Aftermath of the 1899 avalanche that “wiped out” Rogers Pass Station (Open link and click on image to expand.)

The engine house with one door swung open (centre). What remains of the station is visible (lower right). Engine #374 was swept off the tracks and half buried in the snow (lower left).




September 17, 2016

September 17, 2016

Rogers Pass Station

During construction (1885-1886), the Rogers Pass construction camp was located just east of the crest of Rogers Pass. In 1887 the settlement was then relocated farther east to a “permanent site” at the foot of Mount Tupper.  By 1899, the settlement consisted of the station itself on the south side of the mainline and, on the north side of the mainline separated from the station by three sets of tracks, a two‐stall roundhouse and turntable for pusher locomotives. A coal shed stood beside the turntable track. Behind the roundhouse and beside the storage track, were two bunk cars set up on logs alongside of the shop for the snow‐shovel gang to sleep in. A small section house stood behind the bunk car. Finally in the rear of the railway yard, near a creek that flowed out of the Hermit slide gully and directly in front of an old slide path, sat two private dwellings of those of the Newitt family and telegraph lineman Maxwell and family. A short distance to the west of the station was a water tower and the entrance to snow shed #14. (There were a total of 31 snow sheds in the pass.)

The original location of Rogers Pass Station (1887-1899) between Mount Tupper (right) and Mount Macdonald (left). The peak to the west in the distance is Mount Grizzly (9,061 feet: 2,762 m). Two bunkhouses are shown to the right of the two-stall engine house. The Pacific Express sits in front of the station. The water tower and entrance to snow shed #14 are visible in the distance.

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Rogers Pass Station circa 1887 looking east with Mount Carroll (Mount Macdonald) to the right. (Open link and click on image to expand.)



Rogers Pass Station looking west sometime before the 1899 avalanche. (Open link and click on image to expand.)



Rogers Pass Station looking west.


The original station at Rogers Pass circa 1887 – 1899. In addition to serving meals as a station stop, the station fed snow-shovel gangs, the Albert Cantor, station agent, his family, and a maid. The station agent and his family slept upstairs as did the night operator.

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The original station at Rogers Pass circa 1885. (Open link and click on image to expand.)

William and Annie Cator can be seen with their two children Charles and Ethyl, along with the waitress Annie Berger (in the white blouse and dark skirt).




At about 4:30 PM on the afternoon of  January 31st, 1899 Rogers Pass Station was readying for the arrival of the Pacific Express train from the east. Rogers Pass Station was the scheduled passing place for the Pacific and Atlantic Express. The dispatcher had originally ordered the Pacific Express to go as far as Rogers Pass station and wait, then changed his mind and had it stop at Donald. A snow slide had blocked the mouth of snow shed #19. The Atlantic Express was stopped at Glacier Station.


The 40 man snow‐shovel gang had been called away to clear the slide at the mouth of snow shed #19. The station agent, William Cator, was talking with coalman Frank Vogel, while Cator’s wife, Annie and the Chinese cook, Ah Hou, were making preparation in the kitchen. The Cantor’s two children, two‐year‐old Ethel and three‐year‐old Charles were nearby while the night operator, Frank Corson, was asleep in his bunk upstairs. The station waitress and housekeeper, Annie Berger, was also upstairs. A CPR wiper, James Ridley, was asleep in a nearby section house.


High winds were buffeting fresh snow on the mountains. They loosened snow high up on Mount Tupper which suddenly came down as an avalanche. It first took out the section house and the two bunk cars.  Locomotive‐wiper, James Ridley, was killed when the section house was destroyed. Two Chinese caretakers of the bunk cars were rolled over and over inside the cars but were rescued still alive. It then demolished the two‐stall roundhouse except for one front door. Engine 409 in the roundhouse was tipped into the pit sideways. The debris was carried on to the station, which was also destroyed, the wreckage carried up the side of Mount Carroll (Mount Macdonald) to the south.

Path of the avalanche that came down off of Mount Tupper on January 31, 1889.

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The station agent, William Cator, upon hearing the avalanche rushed to the door of the station and was swept away. Frank Vogel dived under a desk and was later rescued, as was the waitress, Annie Berger. She was found under the roof with two broken legs and other injuries.

The entire Cantor family was killed. Annie Cator and the Chinese cook were found in the kitchen. Annie Cator still had a rolling pin and pastry in her hands. The two children, Charlie and Ethel, were found not far away as was the body of Frank Carson the night operator. Two weeks later, William Cator’s body had still not been found. The family pets, two dogs and a caged bird, survived unharmed. In all seven people lost their lives. That same day a Swedish section worker was also killed in a slide near Glacier Station, bringing the total to eight.

It remains a mystery why the railway chose such an exposed location to build the original Rogers Pass Station. After the avalanche the station and yards were rebuild in a less exposed location a mile west around the corner in a flat meadow. The Canadian Pacific Railway bypassed the summit of the pass, still a mile further west, when the Connaught Tunnel was completed in 1916.




Rails and Killer Snows: The Saga of Rogers Pass, 1997. J. D. McDonald, Rossland Historical Museum, Hall Printing, Trail, BC.


Rogers Pass Station Snowslide (1899), 2013. Cathy English and staff, Revelstoke Museum and Archives Blog.