishables could berecov-
' ered and lay alongside the barge which had
'been stove in by a heavy cake of ice and
' sunk with the deck two inches out of water.
'Lightered barge of 60 tons of freight and
' got the water out of her.
'' October 2 9th: Got the wire cable aboard.
' S. S. ' Zealandian' and ' Crimmins' arrived
'at 10 a. m. to render aid. Left Indian
'River 10:50 a. m., reaching Dawson 3:05
' a. m. morning of the 30th, broke ice to get
'to the dock and discharged steamer in the
' afternoon.
"October 31st: Got barge alongside and
S3L ****"
October, igoj
"unloaded. Cleared out ice to let S. S.
" 'Bailey' in and hauled 'Columbian' up
"alongside upper dock for winter quarters.
"November ist: Got scows and barge
"alongside and wire ropes out and made
"everything secure for winter.
"Our small boat was left at Ainsley by
"pilot, purser, and another man that I sent
" to Dawson on the 17th of October for help,
"and to file protest on general average, as I
"was sure we would have to jettison cargo
"to save steamer.
" I would respectfully call your attention to
" the fact that these three men are entitled to
'' great praise for making this journey. They
"left steamer 'Columbian' in small boat,
" ice running very heavy. They got as far as
" Ainsley and the small boat got stove in in the
"ice. The men got ashore at 6 o'clock at
"night. Pilot and man got boat ashore and
"stayed at roadhouse over night. Purser
"Berdoe pushed through to Dawson alone
"that dark night with my letters and papers,
"and reached Dawson at 1 40 that morning.
"He was the first man to get by the bluffs
"over shore ice, and for making this most
" dangerous trip in total darkness Mr. Berdoe
'' deserves great credit. Pilot Bloomquist and
[173] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"his man are also deserving of praise for
" their courage in making this trip to Dawson
"for assistance.
" I would like to state that my entire crew,
"officers and men, deserve praise for the
"assistance they gave me in saving our
" steamer while jammed in the heavy ice at
"Indian River Bar. This unfortunate trip
"has been the means of testing the endur-
"ance of my officers and crew, as they did
"all they possibly could in the severe cold
"without proper clothing or boots, and
"worked for nearly 48 hours continuously
"in the icy water. They hauled wood over
"ice and gravel for nearly two miles to
"save the cargo from frost, and risked their
"lives every attempt that we made to run
" the wire cable to the south side through the
"heavy flow of ice.
"I would like to state that Mr. Little, the
"second officer, is worthy of advancement
"in his turn, as he is trusty, sober, and in-
It seems superfluous to sum up. Here was
a voyage lasting 22 days, 15 of which were
spent on Indian River Bar, with the heavy
floes of ice tearing along at 5 miles an hour
and grinding the sides of the steamer and her
[174] October, I go J
barge, and preventing the use of small boats
to run lines. A pleasing feature is Captain
Turner's desire to give his crew full credit.
As a matter of fact, while the crew did excellently, it was chiefly the captain's indomitable energy and resourcefulness that saved
the boat. Had he failed to float her, she
would have been a total loss when the ice
went out next spring.
I fear it will be almost impossible to convey
any intelligible idea of the troubles at Kirk-
man's Crossing and Steam-boat Slough, in
which every boat in the fleet was involved.
The "mix-up" changed from day to day,
some boats getting free and going away while
others arrived and got stuck. Sometimes,
too, a boat after infinite labour would be got
afloat and before she had gone many yards
would be ashore again. The heavy run of
ice interfered with "sparring," "lining," or
Kirkman's Crossing is a narrow right-angled
turn formed by a sharp sunken elbow on the
one side and a submerged patch of shingle
on the other. The crossing has, of course, to
be "drifted," as the turn is much too sharp
to steer round. The stream sets diagonally
and makes the operation of drifting the bend
[175] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
more difficult, and the difficulty is naturally
increased when there is a heavy run of ice.
Sometimes, as the river gets low, the water
"cuts out" a fair channel over the crossing,
but other years the water scatters itself all
over the crossing, and this was the case in
1903. There is another channel hugging
the right bank that some years is pretty fair,
and some of our pilots occasionally use it,
as the " Canadian " did to her cost in October,
1903. Just below Kirkman's Crossing are
a number of islands and between them a maze
of submerged gravel bars, forming what is
known as Steam-boat Slough. The channels
between these bars are constantly changing
and it is largely a matter of opinion which
is the worst. For all practical purposes
Kirkman's Crossing and Steam-boat Slough
may be considered as one place.
In places of this sort a good pilot can "read
the water," i. e., he can tell where the best
water is by the appearance of the eddies and
riffles on the surface of the running water.
But when the surface is covered with running
ice, his book is closed and the pilot can't read
it. In October, 1903, the water at this place
was so low that even the boats going up stream
empty got ashore and had to "line" over, so
[176] 1
October, igoj
it may be imagined what a time the loaded
boats going down stream must have had.
For the previous month all the down stream
boats had been having what the superintendent called "the usual troubles" and leaving
more or less splinters behind them on the
gravelly bottom at Kirkman's. But the real
crisis began with the stranding of the "Canadian" on October 16th. This boat left
White Horse on October ioth with 230 tons
of cargo, and by lightering through the bad
places with the assistance of lighters stationed
for that purpose, was able to reach Kirkman's
Wood Yard on the morning of October 15th.
Captain Fairbairn reports,"While wooding up,
"the pilot and myself sounded the two chan-
"nels and found the centre channel had only
"three feet while the steamer was drawing 40
"inches. We therefore decided to go down
"the shore channel which we had been using
"all season, although in order to get into
"it, we would have to 'line' and 'spar' the
"steamer over the entrance. We succeeded
"in this at 8 p. m. and tied up on account
"of darkness, starting again at 7:40 a. m.,
"October 16th.
"The ice had begun running heavily dur-
"ing the night and was very thick when we
[177] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"started, which prevented me seeing* that
"the narrow channel through which we must
"pass had been spoiled by the ' Sifton' and
" ' Graff' while aground there just previous to
"our arrival, and we stuck hard about the
"middle of the channel."
The cargo being all perishable, and the
thermometer below zero, Captain Fairbairn
was reluctant to make any attempt to land
or lighter it until he had seen whether any
of our other boats could take it on to Dawson.
The "La France" (a small boat) was able to
take 15 tons, but the " Dawson" (on her way
down stream)| had all she could manage of
her own cargo, and the "Thistle" was in the
same case, so Captain Fairbairn, having failed
in all attempts to free his boat, at length
reluctantly decided to land his cargo. The
"Canadian" was 150 feet from the shore and
through this space the water was running
like a mill stream, swirling along great floes of
ice, so the only way to land cargo was to rig
an overhead cable between the boat and the
shore and haul the cargo along it. It was
not a tempting job for the men sent away in
the small boat to attempt to run the wire cable
* By "reading the water."
t We shall meet her again coming up.
—   1   1 »- « October, igoj
ashore, but there was no lack of volunteers,
and the cable was successfully run and rigged
and the cargo landed. But all this time the
water had been falling rapidly and the " Canadian" was no nearer floating after her cargo
had been landed.
To make things worse the "anchor ice'' froze
her to the bottom. After this happened the
only way to float her would have been to
thaw her loose by filling her hold with live
steam until her bottom planks had been
warmed through and thawed out the grip
of the " anchor ice." As a matter of fact if it
had been possible to get enough cordwood on
board to keep steam up in the boilers they
could have thawed her loose and she would
have floated with the same rise of water which
floated her sisters the "Victorian" and "Columbian. " The difference was that Captain
Turner and his crew had been able by
superhuman efforts to get wood, as we have
seen, while Captain Fairbairn was not allowed
to try, as the superintendant, who had arrived
on the spot when troubles began to thicken,
wanted the "Canadian's" crew for work on
other boats, where their efforts seemed likely
to accomplish better results than hauling
sticks of cordwood aboard the "Canadian"
[179] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
by wire cable. Furthermore, the unfortunate selection of the shore channel had put
the "Canadian" in a "pocket" that she-could
not get out of that season in any case, and all
that could be done with her even if she had
been floated, would be to get her in a position somewhat more protected from the ice
when the river broke up in the spring.
While the "Canadian" was in the early
days of her troubles the "Bailey" reached
Kirkman's Crossing. She was a small boat
and had left White Horse on October nth
with 130 tons of cargo and a couple of barges.
Captain Bragg reports: "From the time
'we passed Selkirk ice was running heavily
'and I tied up two miles above Kirkman's
' Crossing to give the river time to clear, as
' I knew that it was ice from the Pelly River
'and would only run a few days, and was
' afraid of trying the Crossing while the ice
'was running so thick. On October 18th
' while trying to make the Crossing she could
'not hold herself against the running ice and
' grounded on the upper edge of the lower bar
' with 3 feet of water on the starboard side and
' 10 inches on the port side. I had not enough
' cable to reach across the river and when I
' tried to 'spar' off was unable to budge her
[180] October, igoj
" owing to the ice running too heavy to handle
Her two barges, of course, went ashore with
her. So there was the'' Bailey," plastered up
against a steep bar by the force of the current
and the ice. But the steepness of the bar
would make her come off easily, if anybody
would be kind enough to take a good pull on
Meanwhile the " Dawson," bound up river,
after turning a deaf ear to the "Columbian's" plea for assistance, had herself got
into trouble on her arrival at Kirkman's
Crossing, where the heavy ice had forced her
ashore. Her sister ships the "White Horse"
and " Selkirk," with over ioo passengers each,
had caught her up, and were devising means
to pull her off from the bar and get her out
of their own way, and considering how they
could avoid letting the ice put them just
where it had put the " Dawson " when it came
to their turn to have a try.
Captain Sanborn of the "White Horse,"
Captain Williams of the "Dawson," and
Captain McMasters of the "Selkirk" were
unanimous that the "Bailey" must be regarded as a divine interposition in their
favour, which it would  be  sacrilegious  to
[181] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
neglect. But in getting the '' Dawson'' afloat
she swung on top of the poor little " Bailey"
and broke both the latter's cylinder timbers.
Then the three big boats proceeded one by
one to haul themselves over the Crossing,
using the " Bailey" as a sort of mooring post
to hold them against the ice. Captain Bragg
pointed out that the effect of this would
necessarily be that the "Bailey" would be
pulled out almost high and dry on an intervening knuckle of the bar, leaving him in
much worse case. The big boats admitted
this with much the same good-natured indifference exhibited by big boys at school
when a small boy points out that it will dirty
his handkerchief if they clean their boots
with it.
Secure in the understanding that even if
they dragged the " Bailey " out of water, they
had plenty of power to drag her back again,
Captain Bragg spent one entire day helping
the "big boys" to metaphorically wipe their
feet on him, using his own wire ropes and
steam capstan to reinforce theirs. Then, it
being dark by the time all the "big boys"
had got safely over, they went away to take
on wood during the night, and Captain Bragg
lay down with a good conscience after a hard
[182] October, igoj
day's work helping others, and thought how
nice it would be when they returned refreshed
in the morning, and pulled him afloat again.
But people who depend on mere gratitude
are generally doomed to disappointment,
and Captain Bragg's remarks when he saw
the three "big boys," with the first gleam of
morning light, back out from the wood
yard one after the other and blow the " White
Pass Good-bye" on their hoarse steam
whistles and start gaily up stream, were, I
understand, warm enough to melt some of the
ice by which he was surrounded. Poor man,
isolated on his gravel bar he could not know
that the conduct of the perfidious "big
boys" was not so black as it appeared to
him. The fact was that the superintendent,
who had arrived during the night, had ordered the "big boys" off up river as hard as
they could pelt with their 300 passengers,
while he proposed to use the " Zealandian " to
get the "Bailey" afloat.
As soon as it was realized that things at
Kirkman's Crossing were so serious, the
"Zealandian" (one of the smaller boats), on
her way up from Dawson with 42 passengers,
had been ordered to transfer them to the
"Thistle" and "Dawson" (which were fairly
[183] 1
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
full already), and stand by the "Canadian" and "Bailey." At first she had devoted her time to the big boat, but on the
arrival of the superintendent, he had, for
the reasons already given, decided that the
"Canadian" was not a promising subject to
spend time upon while he had so many
other troubles on his hands. He had prior
to leaving White Horse telegraphed orders
to the "Victorian" on her way down with
passengers, mails, and a moderate cargo,
to land, or "cache" as it is called, all her
cargo that was not perishable and hurry to
Kirkman's Crossing. These orders were received and executed at Selwyn. The idea
was that the big "Victorian" would be
heavy and powerful enough to do more than
a dozen "Zealandians," and would still have
time to reach Dawson with her passengers
and perishables.
She was due the same morning that the
"big boys" had been ordered to pelt up
stream, and the superintendent felt confident that she would pull Captain Bragg
afloat quick enough to make his head swim.
When the "Victorian" reached Kirkman's
Crossing with only a light cargo of perishables, the first thing she did was to try to
[184 3 October, igoj
get the "Bailey" afloat. But after a day
and a half every rope in both boats had been
used up, and the "Bailey" was where the
"big boys" had left her. So the "Victorian" took a few pulls on the "Canadian"
for luck but with the same result. When
the last rope was expended, the "Victorian"
started for Dawson with her mails, passengers, and perishable cargo. But she found
it impossible to get through and stuck hard
in the middle channel.
That made three boats and two barges in
trouble and only the little "Zealandian"
afloat. She was on the Dawson side of the
bad water. Accordingly, the "Victorian's"
mails and passengers were transferred to her
and she was sent off to the lower wood yard
with orders to "wood up" and await the
barge, to which the "Victorian's" perishable
cargo was to be transferred during the night.
However, owing to a misunderstanding the
"Zealandian" started without the barge.
She got safely to Dawson on October 2 7th
and was ordered to hurry to the aid of the
"Columbian" on Indian River Crossing.
She got there just twenty-four hours after
Captain Turner's unaided efforts had freed
his boat.
[185] II
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
The barge which the "Zealandian" failed
to wait for was given a crew of six men under
command of Chief Officer Griffiths of the
"Canadian," and under "sweeps" made the
voyage to Dawson in safety, a remarkable
performance, and one which ranks with the
best work of that trying time.
After the "Zealandian" and the barge had
left on October 25th, the situation at Kirkman's Crossing was represented by three
boats and two barges badly ashore and no
chance of any other boats turning up to
help them. The "Canadian" had already
been given up as not worth wasting time
Captain Bragg was cut off from all assistance from the shore and any moment the
heavy ice might crush the little "Bailey"
and sweep her away like a broken egg-shell,
and that would be the last of her and her
crew. But Captain Bragg had no wish that
the consciences of the "big boys" should
have any such load imposed upon them. All
ordinary means of getting a boat afloat having been tried unsuccessfully, it only remained
to invent some special means. With this in
view the captain took a look over his cargo
and found some contractors' "scrapers."
[186] Octobe
These are enormous flat-bottomed wide iron
scoops to be pulled by two or more horses
and used for the removal of loose soil,
gravel, etc., short distances, thus avoiding
the delay and expense of loading the stuff
into carts. It seemed as if something
might be done with these.
So the captain got a few on deck and
rigged some of his broken wire ropes to them.
Then he took the contrivance aft, and taking
one end of the rope to his steam capstan he
dumped the scrapers overboard and started
up his capstan. It worked all right, but of
course for a long time there was nothing to
show whether he was really doing much good
under the bottom of his boat, as it was of
no advantage to scrape out a couple of
ditches on each side. However, he stuck to
the work and on the morning of the 26th
he had dredged himself afloat. He proceeded
across to the wood yard at Kirkman's Crossing to unload his cargo and "wood up,"
preparatory to going over to unload and free
the two barges which he had been convoying, and which were still ashore.
But misfortune seemed to dog the
" Bailey"—while she was waiting for daylight
on the morning of the 26th, a heavy run
[187] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of ice caught her at the wood yard, tore her
loose from her moorings, and stove her in.
She then drifted down about a mile and was
beached to prevent her sinking, the starboard side of her cargo deck being a few
inches under water. Five minutes later the
sudden rise of water that had set the ice in
motion floated the two barges and off they
went down the river on their own account,
passing near the "Victorian " whose crew were
able to beach them in a favorable position.
Soon afterwards the same rise of water, supplemented by some mighty efforts of the
crew, floated the'' Victorian'' herself. Things
were looking up. Instead of three steamers
and two barges badly ashore, two of the
steamers had been floated and one sunk
again, and the two barges, though still
ashore, had shifted into a better position.
The first thing was to try to float the " Bailey" again, and with this object the "Victorian" was sent to her assistance. She transferred the "Bailey's" cargo, and then the holes
in her were stuffed up with blankets and
mattresses and a 6-inch, and a 4-inch, and a
3 -inch siphon started to pump her out. These
took so much steam that by night they were
short of wood, and had to stop, having only
[188] October, igoj
reduced the water a foot, which was immediately lost when the siphons had to be stopped.
While the "Victorian" was getting a fresh
supply of wood the crew of the "Bailey"
managed to work a tarpaulin entirely under
her, and when the "Victorian" at daylight
on October 28th started the pumps again the
water was kept under control and at 3 p. m.
the '' Bailey'' was once more afloat. Leaving
her crew to patch her staved-in planking as
best they could, the "Victorian" bustled off
after the " Bailey's" two barges and brought
them to her. Then the cargo in these two
barges not being perishable was landed and
'' cached,'' and the barges loaded with what
perishables remained unspoilt from the cargoes of the "Canadian," "Victorian," and
"Bailey." On the morning of October 29th
Captain Bragg in the "Bailey" started with
the two barges and squeezing past the " Canadian" with great difficulty brought them
safe to Dawson on October 30th, and made
fast alongside the "Columbian," which had
just previously reached Dawson.
After the departure of the "Bailey" and
her barges, the crews of the " Canadian" and
"Victorian"   busied  themselves  protecting
the non-perishable cargo left on shore and
[189] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
preparing the " Canadian " as best they could
to withstand the winter ice. Extra planking
and her spare paddle floats were spiked
around her bows, and her big spars were lashed
alongside so as to take the weight of the ice,
and she was left with a watchman for the
winter. The "Victorian" took the "Canadian's" crew on board and after a hard
struggle got over Kirkman's Crossing and
started for White Horse where she arrived,
after a hard trip on November 6th.
The little "La France," manned by the
"Mary Graff's" crew, fought her way up
from Dawson behind her, leaving on October
29th and arriving at White Horse on November 8th. She had her paddle floats in shreds
and her planking not much better from the
ice. Every few hours they had to stop to
chop the ice out of her stern wheel, but she
had a fine passenger list at very satisfactory
rates and cleared up enough that trip to
replank her and leave a handsome profit as
Next spring, before the ice began to move,
we sent men to Kirkman's Crossing to protect the '' Canadian.'' It will be remembered
that there was a shallow bar at the entrance
to the channel she was aground in, and that
[190] October, igoj
she had to climb across this bar to get there
at all. We decided the surest way to protect
her was to build a bulkhead across the shallow
entrance and thus throw all the ice down the
middle channel when it began to move.
This was done, and when the ice went out
the "Canadian" came paddling up to White
Horse none the worse for her winter at Kirk-
man's Crossing. CHAPTER IX
On the evening of September 25, 1906,
the White Pass steamer "Columbian" was
proceeding down stream on her last voyage to Dawson for the season. She had a
crew of 25 men and a full cargo, including
a number of cattle, and three tons of blasting
powder in heavy corrugated-iron kegs. Because of the powder, no passengers were
carried on this trip, but there was a stowaway
named Wynstanley who had come on board
with the cattle and was at first supposed to
be in charge of them. After the mistake was
discovered the next place where he could be
put ashore was the Tantalus coal mines, and
there the necessity for landing him would
cease, as the powder was to be transferred
at that point to a coal barge and Wynstanley,
who was in a great hurry to get to Dawson,
could become a passenger.
The watch which had been relieved at six
was at supper, while the watch which had
just relieved them, having finished supper,
was   enjoying  the   perfect  evening.    The
[192] The Burning of the "Columbian"
"Columbian" was jogging along quietly, doing about 12 K miles an hour. The captain
had just gone on watch and was alone in the
lofty pilot-house, at the wheel * On the front
of the passenger deck below, the purser and
Wynstanley stood watching the wild geese
and ducks in the river, and on the "bow"
(as the open part of the cargo deck is called),
below them again, some of the watch also had
an eye on the geese and ducks. On the forward end of the low open bow, the powder
kegs were piled in two stacks, one on each side
of the steam capstan, each carefully covered
with double tarpaulin. In the very bow in
front of these stacks the chief officer was
standing for a moment after supper prior to
turning in. The fireman on watch was Morgan and his trimmer was Smith, and these
two with a deck hand named Woods and
little Phil Murray, the deck boy, made up the
group watching the ducks and geese from the
after end of the open bow. Between them
and the stacks of powder, the two big gangplanks lay stretched across the bow on top of
one another.    There were thus five of the
*Our captains, who are also pilots, take one watch
and the pilot the other, and both captain and pilot
steer themselves rather than attempt to transmit their
wishes to another helmsman.
[193] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
crew on the bow, with the purser and Wynstanley just above on the front of the passenger deck, and the captain high above them
all in the pilot-house.
Little Phil Murray, the son of Frank
Murray, pilot of the " Bonanza King," was a
general favourite. He was a keen sportsman
and had a small repeating rifle for shooting
at anything from a moose to a ground squirrel whenever he could get a run ashore. The
excitement of the geese was too much for him
and though it was against orders he got his
rifle and slipped a cartridge in. The captain
couldn't see him from the pilot-house and
he didn 't see the mate behind the stacks of
Just as he was going to fire Morgan said,.
"Let me have a shot, Phil — I never fired a
rifle in my life." Phil handed him the rifle
saying,'' Hurry up, they '11 be off.'' Morgan,
naturally excited, snatched the rifle and
sprang forward to get a clear view. In doing
this he caught his foot against the gangplanks
lying across the deck and stumbled forward,
bringing the muzzle of the little rifle against
the tarpaulins covering the powder. In
stumbling he pulled the trigger —
It is impossible to convey a clear idea of
—^ ■**
The Burning of the "Columbian" r>J^
what happened next, because everything happened simultaneously, while it is necessary
to describe events separately. There was
a "dull roar," and a blinding flash of flame
enveloped the "Columbian" from stem to
stern, but the explosion being unconfined did
no more actual damage than burst up the
front of the light passenger deck on which the
purser and Wynstanley had been standing,
and burst in the front of the pilot-house. It
was the sheet of flame that was destructive.
The evidence of the survivors is clear that
of the crew aft none either heard or felt the
explosion. What attracted their attention
was the sheet of flame that swept the ship.
The men amidships, including the officers
and crew that had just come off watch and
were at supper, heard "a dull roar," "a great
poof," "a dull thud," "a muffled boom,"
as it is variously described, and with it came
the blinding sheet of flame. The men forward
who were protected from the sheet of flame,
including the captain in the pilot-house and
the chief steward in the smoking-room,
describe the dull roar and the sheet of flame,
but they also experienced the upheaving
effect of the explosion to a moderate extent.
Of the seven men forward who were exposed
[i9S] ft
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
to the sheet of flame only one, Wynstanley,
recovered to say anything and he had little
or nothing to say. Of the remainder the chief
officer, Welch, was blown overboard, burnt
to a cinder, and without a stitch of clothes
left on him. His body was not recovered
till two months later some 20 miles downstream. The last that anyone ever saw of
Morgan was as he stumbled against the powder kegs. His body has never been found,
nor any trace upon which to base a theory of
what became of him. The fate of the others
will be described as the story develops.
Let us now join Captain Williams in the
pilot-house and see what happened there.
The rush of air from the explosion blew in the
glass front of the house, and jammed the
door. It also threw the captain from the
wheel and down onto the floor while the flame
burnt him slightly (he was probably too high
up for the worst of it). Recovering his feet
in a moment, he seized the lever of his steam
stearing gear and found it would not work.
Then he tried the wheel of the hand steering
gear, but neither would that work. His
engine-room signals would not work either,
and the same applied to his speaking tube
to the engine-room. The only other thing
[196] ^
The Burning of the "Columbian"
he could do in the pilot-house would be to
blow the fire alarm whistle, and this seemed
unnecessary in view of the fact that the ship
was a mass of flame from stem to stern and
that every soul on board knew it.
The pilot-house itself was on fire everywhere, when the captain, finding he could dp
nothing there, tried to open the door leading
onto the "Texas" deck. He found it jammed,
and kicked it open. On the " Texas " he met
the pilot, who had been at supper and had
climbed up on the "Texas" by a stanchion to go to his fire station, which was in
the pilot-house. The crew whose fire stations were on the "Texas" had been equally
prompt, and were all standing to their stations and had already got the hose and fire
buckets at work playing on the fire, but as
it was a case of fire everywhere they knew
their efforts were hopeless. Other members
of the crew, whose duty it was, were getting
the boat covers off and the boats swung out,
and others were standing with the davit falls
in their hands. Meanwhile the blazing ship
with her helm amidships was going full speed
down the river and unless she could be
brought to the land not a soul would be alive
in five minutes. Already the boats were on
[197] fti
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
fire and the davit falls burning in the men's
Leaving Pilot Baughman in charge on the
" Texas " the captain ran aft and slid down
a rope onto the narrow guard rail that ran all
around the ship, and worked his way along it
till he came to the engine-room gangway,
through which he could see Mr. Mavis, the
chief engineer, standing in the middle of
smoke and fire with his hand on the starting
gear. He shouted to him above the roar of
the fire to stop her, which was done. Then
with consummate coolness the captain calmly waited a few moments till a turn in the
crooked river gave him his opportunity and
then he ordered half speed ahead and rammed
the bank with his bow. He knew that the
swift current would spin the ship round like
a top, and that she would rebound from the
bank back again into the channel, but he
wanted to give the men on the bow a chance
to jump ashore if still alive, and also to get
her stern pointing towards the shore when
she spun round. As soon as she struck the
beach with her bow he stopped the engines,
and when she spun round with her stern
to the bank, he ordered the engines "full
speed astern," and with his big stern wheel
[i98] The Burning of the " Columbian"
he backed her up on the gravel beach and
held her there, "scratching gravel" with
his wheel going astern, while he got two of
his crew overboard up to their waists in the
swift current with wire hawsers which they
quickly made fast to trees on the bank while
others of the crew " took a turn " of the hawsers round the bitts on the guard rail. Then
the captain said, "That will do with the engines, Mr. Mavis," and the "Columbian's"
great stern wheel ceased to revolve. She
had made her last landing. The captain then
turned his attention to getting the injured
men ashore and saving his crew.
Now let us see what Mr. Mavis, the chief
engineer, did. When he saw the sheet of
flame sweep through the lower deck from the
bow, he neither heard nor felt the explosion,
but he knew that the powder had somehow
" let go." He started the fire pump and gave
a pressure of 60 lbs. for the fire hose, and suspecting his fireman Morgan might have suf-
ferred from the explosion he looked at his
engine-room steam gauge and saw he had 205
lbs. pressure to the square inch on his boilers.
Any moment he expected orders to stop his
engine, which would increase the pressure on
his boilers, and the fire with which they were
[199] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
now surrounded would have the same effect.
It would never do to let them explode, so he
started the boiler pumps full force in order to
knock the steam down. Still no orders came
from the pilot-house. The captain might be
dead for all he knew, but he didn 't like to stop
the engines without orders. He looked out
of the engine-room gangway and saw Smith,
the coal trimmer, all in flames groping his way
blindly aft along the guard rail. Leaving
the engines for a moment, he snatched him
in through the gangway into the engine-room,
where he collapsed on the deck and Mavis
called help to extinguish his clothes while he
himself returned to his engines. By this
time the whole lower deck was an inferno of
flame and smoke, and through this he heard
Captain Williams give his order to '' stop her''
before he saw him. When the captain released him from his engines, being still apprehensive that the boilers would explode,
he fought his way through the flames to his
safety valve and eased it, so as to let the steam
blow off. He could not reach the stokehole
to look for Morgan, so he aided in getting
Smith ashore and himself jumped overboard,
standing up to his waist in the swift river, to
help to carry Smith up the bank.
[ 200] ^
The Burning of the "Columbian"
Now let us see what the men at supper did.
The officers at dinner in the saloon were Pilot
Baughman, Second Officer Clifford Smith (who
must not be confused with Smith the coal
trimmer), and Second Engineer Borrowrnan,
and Waiter Barber was on duty attending at
their table. The watch below were finishing, or had just finished their supper in the
mess-room, where Messman Wilson was attending to them. Second Cook Johns was on
duty in the galley and Pantryman Lewis in
the pantry. These men all describe hearing
or feeling the dull explosion, and before any
of them had made up their minds what it
was (most of them had forgotten about the
powder), the sheet of flame swept the ship.
We have already come across Pilot Baughman
at his post on the "Texas" when the captain
left the pilot-house. The second officer's fire
station was also on the "Texas" and it was his
duty to turn on the valves admitting water to
the hose after he had seen the hose properly
laid. This he did and directed the efforts of
the men working the hose and fire buckets,
while the pilot attended to getting the boats
cleared for lowering. In one of these gangs
was the waiter who had been waiting on the
officers' dinner table in the saloon a moment
[201] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
before, and in the other gang was the messman
who had been giving the watch below their
supper. Both these men were at their stations as soon as their officers, and how soon
this was is demonstrated by the fact that
several of these officers and men say in their
evidence that the first thing they noticed as
they got on deck and ran for their stations
was the dropping on the smooth surface of
the river, all round the boat, of the shattered
powder kegs. It doesn't take long for a powder keg that has gone up in an explosion to
come down again, but it took long enough to
give the " Columbian's " watch below time to
reach the deck in their rush to their stations.
Having got to their stations, they went as
coolly about their work as if on a parade fire
drill and stood to their stations till ordered
to "abandon ship." The canvas hose
burnt and burst, the boats hanging in the
davits caught fire, and so did the boat falls
in the men's hands, the "Texas" deck and
the passenger deck were burning and giving
way beneath their feet, every moment they
expected the boilers to explode below them,
and most demoralising of all, every man of
them knew that his efforts were hopeless and
useless, that no hose or buckets could affect
[ 202 ]
I The Burning of the "Columbian"
the conflagration in the slightest, and that no
boat could be lowered and that their only
hope of escape from appalling and immediate
death depended upon whether the captain
could succeed in getting the blazing and unmanageable "Columbian" to the river bank,
and hold her there long enough to save
their lives. They had seen him leave the
pilot-house, so they knew that the steering
gear and engine-room signals could not be
worked — they had seen the man upon whose
success or failure all their lives depended slide
down a rope into the fire and smoke below,
and still they stood to their stations and
waited for orders.
Now let us see how it fared with the men
exposed to the sheet of flame on the bow and
the front of the passenger deck. Of Welch
and Morgan we know already all that ever
can be told; and we have met poor blinded
Smith groping his way along the narrow
guard rail with his clothes in flames ("I
pulled the fire off him" is the graphic language of a witness at the inquest, not "I
pulled the clothes off him";—he was clothed
in flame), and finally dragged into the engine-room by the chief engineer. There remains of the five men on the bow only Woods
«m On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
and little Phil. They, like Welch, had every
stitch of clothing (except their boots) blown
off their bodies, which were burnt and
charred and singed and blackened so as to
hardly appear human, but they were not
only alive but conscious and able to jump
ashore when the captain rammed the bow
into the bank and gave them the chance to
jump. The purser and Wynstanley had
been precipitated onto the cargo deck when
the front end of the passenger deck on which
they were standing had been burst up by
the rush of air from the explosion. Their
clothes were not blown off their bodies and
they were not so badly burnt as Smith,
Woods, and little Phil, but they were very
seriously injured for all that. However,
they too were able to jump ashore when
the captain gave them their chance.
Now let us muster the crew on the bank.
After the bows swung out from the bank
and Wynstanley, the purser, Woods, and
little Phil had jumped ashore, the only injured man remaining on board was Smith on
the engine-room floor. He was landed in a
sort of hammock made of blankets held high
in the bearers' hands, and the pilot and chief
engineer themselves, with the two deck
1 The Burning of the "Columbian"
hands who had first jumped overboard with
the wire hawsers, made up the party of
bearers standing waist deep in the swift
stream to receive Smith from the captain's
own hands, lowering him down carefully
from the engine-room gangway.
As the little party bearing Smith proceeded
up the gravel beach they were met by the
purser and Wynstanley and two blackened,
hairless, naked creatures. "Is that you,
Phil?" said one of the bearers, unable to
believe his eyes. "Yes, it's me," said little
Phil, and promptly collapsed on the beach.
In a moment the rest of the crew joined the
party on the beach, Captain Williams being
the last man to leave the ship.
As soon as he was ashore and found the
chief officer missing, he started to try to climb
back on board again, thinking Welch was
asleep in his room on the "Texas" deck, which
was even then collapsing. They had to hold
the captain back by force while the second
officer explained that he had visited Welch's
room to call him the moment he had reached
the "Texas" deck, but had found the room
empty. Before this had been made clear, and
before it was safe to loose hold of the captain,
the "Texas" collapsed and carried with it the
[205] I
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
passenger deck. There was another sheet of
flame for a moment, followed by a shower
of sparks, and the " Columbian " had ceased
to exist, though the lower part of the hull
and the cargo continued to smolder till the
"Victorian" came and put it out with her
fire pumps twenty-four hours later.
It is satisfactory to think that probably
the unfortunate cattle never suffered at all,
as they were almost certainly smothered by
the thick smoke which filled their portion of
the ship until the deck fell in. This view is
confirmed by the fact that there was neither
the bellowing nor struggling which invariably characterize cattle in a fire.
It is now possible to attempt to gather the
scattered thread of the story together and
see what had happened. At 6:20 p. m. the
"Columbian" was peacefully paddling her
way down river, the crew at supper or just
gone on watch after supper, no thought of
danger in any mind. Morgan stumbles over
the gangplanks and in the twinkling of an
eye, death or serious injury comes to seven
of the people on board, and sudden fierce
destruction wraps the doomed boat in its
awful folds. These are the sort of moments
that test men. No time for consultation
[206] The Burning of the "Columbian"
or thought or concerted action. No man
knew who survived or who might be dead.
In such circumstances any crew that could
show a fair percentage of men who did their
duty might well be satisfied. The "Columbian's" crew showed ioo per cent, doing
their duty — not one missing from his place
a few seconds after the call — and not
merely doing their duty, but doing it intelligently and efficiently. What must one
think of the captain's brilliant work under
awful responsibilities? But before one has
quite settled this the vision of the chief engineer arises, standing to his engines in the
midst of smoke and fire, waiting — just
waiting — for orders! Then one thinks these
men did Well — more than well — but they
were the officers. What of the rank and
file? The "Birkenhead" is usually taken
as the climax of steadfast courage in such
cases. Where was there a waiter or a cook
or any man of the "Columbian's" crew that
fell short of the "Birkenhead" standard in
perhaps more trying circumstances. Think
of the men standing steady with the hose and
ropes burning useless in their hands, and the
decks giving way beneath their feet while
every moment they expected to hear the roar
I ml
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of the exploding boilers drown for the moment even the roar of the flames. These
men had no warning — no time to think and
pull themselves together — no orders were
given, because none were needed. Why are
not these men the equals of the men on the
"Birkenhead" ?
In less than five minutes from the explosion
the "Columbian" had been safely made fast
to the bank. Till that moment all these men
were face to face with instant, appalling
death in its most terrifying form. They all
could appreciate what a slender chance there
was for the captain to bring the unmanageable conflagration to the bank, and hold it
there in spite of the swift current sweeping
it along. They all knew that on this slender
chance their lives absolutely depended, but
no man left his station to watch what the
captain was doing. How shall we place these
rank and file in comparing their conduct
with that of the captain and chief engineer ?
For myself, I prefer not to compare them,
but content myself with the hope that if
ever it comes to my turn I may not fall
short of the standard set by the humblest
member of the "Columbian's" crew. We
may, however, feel proud to think that all
[208 ] ***
"Columbian" Before the Fire
'Columbian" After the Fire
I I The Burning of the "Columbian"
this was done under the White Pass flag,
and that these men were (and mostly still
are) on the White Pass pay-roll.
It still remains to describe the steps that
were taken by the "Columbian's" crew to
get aid for their injured, and to extricate
themselves from their forlorn situation without food or clothes or shelter on the river
bank. The catastrophe occurred 9 miles below the mouth of the Little Salmon River
and about 30 miles above the Tantalus Coal
Mines. At the latter place there was a telegraph office and at both places there were
houses where food and blankets and help
might be looked for, and possibly at Tantalus some rough surgical dressings.
Captain Williams, knowing the approximate position of every one of our fleet of
steamers on the river, knew that the first boats
likely to reach him were the "Victorian" or
the " Bonanza King," each working her way
slowly up stream pushing a big barge before her (the Yukon equivalent for towing).
Whichever of these first got the news would
tie her barge to the bank and come racing
to the rescue. The "Dawson" had passed
some hours before on her way up stream,
but there was just a chance to catch her with
[209] ill!
■It 1I
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
a wire before she passed Hootalinqua, in
which case she would turn short round and
come tearing down in a few hours.
Everything depended on how soon the
telegrams could be put on the wires at Tantalus and whether the telegraph clerks at
the other places were awake, as there are no
night men. The captain, as soon as he had
made the injured as comfortable as possible,
decided to send two men to Little Salmon
for help, and picked out Second Officer Clifford Smith with two men to make the race
against time to Tantalus, 30 miles away.
The Little Salmon expedition arrived there
duly and returned with a few supplies and
a boat next morning, without any special
mishap or adventure.
But the Tantalus trip is worth describing.
It started at eight in the evening, and for a
couple of miles followed the river bank, but
their progress was slow on account of the
underbrush and timber. After a couple of
miles Smith realized that he must do better
if he wanted to do any good at all. Selecting some driftwood on the beach, he made his
men give him their belts and braces, and
using these with his own he managed to strap
together a few small logs. Taking a pole to
[210] *ffl
The Burning of the "Columbian"
guide his course, he committed himself to the
rapid stream and sent his men back to camp
with orders to tell the captain he would get
there if he could keep out of the numerous
blind channels. This he foresaw would be
difficult, because his raft could barely support his weight and was unmanageable in
the swift current and likely to upset if he attempted any control over its movements.
However, he kept her going somehow till near
Tantalus he heard someone calling him from
behind, and was soon overtaken by Captain
Williams and Chief Engineer Mavis in a
canoe which they had got from the men of
a wood yard who had been attracted from
some miles' distance to the wreck by the conflagration. The captain fearing Smith's raft
might never reach Tantalus had borrowed the
canoe, and leaving Pilot Baughman in charge
at the camp, he and Mavis had started for
Tantalus. When they caught up Clifford
Smith on his little raft, which had almost
broken up, they took him on board and
soon afterwards arrived at the coal mines,
at five minutes past midnight.
It proved impossible to call the telegraph
clerks at any of the other offices so late at
night, and consequently the " Dawson" had
I If
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
reached White Horse before she could be made
available, and the "Victorian" was 15 miles
down stream from Tantalus before she got
the news. She immediately dropped her
barge and raced for the wreck, arriving at
7 p. m. on the 26th. The "Dawson" was
turned short round at White Horse and converted into a kind of floating hospital, and
with doctors, nurses, and all necessaries left
White Horse at 1:3o p. m. on the 26th for the
wreck. The " Bonanza King" did not reach
Tantalus till 4 p. m. on the 26th.
While the captain was attending to the
telegraphing, the chief engineer and second
officer had roused the coal mine people and
were busily collecting a supply of blankets,
lint, oil, vaseline, provisions, and medicines
and making them into three separate bundles
or "packs." These weighed about 50 lbs.
each and Clifford Smith's nearly 60 lbs.
The journey back must be made on foot
through the timber and underbrush along the
river bank, as there was no trail. It would
be slow work at the best, but if a horse could
be obtained to carry the "packs" a great
deal of time could be saved. There were no
horses at Tantalus except some Mounted
Police ones in charge of a constable who was
I Wb
The Burning of the "Columbian"
awakened on the assumption that he would
give the use of a horse as a matter of course.
It would have been better to have let him
sleep and taken the horse and settled the matter afterwards with his superiors. He proved
the "regulation pattern stamped-out-of-a-
solid-block" kind of constable and said he
had "no orders" and point blank refused a
horse till he had got orders, which could not
arrive by wire much before the time the expedition hoped to get back to the camp. Having heard a plain expression of what our boys
thought of him, the constable resumed his
slumbers. Discouraged but grimly determined " to get there or break a leg " our men
set out on their return journey after a hastily
snatched meal.
In order to appreciate the task before them
let anyone pick out in his mind's eye any
stretch of 30 miles with which he is familiar,
and then imagine nearly every yard of it
obstructed by fallen trees and scattered boulders, with frequent intersections by small
rivers, streams, and torrents. Having got
this picture clearly in his mind, let him propose to himself to carry a good-sized portmanteau full of clothes and things over this
30 miles in a race against time. Very few
[213] ft!
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
people would care to carry the portmanteau
a quarter of a mile along a smooth street to
a railway station, but what about hurdle racing for 30 miles with one ?
Our men were sailors, not pedestrians or
porters, but they simply had to get these packs
somehow to that camp and the only way
was to carry them. So they set out at two
in the morning. Two of the friendly miners—
themselves used to facing death and helping
the injured—insisted on accompanying the
expedition a part of the way and helping to
carry the packs, but the sailors soon walked
them off their feet. At the end of 5 miles
"Webber's leg played out and the other
"man played out, too. They did all they
"could and wanted to do more," was the
evidence at the inquest by one of our men.
I may as well quote the rest of his evidence
regarding that trip.
"Q. 'You must have been played out
"yourselves by the time you got back to
"the wreck.'
"A. 'We were played out two or three
"times over and when we got to a creek we
"would sit down and take a teaspoonful of
"brandy and eat an egg instead of drink-
"ing water. Just enough to keep us going.
[214] The Burning of the "Columbian"
We had to keep going anyhow, and we had
" been walking so long that if we sat down long
" to rest we would get stiff and not be able to
"go along at all. So we did not want to sit
"down at all." That seemed to them a
simple way of solving the difficulty.
In the end they carried their packs into
camp about noon on the 26th, having averaged three miles an hour with them for ten
consecutive hours.
Meanwhile, soon after the Tantalus expedition had left the camp the previous evening, the coal trimmer Smith had died of his
injuries at about ten at night, and at about
two in the morning Woods had also died—
in both cases a merciful release. Little Phil
was quite as badly injured, but had made no
complaint or groan. The crew, to encourage
him, told him the " Bonanza King " was coming, and Phil made up his mind to see his
father again before dying. So he hung on all
the dreary day and never uttered a groan or
complaint even when they dressed his wounds
(he was all wounds). Shortly before. 7 in the
evening they heard the paddles of a steamer
and Phil brightened up, expecting his father.
But it turned out to be the "Victorian" and
little Phil was carried tenderly on board at
*~* On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
7 p. M. I quote from Second Engineer Bor-
rowman 's evidence " I helped carry the purser
"on board [the 'Victorian'], and Jack Porter
"[one of the 'Columbian' crew], came to me
" and said 'If you want to see the last of Phil
"you've got to come right now,' and I went
"up alongside of Phil and he was barely
"breathing and did not know me. It was
"five minutes past seven * * * * Phil Mur-
"ray died at five minutes past seven."
When he found out that it was not the
" Bonanza King " he was on board, he had lost
all interest in living any longer.
The rest is soon told. The "Victorian"
with the three dead bodies and the two injured men (Wynstanley and the purser),
and the crew of the " Columbian,'' started at
once from the camp and met the "Dawson"
at i :io a. m. that night and transferred the
survivors to her, where the injured men were
attended to by the doctors and nurses and
brought to the White Horse Hospital. Both
did well at first, but the purser had a relapse
and died somewhat unexpectedly at noon on
October nth. Wynstanley recovered completely, and the rest of the crew had no
serious injuries.
[216] CHAPTER X.
When we organized our own river service
we took over the mail contracts covering the
river carriage of both the American and Canadian mails. Both contracts had some years
to run and were at profitable rates. The
American contract covered the carriage of
mail throughout the year, via the White Pass,
between Juneau (no miles south of Skaguay)
and St. Michael at the mouth of the Yukon
River, and there were branch services to
Nome 115 miles beyond St. Michael and to
other places in Alaska away from the Yukon
River, The Canadian contract covered the
carriage of the Canadian mail, winter and
summer, between Skaguay and Dawson, with
a branch service to Atlin. Both contracts
involved heavy penalties, secured by large
We did not want the winter contracts, as
they involved a dog sleigh service twice a
week in each direction, extending over 2,500
miles on the edge of the Arctic Circle. In
other words the contractors had to carry
MM On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
the mails more than 10,000 miles a week
with dog sleighs. We were a railway company and did not own a dog in our corporate
capacity. However, we did want the mails
in summer for our boats, so we decided to
take the contracts over. With them we had
to take over some 500 dogs then in service
between Dawson and White Horse and on
the Atlin branch under the Canadian contract. But we were able to keep out of the
dog business under the American contract by
sub-letting the winter service beyond Dawson
amongst a number of sub-contractors who
supplied their own dogs, and carried on the
service admirably and at some profit to us
until the American mail contracts expired,
when we did not seek to renew them as they
took us too far "off our beat."
WTien navigation opened in 1901 we had
500 idle dogs on our hands and soon learnt
that idle Esquimaux dogs resemble "idle
hands" in having mischief found "for them
to do" by his Satanic Majesty. So we hired
a good dogkeeper and loaded him and the
dogs and a supply of food into one of our
steamboats and took them down to a large
island in Lake La Barge and there we left
them for the summer. The keeper enforced
[218] 1  ■^
Winter Mail Service
order and cooked the food and looked after
the numerous families of most fascinating
woolly puppies. Semi-occasionally one of
our boats called at Dog Island (as it is still
called), in passing, to see how things were
going on, and as another winter drew near
we were able to dispose of our dog assets on
favourable terms.
We had made up our minds from the start
to organize the Dawson winter mail service
on a horse basis. The traffic was heavy
enough to warrant this and it was rendered
possible by our having our own steamers on
the river and being thus able to distribute by
water carriage during the summer the immense amount of hay and oats and other
supplies required for the horses during the
Accordingly, the following winter, having
sold off the dogs, we started the four-horse
sleigh service for mails, passengers, gold-dust,
parcels, and light freight, between White
Horse and Dawson which we have maintained
ever since. There are relay stables and rest
houses every 20 to 25 miles, where good meals
and beds are available for the passengers and
where the horses are changed. The drivers
go through with the sleighs and mail. The
[219] IS:
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
distance now is 350 miles, as an overland trail
has been made which shortens the river route
which we originally travelled on the ice, by
about 100 miles. During the busy season we
average a sleigh a day in each direction, equal
to about 5,000 miles a week, and employ
about 250 horses with plenty of bone and
breeding. Most of them would attract favourable attention in any English private
When the trail is in good condition it is a
pleasant trip. The cold is dry and bracing
and does not penetrate the warm furs we
supply our passengers, while we keep their
feet warm with foot-warmers. The bright
sun and the rapid motion through the still
air (there is seldom any wind), invigorates
both passengers and horses as they rush
through the frost-bound, snow-clad woods,
with the leaders galloping or cantering and
the wheelers at a fast trot. Ladies who have
made the trip have told me they enjoyed it
more than they could describe.
But it is not always fine weather and a
good trail, and our drivers are called upon
at times for strenuous exertions and quick
action, as is demonstrated by the following
[ 220 ]
**^-	 Winter Mail Service
In the spring of 1902, before the " Overland
Trail" had been constructed, our sleighs had
to travel over the river ice, and this, of course,
became increasingly dangerous as the spring
advanced and the ice became less solid.
In these circumstances one of our sleighs, with
a full load of passengers and mail, early in
April was on good ice and nearing Fort
Selkirk, when suddenly the leaders broke
through a "soft spot" without the slightest
warning. The driver jumped on his brakes
with both feet and stopped the sleigh with
half his pole projecting over the broken ice.
His wheelers were down and had their heads in
the water, and in their struggles were breaking the narrow margin of sound ice that intervened between the sleigh and destruction.
At the same time the strain on the traces
caused by the leaders dragging in the swift
current was making the brakes "creep" in
the ice that held them. A moment's indecision on the part of the driver, and the sleigh
and all its occupants would have been dragged
into the river and under the ice. There was
no time for the passengers to free themselves
from their fur robes and jump. In case of
such emergencies, the harness, instead of
being arranged in ordinary four-in-hand style,
[221] in
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
was so arranged that by cutting the ends of
the wheelers' traces and throwing the reins on
their backs, the sleigh would be at once detached from its team. The hind ends of the
wheelers' traces were made of rope for the
purpose of cutting more quickly, because a
mere touch with the edge of a knife will sever
a rope with a strain on it. To be ready for
quick action our drivers always carried a big
sheath knife in the leg of their right boot.
With a sorrowful "Good-bye, my beauties, '' the driver cut the traces, and in less than
five seconds from the time the leaders broke
through, the team was gone under the ice.
So urgent was the need for prompt action,
that the front boot of the big sleigh was almost projecting over the broken ice as the
last trace was cut. Then the driver, sitting
calmly on his seat, reassured his passengers
and instructed them to climb out one by one
over the back end of the sleigh, and followed
himself in the same fashion. Then a rope
was made fast to the hind end of the sleigh
and the passengers from a safe distance hauled
the sleigh back to a position of safety. But
our beautiful gray team, the pets and pride
of the winter mail service, were gone, and
their bodies, still harnessed together, were
[ 222 ] Winter Mail Service
recovered five miles down the river after the
ice went out. Before the following winter
we had the present "Overland Trail" completed, and since then the only places where
we touch the river ice is when we have to
cross a river too large to be bridged.
The following extracts from the mail service
official reports, extending over a series of
years, give a better idea than anything I could
write of the conditions when there is " trouble
on the trail."
"White Horse, Y. T., December 10, 1901.
" I regret to have to amend my report for
'' the week ending December 8th. I reported
"that the carriers whom I had sent out on
" Sunday morning with ten horses and several
"sleighs had got around the bad places on
"the river safely. One of our men came up
"from where the men were and gave me this
"report in good faith, as they had got around
" all that portion of the river which we considered dangerous. They came to grief, how-
" ever, at a place a little farther on, where the
" ice appeared perfectly safe, being no less than
"18 inches thick and extending out from the
"bank about 60 feet. The water had fallen
"considerably from under this ice, leaving
"it hollow and while the horses were on it a
[223] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
piece [about a hundred yards long broke
down and shot out into the stream, leaving
eight horses in the water with two sleighs.
The men^got seven of the horses out safely
after a hard time of over half an hour, but
one of the horses got tangled up in one of the
sleighs which was capsized and was drowned.
They managed to cut his mate loose, but
were unable to get at this one as he was underneath in very deep water. Both sleighs
were in, but we got everything out safely except one box containing a few sleigh bells of
very little value. The mail fortunately escaped without even getting wet. Further
particulars at hand regarding the drowning
of the team on the lake last Sunday, show
that the accident was occasioned by bad
cracks in the ice. At the particular spot
where the accident occurred, there was a 'V
crack in the ice. It was not quite daylight
when the accident happened, the carriers
having started out very early in order to
catch Monday's train from White Horse.
They report that they had tested the ice a
minute previous to breaking through and
found it 6 inches thick. They were unfortunate enough to drive onto the piece already described where the ice was cracked
[224] Winter Mail Service
' and it sunk right down under them. The
' mail was not lashed onto the sleigh and it
' floated up and they threw it out onto the
' ice. They got one horse out after a long
' time, but he was so far gone that they had
' to kill him. The mail looks in very bad con-
' dition, but is really not much damaged and
'all of it can be deciphered."
"White Horse, Y. T., April 23, 1904.
" Driver Gage reports trail practically bare
'entire distance Dawson to White Horse,
' and came all the way on wheels. The only
'places where there was any snow at all be-
'ing on few side cuts facing north between
' Pelly and Stewart and on Wounded Moose
'Summit. The frost is coming out of
'the ground rapidly and road in many
' places is axle deep in mud. Trail will get
'worse from now on until frost all goes out
'of ground and starts to dry up. Gage
'got his wagon across the river at Yukon
' Crossing, but this is the last for season and
'they are now transferring there. At last
'reports Pelly and Stewart crossings were
' still safe to cross with horses and rigs, but
'it is only a matter of a few days before
'these will also be unsafe. Tahkeena is
'also expected to go out any day."
[225] II
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"White Horse, Y. T., May 4, 1904.
"The weather is moderate over the entire route. The stage that left Dawson
April 26th has not yet reached Yukon
Crossing. It is thought that it is held
up at Rosebud or Scroggie Creek. These
creeks are located between Pelly and
Stewart. They are both very bad places,
and it is quite possible that they are so bad
that they are impassable. The north-bound
stage, leaving White Horse April 27th at
7 o'clock a. m., waited at Yukon Crossing
until Monday night, May 2d, and then the
driver was directed to take the wagon to
pieces and put it across the river and go to
Minto to get horses and proceed. He got
away from the crossing at 1 p. m. yesterday. If he does not meet the other stage
at Pelly he will be up against the same proposition and will have to put the wagon
across the Pelly and go to Hume for
horses. It is possible that the stages will
! meet at point where trouble is and transfer.
We have not sent a stage out this week
from either end — did not think it advis-
1 able to do so until we heard from the ones
'on the road, as there is no use piling them
up unless they can get through. Both
LJL Winter Mail Service
'mentioned creeks at times become raging
' torrents and are from 4 to 10 feet deep and
' in some places spread out to half a mile in
"White Horse, Y. T., May 9, 1904.
" Herewith report from Driver Burwash: —
' Impossible to cross Pelly, 4 feet of water in
'road houses, 7 horses drowned, 6 north side,
'one south side, arrived here 9 p. m. April
' 30th. Stableman crossed to feed horses in
' tent; been unable to hear from him since,
' except to hear of drowned horses. We all
'had to leave roadhouse in canoe. Gage
'arrived, is taking his passengers back to
' Minto. Pelly jammed with ice from mouth
'up. May's wagon, with mail, upside down
'in ice. Later have learned stableman is
' sick north side.
"White Horse, Y. T., Jan. 20,1906.
"On my way out from Dawson this last
"trip temperature ranged from 300 to 700
"below with very high winds. Trail badly
"drifted in places and very heavy along
"entire route. I found the road, especially
"the Wounded Moose Summit, in very bad
"condition. The snowfall on the north
"end of the trail has been extremely heavy
"this year, and this combined with low
[227] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"temperature and high winds means a very
'' heavy drifted trail all the time. Conditions
"on the Wounded Moose Summit are very
"bad and the stages are having a very hard
"time getting across at all. Driver Joe
"McDonald, who arrived here on the 15th,
"was nearly three hours making about 200
"yards on the Summit, and probably would
"not have got over at all if he had not had
"four or five good strong passengers with
"him. The trail is very high on the summit
"and if a horse gets off the trail, which is
"very easy, he simply goes out of sight in
"the loose snow on the side of the trail and
"the drivers have to get off and unharness
"and go through all kinds of maneuvers to
"get over at all.
"As you are aware, the government has
"put three men on the trail to keep it open
" and about a week ago they sent out an extra
"man to assist in taking care of the Wounded
"Moose Summit. I am afraid we are go-
"ing to get into serious trouble on this
"Wounded Moose Summit unless we take
"some drastic action immediately. If a
" driver ever gets into trouble on the Wound-
"ed Moose Summit this kind of weather, he
"is liable to freeze himself badly, if not
■"  I" Winter Mail Service
"lose his life, and if the driver gets frozen,
"we are also liable to lose a four-horse
"team, and we are apt to lose a horse or two
"in any event at any time."
"White Horse, Y. T., June 7, 1906.
"Horses Nos. 232, 67, 89, and 014 were
"drowned on May 20th in Wounded Moose
"Creek. No. 014 is an Orr & Tukey horse
"and we will have to replace it. Will ad-
"vise number of horse given them when
"exchange is made.
"Following is detailed report of the acci-
'' dent as made by Stableman David Smith:—
"' I beg to make the following report of the
"drowning of 4 horses, Nos. 232, 014, 67, and
" 89 in Wounded Moose stream on May 20th,
"when making the spring clean-up on the
"' On arriving at Wounded Moose we found
"the bridge had gone and the stream nearly
"bank full, with the water still rising, so that
"fording was out of the question. I with
"four other stablemen concluded to bridge
"it, which we did in such a way that we all
"agreed that it was safe; the bridge took us
'' about four hours to build. By the time the
"bridge was completed the water was rising
"so fast that when we put the horses on it
[229] ft
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
that were drawing the stage, the bridge
[ naturally gave a little, but enough to catch
the current, which instantly swept it from
under the horses, leaving them attached to
the stage struggling in the water. With
good presence of mind one of the men attached a chain from the axle of the wagon to
a tree on the bank, holding it off the horses.
Even after that we could do nothing
toward saving them as they were in such a
position in the raging waters that it meant
certain death to anyone attempting to cut
them loose. After they had stopped struggling we managed to get a line over one of
the horses' feet (which I might say was the
; only thing in sight), and pulled them to the
bank, getting the harness from all of them in
that manner. We then cut a road through
the woods some distance farther up the
stream and succeeded in building another
bridge which we crossed with the remaining 27 horses and stage.
'"To give you an idea of the condition
: of the trail I might say that the accident
; occurred about noon and we were then only
about three miles from the post which we
had left at 6 o'clock that morning. We
1 had built three smaller bridges before that.
I230] Winter Mail Service
' We reached Eureka that night at 12 o'clock,
'a distance of n miles in 18 hours. We
' built seven bridges between Stewart Cross-
'ing and Indian Crossing. In closing I
'might say that it is with the deepest re-
'gret that I have to make a report of this
'kind. If you consider there were any mis-
' takes made I will say that it was lack of
'judgment on our part, as we did what we
'thought was the best under the circum-
'stances.' "
"White Horse, Y. T., January, 17, 1907.
" Driver McDonald arrived here last night
"and reports the trail in probably the worst
"condition it has ever been since the com-
" pany operated stages. The trail from Daw-
"son to Pelly is in fair condition, except the
" Wounded Moose Summit, which was badly
"drifted. Stages which met there Satur-
"day afternoon, both north and south
"bound, had to 'line' over the Summit. The
"horses went down in the deep snow and had
"to be unharnessed, taken across singly, and
'' stages hauled across with lash ropes. From
" Pelly south the trail is drifted badly all
"the way, miles and miles of it being com-
"pletely obliterated, and horses in many
"places are unable to find the trail at all.
[231] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"There was a heavy fall of snow (over a
"foot in some places), accompanied by a
" very severe north gale. McDonald was out
"until 9 and 10 o'clock at night making
"three stations with an empty sleigh. Will
"have to load very light for the next two or
"three trips, as the horses are simply unable
"to handle big loads."
"White Horse, January 20, 1907.
"Stage out 10 a. m.; no passengers. 700
'' lbs. mail; 1,200 lbs. through freight. Have
"cancelled schedule on account of extreme
"weather, but unless gets worse will con-
"tinue to run stages making slow time.
"620 below in Dawson this a. m. Ther-
"mometers out of business along trail."
"White Horse, Y. T., March 31, 1907.
"Weather Conditions: Weather has been
I "the worst on record.    Wind blew a gale
"from the south on Sunday, Monday, and
"Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon Dawson ad-
" vised that it was blowing a blizzard from
"the north and snowing and drifting hard.
"The storm reached here about 10 o'clock
"Tuesday night and continued all Tuesday
"night, Wednesday, and Thursday, drift-
"ing badly all the time. Temperature
"ranged from io° to 300 below zero here
[232] Winter Mail Service
"while the gale was blowing. When the
"wind went down the thermometer kept
"it company. It was 400 below here and
"went as low as 6o° below on the trail."
"Trail Conditions: The trail conditions
"are worse than have ever been experienced
"in this country before. The blizzard
"drifted the trail full the entire length of
"the line. All stages were very late and
"we had to send stages a long distance
"apart and load very light. Drivers Don-
"nenwerth and Stewart took four days each
"to reach Yukon Crossing and were out
"until late at night as it was. Driver Dart
"took 12 hours to make the 23 miles from
"Wounded Moose to Indian River. Driver
"Chinery was unable to make from Indian
"River to Dawson, had to stop at Grand
" Forks and telephone to Dawson for another
" team to take him in. Driver Webster was
"all day going 25 miles from Stewart Cross-
" ing to Wounded Moose. Driver McDonald
"was 3K hours making 5 miles. And so on
"with all the drivers.
"From Stewart Crossing to Dawson the
"snow was belly deep on the horses, and
" drifted so hard in places that a team could
"only pull a sleigh three or four lengths and
[233] I
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
" then stop and rest. Our slow freight teams
"which were between Yukon Crossing and
" Pelly tied up altogether and did not at-
" tempt to move.
"The condition of the trail generally is
"beyond description, not a sign of a thaw
"anywhere. The snow is so deep now, how-
"ever, that when the weather does get warm
"it will cut to pieces in a few days. The
"snow is loose and there is no good bottom
"to the trail.
"Owing to the condition of the trail and
"the intense cold, the horses are all very
"tired and many of them are pretty near
"used up. Will have to nurse them along
"carefully for the rest of the season, and it
"looks now as if it will be all we can do to
"handle the passengers and mail, and the
"freight will have to await the opening of
It will be realized from these reports that
it is far from child's play on the trail when
things are going wrong. But, so far, we
are fortunately able to say that there have
been no serious accidents and that no lives
nor mail have been lost. This applies to
the Dawson service.
On the Atlin Winter Service (which being
■ '■ Winter Mail Service
a dog service we did not renew when the contract expired in 1903), we were not so fortunate, as the following report shows:
"Skaguay, Alaska, Dec. 15, 1902.
"On November 25th, two mail carriers,
"Messrs. Mclntyre and Abbey, left Log
"Cabin for Atlin with dog teams, carrying
"the mail. They reached Atlin in safety,
"delivered the mail, and started on their
"return trip. They were last seen on November 30th at Butler's Roadhouse on
"Taku Inlet, half way between Taku and
"Golden Gate. As they did not reach Log
"Cabin when expected, it was feared they
"had met with an accident and searching
"parties were sent out. Their sled tracks
"were followed on the lake to the Golden
"Gate Channel, where Mr. Abbey's hat was
"found frozen in the ice about half way be-
"tween the Golden Gate side and the island.
" There is no doubt that Mclntyre and Abbey
"are lost.
"The mail and sled (with the dead dogs
"attached) were found under the ice. The
"sled was hauled out, the mail dried, and
"again forwarded. There has been no ac-
" count of the finding of the bodies of the
[23s] f
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
"Mr. Abbey was on the run last year and
"was thoroughly familiar with the route.
" Mr. Mclntyre was an old hand at this sort of
"work, but was new on this route."
The bodies of the unfortunate men were
subsequently found close together between
the sled and the mainland and in quite shallow water, but of course frozen under the ice.
It was surmised that both dogs and men were
pretty well exhausted before they reached
Golden Gate and broke through the ice, and
that the men became confused in the icy
water and quickly lost consciousness. But
it is mere surmise. All that can certainly be
known is that both men had many times
previously been in worse difficulties and
got themselves and their dogs out none the
worse; and that there was nothing in the
known circumstances to explain the tragic
They tell the story of a Wall Street
banker, who had just been elected president
of a big trans-continental railroad system,
that on his first trip of inspection over the
line his palatial private car was shunted at
a road-side station to be attached to a branch
line train. While he was waiting, the great
man walked down the track and pompously watched the Irish "section boss"
directing the operations of his Chinese
"section gang." The Irishman had his
coat off and a track shovel in his hand,
and he looked as if he might do something at any moment. But he did nothing
beyond sitting on the "hand-car," smoking
and giving occasional orders and encouragement to the "hathins" under him. Finally the president thought it was high time
to wake him up a bit, so he said in a tone of
authority, "My man, why don't you work?
You are the 'section boss' of this section,
aren't you?" The Irishman replied, "I am
that, and who might you be?" The great
j On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
man swelled out his chest and said crush-
higly, "I am the president of this railroad,
sir." The Irishman, nothing daunted, took
a good look at him and said, "Well, you've
a d n good job"—and then, after an
impressive pause, added, "iv ye can only
howld it."
Very possibly this may be the sentiment
towards myself of anyone who has read these
notes so far, and there is no doubt that it
may seem that the president has an easy
time. But to show that even presidents have
their worries I am tempted to tell a story on
myself. It is not necessary to read it, as it
has nothing to do with the " White Pass," beyond showing that its president has his
worries the same as other people.
I was returning from Alaska in the spring
of 1907, and our train was due in St. Paul at
a quarter past two that afternoon but was
nine hours behind time. The last train for
Chicago left St. Paul at 11 p. m., so unless it
waited for us we would miss it, as we had no
chance to make up any of our lost time and
might lose more. This was the position of
affairs when I went to dinner at 7:3c While
I was dining, bang went something, and it
turned out we had pulled the drawbar out of
[238] A Night in a Sleeping-car
the car behind (which was my sleeper). We
backed up to it and after an hour's work got
it in tow with chains, but we had to run slowly
in consequence and it would be about 2 a. m.
before we could expect to reach St. Paul.
There seemed no chance of catching the
Chicago train that night.
The conductor said the sleeping-car would
remain in the station till 8 in the morning
with any passengers that wished to sleep on
board, and I went to bed with an easy mind,
but the other passengers sat up. During
my sleep I became sub-consciously aware,
without waking, that the train had reached
St. Paul and that people were bustling about
and then everything became quiet. The
quiet lasted for an indefinite time, when I was
wakened by hearing the door of my stateroom open and shut very softly. This seemed
queer and I got up to investigate, but there
was no one about. I found that the other
passengers had all got off, so that I was
the only passenger in the car, and that,
presumably supposing it empty (as I was
in the state-room with the lights out),
it had been shunted out of the station and
was standing on a siding about one-third of
a mile away, surrounded by a perfect jungle
[239] I!
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
of freight-cars of every sort and kind. I
thought I would have a nice time in the
morning getting my big bag to the station,
and then I went to bed again.
I was nearly asleep when I heard my stateroom door again open very softly. A mirror
was opposite the door at the other end of the
little state-room, facing me as I lay with my
head towards the door. A gleam of light
came through the open door from a lamp
outside in the car and showed me in the mirror
the reflection of the enormous nigger who
was the car porter. I watched him in the
mirror silently as he shut the drawing-room
door slowly and vanished sideways and noiselessly into my little dressing-room, just inside
the state-room door and behind my head as
I lay. He always went in there when he
called me with hot water, clean towels, etc.,
and I thought, sleepily, "Confound him,
why does he call me so early." Then I
remembered that this must be his second
visit, as I had heard the door open and shut
By this time I was awake and beginning to
wonder what it all meant.    The car was so
still that the slightest movement rocked it
on its springs and the least noise was audible.
II  -I'm A Night in a Sleeping-car
I lay quite still but could not feel that the
big nigger was stirring in the little dressing-
room, and he was certainly making no noise.
Five minutes went by, but he did not come
out, and I began to wonder more and more
what he could be up to in there at that hour.
What hour was it ? Very quietly and silently
(after feeling with my hand that the dressing-
room door was shut), I lit a match and looked
at my watch and it said 3:25. Funny sort
of hour for a nigger to be dawdling in one's
dressing-room in the dark! I began to remember that I was alone with him in the
car, lost in a jungle of empty box-cars.
So far as any chance of help was concerned
I was worse off than if I had been in a real
jungle, because the railway freight-yards of
all large cities are infested by the most notorious criminals, who find in such yards a sure
hiding-place and refuge from the police.
There is therefore always a large floating
population of desperate characters living
in the empty cars, and stealing their food,
clothes, and whatever else they desire from
the contents of the loaded cars. The railway
police and detectives wage constant war on
these ruffians, but their ranks are recruited
as fast as the police can thin them out. Many
[241] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
a dead body is found in the morning in these
yards, apparently run over by a train, but
really murdered first and placed where it will
be shunted over before morning, for the
desperadoes know the ways and customs of
their yards as well as medieval outlaws knew
their forests.
Having carefully reviewed all these pleasing
features of the situation, my mind reverted
to why we were in that confounded yard
instead of safe in the station, as we should
have been. I saw how easy it would be for
the porter (having no one but me, out of
sight and asleep in the dark state-room)
to say the car was empty and have it shunted.
If it were necessary to murder me in order to
rob me, nothing could be more easy than to
strip off my pyjamas and burn them with
my clothes in the car heating-stove, and
put the body in an empty box-car bound
for some distant place, where it would not be
discovered for a month or more. It would
be supposed I had left the train with the
other passengers, and my friend the big
nigger porter would have my funds and could
select his own time to disappear without
creating suspicion.
Of course, he might be merely mad—but on
M ■*!
A Night in a Sleeping-car
reflection that did not seem to help matters
What was certain was that it was half past
three in the morning—that we were alone
in the car—that the car was buried in a
jungle of freight-cars infested by the desperadoes of the city—that the nigger was twice
my size and not much more than half my
age—and that for fully fifteen minutes he
had been skulking inside my door and in the
little dressing-room just behind my head.
If I had any advantage over him it would
be in brains not brute strength, so I lay quite
still and gave my brains a chance. But the
chief thing that occurred to me was that at
any moment when he might think I was
asleep he could softly in the dark open the
dressing-room door behind my head and reach
out and have me by the throat as I lay on
my back all hampered by the bedclothes.
On the other hand any movement of mine
would shake the car and put him on his guard.
Then I remembered that I had much more
money than I usually carried. I reflected
that even the most hardened criminals do
not murder for the fun of the thing, and that
if he were criminally disposed to take advantage of the position, robbery and not murder
[243] f
On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
would be his main object. So I quietly got
my purse from under my pillow and in the
dark counted out about $50, which I replaced
in the purse and put the remainder in a
secret inside pocket of my waistcoat. My
idea was that if he wanted my money I
would offer him my watch and purse and
tell him to clear out, and thus save the
greater part of my money.
Having completed this arrangement I began to review my chances of defending myself. My only weapon was a pocket-knife
which would be sure to shut on my fingers
and leave me worse off than before. I had
also an umbrella, which is a very useful thing
in the open where one has room to make a
successful stab in the face, but useless in the
dark and in the narrow limits of a small stateroom. If it came to a fight there was neither
room nor light to employ any strategy, and
it would be a mere wrestling match with a
younger man twice my weight. I could
think of nothing that would be likely to give
me any advantage. But something must
be done. It was impossible to lie there any
longer in the dark waiting to be attacked.
Why not turn the tables and attack him unprepared in the dark ?
[244] A Night in a Sleeping-car
With this in view I sat up very quietly and
threw the bedclothes off. I was thus out of
his reach, unless he came out of the dressing-
room. So I began to pretend to snore gently
in order to tempt him to begin. I expected
him to open the dressing-room door quietly
and reach out for my throat, and then I proposed to jump for him and take him by surprise. But nothing happened. He was evidently in no hurry, and I kept on softly
snoring. Five minutes of this seemed an
eternity—and still nothing happened. At
that hour of the morning none of us are at
our best, but I could stand it no longer and
resolved to put an end to the suspense and
attack him in the dark in the little dressing-
room, where at least he could not get me down
on the floor because there was hardly room
to stand up. With this idea, and still gently
snoring, I crept to the dressing-room door so
softly as not to shake the car. I felt for the
handle — got it—waited a moment — and
sprang in. My out-stretched hand caught
nothing — I felt about for him in the dark —
he was not there!
The reaction was worse than the suspense,
and I broke out into a cold perspiration. Was
the car haunted ? Was I mad ? I had seen
[245] On the "White Pass" Pay-roll
him go in; where was he ? The window was
tightly fastened. He could not have got out
of it. I went step by step over the evidence
of my senses, testing them. I had certainly
heard the drawing-room door open. Beyond
question I had seen the ray of light and the
reflection of the nigger in the mirror; then I
had seen him, in the mirror, slowly vanish
sideways into the dressing-room as he shut
the state-room door noiselessly. There could
be no possible room for doubt about any of
these things.    Where was he ?
Well, wherever he was, I could think things
out as well somewhere else as standing in the
cold and dark in my pyjamas and bare feetj in
the dressing-room, so I groped my way back
into the state-room and stumbled over my
boots. That was funny, because I had left
them at the other end of the room under the
sofa when I went to bed. They had not been
worn and did not need cleaning. What were
they doing on the floor near the door ? Could
the nigger have come in to get them ? That
would account for the first opening and shutting of the door. But what about the second
time, when I had seen him in the mirror going
into the dressing-room?
I opened the state-room door and lay down
[246] A Night in a Sleeping-car
on the bed as I had been when I saw him.
Then I noticed that the mirror was not square
opposite to me but the width of the bed to
one side, so that I saw things in it at an angle.
Furthermore, the state-room door, though
opposite to the mirror, was not square with it
but at an angle because of the turn in the
passage outside. I got up again and got a
long piece of string that had tied up some
books. I fastened one end to the handle of
the state-room door and ran the string
through the catch on the door-jamb and lay
down as before, watching the door in the mirror while I slowly pulled the string. The angle
at which I saw the mirror added to the angle
at which the door was set showed the opposite
way in the mirror and gave the effect of the
door closing towards, instead of away from,
the dressing-room. Anyone going out of the
door would appear in the mirror to be sliding
sideways into the dressing-room.
I lay down and went to sleep and the next
thing I heard was the faithful nigger bringing
my hot water and saying in a cheery voice,
"It's half past seben, sah."
What will never be explained is why he
should have chosen to clean my boots at half
past three in the morning. I was ashamed
to ask him.
M mm m
APPENDIX Iff 1898/1-900
■ I
>aire carnped 6id /7?o6/r?tcy/r? ar/dd/yen
yfe/pcdde s/ept and to/c/garr?s together,-
^e fiade Sro/re/? Srec/d at /?/s ta/>/e,
/?r?d roi/#/?ed /t /s? a//sorts ofweat/?er:
So /et us c/r/n/f to oar /?rot/?er,
Good /ac/r ar?d a //Ye /r? c/oyers N
Good /?ea/t/?t ar?d' wea/t/? a/ida/owhgdv/'Ye
/Ir?dgood rest w/?er? //Ye /s oyer.
7T)ort W^erea 5> the t/rne as at hand when
the /ast spiPe /s driven, the/ast harrow-
\fu/ ofhai/ast dumped and the great —
W/Y/7T PASS &YOKON flA/LW/IYreceives-
\cts/ast touches from the hands of/ts
hu/'/der and contractor; ar?d,
Whereas, this hrings w/th /t the time of
farewe//s9andthe separat/on /nto other
fie ids of horde/ adventure, of those who
have hraved the avaianche and sca/ed
the stsmm/t together, and have shared
the dangers and hardsh/ps of these
Arctic so/itudesj  Therefore he ot
RESOLVED, the/t we herehg set our hands
£o th/s test/rnonia/ of our high appreciate on of the character and conduct
of Contractor, M. J. H EN EY, the —
hui/der of the H/hite Pass a/id Yu/con
/fa//wag; whom we have ever found to
. . he a man it/ man, a true fr/ena* an a/a
cheerYu/ comrade,- and that we present
h/rn w/th th/s souven/r oYour affect/on and esteem, /n the he//ef that
it w///p/easant/g reca/t' rnang///as/an
days that are passed, ahdrnang -—
///asPa formed fr/endsh/ps that are
e tern a/, when he goes to other c//mes
to h/ast a wag through the rn/ghtg
ha rr/cades of /Vature, and pass then?
w/th the steam rvh/st/e wh/ch echoes
C/v///zat/or? ano/prasperoc/s afeve/op-
ment, and a/so, when he has cfr/ven
h/s /ast sp/Pe ar?c/ret/reo/ fa s//p -
-per eat ease an at a contented cor?-
temp/at/on oYh/s own worthg ach/eve\
ku. 'HIS' WORK
Pood hegun atSPagwag^f/asPaApr// '96
reached Wh/te/Zorse, Yf dune 8, /900
comp/eted a/ong /aPe, ya/g29,  »
length PScA fl8c/Vav Co \ /f/asPa    2a+
/9.C. Yr?/?., Sr/t/sh Co/ama 3o9
B.Y. /?./?., YuPon Terr/torg3    SS /
over a// P///es y  Z/O'4-
/n/f/rl/ne     -     ,88.0
Cuh/c Yards ofmat£r/a/moved /43/,&o6
„   snow shove//ec/   ^/epoc
Average grade t& Summ/tperm//e i4/Yt
P/or/mam    -                .         *            206.
Pighest A/t/tude reached. 2040.
Cuage of road- _...  -? *
Max/n/um curvature /6\rad/us,3593~
One tunne/f /ength.   245 ,
SnowSheds,     „      J/S7 .
[25s] II
The First Tkdnv.
/n the Pass, the wh/st/e has soanded,
/hereoreno morehe/ghts tp scaie,-
The worP hegond /s hut chihdrens p/ag,
//race over hi//'and'c/a/e /
/he ch//d has heen he/p/ng /ts father
As /n dags that are past and gone,
And the gate wag /sproud/g opened
That /eads to the great YuPor? /
Oerhead there are tw/h YYags f/ging
7b honor the w/nter dag;
There /s honor for each one present,
Andformang far a wag,-
There /s honor for a//the headers
Tor those who schemed andp/anned,
As we//as for those who found the co/n
And/or those who tooP command.
There /s honor too for the werpers,
tf/th transit,/eve/, and rod,
[256] W/?o sca/ed the hills where the ravens nest
rind never a foot had trod/            ^^
Who carved from the hattressed meantoin
With a patience most sahl/me,
HA/d the wintru storms andpierc/ng co/d,
/I road that sha//last for time.
/here /s honor too Yor the worPers
W/th p/clr and powder and spade       .
YYho hewed and hlasted the storm-scarred >
And trimmed up the w/nding grades
for eacl? man too/r h/s life /n hands
When he da/lg went to worP,
And never a man oY all wasfound
from a danger-post to sh/rP.
There is honor for all the arrng,
for the liv/ng ana* the dead,
/Tor to some ofh/gh as oY Yow degree
The graa'e to the churehj/ard led J;
fut courage and sc/ence have conyus/d
While people have laughed andjeered,
[257] \At the men who had faith and patience
/fndnever tremh/ed. or feared/
\T/s a th/ng theg mag a// rem em her,
And everg one mag he proud,
\lnthe gears to come to tell h/s hogs
That he was one of the crowd.
\//ot mang can sag theg have /ahored
More steadfast/u heart andsoa/
j                                                                     sod/^n \
Than the men who fought to an/te the i
To the countrg round thepo/e.
dob/n &rydo/7edack
dug*/) foy.
[»S8]  flpf^" m  II       y\
Purchased S.—..^^^
From .\&/iUJiA<-.     	
Place of Purchase.AjjMU«dL^f^ ....


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