A Travellerspoint blog

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Canadian Rockies Bimble - The Canadian Pacific Railroad

What do William Cornelius Van Horne and Cheng Ging Butt have in common? You may be forgiven for not knowing the latter, but if you know some history of the Canadian Pacific Railway -and of course there is no reason you should- you may know that Van Horne was responsible for overseeing the building of the CPR. Cheng Ging Butt was one of the many thousands of anonymous Chineseworkers, who actually built it.

Cheng Ging Butt was born in 1858 in the Southern Chinese Province of Guangdong. Sometime between 1881 and 1885 he moved to Canada together within thousands of his countrymen to work on building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Unlike 700 of his fellow workers, who died laying the 350 miles of track in BC, he survived and settled near Yale and ran a goods store. It is a rare story, because most of his countrymen's plights went unrecorded. In an era when Chinese rail workers were not afforded medical care, when they were given the most dangerous jobs, paid the least money, their story was of little or no interest. It would therefore be inconceivable to Cheng Ging Butt, even up to his death in 1930, that 80 years later, a railway interchange in Kamloops would be named after him, in honour of the thousands of his fellow Chinese workers who made the building of the CPR possible and in doing so brought about the birth of Canada.
William Cornelius Van Horne had been born 15 years before Cheng in Frankfort, Illinois and had been working on the railway for a year by the time Cheng was born. By the time Cheng had arrived in Canada, Van Horne had risen to the General Manager of CPR. After disastrous failures in management and near bankruptcy, it was to Van Horne that the CPR turned to complete the job. The complexities of the task cannot be overstated. Politically, it was essential that the west be linked to the eastern rail network. It had been promised to BC in 1871 as a condition of them joining the newly formed confederation of previous British Colonies. In effect, the building of the railway was more than just a symbolic joining of the country, it is often considered, there was no Canada until the railway was completed. The engineering problems must have seemed at times insurmountable. Working in wild, inhospitable country, with vast canyons, mountains and rivers to conquer, every mile of track was hard fought over. Van Horne, was the person who got it done, who made it happen.
Wherever you are in the Rocky Mountains, you never seem to be far from the Canadian Pacific Railway or CPR. The railway is a constant in BC. Every town seems to have a railway passing through it, every road, a railway running next to it. Not surprising when the railways came first and opened up this vast emptiness.
Van Horne was also a very astute business man. He promoted his new rail line and brought in tourists, creating the towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper in the process. Of course being astute, Van Horne also bought up land and built two particular impressive hotels. In particular the Fairmont Hotel virtually on the banks of Lake Louise.
It`s no wonder Van Horne died a rich man.

Posted by Mick G 11:52 Archived in Canada Tagged landscapes mountains people trains motorcycle tourist_sites educational Comments (0)

Canadian Rockies Bimble - Wells Gray Park

Goodwin Falls and fails to rise again

I`m blaming it on Chess Lyons. We are staying in Clearwater to visit Wells Gray Park. Famous for its waterfalls, there is the mighty Helmcken Falls 141 metres high, but also many other lesser falls including one namesake, the Goodwin Falls. I`m excited - well interested - what distant relative was this named after. A famous trapper, explorer, pioneer or prospector?

But, I get ahead of myself. We are pretending to be trailer trash for a couple of days. Living in a trailer in someone`s back yard. I lie, we are staying in a trailer, but it`s in the garden of the helpful Rowena, which happens to consist of two acres of forest. A notice on the wall of the trailer says it all - Deer, Bear and Cougar have passed through the yard from time to time...Do not leave food or garbage outside. Loud clapping or a yell will scare almost anything away-well I`ll tell you it's not easy spending the night clapping loudly, but we did our best.
Getting back to the disappointing Chess Lyons, I should explain that I had never heard of him until I picked up the book "Exploring Wells Gray Park" by Roland Neave. Packed full of interesting information the Chapter - Chess Lyons and the Goodwin Mystery - naturally caught my eye. Oh with what joy and anticipation I quickly thumbed to page 313. It started so well. In 1940 Chess Lyons had been assigned the task of exploring and mapping the newly designated Park. Yes, 1940, how can anywhere still be in need of exploring and mapping in 1940? I suppose that's the vastness of Canada`s wilderness for you, nobody had quite got around to those few 1.3 million acres of wilderness.

Apparently, he was summoned to the office of the Minister of Lands, Hon Arthur Wellesley Gray and given a list of names, consisting of friends and political allies of Gray and told to name features he discovered with their names. Lyons didn't agree with this, instead believing that features should be named after prominent explorers, pioneers and others who had helped to open the land. But orders were orders, or so Gray was foolish enough to think.

Lyons had more cunning ways to get round his orders. He astutely, began naming the features he came across. Indeed, every time he came across a swamp, he dutifully consulted Gray`s list and named it after one of his friends.

At this point my hopes are very high. Goodwin Falls, is not a swamp. Goodwin must have been an adventurer.

How cruelly hopes can be dashed. How I wish I hadn't turned the page. But I did and they were. In the 1970`s, Lyons,interviewed by Helen and Phillip Akrigg (BC`s names experts), admitted that he had no idea who Goodwin was. He was just a name on Gray`s list that he had used to put him off the scent of what he was really doing.

I know I should have stopped reading then and there, but I didn`t. I had to go on, and so did Helen and Phillip Akrigg. They were determined to find out who Goodwin was and after many years of work discovered the exciting truth that Goodwin was in fact, Walter Goodwin, a dentist from Spokane Washington. Not even, it turned out, a real dentist, but a dental mechanic, plate specialist, technician, pretending to be a dentist.

How cruel, what a fall.

However, despite my bitter disappointment, if you are passing this way, call and see Goodwin Falls, named after that famous dental technician from Spokane, or better still see the impressive Helmcken falls or the cauldron called the Kettle. I`m sure you won't be disappointed.

Posted by Mick G 17:22 Archived in Canada Tagged landscapes waterfalls lakes people motorcycle tourist_sites Comments (0)

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