Rogers Pass 1885 - Modelling a photograph.
Some people have love affairs with other people, with pets, with trains (model or prototype). I have a love affair with a photograph. My favorite photograph is a picture taken at the summit of Rogers Pass in 1885 during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It shows the young settlement of Summit in its construction phase, partially finished falsefront commercial buildings, others on flatcars, piles of rough lumber and stumps everywhere. At center stage a pay car, converted from a conductor's van (read caboose) is surrounded by an obviously eager group of men, its is pay day at the Ross and McDermid construction camp.
The appeal of this photograph can be measured by the number of times it has been reproduced in books about the CPR and its early history. Hardly a month passes when I do not discover yet another book with this photograph. Copies of it exist in the CPR Archives, BC Archives, Vancouver City Archives, McCord Museum Archives etc. but its source remains a mystery. Its hold over me increases with each new discovery.
Summit Village had quite a few photographs taken during its short and tragic history. Most of these show the same two dozen buildings whose arrangement remained the same through two constructions (necessitated by avalanche activity). The station itself was moved twice before the line through the pass was abandoned following the construction of the Connaught Tunnel. Rogers Pass and the Big Hill were two very difficult pieces of railway to maintain and operate. The incredibly heavy snowfall at Rogers Pass, as much as thirty feet in some years, made the CPR a seasonal railway in its first years and later forced the use of specialized equipment such as rotary snowplows to keep the line open through the winter.
All of this, combined with the heavy operating schedule of the CPR transcontinental mainline I believe provides the scenario for a viable model railroad exercise which I hope to describe to you in the following episodes of this blog.
Photo credit: CPR Archives NS4742
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