The end of the line

Rogers Pass National Historic Site

After thirty years of defending the line against avalanches, heavy snowfall, forest and structural fires and mudslides, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company finally gave up on Rogers Pass. A massive avalanche on March 4, 1910 had killed 58 railway workers who were clearing the site of an earlier slide that had plummeted down the opposite side of the valley. Everyone except one member of the engine crew was killed. This disaster had occurred only 3 days after an avalanche in the Cascade Range in Washington State had swept two trains into a canyon and killed 96 people. These terrible accidents and a history of avalanche deaths in the pass pushed the company to a final decision on a long-planned tunnel. The surface route over the pass was abandoned in 1917 after the 9 km long Connaught Tunnel reduced the avalanche risk, eliminated many of the snowsheds and pared down the rail grade over the pass.

Despite the loss of direct rail service, Glacier House stayed open for another decade. Guests bound for the resort were met by horse-drawn coaches near the tunnel entrance for the short trip on the abandoned rail line. Without the immediacy of the railway at the front door however, visitation began to steadily decline. With the Great Glacier receding, the resort's greatest attraction was disappearing from view. Glacier House was overshadowed by the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise, and the 1925 season was to be the last for Glacier House.

Rogers Pass and Glacier National Park were very quiet places for the next 35 years. Less than 1000 alpinists visited the park each year, accommodated in a few rooms over the general store at the new community of Glacier near the tunnel's west entrance, and later at the Alpine Club of Canada's Wheeler Hut (built in 1946). Some of the buildings from Rogers Station and Summit City were moved to Glacier. Over the next decades, the abandoned rail line, the Rogers Station and Summit City sites, and the Glacier House foundations were variously reclaimed by dense vegetation, avalanches, landslides and floods. Construction of the new Trans-Canada Highway in the late 1950s and early 1960s obliterated much of the original rail line over the pass. When the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway was celebrated by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at the summit of the pass in 1962 however, Rogers Pass again became an important link in the national transportation system. The highway now brings more than half a million visitors to Rogers Pass every year.

Date modified :