Pioneer Railroads

A NARROW GAUGE RAILWAY.

In 1884 the North Western Coal and Navigation Company was
formed. It had land and coal departments and in 1886 it was able to
offer for sale or lease "400,000 acres of choice grazing lands in blocks
of townships, all of which were well watered and within easy reach of
Lethbridge." The Company was also "prepared to sell small quantities
for farming purposes in the immediate vicinity of Lethbridge." Leth-
bridge, now a city, was then a settlement. The Company had a charter
to build a railroad from Dunmore six miles from Medicine Hat, to the
boundary, with American rights to continue the line to Fort Benton in
Montana. It was intended to build the road in 1885 but the rebellion
prevented it, and it was not for another year or two that the road entered
Lethbridge. Here coal of excellent quality had been discovered, and mines
were opened. The founders of the company were principally the well
known Gaits of Ontario, and the line was always known as the Gait line
and the coal as Gait coal. This coal is an excellent kind, and the mines
are still going on a large scale. In 1892 Lethbridge was the best built
and the most attractive town in the Territories, principally as the result
of the operations of the Gait Company. We passed through it in June
of that year, going on to Macleod by four-horse stage on one of those C
spring coaches you only see now in the "movies." The town was then
flourishing and every one seemed prosperous and in high spirits. We
returned in November to find the town practically dead, with the mines
for the most part closed down. The explanation given was that the C.
P. R. wanted the line, and had offered a price the Gait Company would
not accept. The C. P. R. had therefore started in to freeze the Gait
people into submission. This was easy. Being a narrow gauge line every
pound of coal had to be shoveled out of the Gait cars at the junction, and
shoveled into the C. P.R. cars. The C. P.R. was now professing inability
to supply but a limited number of cars, with the result that the Gait
people could only ship about a third of their product. Whether this were
so or not we cannot say. We give the reasons as we got them. The fact
remains that the C. P. R. got possession of the line and turned it into a
broad gauge track, and it became a part of their regular system.

The trip over this narrow gauge railway was interesting. The engine
and cars compared with the big rolling stock of the C. P. R. looked like
a toy-train. We went down at night. There was no regular passenger
car. Our recollection is that there was a table and chairs. A curtain
was drawn across one corner, and behind this curtain a lady passenger
reposed. Another man, myself, the conductor, engineer and fireman and
the lady were the only people on the train. The other fellow and myself
kept the conductor company all night.






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Web Page title: narrowgauge.html
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Copyright: Monday, 31-Jul-2006 22:53:26 MDT
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Rail, Travel, SK, Saskatchewan, Canada,Transportation, Pioneer Railways, Railroads,
Early, Railway, CPR,CNR,GTR, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway,
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