Carrying both the No. 3B and the No. 22, the Schofield Highway drops down out of Warfield. Moderating to a civilized six percent, it passes Bingay Road diverging from the high side, a scenic, alternative route which takes traffic across the outskirts of Warfield to look at Comincos Elephant Brand fertilizer plant before tumbling down the face of the Columbia River escarpment to the gates of the Smelter on No. 22, just up the Hill from downtown Trail. Past Bingay, the Highway tips into another 10% descent as it squeezes beneath an oxide-red CPR overpass and carves its way down the northern scarp of the Trail Creek valley. To the right, the rump of what was the CPRs Rossland subdivisionnow operated by the Kootenay Valley Railwaystruggles up past Warfields wee Annable district on a 4.1% gradethe steepest on CPs entire systemto get to the fertilizer plant. Arrow-straight, now, the Highway flashes past the Ray-Lyn Motel, the Eatery Restaurant and lances beneath an oil-black Railway overpass. Hidden in the shrubbery to the left is a tunnel, abandoned by the Schofield when it was re-aligned in the 1960s. Hitting the bottom of its long grade down from The Golden City, the Highway turns hard right and stabs into Trail (417m) as Rossland Avenue.
This neighbourhood is the Gulch. Called Dublin Gulch at first, it lost the Dublin as it filled up with Italians who chose not to live on the original Trail townsite. The Gulch was the throat of Trail Creek, squeezed narrow by the high, sandy slug of Smelter Hill forming its left bank. Until removed in 1962 in preparation for the No. 3s new alignment, up this bank laboured the old Columbia and Western Railway (C&W) right-of-way connecting the Smelter and the rails to Rossland with the 1927 passenger depôt downtown on Cedar Avenue. Though the Gulchs terrain is steep, industrious Chinese launderers and cooks early on pioneered gardening in the defile. Few of them actually acquired rights to land here and were gradually displaced by those who did, mainly Italian and other European working families who terraced their properties into level plots perhaps reminiscent of the old country, and with plenty of water from the Creek and hot summer sun, hand-grew gardens of vegetables. The Gulch today is a suburb of Trail.
Past four or five hundred metres of houses and apartment blocks, the best Italian grocery store in Trailthe Starand other shops, Rossland Avenue rolls down the length of the Gulch on its way to Trails city centre. On the left, Saint Anthony of Padua, built by the faithful in stuccod Italianate style, celebrated its first mass on Christmas eve, 1938. Behind Saint Anthony and the row of adjacent facades runs the ghost of the C&Ws right-of-way, visible here and there in the alignment of the lane ways, but mostly obliterated by the No. 22 highway climbing up the side of Smelter Hill. On the right, the Trail Hotel and, a block farther, the Rex Hotel, accommodate only bars and discos. Missing since fire erased it in 1978 is the Kootenay Hotel, originally the Kootenay Malting, Brewing and Distilling Company building which the owner, Fritz Sick, converted into a hotel and sold before 1911 as he shifted his attention to his enterprises in Fernie and Lethbridge. The City end of the Gulch looks to have been gentrified with ornamental notice boards detailing local history. Nestled here is Gericks Cycle shop and the oldest Italian restaurant in Trail, now named Nellies, and serving, the Trail Daily Times Lana Rodlie informed this visitor in 2004, hand-made gnocchi and other authentic treats which, though maybe not to really die for, are sure gosh-darn good. In a concrete cavern somewhere underneath the Avenues asphalt runs Trail Creek, making its presence known only when the Rossland Range, its absorbent capabilities diminished by decades of Whitemen stomping around on it, sends a rapid snow melt or heavy spring rain run-off swirling down to choke City culverts with débris and roll alarmingly large rocks down Trails thoroughfares towards the Columbia. At the bottom of the Gulch, Rossland Avenue jinks left and ends at a controlled T intersection which sends highway 22 charging left up the 8% grade along the side of Smelter Hill on its way to Castlegar 26 kilometres away. The right-hand branch of the T combines 3B with the 22A and sends them a few metres southward to dogleg around arguably Trails finest hostelry, the Terra Nova, and head eastward as Victoria Avenue, defining the northern bounds of Trails central business district.
For more than 30 years until 1964, this T marked the end of the Cascade Highway which had brought the Inter-Provincial Route A and its successor after 1949, the Crowsnest Highway, over the Rosslands from Christina Lake. From here the No. 3 travelled the route of todays No. 22 north to Castlegar and there crossed the Columbia to get to Nelson, Balfour and along Kootenay Lake to Creston. The old 3A, meanwhile, took traffic through downtown Trail and across the old bridge to climb the Beaver valley and join the No. 6 at Salmo whence, as the 6/3A, it snaked north up the Salmo River through Ymir and over the Cottonwood Pass down into Nelson. The completion of the Blueberry-Bonanza Pass section of the Crowsnest Highway across the Rosslands and the Kootenay Skyway through the Nelson Range between the Creston and Salmo valleys in 1964 re-designated the road system. The No. 3 to Nelson and Creston along Kootenay Lake became 3A, as it remains today. The Crowsnest Highway continued to occupy the Columbia valley between Castlegar and Trail and took over the old 3A to Salmo whence it joined the No. 6 to link to the Skyway, as it still does. The Blueberry-Bonanza section of the Highway retired the Cascade, leaving the Schofield to be incorporated into the 3B/22. In 1976, with the completion of the Bombi Pass connector from Castlegar to the upper Beaver, the route between Trail and Castlegar became 22, and the 3B was extended to occupy the former Crowsnest Highway up the Beaver valley to the eastern end of the Bombi cut-off.
Carrying 3B and 22A, Victoria Avenue proceeds between the B.C. Approved Accommodations Union Hotel and the Memorial Arena and Civic Centre at the foot of the Smelter Hill where the National Hockey Leagues Barret Jackman learned his trade, and makes its way straight across the Columbia on the twelve silver arches of the double-wide Victoria Bridge, opened for traffic by the B.C. Minister of Highways, the Honourable Philip Arthur Flyin Phil Gaglardi, in 1961.
Once across Victoria Bridge and through a couple of blocks lined with pleasant looking homes, 3B/22A breaks out of the quiet Glenmerry subdivision past the Glenwood Motel on the left and turns into a raging asphalt canyon bent on rocketing heavy vehicles and commuters out of town, like, five minutes ago. Cyclists and other travellers leery of industrial roadways want to abandon the Highway before it effects this alarming transformation. Turning right on commercially-minded Second Avenue a block east of the Bridge and right again on residential Robertson Street doubles one back towards the River to hang a left on waterside Columbia Avenue and follow the River downstream. Passing the narrow Old Bridge and Butler Park with its professional ball diamond and three tiered grandstand1, Columbia Avenue bends left along the river-front and twists up and down through the Lawley Creek gully to emerge as Highway Drive, the former alignment of 3B. The Drive offers little to the tourist. The Trail Motel prefers longer term residents, and though it does have a little camping ground, there are no shower facilities, so tenters intent on rinsing off the dirt of their travels keep going east along the Drive past the one or two other decommissioned motels that served this route when it was the main thoroughfare eastward out of town. At the end of Highway Drives long straight, Rosewood leads onto Carnation which finally climbs back up a little grade to the new 3B. Past lower Mount Heinzes moonscape of fractured shale and granite barrens reminiscent of the way the entire valley looked before the Smelter took steps to curb its emissions, the Highway carries on to the eastern end of Trail where, within sight of McDos arches and the Waneta Shopping Centre moated within acres of asphalt parking lot, a road sign directs campers into the fully-equipped City of Trail RV Park. Too near the Highway to assure any but the soundest sleeper a restful night, and adjacent to the Citys main sewage treatment station which, though refurbished, may still occasionally emit zephyrs odoriferous enough to kill a moose, the Campgrounds tent pads, however, enjoy a bit of bushy seclusion. Plenty is the firewood in the binnies, steaming is the water in the new, antiseptically clean concrete block bath-house, and happy sounds the campgrounds little Bear Creek, sloshing and pattering its way clear and soothing into a culvert beneath the Highway to get to the Columbia just beyond. A bonus for the pet lover: the Citys animal shelter is somewhere close, evidenced occasionally by pooches singing their scared, lonely blues into the late night stillness.
For those that are willing to travel the extra miles to sleep in a less busy place, the Highway carries on past the Shopping Centre to Waneta Junction where the 22A separates from the 3B and continues down river to the quiet Kiwanis campground and beyond, bound for the Boundary.
The Columbia and the Fur Trade, Dewdney and Trails bridges
The Old Bridge connecting East Trail to West Trail across the Columbia has a deck of solid lignum vitæ and a narrow walkway cantilevered out from the upstream side. Deep and powerful, the River tearing at the spans boat-shaped piles sounds like the prow wave of a gliding canoe.
The Columbia is the 4th largest river in North America by volume, 3rd by length. Though only 15% of its basin lies in Canada, that portion holds 40% of its 2,084 kilometre-long course and contributes 35% of the Rivers water. Beneath the Old Bridge, the murky water rolls along at a rate of over 2,000 cubic metres per second. Any flotsam jettisoned here will soon be in Washington State; the Boundary is only about fifteen kilometres south as the fish swims. The Rivers stately pace disguises its tireless power; it must have been tendon-ripping work for the fur trade voyageurs who paddled freight canoes or rowed York boats loaded with a years take of furs up this stream. Though it was occasionally used by the North West Company employees on their commutes to and from their main depôt, Fort William, near the western end of Lake Superior, it was the Little Emperor of the HBC, George Simpson, who established the Columbia as the major thoroughfare of the fur trade west of the Rockies.
The entire drainage basin of the Columbia River had been an NWC stomping ground since the western employees of John Jacob Astors Pacific Fur Company had sold their operation to J.G. McTavish and his band of NorWesters on October 16th, 1813. For the next seven years the NorWesters had enjoyed a free hand here, little touched by the bloody contest their outfit waged with the Hudsons Bay Companythe Coyeast of the Rockies. Then, on March 26th, 1821, a final agreement coalesced the companies under the banner of the HBC which named the dynamic George Simpson, a fire-breathing Bay man, governor of the Coys Northern Department. Under his purview fell the old NWCs territories west of the Rockies. Affronted by the sloth and self-indulgence which had been introduced into the trade west of the Divide under NWC rule, on August 15th, 1824, Simpson departed York Factory to inspect the Columbia Department. Imagination can see him ensconced in the lead canoe and hear him exhorting his crews to greater effort in his successful attempt to shorten the travel-time between York Factory and the Coast by a fifthtwenty days. Under the lash of his tongue, his men skimmed his canoe over the waters now spanned by the Old Trail Bridge probably on October 25th.
Having established their main post, Fort Astoria, on the Coast at the mouth of the Columbia, the traders of the PFC had intended to supply themselves by sea around Cape Horn and proceeds of their operation back to New York by return ship. The NorWesters emulated the PFC, but shipping losses were high; navigation around the stormy Horn was just too unreliable in the days of sail. The NWCs saviour proved to be the Columbia itself which the development of an overland route based on David Thompsons explorations of the upper Columbia, the Kootenay system and passes over the Rockies to connect to the Athabaska and Saskatchewan River drainages. Sizing up the situation in the District, Simpson established Fort Vancouver as the Coys new regional headquarters on March 19th, 1825, and decreed that the Servants and Officers would henceforth rely on the Columbia to communicate with the Continental headquarters at York Factory. Until the Oregon Treaty declared in 1846 that the Coy must wind up its affairs south of the Boundary within twenty years, the Columbia was the first stage in the HBCs great cross-continental highway. Once a year, past this point, a flotilla of York boats and canoes piled high with bails of pressed, hide wrapped furs were heaved up stream, their cargoes bound for European felters and stole makers. Once a year, too, downstream the boats returned packed with the precious trade goods which would lure the Natives into participating in the Worlds economy. In between this yearly fur brigade, express canoes with letters, instructions and sometimes a Coy officer, sped along this waterway.
Not only furs, mails, goods and Officers travelled the Columbia. James Sinclair, a Coy employee stationed at the old Selkirk Settlement on the Red River in what is today Manitoba, guided some 200 settlers past here in 1841, on their way to Oregon to bolster the HBCs claim to that territory. Heading for the Coast, independent adventurers, amateur explorers and missionaries, too, bought passage on the Hudsons Bays convoys, for it was suicidally unwise to travel alone or unguided through the fastness of forest and stream which was the West. One such adventurer was Paul Kane who, in company with the voyageurs, painted his way to the Pacific in 1846. With the Americanization of Oregon, though the HBC no longer used it, the Columbia continued to be an artery into the heart of the Continent.
In 1865 Governor Frederick Seymour commissioned Edgar Dewdney to extend his Trail to the East Kootenay gold camp of Wild Horse from its 1861 terminus at Rock Creek. Having roughed out the line of his route, Dewdney concluded that his best approach to the job was to split his crews, especially since the Whites in his workforce were intolerant of the Chinese he had decided to employ. Able to bring men and supplies up the Columbia with relative ease, he established a headquarters at old Fort Shepherd, separated the workers by race and sent the Orientals working their way eastward up the Pend dOreille and on towards Wild Horse, and the Whites westward up the stream now known as Trail Creek to cross the Santa Rosa Pass in the Rosslands and work their way back along the Kettle River to Rock Creek. From both Rock Creek and Wild Horse Dewdney set crews working towards Fort Shepherd, thus attacking the project on four fronts. To pack in supplies to both crews, Dewdney contracted local Natives, an arrangement he found annoying as the Indians refused to stray from their home territory, requiring Dewdney to engage new packers every few leagues. By the time that the Trail completed in January of 1866 the gold had given out at Wild Horse, and the expense of maintaining a path which served few made no sense to the impecunious Colonial government. Within five years after it was finished sections of the Trail east of the Columbia were all but impassable with blow-downs and wash-outs. By its failure to keep the Trail open, Victoria surrendered twenty years worth of East Kootenays commerce to American merchants sending supplies in on the old Walla Walla Trail: until the coming of the Railway to Golden in 1885.
Made up of four steel through-truss spans, Trails Old Bridge was opened for traffic on May 24th, 1912, the key element in the City Councils plan to develop Merrys Flats and Shavers Bench on the Rivers wider left bank as a residential subdivision; East Trail. The Cascade Highway brought the Trans-Provincial Route A to Trail around 1932 and sent enough of its traffic to cross the Old Bridge that by the mid-50s the old trail up the Beaver Creek had been improved into Highway 3A connecting East Trail to Nelson though Salmo. It was evident to engineers planning the realignment of the Crowsnest Highway through the Kootenays in the late-50s that the old stalwart, besides being on the wrong side of the City, would not be able to handle the traffic. In 1961 the Victoria Bridge was completed and since then, nursed by an attentive public works department, the Old Bridge, its three piers solid despite nearly a century of breasting the Rivers powerful currents, redecked with lignum vitae in 1995, continues to serve as a reliable alternative.
From the Walkway of the Old Bridge the visitor has a fine panoramic view of old Trail spread out along the dog-legging Rivers right bank. Downstream, the high bluffs of alluvial sand and gravel crowding Riverside Avenue against the Rivers bank diminish as they approach the mouth of the Trail Creek valley, its channel long interred by the City seeking levelled land upon which to build its downtown. At the south end of the Bridge, three or four avenues of modest houses terrace the base of the Bluffs. Just above the dog-leg, where the mouth of Trail Creek used to bite into the Rivers shore, a bulwarked esplanade carrying a water-side walkway protects that downtown from the Rivers rages, leaking whats left of the Creeks discharge into the Columbia from a few green-mouthed pipes. Until railroads stole their business towards the end of the 1890s, stern-wheeled steamboats, spewing smoke and cinders like apprenticing volcanoes, beat their way upstream and rammed their flat-bottomed prows up onto the muddy banks near the Creeks mouth to deliver supplies and passengers. Reloaded with sacks of precious ores, they frothed themselves astern into the stream, straightened and disappeared around the Rivers bend southward. This is the scene that would have met the eyes of Gus Heinze when he first saw the miserable collection of shacks in a swamp that was Trail Creek Landing in the summer of 1895.
F.A. Heinze and his Smelter at Trail Creek
Dominating the view of Trail from the Old Bridge is the Smelter, high on its bluff on the northern end of the City.
When Patsy Clark et al bonded the War Eagle and the Center Star mines at Rossland in December of 1894 and arranged to deliver 1,000 tons of ore per month to the East Helena Montana Smelting Company, it occurred to the Jewish Genius, the Boy Wonder of Butte, Montana, Frederick Augustus Fritz Heinze, that it might be well worth his while to investigate the Kootenays. A graduate of the prestigious Columbia University School of Mines in New York City, Heinze had come out to Montana in 1889 to apply his expertise. He soon developed a process for efficiently extracting precious metals and copper from Buttes ores and on March 1, 1893, incorporated the Montana Ore Purchasing Company and built a smelter. By the beginning of 1894 this was returning a handsome profit and Heinze was looking to expand his empire. Red Mountain looked promising. Sometime in the spring of 1895, at the invitation of Eugene Sayer Topping, Heinze sent James Breen and J.D. Farrell to evaluate the Mountains potential. Arrived at Trail Creek Landing, the pair were soon in the company of Topping who confirmed his offer of one third of the townsite that he and his partner, Frank Hanna, had acquired at the mouth of Trail Creek, plus a forty acre construction lot to the builder of a smelter at the Landing. Among the other entrepreneurs that they met was A.E. Humphries who, with partner Martin King, was promoting the construction of an aerial tramway from the Iron Horse mine on Red Mountain down to the Landing. Breen and Farrell evidently formed a casual association with Humphries, and while the latter investigated routes for a rail line up the Trail Creek valley to Rossland, the former plumbed the depth of the Mountains mine owners enthusiasm for a local smelter.
W.W. Turner, George Turner and W.J Harris, president, general manager and assistant G.M., respectively, of the Spokane-based Le Roi Gold Mining Company, proved very enthusiastic. With 100 men on the payroll of their Rossland-based Le Roi Mining Company Limited and much equipment from the Rand Drill Company and the Jenckes Machine Company either newly installed in the Le Roi or ordered, they were rapidly becoming the biggest miner on the Mountain. Extracted, the Le Rois raw ore was worth around $36 per ton, but every mile it was moved from the mine mouth toward a processor chewed up profit. Appreciating that a local smelter would significantly slash transport costs, the directors of Le Roi Gold signed a contract agreeing to pay Heinze $14.50 per ton for refining a minimum of 37,500 tons of ore per year, plus a bona fide promise to double that in coming years. Heinze was well aware of Ottawas offer of a 50%-of-costs subsidy to any company smelting Canadian ore in Canada, and B.C.s 1886 and 1887 mining and smelting Acts which, together, promised $19,000 outright, plus an advance of $60,000, to a company which would build a smelter in the province capable of processing a minimum of 30 tons per day. He did the math and was intrigued with the possibilities.
According to G.W. Taylor in Mining: The History of Mining in British Columbia, to be successful, a smelter needs five things: a satisfactory process, a reliable supply of ore, abundant fuel, a market for its product, and cheap transportation. Fritz Heinze had the process; Red Mountain, it appeared, had plenty of ore; forests of fuel covered the region; the world was clamouring for metals and, between the boats of the C&K Steam Navigation Company and the rails of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard which D.C. Corbin had pushed up nearby Beaver Creek on his way to Nelson in 1893, inexpensive transport was close to hand.
All considered, Heinze calculated that constructing a smelter at Trail Creek Landing would well reward capital risk. He knew had to act fast, however, for he was cognizant that he was not the only one who was doing math. The CPR, nervously watching the designs of U.S. capitalists on the raw wealth which it regarded as its birth-right, began musing publicly that it really ought to build a smelter in southern B.C. to compliment the railroad thither that it had been planning for years. In July of 95 Heinze ventured to the Landing to personally inspect its situation. He liked what he found and, agreeing to Toppings lot proposal, began setting up the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company. On August 21st it was announced that the contract for building the smelter had been let and on September 13th the firm of Anderson and Costello, under the supervision of Jas. Breen, began levelling the top of what soon came to be calledSmelter Hill. Lending urgency to the task, on September 21st the CPR announced that its surveyors had completed staking a right-of-way from Fort MacLeod in the North-West Territories all the way through to Rossland. It was only a matter of months, the Railway hinted, before it began laying rail to rescue B.C.s fortunes from the clutches of the detested American robber barons. The erection of Heinzes works commenced on October 10th and the laying of narrow-gauge steel up to Rossland began, according to J.D. McDonald in The Railways of Rossland British Columbia, about a month later. On the 1st of February, 1896, Heinze, plant superintendent Herman Bellinger, General Manager E.H. Wedekind, chemist and assayer J.V. Bohn, and commercial manager Frank Lansing, were among the crowd that was on hand to witness smoke waft from the 30 inch diameter, 135-foot high metal stack: the first furnace was blown in. Production began on Monday, February 23rd, 13 days after the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company was registered in B.C.
Provincial Mineralogist W.A. Carlyle in his Bulletin No. 2: Report on the Trail Creek Mining District included in The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1896 presented by the Hon. James Baker to the Legislature of B.C., describes Heinzes plant at the end of July, 1896. Under the superintendency of Ned Wedekind, 100 to 120 tons of contracted ore from the Le Roi, the War Eagle, the Crown Point and the Iron Mask were off-loaded each day from the Tramways gondolas into a 750-ton bin at the sampling mill wherein a maximum 200 tons per day could be processed by a Blake crusher and fed into a trommel which separated the fines from the over-size, sending the former to a Constant cylindrical sampler, the latter to another crusher equipped with rollers. Reduced to pebbles of a maximum diameter of half an inch, the ore was then sent either to the roast house where a 50-ton/day OHara automatic calcining furnace blew off up to 70% of the sulphur up the smokestack raw, or directly to the six circular calciners in the furnace room where it was treated and dropped with some slag and limestone into the four, 40-ton/day reverberatory type furnaces, or into the single circular and water-jacketed 55-ton unit. Power was supplied by a 65 hp steam engine and transmitted by shaft and cables to the ancillary equipment, including a No. 5 Roots blower. Local wood fuelled the plant, augmented by a daily ration of 70 tons of coal which had been railed to Revelstoke from the Canadian Anthracite Coal Companys mine on the CPR Mainline some four miles east of Banff, and scowed down the Arrow Lakes and Columbia by the C&K Steam Navigation Company. Any coke required in the process was imported at great expense from Fairhaven, Washington, or the Dunsmuir operations at Wellington on Vancouver island. At the end of July around 200 men were employed at the smelter to process between 140 and 160 tons of ore per day to obtain seven to eight tons of matte which was sent to Butte for refining. The workforce was due to expand for plans were in place to increase the plants capacity to 400 tons of ore daily. To achieve this, a second OHara was being assembled in the roast house, and a sixth furnace, a 200 ton per day blast-type model from E.P. Allis and Company of Milwaukee, was in the process of being erected in the furnace room. This unit would take suitable ore directly from the crushers in the sampling mill. A No. 7 Roots blower was on order, and Heinze had secured a very large water powerpossibly on the Lower Kootenaywhere he intended to build a dam and a generating plant and wire the electricity to his smelter. In the meantime he had a small power plant set up on Trail Creek near the foot of Smelter Hill.
Ready to send his first shipment of Trail copper matte to his refinery in Butte on April the 1st of 1896, Heinze was not surprised when he found the SF&N reluctant to handle it. The line was already busy hauling Nelson and Slocan ore and Corbin, himself intending to extend a rail line to Rossland, wasnt interested in doing Heinze any favours. Besides, Corbin noted, the standard-gauged rail bridge that Heinze had promised to built to carry SF&N trains onto the Smelter property was not yet even started. (Nor would it ever be, despite the fact that Heinze, Chester Glass, F.E. Ward, F.P. Gutelius and Carlos Warfield won federal incorporation of the Trail-headquartered Columbia River Bridge Company on June 29, 1897, when 60-61 Victoria chapter 66 received royal assent.)
With a far sighted eye fixed on Corbins progress toward Red Mountain, Heinzes concern was to ensure an adequate supply of ore for his smelter and create a route to markets alternative to using the SF&N. Not long after construction of the narrow-gauged Tramway up to Rossland began in the autumn of 1895, Heinze and his partners applied to the province to incorporate the Columbia and Western Railway to operate the Tramway and extend it westward along the Boundary all the way across to Penticton to connect with the CPR steamer service on Okanagan Lake, thence to the Mainline at Salmon Arm. Though the owners of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern howled that laying railroad track into the Kootenays was their project, the provincial government of J.N. Turner doubted the VV&Es ability to mount such an undertaking, and therefore recommended that the lieutenant-governor, Edgar Dewdney, sign into law Chapter 54 of the Statutes of 1896 on April 17th, enchartered the C&W and granting it an enormous subsidy of 20,000 acres of land per standard-gauge mile constructed, or 10,200 acres for narrow gauge. Heinze surmised that he would build from Rossland westward roughly along Dewdneys trail through Greenwood and Midway. With access to the mountains of ore in the Boundary District, he would let the volume of his smelters output argue the directors of the SF&N/N&FS into a more accommodating attitude. Demonstrating his resolve to escape reliance on Corbins SF&Nand possibly invite a commercial, if not a financial, alliance with the CPRHeinze soon had surveyors at work staking a right-of-way up the Columbia towards a property he had purchased on the rivers bank opposite the CPRs Columbia and Kootenay railhead at Robson.
On July 27th of 1896 Heinze and associates re-arranged their organization by incorporating the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company in New Jersey, allowing $2.5 million in capitalization. His legal affairs in order, that autumn Heinze left for London with Ward to arrange financing.
While Heinze and Ward were finding that railroad shares whose interest payments were not guaranteed by a government were a hard sell in London, D.C. Corbin was busy talking to the Rossland mine owners about freight rates and tonnages in anticipation of completing his Columbia and Red Mountain Railway/Red Mountain Railway, which he did on December 16th, 1896. Corbin well knew that the Le Rois contract to supply Heinze with ore would expire in 1897, and that to profitably extend said contract Heinze would have to raise the milling rate $1.50 to sixteen dollars per ton. Corbin offered an alternative. He declared that he would accommodate comfortably any company willing to erect a smelter at Northport: a very suitable lot of SF&N Railway property would be made available, significantly reduced freight rates would be granted and water rights guaranteed, a third of the Northport townsite would be bestowed and, if needs be, some cash investment in the undertaking could be arranged. G.W. Taylor writes in Mining: that Corbin felt, considering the lower cost of machinery below the Boundary, the local availability of limestone necessary as flux and the incentives offered by his companies, an efficient operation ought to be able to smelt ore for $13.75 a ton, more than two dollars per ton cheaper than Heinze. And when he finished connecting C&RM and the SF&N with a 1,200 foot long bridge across the Columbiawhich he would go on to open on October 4th, 1897his freight rates would fall further.
To the owners of the Le Roi Gold Mining Company of Spokane, the deal looked good. The Le Roi was proving the richest by far of Reds mines, and control of a nearby reduction facility on American soil made good economicand patrioticsense. With Corbin they formed a casual association and by the time Heinze and Ward had returned from London in early 1897, the associates had enticed Heinzes right-hand men in Trail, E.H. Wedekind, H.C. Bellinger and James Breen, into the Northport project.
British Columbia Smelting and Refining poured its first (and also, claims B. Richard Atkins in E.L. Afflecks Columbia River Chronicles, Canadas first) ingot of Canadian gold on August 10 of 1897. Even as it sat cooling on the Smelters floor, the Le Roi Mining and Smelting Company was being registered in Washington state, and before the month was out, contractor Sol Cameron had started construction in Northport. When the 300-ton per day furnace was blown in on January 1st, next, so blown, too, were Fritz Heinzes hopes of controlling Rosslands ore. Corbin had created a compact, profitable, integrated operation; Heinze had lost the cornerstone of his Canadian empire.
The Northport smelter was more than a year in the future when Heinze and Ward set off for London in the autumn of 1896 to raise capital. They met with enough success that on December 9th of that year Heinze contracted Winters, Parson and Boomer of Butte to lay track on the new C&W right-of-way 21.1 miles up the Columbia to the property Heinze owned on the Riverbank opposite Robson and its CPR docking facilities. By the time the River section of the C&W was completed on September 27th, 1897, the Property had been platted as the townsite of West Robson. When a pier had been built and a third rail added to the Tramways trackage on the Smelter site and down to the Trail Creek Landing station in December, service commenced with a 2-8-0 and a baggage-coach combination car leased from CP.
Completion of this short section of the C&W earned Heinze 400,000 acres of granted land. That, when added to the 550,000 or so acres he realized from the Tramway, gave him roughly 1,500 square miles of trees and rocks in southern B.C. Every acre had potential, but the immediate value was small. To continue building the C&W, Heinze needed cash and offered to swap land for a federal subsidy of $8,000 per mile for the 100 miles to Greenwood. The Board of Railway Commissioners declined the offer and Heinze had no choice but to shelve plans for further construction. Unable to penetrate the Boundary District, the C&W was fated to remain a short-line dedicated to handling the tons and tons of Nakusp limestone, wood and Banff coal daily required by the Smelter when it was working.
The big problem was, of course, that Heinzes smelter wasnt working. Most of Red Mountains ore was going down the RMR to Northport, and what profit he could squeeze from the poor ore he could haggle from the Silver King would barely pay the ores transport from Nelson. As well, most of his skilled labour and professional expertise had gone to Northport. Labour unrest at the mines and the prospect of the Eight Hour Day being legislated into Law threatened to suspend all metal mining in B.C. In Butte, a simmering dispute involving Heinze and the copper barons, Marcus Daly and W.A. Clark had now erupted into the courtroom and legal fees were beginning to mount. On top of these bedevilments were rumours that others intended to build smelters in the area. Sir Charles Ross, a principal in West Kootenay Power, was attempting to interest capital in a project, and it had been more than a year since press reports that the CPR intended to build a 2500 ton/day smelter at the mouth of Blueberry Creek, just a few miles up the Columbia from Trail Creek Landing. Given its financial resources and political muscle, Hienze knew that CP, at least, would be a formidable competitor for the ores of Red Mountain. If he wanted to avoid taking the coldest financial bath of his young life, Heinze had to act fast.
The CPR Digs into the Metals Business
The pieces of the economic puzzle of Western Canada were all falling into place for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in the late 1890s. For the first time since it had begun construction of its Mainline in 1882, the Company was generating profit. Thanks to the Liberal policies of the new federal Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton, the Prairies were beginning to fill with settlers and Company land there sold briskly. Trains were full of freight and passengers.
On June 29th, 1897, a federal document popularly known as the Crows Nest Agreement became law. After years of discussions, the CPR now had the financial backing and the requisite railroad charters to extend a branch from its Mainline at Medicine Hat across southern Alberta and through the coal-rich Crowsnest Pass into B.C. The Companys plan, formulated in the same charged atmosphere which impelled Gooderham and Blackstock to buy into Red Mountain, was to challenge the Americans for the control of the Kootenays resources by building an integrated industrial complex in the region; coal, coke, comestibles and machinery in, metal and lumber out. It had, on February 1st of 1897, already bought the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company. With cash to invest, the Companys directors fastened their eyes on Heinzes C&W. It would fit nicely into CPs plans. Its charter would enable them to run rail to the riches of the Boundary District and at the same time throw a barrier of steel across the path of the Great Northerns expansion into B.C. Late in 1897 the Company offered to buy Heinzes railroad. Fritz refused: either CP buy his entire Canadian operation for $2 million or forget it.
Unbeknownst to the CPR, by the end of 1897, Heinze was in trouble. His Trail smelter, thanks to Le Roi Mining and Smeltings Northport installation, was nearly idle for lack of ore and manpower to run it. Construction of his Columbia and Western Railway was stalled for lack of money, and W.A. Clark and Marcus Daly were about to tear him apart in a Butte courtroom. Heinze needed to cut his Canadian losses and attend to his American affairs. Unaware of Heinzes true situation and convinced that it needed the C&W, the CPR concluded that a smelter might well fit into its overall plan of dominating southern B.C.s resource industries.
To value the Smelter and negotiate a deal with Heinze, W.C. Van Horne engaged Walter Hull Aldridge, a bright young graduate of Heinzes New York alma mater who had spent several years practising his profession in Colorado and Montana. After a quick inspection of Heinzes plant, Aldridge wired the CPRs vice-president, Thomas Geo. Shaughnessy, to halt negotiations with Heinze; the plant wasnt worth the asking price. Knowing that word of it would soon reach the Boy Wonder, CP contacted the Fraser and Chalmers firm of Chicago for an estimate on the cost of a complete smelter delivered to the dock at Robson. Heinze apparently appreciated the tactic for he wired Shaughnessy with a very attractive offer to sell. When CPs experts checked the paperwork, however, they found that much of the smelter and Tramway hardware was omitted from the deal. The missing items, replied Heinze, would cost more. Payments were immediately suspended and any further talks were left up to Aldridge.
Heinze and Aldridge evidently enjoyed their bargaining, for at last, in the wee hours of February 11th, 1898, when they found themselves at an impasse over a $300,000 difference, Heinze suggested that they play a hand of poker for it. Aldridge demurred, and in an escapade now ensconced in fable, they hired a sleigh and made their way from Trail to the home of the Bank of Montreals Rossland branch manager, J.S.C. Fraser, awoke him and dragged him over to the premises of the old Rossland Club to arbitrate the matter. In an agreement signed before breakfast and finalized on March 1st, CP exchanged $600,000 cash money for the C&W, and $200,000 more for the Smelter. Retained by Heinze were 640,000 of the two million-odd acres that a completed C&W would earn, the West Robson townsite, some mining properties, and his real estate holdings in Trail. Heinze never returned to Trail and eventually sold his holdings.
Though many authors aver that the CPR only bought the Trail smelter because Heinze packaged it with the C&W, others are not convinced that the Railway viewed the Smelter entirely as a burden. By the spring of 1898 work was well advanced on the Companys rail line through the Crows Nest Pass and its enormous coal measures, ten square miles of which CP owned, though by the terms of an agreement, couldnt develop until 1908. Embracing a philosophy of repatriating Canadian resources, and always wishing to ensure traffic for its expanding transportation network, CPs board of directors might have been easily convinced to fit the Smelter into their corporate structure. To negotiate with Heinze they did, after all, engage Walt Aldridge, an expert in metallurgy.
Whatever its objectives, on March 1st the CPR paid Heinze the extra $200,000 that he demanded for the Smelter and put itself in the metals business. To run the plant the Company set up the Canadian Smelting Works and named Aldridge as the Managing Director.
The operation that Heinze had set up at Trail was cheap and crude. Purging the sulphur from the ore, the first step in the process, was carried out in the open using the heap method of roasting. The ore was merely piled up with cordwood and limestone intermixed and set alight, leaving choking yellow clouds of sulphur di-oxide and smoke to roll down off Smelter Hill and drain away the best it could via the River channel. If smeltermen got the mix wrong, as they did on one notable occasion in the mid-80s at W.A. Clarks Colorado and Montana Smelting Company works in Butte, people died with sulphuric acid eating their living lungs. Even with the right mix, when the air was still, life in Trail was a foretaste of Hell. Despite the suffering of the populace, the roasted ore was still contaminated. With its flawed processes, the Smelters was only capable of producing a matte of 50% pure copper; industrially worthless until refined. As for the lead that was so prevalent in local ores, the Smelter could do nothing to free it from the rock. Aldridge immediately set about changing all that. Though it plunged Trail into a recession deep enough to bankrupt Sicks brewery, he shut the Smelter down and began modernizations.
The timing was ideal. Le Roi M&Ss Northport smelter was not more technically advanced than Trails, and with the price of ore falling, it was a good gamble that its owners2 would be unable to soon afford improvements. For the present, Rosslands ore crossed the Boundary, but an efficient operation at Trail would draw much of it back. Unfortunately, the immediate source of cordwood had been exhausted forcing Heinze, towards the end of his tenure, to import coke at considerable expense both from James Dunsmuirs collieries near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and from Fairhaven, Washington. However, with the impending completion of its Crows Nest Line and the development of the coal properties in that Pass, CP looked forward to drowning the industrialized Kootenays in cheap fuel. Also, with West Kootenay Power and Light about to close the circuits on its new Bonnington generating station, electricity far beyond the capacity of Heinzes little hydro-electric plant at the base of the Hill would be available to assist in the smelting process. With a $100,000 bankroll, Aldridge began his up-grade.
While three 600-ton per day Bruckner blast furnaces were being installed to smelt copper, Aldridge began constructing 48 enclosed ore roasters with an attendant 175 foot high stack to lift the fumes above Trail. By July of 1898 the Smelter was tied into West Kootenay Powers grid, and on August 7th the furnaces were blown in. When the roasters were completed in December, Aldridge began smelting ore, most of it from War Eagle Consolidated.
Though the Canadian Smelting Works returned a profit on processing copper, CPs Board of Directors were not entirely convinced that they should remain involved in an industry so unrelated to transportation. Aldridge resolved to change their minds. Soon after he had assumed the management of the Trail works, he had commissioned a survey of the Kootenays mines to locate reliable sources of ore. The survey had shown that the most common element in the region was lead, but most of the ore of that metal that was locally mined was sent to the United States for processing. To bolster his bottom line, Aldridge would have to change that. In 1899 he had a small, experimental lead smelter raised in the Trail plant.
In 1888 the U.S.A. had suspended the importation duty on lead and lead ore, a contributing factor in the development of mining in the Kootenays. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) had pretty well monopolized the lead smelting south of the Boundary, and to protect their own mines, had begun discriminating against imported plumbeous ores. In response, the owners of lead-rich Canadian mines and the boards of trade of Trail and Rossland pestered Ottawa to help fund a lead smelter in Canada. Jumping on an opportunity, Aldridge lent the miners his full support and likely mustered CPs as well. In May of 1901 Lauriers cabinet finally acquiesced: beginning in July of 1902 a bounty of five dollars was to be paid for each ton of lead smelted in Canada. Though it was to dwindle yearly by a dollar a ton, the bounty was enough to convince CPs directorship to hang on to the Trail smelter and that June of 1901 allowed the Companys president, T.G. Shaughnessy, to authorize Aldridge to build two lead furnaces. They were blown in before the years end.
The new furnaces were, however, rather unsophisticated, and their output had to be sent to the American Smelting and Refining Companys plant at Tacoma for refining into a pure product. Though the bounty still applied and the refined lead re-admitted to Canada duty-free, this situation did not satisfy the Companys Board. Aldridge found the solution in the newly patented electrolytic refining process of Dr. A.G. Betts and for $122,000 contracted the Doctor to set up at Trail the first commercial undertaking of this type in the world. It worked, and by the end of 1902 CSW was able to supply pure lead, pure copper, fine silver and gold.
Trouble on Red Mountain
Edmund Kirby, Gooderham and Blackstocks War Eagle-Center Star manager, and Bernard MacDonald, his counterpart at the Le Roi since W.A. Carlyle had left to run the Rio Tinto mines in Spain, knew that their continuing employment hinged upon how much profit they could generate. At the Le Roi in 1899, ore cost about $15 per ton to mine, but earned only $12.50 from The Market. MacDonald calculated that he could dig it out for eight dollars if the governments would lower taxes, if RMR and the Northport smelter would decrease their rates, if more metal could be extracted from the ore by the adoption of more efficient smelting methods, if the Western Federation of Miners would give up their eight hour day wage-fight and accept contracting. It was quite a wish-list, and the only item on it to which a mine manager could directly address himself was wages. Trying to force his miners at the War Eagle-Center Star to accept a restructuring of their wage scale, on the 6th of February, 1900, Kirby locked out his union men and began importing Italian labour and eastern Europeans through the United States. On March 12th, his losses mounting, MacDonald at the Le Roi demanded that the Union accept contracting, and when it refused there followed weeks of replacement workers, special police, threats, taunts and turmoil. Federal mediator R.C. Clute resolved that dispute quickly, but ill will lingered. The miners resented the fact that the mechanization of their industry with the introduction of air tools and electric haulage was destroying the worth of their skills and that soon they would be reduced to mere machine attendants or be out of a job. Owners, on the other hand, were convinced that mechanization and new methods of mining were the keys to profitability and that the intransigence of the Union was costing them money. Determined to extirpate the Union from company property, in the following months Management obstructed Union activity however it could. In the spring of 1901 the WFM Local 38 succeeded in organizing the Northport Smelting and Refining Companys smeltermen, and on July 11th ordered a walkout, freezing all activity at both the Le Roi mine and its smelter. With faint Union backing, the Local was soon drained of funds and was forced to surrender. For MacDonald and the Le Roi, however, it was a pyrrhic victory; on January 2nd, 1902, Le Roi Mining declared bankruptcy. (?)
W.H. Aldridge was hard pressed to keep the Canadian Smelter Works at Trail running during the Strike of 1901. With his stocks of raw material rapidly diminishing, he had scoured southern B.C. for ores to feed his furnaces. Mines unaffected by Union activity were usually small concerns able to contribute only a few carloads of ores of varying quality. Aldridge took what he could get, his chemists sorting the small shipments and combining compatible ores to make up full furnace charges.
Having built his smelter into an efficient, high output plant by 1903, Aldridges concern was to keep it busy. To absorb and add value to the metal pouring out of the Smelters lead refinery, he had a sheet lead and a pipe plant built by 1904. He enlisted the Thomas Robertson Company of Montreal to market the smelters output, and forged an agreement with the Selby Smelting and Lead Company of San Francisco to refine his bullion and ship it to Montreal and markets in the Orient. This proved a burdensome expense, but bearable until the Canadian Smelting Works could develop its own refinery. Aldridges concern now was for the copper smelting arm of his business.
The Gooderham and Blackstock-owned War Eagle and Center Star mines and their associated properties had been the CSWs main supplier of cupric ore since CP had reopened the plant in 1898. The Mines sent enough ore down from Red Mountain to keep the three copper furnaces working, but Aldridge planned a fourth furnace and the Mines were showing signs of exhaustion. From mines in the Slocan Mountains, the Bluebell, and the East Kootenay mines at Moyie and Kimberley came lead-heavy galena ore. Though reliant on the CPR for transport, these mines were, nonetheless, willing to sell their ores to the highest bidder. Needing to ensure a reliable source of ore for Trial, CP began negotiations to buy proven properties. The Company organized a syndicate headed by two of its directors, E.B. Osler and W.D. Matthews, and desirable properties were targeted, chief among these being the War Eagle, the Center Star and the Le Roi. Talks were prolonged by the slow death of George Gooderham, and it wasnt until June of 1905 that a deal was finalized which formally gathered the Rossland Power Companywhich had built a water-process ore concentration plant at the Smelter site in 1903the War Eagle Consolidated Mining and Development Company, the St. Eugene Consolidated Mining Company and the CSW together in the Canadian Consolidated Mines, Limited.3 Each of its constituents owned a portion of the new outfits shares, but by dint of its involvement with CSW and the $825,000 it had spent to buy the Gooderham-Blackstock consortiums Red Mountain properties, CP controlled over 54%. When the lawyers were finished the new outfit emerged as the federally chartered Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada, Limited (CM&S) on January 9th, 1906. W.D. Matthews was named president, the directors were W.L. Matthews, E.B. Osler, H.S. Osler, and C.R. Hosmer. Walt Aldridge remained as the managing director at Trail, and R.H. Pat Stewart took over direction of the War Eagle and Center Star which, after redevelopment, were soon rolling 1,000 tons of ore per day down the Mountain.
The English owners of the Le Roi had initially been interested in selling out to the CPR, but changed their minds on the advice of their companys manager, A.J. MacMillan, who opined that they could better profit by remaining independent. Though Le Roi Mining and Smelting had been forced into bankruptcy by labour problems early in 1902, the mine and the smelter still continued to work. In 1903 they even refined their operations by installing an Elmore Oil Process floatation plant, the very latest technology in ore concentration, according to Jeremy Mouat in his article The development of the floatation process: technological change and the development of modern mining, 18981911 (Australian Economic History Review, Volume xxxvi, Number 1, March, 1996), at the Le Roi. J.J. Hill of the Great Northern well appreciated that the output of the Le Roi and its associated properties was coveted by Consolidated Mining and Smelting, a subsidiary of his long-time rival, the CPR. That output was, however, the main source of income of the SF&N, the owners of the Red Mountain Railway. Hill had the GN buy up proxies and shares in Le Roi M&S on the open market, and soon had enough clout at the boardroom table to discourage A.J. McMillan from surrendering to the CPR what was still Rosslands richest producer. CM&S was persistent, however, and finally, in 1911, J.J. Hill having retired, captured the Le Roi.
With the Le Roi in its portfolio, CM&S owned all the major mines on Red Mountain. Money it had and money it spent re-equipping the better producers, linking together its holdings underground. In the blackness, writes J.D. McDonald in Railways of Rossland, the company laid one of the longest railways in the region. On 18 inch trackage, locomotives like the Jeffrey Standard Low Ten Ton Armourplate drew 200 volts D.C. from an overhead wire as they trundled steel side-dump gondolas and wooden flat cars some 85 miles through the maze of drifts and stopes that extended through 22 levels, plunging 2200 feet below Rossland. So deep, in fact, that at the time that CM&S shut down the Le Roi in 1929, plans were afoot to dig a haul way straight out of the Mountain from the lowest levels to emerge not far above the smelter at Trail.
The Columbia & Western Railway and Rossland
To tie up any loose ends resulting from the acquisition of Heninzes holdings, the CPR had its legal department present a bill to the Canadian parliament to incorporate the C&W federally, and allow it to sell or lease itself to the Company. This was signed into law on the 13th of June, 1898, as An Act respecting the Columbia and Western Railway Company.
The ore that the Rossland mines sent down the Mountain did not ride on the rails of the Tramway; the tiny trains had proved incapable of moving enough ore to satisfy the Smelters demand. Larger gondolas marshalled by more powerful locomotives were needed. To accommodate them, the Tramways right-of-way at the Crown Point and Tiger wyes had to be re-engineered. That done, crews laid 60 lb. rail to standard 56½-inch gauge up Red Mountain, finishing by June 15th, 1899. Because the line needed to gain 2,300 feet elevation in fourteen miles, the line was still forced up grades to 4.8% and twisted tightly through curves. To negotiate these obstacles, CP bought three Class C Shay locomotives from Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio and numbered them 111, 112 and 113.4 The first of these powerful, 91 ton, triple-trucked, gear-driven engines had been delivered in May of 1900, the third, according to D.M. Bain in the sixth volume of his appreciated Canadian Pacific in the Rockies (The British Railway Modellers of North America, Calgary, 1980), in December of 1903.5 Slow, the Shays were sent to work on Phnix Mountain about 1910, and were replaced by a stable of Baldwin 2-8-0 Consolidations. Large-scale mining on Red Mountain ceased when the Le Roi shut down in 1929, and the Baldwins hauled no more trains of ore cars up to Rossland. Passenger service ended in November of 1936, states W.G. Kennedy in his Canadian Pacifics Rossland Subdivision, and engines wheezing up the Mountains demanding grades from then on hauled boxcars of freight and the occasional gondola that CP set in the Rossland yards for the convenience of the little Velvet mine. In the spring of 1953 the steam locomotives were retired and replaced by General Motors GP7rss. Despite the savings gained, it became increasingly difficult for Company accountants to support the little-used connection to Rossland, and in January of 1966 CP abandoned the Spur from Warfield upward, lifting the rails that summer. The roundhouse was likely removed at the same time, but according to Bohi and Kozma in Canadian Pacifics Western Depots : The Country Stations of Western Canada, the station remained until salvaged in 1973.
The Expansion of the C&W
Of all the assets that the CPR bought from Fritz Heinze, it was the Columbia and Western Railway with its fabulously endowed charter that it really wanted. In the weeks after the sale the Company put all its persuasiveness behind the argument that J.H. Turners Victoria government convert the 20,000 acre per mile land subsidy to cash at the rate of 20¢ an acre. Figuring he could afford to give the CPR $4,000 per mile to begin a new railroad project in an election year, and seeking to soothe the anxieties of the B.C. voters who feared American railroads would alienate the Kootenays wealth if CP didnt get there first, Turner agreed. On August 3rd of 1898 Ottawa concurred, authorizing the Companys lease of the C&W in perpetuity.
Since the summer of 1897 the CPR had been building its Crows Nest Route westward from its main construction camp at Fort Macleod in the District of Alberta. From the Pass westward the Company employed the charter of its British Columbia Southern subsidiary to build through the East Kootenays and on to Kootenay Lake where a docking facility was built at Kootenay Landing to exchange passengers and freight cars with the big, white steamboats and rail barges of the Companys British Columbia Lake and River Service connection to the Columbia and Kootenay Railway at Nelsonor, for freight, Procter. As tasks on the B.C. Southern were completed, the Company merely moved the crews to the west end of the C&K at Robson, ferried them across the Columbia to the end of Heinzes Columbia and Western at West Robson and set them to work extending that line towards the Boundary District. Though Heinze had supposed that his C&W would follow Dewdneys trail westward from Rossland, CP decided to build up along the Columbia from West Robson and then attack the Rossland Range from the north.
Under the general management of J.W. Stewart and the chief engineer who built Heinzes portion of the road, J.G. Sullivan, navvies employed by the prime contractors, Mann, Foley Brothers and Larson, constructed a headquarters camp at long-lost Brooklyn, where Dog Creek flows into the Columbia. Work commenced at West Robson in June of 1898. While miners began cutting the Bulldog Tunnel through the apex of the Rosslands in September, other crews switch-backed a railbed up over Bulldog Mountain and had steel laid down into the Kettle Rivers valley by August of 1899, completing the line to Midway by the end of that year. When the Tunnel was finished on February 14th, 1900, the C&W was complete.
The Trail Smelter, later
As CM&S was being formed, in July of 1905 the Liberal Federal government of Wilfrid Laurier had confounded its own reciprocity rhetoric by protecting Canadian smelters with an import tariff on lead while continuing to pay a bounty on lead ores refined in Canada. With the high-output St. Eugene galena mine at Moyie in its portfolio, CM&S improved its lead processing facility at Trail by inviting Max Heberlein and his assistant, Antone Venucci, to erect an efficient Huntington-Heberlein roastering furnace. To add value to the resulting 70 ton per day output of pure lead, the Company constructed a pipe plant in adjoining buildings.
Even before his first lieutenant, Selwyn Gwillym Blaylock,6 declared in 1908 that the St. Eugene was showing signs of exhaustion, Smelter manager W.H. Aldridge had developed new sources of lead ore. Feeling that it would be more economical to own mines than to bid on the open market for ore, in 1909 CM&S bought the Richmond-Eureka mine at Sandon in the heights of the Slocan Mountains, rattling trains of gondolas down the rails of CPs Nakusp and Slocan Railroad bound for the Smelter. The Bluebell was a steady contributor with bargeloads of ore floated across Kootenay Lake to the C&K docks in Sunshine Bay. But it was on the great Sullivan mine at Kimberley in the East Kootenays that the weight of Trails demands were to fall.
Pat Sullivan and his partners had discovered the richest lode of galena in Western Canada in 1891. Successive owners had spent hugely in developing a mine, but the ore that they brought out was shot through with zinc, the joker in the lead and silver ores of the Kootenays. If too much zinc was present in the ore being smelted, a crust would scab the surface of the molten mixture, sealing it in the cauldron. The mixture would have to be slowly cooled and workers could spend the next six months hacking hardened crud out of the vessel. A big, expensive problem, and one that smeltermen were anxious to avoid. When the apprenticing managers of the CM&S works, R.H. Stewart and S.G. Blaylock, evaluated the Sullivan ores in 1909, they concluded only ore that had been hand-picked to be free of zinc was suitable for the Trail operation.
As an element, zinc is valuable. Mixed one part with two parts copper and a little lead it makes brass, and in the 19-aughts, when every army that could afford them was adopting machine guns, brass to make millions of cartridge cases was in demand. Metallurgists the world over were searching for a way to separate zinc from its companion elements in galena.
Aldridge retired from CM&S in 1910 and his successor as general manager, R.H. Pat Stewart, lasted only a couple of years, being replaced by S.G. Blaylock. J.J. Warren, the president of the Kettle Valley Railway, had been introduced into the CM&C hierarchy as the managing director of the smelting works around 1911, and under him the scientists at Trail began developing a regimen of roasting, leaching and electrolysis which would enable the Smelter to digest the Sullivans zinc-rich ore. Encouraged by the results, CM&S bought the Sullivan property in 1913. Though workable, the regimen was prohibitively expensive in terms of coke and electricity consumption until the demands of the First Great War justified all costs.
Soon after Great Britain declared on August 4th, 1914, that its entire empire was at war with Germany, Canada agreed to supply munitions for the effort. To meet the demand, however, Canada had to import copper and zinc from the U.S. which, interested in maintaining its neutrality, proved to be an reluctant exporter. To eliminate this bottleneck, Ottawa, ignoring the alarm of other companies which feared the dominance of the CPR in the B.C. metals industry, approached CM&S with a proposal to build a zinc plant. Inspired by patriotism and Ottawas fat bank-roll, the company accepted the task in June of 1915.
Buying West Kootenay Power and Light in January of 1916 to ensure adequate supply of electricity, Warren spent the Dominions money to get a zinc smelter running. In 1916 it output 11,000 tons. Warren realized that Peace would destroy the metals prices and render the new plant uneconomical, so he hired an expatriate Canadian away from the Anaconda Copper Company to refine a newly-developed method of sorting ore according to its main metallic constituent before smelting. Randolph W. Diamond based his work on the Anglo-Australian process of differential floatation whereby, writes Jeremy Mouat in his afore-cited The development of the floatation process: …, the constituents of pulverized ores could be sequentially floated and then skimmed from the surface of an air-agitated bath of oils and various chemical reagents. On August 13th, 1920, success was announced. By Diamonds process, lead, then zinc could be reliably floated, leaving the complicating iron to settle with the gangue in the bottom of the bath. When a concentrator using this technology was opened at Kimberley on August 24th, 1923, the zinc plant at Trail began to pump big money into CPs coffers.
In his rebuilding of the Smelter in the early 19-aughts, Aldridge had installed four high capacity copper furnaces. Evidently CM&S was confident that it would soon have the Le Rois prodigious output of cupric ores to process. When J.J. Hill derailed that expectation, Aldridge was left with insufficient ore until Stewart had the Center Star and the War Eagle redeveloped. Aldridge turned to Phnix Mountain in the Boundary District. CP had leased the Snowshoe mine around 1900, but its ore was so polluted with other elements that it was useful only as a flux in Trails process, and only in small quantities. Nonetheless, CM&S bought the mine in 1909 and the neighbouring Phnix Amalgamated Mines as well, eventually using some 500,000 tons of Snowshoe ore before the end of World War One depressed the metals markets and halted mining on Phnix.
With the weight of CPR money behind it, the Trail plant was able to become the dominant smelter in the Kootenays, and by 1910 was the only one working in B.C. east of the Monashee Mountains. The works that the Kootenaylater, British ColumbiaSmelting and Trading Syndicate had built at Revelstoke in 1889 had proven incapable of smelting B.C. ores, had been abandoned and claimed by the Columbia River in 1899. The little lead smelter that S.S. Fowler had persuaded the Calgary-owned Galena Mining and Smelting Company to complete at Golden in 1891 to treat the Monarch mines refractory galenas never fired a furnace. At Pilot Bay, the fires were out by 1896 and the Hall Mines Smelter at Nelson was gutted of equipment by 1908. Only the smelter at Northport was left to challenge Trail for Kootenay ores, and as J.J. Hill tired of butting heads with the CPR, it was left to struggle along with old technology and failing equipment, its only customer the Le Roi in Rossland. When that mine fell under the control of CM&S in 1911, Northport Smelting and Refining mothballed the old plant, selling it, according to information David M. Martin mined from the Northport M&S/Edgar Day Collection at the University of Idaho, in 1915 to Edgar Day who placed Northports stock half with Hercules Mining Company and half with Tamarack & Custer Consolidated Mining Co. Hercules soon resuscitated the plant to work part-time as the needs of War excused inefficiency. It changed hands, was closed forever in 1921 and sold the next year to the American Smelting and Refining Company for salvage and scrap.
The 1920s: CP commits to Trail
Having finally succeeded in buying the Le Roi in 1911, CM&S owned all the major mines on Red Mountain and soon had them interconnected underground. Continuing its buying spree, come the end of the Great War the company owned or controlled most worthwhile metal mines in southern B.C. Its zinc process promised imminent success and its copper and lead smelting capacities read handsomely in CPs report to stockholders.
Come 1925 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting plant at Trail covered 250 acres and was a complex of structures sheltering a lead plant, an electrolytic zinc plant, a copper smelter, a copper refinery, a silver and gold refinery, plants for making bluestone, hydrofluosillicic acid and sulphuric acid, a foundry, a machine shop and round-house, and a copper rod mill. It employed 2100 men which were organized into docile workmens co-operative committees. Included in the Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for 1925 is a synopsis of the processes.
Silver-lead-zinc concentrate from the great Sullivan mine was delivered by rail to the lead plants sampling mill where it was crushed, mixed and random samples analysed to see how closely the ore conformed to the average of 66% lead, 18.8% sulphur, 7.5% iron, 6.3% zinc, 1% silica, and 20 ounces of silver to the ton. Its constitution having been determined and the subsequent processes adjusted to accommodate the variations introduced by ores from other mines and fluctuations in the operations of the Sullivans concentrator, the sampled ore was mixed with flux and sent to the four Dwight and Lloyd sintering furnaces which had been installed in 1924 and were, in 1925, scheduled for a doubling of their capacity. Here in two stages the sulphur content of the ore was reduced first to 8% and then, with the addition of 13% slag to the charge, to 2%. The resulting product, sinter cake, was then sent to the lead smelter, mixed with coke and fed into four, 315 ton per day blast furnaces. The resultant bullion went to the new 400 ton per day drossing plant where it was melted in a reverberatory furnace and ladled into moulds which cast anodes of 300 lbs. each. The dross from this process was re-treated in a second reverberatory furnace to remove the copper which was sent for refining, the purified lead being cast and sent with the anodes from the first reverberatory to the Smelters Betts process lead refinery. CM&S was proud of this plant, emphasising the fact that the company had developed the electrolytic refining technique of Dr. A.G. Betts into a commercially viable operation from the mere demonstration which the doctor had set up in the old Cottonwood Creek power house in Nelson. In the 20 years which the Process had been operational at Trail, it had been expanded to a plant capable of producing 350 tons of 99.99% pure lead every day. Briefly, sets of 24 anodes from the dross plant were connected to 25 cathodes in each of 956 tanks filled with hydrofluosillicic acid of 13% strength and 6 to 9% lead. The resulting circuits were then fed 2800Kw of electricity which resulted in pure lead being deposited on the cathodes from which it was melted and cast into pigs. The residue from the process consisted anode butts which were returned to the dross plant for recycling, and the slimes which were sent to the silver refinery to extract the precious metals. To the best of your reporters knowledge, the basic process is still in use.
In 1925 the zinc concentrates from the Sullivan operation analysed an average of 43.5% zinc, 33.2% sulphur, 19% iron, 5.3% lead, 1% silica, 0.4% manganese and ran 2.2 ounces of silver to the ton. This material was received at the Trail electrolytic zinc plantalong with custom ores and concentrates, which were treated separatelyand fed into 17 Wedge roasters which oxidized the zinc sulphide from the charge. The resultant calcine was transferred hot to the leach plant and introduced into a neutral solution circuit in which the ferric iron, antimony, arsenic and other impurities precipitated out. The solids from the first circuit then entered an acid solution circuit of one-half to one percent. of sulphuric acid which dissolved all of the soluble zinc to become zinc sulphate. The zinc residue from this circuit was sent to the lead blast furnaces for smelting. The zinc sulphate solution was treated with zinc powder which precipitated the traces of copper, cadmium and any cobalt and nickel out of the solution. The purified solution was then piped to the electrolytic plating department where it was received by 1656 cells in batteries of 36 or 144 in which aluminum cathodes and silvered lead anodes were hung and wired. The circuits were electrified with 125 or 510 volts which caused the zinc to deposit itself on the cathodes from which it was scraped and send to the melting room where reverberatory furnaces liquefied it at the rate of 200 tons per day. The zinc was then cast. Of the total to 39,000kW drawn by the entire CM&S complex, the zinc recovery process drew 28,000.
The copper smelter was the oldest operation on the CM&S premises, though by 1925 the process had been greatly improved from Fritz Heinzes day. Ore from the mines at Rossland was crushed in the dedicated sample mill and then fed straight into the triad of blast furnaces for reduction to matte which was loaded into a pair of Great falls type converters for smelting into blister. A reverberatory refining furnace treated the blister and poured it into an anode casting machine. As the 20s matured and ore from Rossland ran low, CM&S contracted much of the floatation concentrate from Granby Consolidateds plant at Allenby on Copper Mountain near Princeton. The concentrate had to be sintered before smelting to blow off the sulphur, the Dwight-Lloyd furnaces being used for this.
The 60 ton per day copper refinery worked on the electrolytic principle as well, but its 426 cells required only 400kW. Copper anodes from the copper smelter were suspended with matching cathodes in a solution of sulphuric acid and copper sulphate and energized. The purified copper was deposited on the cathodes from which it was then stripped, melted and cast for shipping or sent to the 50 ton per day copper rod mill; the anode butts being returned to the smelter for recycling.
The silver refinery received the dried residues, slimes, from the lead and copper tanks. This was fed into reverberatory furnaces which oxidized the lead, copper, antimony and bismuth. The resulting product, Doré metal, was 950970-fine alloy of around one-third silver and two-thirds gold with 1.5 to 2.5% copper. The Doré was immersed in sulphuric acid which dissolved the copper and other impurities and left the gold and silver as sludge which was removed to the gold kettle where it was washed with hot sulphuric acid. Thus freed from the silver the gold was melted and cast. The silver-rich solution was piped into tanks stocked with copper plates upon which the silver precipitated, was removed, melted and cast.
In 1925 CM&S treated some 380,000 tons of ores and concentrates at Trail to recover 21,352 ounces of gold, nearly 4.5 million ounces of silver, 9500 tons of copper, 117,500 tons of lead and almost 50,000 tons of zinc. From an unpalatable pill that the CPR had been forced to swallow in order to acquire the C&W, the Smelter had turned into a very profitable enterprise, earning a record $37 million in 1926.
There was only one small fly in the ointment; it was making people sick.
Cleaning up: the Smelter and Mother Nature
Included in G.W. Taylors The Railway Contractors (Morriss Publishing Ltd., Victoria, 1988) is a photograph of Trail Creek Landing taken from across the River, circa 1892. Behind Topping and Hannas Trail Creek House, what is now Smelter Hill rises well treed with what looks to be Grand fir and Western White pine, the valley of the Creek and the foot of Lookout Mountain are thick with growth. By the end of W.W.I, the whole region was a barren moonscape. Granted, the mature timber had all been cut down in the 1890s to built Trail and feed the Smelter, but only the ugliest and stunted of growth regenerated. For years Trailites had shrugged off the fumes soaking their city as a sign of prosperity; the Smelter was working. People muttered that their kids and livestock got sick, that their garden vegetables tasted odd, that fruit trees refused to grow. The mulberry trees that had been carefully nurtured for decades on plots in the Gulch were faltering, nipping Trails unique silk industry in the bud. Philosophically, however, the citizens of Trail accepted the pollution as the price to be paid for prosperity.
Perhaps it was the stench of sulphur reminding returned veterans of the horror of mustard gas attacks in the trenches of Flanders that shocked people into the recognition that quality was what made life worth living, and couldnt something be done about the Smelters effluent? Sensitive to the accusations that it was to blame for the ill health suffered by its neighbours, in 1919 CM&S bought a tract of land on the flats above the Smelter as a company farm to supply cheap produce to its workers and prove its critics wrong.
The critics werent wrong; the Farm at Warfield was not a success. In May of 1924 Judge J.A. (John) Forin found in favour of 52 plaintiffs who had brought suit against CM&S for damaged crops. A settlement was reached, but the Companys lawyers succeeded in obtaining a smoke-damage easement for local lands, limiting their employers liability for property damages. With the threat of suit minimized, the Smelter carried on discharging an estimated 10,000 tons of sulphur dioxide and particulates into the air every month. Swept down-valley, the emissions finally broke the patience of nearby Americans who demanded changes. An International Joint Commission was convened to look into the matter.
Bowing to the inevitable, CM&S had begun instituting modifications and by 1925 a treatment plant based on the designs of Frederick Gardner Cottrell was scouring 200,000 cubic feet of zinc furnace gas per minute. Collected from the main furnace flues, fumes were directed into a new building housing the treater flues wherein hung batteries of plates of corrugated steel alloyed with 0.2% copperKeystone steelaligned parallel to the direction of fume-flow. Between the batteries were strung high-tension wires carrying 60,000 volts which, when activated, caused particulate matter in the fumes to adhere to the plates. Hammering the steel frame of the building caused the plates to vibrate and shed their load of contaminated dust into hoppers which made up the floors of the flues. The dust was then removed, dampened and dumped block-hard onto the slag heap. From the flues the gases rose through a new 409 foot tall reinforced concrete, brick-lined stack. The lead roasting plant had been similarly equipped by 1928 when CM&S output 159,400 tons of pure lead, 8900 tons of copper, 81,800 tons of zinc, 23,623 oz. of gold, 7.7 million oz. of silver and 246 tons of cadmium for a total gross income of $13 million.
The Cottrell filters reduced poisonous fumes from the Smelter and CM&S built a plant on the failed Farm property at Warfield to make a variety of fertilizers from the captured dusts. By 1931 the company could offer hydrogen, nitrogen, ammonia, ammonia sulphate, phosphite and phosphoric acid-based products. Further cutting emissions, the company dismantled its copper smelting furnaces after the last of the Rossland mines, the Le Roi, having yielded some thirty million dollars worth of wealth, ceased production in 1929. The improvements in air quality resulting from these innovations was minimal, notes Jeremy Mouat in The Business of Power , for atmospheric inversion frequently trapped stack emissions in the Columbia valley to be funnelled downwind into Washington. The International Joint Commission, which at the time was considering WKPs application to raise the height of Kootenay Lake, was unimpressed with CM&Ss efforts at emissions control and on February 28th, 1932, awarded a staggering fine of $350,000 to Washington farmers in compensation for damages suffered to the end of 1931. Because the plant continued to pollute, however, the Americans appealed to Commissions ruling, arguing that the award was insufficient. A tribunal appointed in 1935 determined that a further CM&S payment of $78,000 to Washington farmers should be fair,7 considering that the pending expansion of the fertilizer plant would consume most of the Smelters sulphur. Nonetheless, even into the 1960s, with lawns still nearly impossible to grow in East Trail and Shavers Bench, local school children were casually cautioned to carry a hankie with them to dampen and cover their mouth and nose with while running to high ground should they ever see yellow smoke rolling down the Hill from the smelter. No smoke was ever seen.
(For a workers description of conditions on CM&Ss shop floor in the 30s, do a Ctrl F search for CM&S on A Family History - Oscar Gregg / Agnes McGovern / Bill Crossfield on the Sparwood Family Pages.)
Project 9: CM&S and the Destruction of Hiroshima
The Great Depression destroyed much of CM&Ss market, but with optimistic eyes firmly fixed on the eventual recovery, the Smelters management retained their skilled workforce by instituting a policy of job sharing. When the dark days finally brightened, CM&S was poised to resume production.
By 1941, of course, Canada was engaged by World War Two. CM&S quickly converted its Warfield plant to output ordinance-grade ammonium nitrate until the needs of food producers switched it back to fertilizer production later on in the War. By that time, though, S.G. Blaylock, now managing director of the Trail installation, had been called upon to apply his staffs expertise to a much more explosive project.
In one of its operations, CM&S generated quantities of elemental hydrogen. Scientists had become convinced that it was possible to make war-ending blasts by atomic fission, and the Americans, involved in the War since December 7th, 1941, were determined to be the first. Thus was born the Manhattan Project. Needful to the process was deuterium oxide, heavy water, D2O, which could be produced from electrolytic hydrogen.8 There were only two sources in the world: Vemork, Norway, since 1941 under German control, and Trail, where electrolytic hydrogen was a by-product of the CM&Ss sulphur recovery strategy. In February of 1941 the Office of Scientific Research and Development in the United States contacted S.G. Blaylock, CM&Ss president, with a request to supply D2O. Unenthusiastic, Blaylock consulted Clarence Decature Howe, Canadas Minister of Munitions and Supply, about the legality of the proposal and just what CM&Ss response should be. Familiar with the project, Howe advised Blaylock to co-operate, and as a result CM&S was compelled by an agreement signed on August 1st, 1942, to accept millions of American dollars to build and operate a heavy water plant at Warfield, the top-secret Project 9. With Ernie Mason as the chief design engineer, on January 1st, 1944, the Project produced its first D2O, and kept producing it until the Americans found an alternative source in the 1950s. As of 2004, a grey, 14-storey concrete building in the middle of the fertilizer plant complex still stands as a memorial to the Project.
Sprawling on its bluff of slag-revetted sand rising abruptly behind the Memorial Arena, the Smelter in all its dingy glory reposes, watched over by three tall chimneys. As a boy and a visitor to Trail in the 1950s, I was amazed at the spectacle of the smoke and dust that boiled from these three offenders as they struggled to loft their loads out of the valleys airstream. No more. Writes Steven Hilts, the smelters Superintendent of Environmental Remediation, the tallest, the zinc stack, ...now serves both the zinc roasters and lead smelter, and the lead stack, which serves the slag fuming furnaces. The other tall one had its height reduced by about 50 feet several years ago now and is redundantused originally by the former lead sinter plant. Thanks to several hundreds of millions of dollars invested in pollution controls over the last 20 years, happily, the concern over the high concentration of lead discovered in the blood of local school children in 1975 is diminishing as concentrations declined nearly to the point of insignificance by the opening years of the 21st century. Occasionally a whiff of sulphur escapes the plant when a valve momentarily sticks somewhere, but the deliberate venting of noxious gases is prohibited, regulated out of existence by the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection with the support of Environment Canada which maintains a system of chemical samplers in the neighbourhood to monitor air quality. In the plants, wrote Hilts in 2004, the BC Workers Compensation Board require that all workers attend courses and meetings dealing safety and health issues and that they wear the appropriate breathing apparatus and safety equipment that are specified for various work areas, making leadingthe absorption and retention in the body of lead and other heavy metalsa rare affliction of todays smelter worker. The company management and union jointly ensure that worker health and safety requirements are met, adds Hilts. At the tip of the bluff there used to be a battery of pipes gushing cooling water mixed with plant site run-off and other residues into the River right at the foot of Victoria Bridge. A victim of the extensive renovations that the plants owners have made to minimize their impact on the environment, this battery is no longer there. To quote Lana Rodlie of the Trail Daily Times, ...things have changed. All effluent waterincluding rain and every drop from anywhere else [within the complex]is sent to a huge water treatment plant [on the smelters property]. However, the legacy of decades of dumping waste untreated still haunts Trails smelter. Water-users downstream have long suspected the slagheap itself of bleeding heavy metals and a spectrum of other chemicals into Columbia. Studies conducted around the year 2000 found lead, zinc and mercury in considerable quantities in the sediments up to 100 miles downstream in the upper reaches of Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, the reservoir created when the Grand Coulee Dam was finished in 1942. Tests on the Colville Indian Reserve 60 miles away determined that concentrations of some elements traceable to Trail run ...to 900 times background (read permissible amounts) according to an article written for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by Chris Brown and published on December 15th, 2003. Even the calcinated granules of iron-tinged silica that make up the bulk of the slag are carried southward by the River until the slower currents of the Lake let them drop with the alluvium to form new islands and shoals in inconvenient locations. Trailites protest that the Americans are exaggerating, but they tend to defend their communitys largest employer against any criticism, and for years were resigned to breathing air tainted with suspended lead until the results of tests in 1989 impelled the smelters current owner, Teck Cominco Limited, to accelerate spending on its pollution control measures, concentrating on the lead smelter9 which, along with the power generation and fertilizer plants, supplies most of the companys income. In the early 2000s, when the American Environmental Protection Agency got involved, negotiations to assess the pollution in Lake Roosevelt turned into a political turf battle, complicated further in July of 2004 by the Colville Confederated Tribes which, impatient with the stultifyingly studious, exhaustively methodical approach of Teck Cominco, launched a lawsuit under the U.S. Superfund Law to force the company to comply, avers Steven Hilts of Teck-Cominco, with an order by the US EPA to enter into the Superfund process for addressing the Lake Roosevelt pollution. Fearing that it will be liable for cleansing the entire Lake of all pollutants no matter what their source,10 Teck Cominco called on Canadas Department of Foreign Affairs for support. Foreign Affairs consented, motivating the State of Washington to join the suit on the Colvilles side towards the end of that summer.
Following WWII, Consolidated Mining and Smelting made the transition to peacetime production smoothly and ticked along through the 50s and 60s outputting metals, rare gases, sulphuric acid and fertilizers. It invested in the community, building the Memorial Centre and the new hospital among other works. Having developed a refining capacity that out-stripped regional supplies of ore, in 1951 the Smelter began importing lead and zinc concentrates from the Tulsequah Chief mine on the Taku River in northern B.C. On May 16th, 1966, the company officially changed its name to its long-time cable address, Cominco, and moved its head offices to Vancouver. Resigning itself to being a good corporate neighbour, the company began in 1975 to spend millions of dollars on filters, higher stacks and improved processes to control pollution. In the 1980s CP reoriented its business objectives and on September 28th, 1986, sold its 53% interest in Cominco to Teck Corporation of Vancouver. The new owners continued with the emissions controls program while modernizing the plant and developing new markets and sources of raw material. In 1988 the main stack was fitted with efficient filters and scrubbers which captured much more of the toxins until the re-engineering of the plants processes retired the stack from active service. Re-equipped with the Russian-developed Kivcet flash lead smelting process in the early 1990s, in 2001 the Smelter swallowed 700,000 tonnes of concentrates imported by truck and rail to output 120,000 tonnes of pure lead and 290,000 tonnes of zincmore than any other smelter in the World. Recovered from the metals slump at the end of the 1990s in part by drastically trimming its workforce, Teck Cominco Limited reported record profits in 2004. In 2005 it decided to get into the scrap electronics business, envisioning itself able to extract the lead, zinc, copper, steel, aluminium and precious metals from 15,000 tonnes per year of discarded television sets, computer components and other electronic gadgets drawn from all over western Canada and the American Northwest. Bolstering Teck Comincos profit margin is the Waneta Dam and power generation facilities on the Pend dOreille River, especially when power-starved Californians demand electricity beyond their existing resources to cool themselves as they did in the hot summer of 2001. So attractive is the potential of this market that the following year Teck Cominco began to spend $41 millions increasing the Wanetas generating capacity and in 2003 dedicated a further $40 millions to upgrading the utilitys interconnection with B.C.s power transmission grid.
Independent visits to the Smelter are discouraged both by good sense and patrolling guards; this is an industrial site and there are dangers for those unfamiliar with the pattern of activity. Pre-arranged tours begin at the office building near the main gate on highway 22, but they are, understandably, conducted at the companys convenience. For the fool-hardy who figure they can suffer the embarrassment of detention by company guards and bear the costs consequent from charges of criminal trespass, from the parking lot behind the Arena a long, covered wooden stairway climbs the Hill right into the oldest part of the complex. From the top of the stairway it is not far to the little-used five stall enginehouse that CP built in 1910, or to the Railways Tadanac Yards with its wye and odd bits of corroding machinery.
The Citification of Trail
On the Columbias right bank, Riverside Avenue carries past the southern end of the Old Bridge and makes its way four or five misshapen blocks into downtown. Little clap-board houses press their chins against the roads sidewalk, crowding passers-by. Overhead whirls of Violet-green swallows seine the Citys skies for insects. Near the southerly end of the Esplanade that protects Trails central business district from the River and gives strollers a destination and tree shaded benches upon which to relax and enjoy their take-out coffees, Riverside transforms itself into Bay Avenue. Driving northward five blocks through downtown, Bay fetches up at the Memorial Centre on Victoria Avenue at the foot of the Smelter Bluff. Built in 1949 as the Cominco Arena. Home of the famous Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Club,11 the Centre now also houses Trails civic museum. Though required to acknowledge the overwhelming importance of CM&S and its successors to the City of Trail, the Museum nonetheless does a good job detailing the rest of the regions history.
Dewdneys Caucasian crews left no permanent structures at the mouth of Trail Creek when they built up this way, following their blazings back towards Rock Creek while their Oriental counterparts pushed the Trail eastward. For the next quarter century or so the soggy little marsh that Trail Creek had created for itself on the banks of the Columbia remained largely as nature designed it, flushed every spring by tons of meltwater unwanted by the Rossland Range, turned into a big, muddy backwater when the River rose.
In 1890, however, the Deputy Recorder of Mines at Stanley up on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, Colonel Eugene Sayer Topping, took a chance and bought Le Wise claim on Red Mountain from a couple of wandering prospectors, the Joes Moris and Bourgeois. Registering the claim as the Le Roi, Topping came to inspect it and what he found impelled him to quit his government job and head to Spokane to raise development capital. A born promoter, Topping soon had speculators interested in the Le Roi. When he sold the property in 1891 he retired to the 343 acres he and his partner, Frank Hanna, had pre-empted around the mouth of Trail Creek in the summer of 1890, and began boosting real estate.
While the Colonel had been in Spokane selling the Le Roi, Hanna had moved his wife, Mary Jane, and their four children onto the pre-emption and began building Trail House, a rough two-storeyd cabin. Finished, writes Elsie Turnbull in Trail: A Smelter City (Sunfire Publications Limited, Langley, B.C., 1985 ), the House was home to the Hannas and Topping, as well as serving as a church, meeting hall and hotel. For a couple of years, the House, Paulsons hotel, Hannas blacksmith shop and ore storage shed, and a few miserable shacks were all that welcomed travellers to what became known as Trail Creek Landing. The spring floods of 1894, however, washed everything away save the shed which, anchored by its contents, survived. Undeterred, Topping and Hanna had a new Trail House open for business on the higher ground on what is now Bayview Avenue by Christmas. A full two storeys high and ninety feet long, it accommodated 50 guests, a saloon, a Post Office and a school.
By Saturday, October 19th, 1895, when W.F. Thompson published the first edition of his Trail Creek News, Topping and Hanna had formed a townsite company which had laid out streets, surveyed lots and built a nice, large cottage at the corner of Farwell and Tamarack for the residence of the Colonel and the Hannas. Mary Jane continued to run Trail House, a welcoming hospice for the hopefuls on their way to Red Mountain. Elsewhere on the townsite, Steele and McDonald had converted the old ore shed to a general store, James Clinton was running his I.X.L. Restaurant out of a big tent, Lee Chung was commercially busy doing laundry, all periodically pausing their labours to watch a steamboat nose onto the riverbank to allow passengers to scramble ashore and freight to be off-loaded onto the mud of the marsh. By the spring of 1895 those bound for Red Mountain could make the journey in the relative comfort of a swaying stage coach which bucked its way up the waggon road to Rossland on a regular basis.
E.S. Topping is generally acclaimed as the father of Trail. He shared ownership of the townsite and promoted the place, staying to help guide the community through its formative stages. While giving Topping his due, it must be recognized that the settlement would not have amounted to a hill of beans had it not been for F.A. Heinze. In July of 1895 he had come to a smelly little riverboat landing on the very fringes of his known world, and left it, three years later, a community with a future; connected by rail to the font of its wealth in Red Mountain and to the CPR system, cored by a reliable industry that would carry the community through the decades, growing rapidly.
Heinzes interest in the Landing drew money like a magnet. The month that the Boy Wonder arrived S.F. Peterson purchased three lots at the corner of Bayview and Spokane and by the end of the year had, with his brothers John and Julius and lumber from Pete Genelles portable sawmill, had raised the Crown Point Hotel, a three-storey wood-framed and sided edifice, its gabled roof studded with dormer windows lighting the upper floor. By then, too, Raymond and Comstock had built their stables and were using their packhorse herd to haul materials from W.H. Johnsons new brickyards up to the smelter site. In the autumn of 1895 the townsite was unified by the Bowery Bridge across the Creeks mouth south of which, on the edge of the marsh, Bell and Naden had set up their sawmill. B.C. Smelting and Refining had rigged a cable reaction ferry to traverse the Columbia approximately where the Victoria Bridge now stands. From its far landing a road ran to now vanished Sayward on the N&FS.
By the time that the smelter blew in on the 1st of February, 1896, risk-takers had built the Wellington, Madden House and the St. Elmo hotels. R.T. Daniel was raising his Arlington Hotel across Bay Street from the Crown Point. By the end of the year, writes Elsie Turnbull in Trail: A Smelter City, the hotels Meakin, Kaiser and Victoria had opened their doors. In 1896 the downtown shack that had been adapted to a school to free up space in the Hanna Block burned, and until the town had completed a proper, two-roomd school, classes were conducted on the upper floor of Browns Hall on Spokane Street where the teacher, Elizabeth Murray, had occasionally to retrieve her curious students from the precincts of the undertaker on the main floor. Dr. Douglas Corsan built a $4,000 hospital-cum-residence at Cedar and Helena, and Fritz Sick of Spokane erected a brewery in the Gulch from which he had no trouble selling its fifteen barrel-per-day output of Imperial Lager. Cutting diagonally through the townsite, the tracks of the Tramway ran to a little station on the south side of Portland Street near the River.
In the autumn of 1895 a volunteer fire brigade had been raised by J.E. McCarthy, and in the summer of 1898 had built a two-stall fire hall on Bay Avenue near the Tramways tracks complete with a meeting room, a fifty foot-tall hose and bell tower, and a verandahd band stand. To maintain order the Townsite Company had hired B. Abernathy in the summer of 1896 as the settlements constable of police, but he had tired of the nightly fights and that September was replaced by ex-North-West Mounted Police-man W.J Devitt who stayed to spend the provinces money building a sturdy four cell gaol. Trail Creek Landing trimmed its name to Trail in 1897, and that spring David Doig opened the communitys first bank, a branch of the Bank of British North America. Heinze had Trail and Stony Creeks impounded and flumed to a powerhouse at the foot of Smelter Bluff wherein he had placed a 400 horsepower generator. When circuits were closed at 5:05 in the afternoon of April 6th, 1897, the practical limits that sunlight had placed on the Smelters working day vanished. Later on that same evening, downtown businessmen snapped switches and dozens of light bulbs blazed Trail into the Electric Age. The faithful had their choice of celebrating the Christmas of 1898 in a Roman Catholic church, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, Methodist or the Church of England where Father Pat, the Reverend Henry Irwin, who had frequently come down from Rossland to conduct services, had been replaced by the Reverend William Clark.
Possibly over the affections of the capable Mary Jane, Topping and Hanna had had a falling out and had gone their separate ways. The Colonel partnered with R.T. Daniel, the builder of the four-storey deluxe Arlington Hotel, to pipe water via Gorge Creek from Lookout Mountain and into the distribution system they laid, Trails first. They arranged the civic building of a sturdy bridge to carry Bay Avenue from the base of Smelter Hill three blocks across the Creeks backwater to Spokane Street. With Daniel, Topping expanded his real estate business into the Slocan and Arrow Lakes region, retaining his one-third interest in Trail when the Townsite Company dissolved. As well, Topping was instrumental in organizing the Trail Board of Trade in March of 1898 and getting it registered on December 11th of 1900. While the Board petitioned the province to grant Trail the status of city, it welcomed the British enterprise which dug and promptly abandoned a disappointing exploratory pit on the Little Giant property on Lookout Mountain, a stones throw south of town.
And so, with wealth rumbling down the Mountain and into the Smelter and then trickling down the Hill into the pockets of its citizenry, Trail grew, booming after the CPR bought Heinze out and connected the C&W to its Crows Nest Route from the Prairies. At the new station set in 1897 at an angle to Trails townsite grid on the south-west corner of Cedar Avenue and Farwell, travellers could board a CPR coach with a ticket to anywhere in North America.
As befitting such a world-class settlement, on June 14th, 1901, the lieutenant-governor of B.C., Henri Joli de Lothbinière, signed the letter patent which incorporated the City of Trail, Colonel E.S. Topping, mayor.
Hemmed in between mountains and the River, Trail remained cooped up on its original townsite and packed into the Gulch. The reaction cable ferry that Heinze had set up never worked and was a beached wreck by the time he sold out of Trail. Its eye on the level ground on the Rivers left bank, the City created a ferry company in 1902 under the presidency of James Hargrave Alcock Schofield who was elected an alderman that year, and would serve as Trails mayor from 1903 to 1907. The ferry first sailed in May of 1902, but because of the Columbias swift current, was never reliable. Trail was only able to expand when it completed the Old Bridge in May of 1912. After a year in office, Colonel Topping surrendered the mayoral chair to Noble Binns and sought new riches in the Bulkeley Valley district of central B.C. Probably in 1904, Frank Hanna removed himself to Texas, evidently leaving behind the desirable Mary Jane who wed the returned Topping in a quiet ceremony in Rossland on September 21, 1906.13
Perhaps looking for lunch, visitors wandering south down Cedar Avenue are walking on yards and yards of smelter slag that were used to fill Trail Creeks gully and mouth upon which are built some five blocks of modern Trails central business district. When the City was still called Trail Creek Landing all structures around here were built on piles, giving them a temporary, rickety look, but with the tons of waste daily output from the Smelter, the City had this area levelled and the Creek confined in culverts and buried by the time the big fire of August 9th, 1917, removed many of the old buildings. Replacing them are plain-Jane one- and two-storey wood-framed brick jobbies, many of which are today stuccoed and painted in attractively faded Mediterranean pastels. There has been little effort at recovering original facades; Trail leaves that living museum niche to Rossland and Nelson.
A few buildings do draw the attention, though. On the afternoon shady side of Cedar Avenue near the corner of Spokane is the 1937 Hughes Block; two-storey, dark-auburn brick, accented lintels and sills. In its bid for attention, however, the Hughes Block loses by a wide margin to the building opposite. Rising four stories, its facade of artistically laid beige brick detailed with terra cotta tiling glowing in the afternoon sun, the stately headquarters building of the West Kootenay Power and Light Company commands the eye. Raised in 1930, it is to this edifice that the company came that year when it removed its main offices from the building that its long-time president, Lorne Argyle Campbell, owned in Rossland.
On Bay Avenue at Spokane Street, the ancient Arlington has been stripped of its corner turret and top two floors. Renovated probably in the 1990s, it welcomes overnight guests, although its tavern contributes hugely to its income. Facing it across Bay is the new Crown Point, an impressive pile built in 1929 and offering cheap, noisy, spartan rooms on the first floor and tranquil en suites one floor up.
With more than a third of its population claiming Italian ancestry, one would think that trattorias and espresso bars would abound in Trail. They are a few, but most of their owners have thought it unnecessary to emphasis their ethnicity with external signage, so a visitor might walk right by an authentic Italian lunchroom or café and not know it. There are a couple of white-napkin ristorantes where one will be treated to a fine dining experience. Those perhaps on a stricter budget but still with a yen for genuine Italian cuisine might check out the atmosphere in the psychedelically-decorated Colander Restaurant, about a block south of the WKP Building on Cedar Avenue.
Leaving The Silver City, eastbound
Passing Trails civic campground eastbound, Highway 3B is a four-laner following the Columbia River downstream. Across the River high bluffs of poorly consolidated sand and gravel outwash channel and amplify valley breezes. Beyond the Waneta Shopping Plaza a fancy version of a simple Tee intersection separates the 3B from 22A, sending the formerlocally, the cut-offleft to curl around the property formerly hosting the Auto-Vue Drive-in and cut up the Rivers bluffs to get to Montrose and Fruitvale in the Beaver Creek valley. 22A, Old Waneta Road, continues following the Columbia to the Boundary, past the Kiwanas campground, past the Regional airport, and past Columbia Gardens Road, the scenic way to Fruitvale.