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The CPR on the Revelstoke Division Series
It's Here! Volume 6!
We are pleased to feature Doug Mayer’s latest volume in his popular series on Canadian Pacific Railway’s Revelstoke Division. “Volume Six: The Connaught Tunnel” chronicles the planning, construction, and remarkable working life of what was North America’s longest railway tunnel. Completed in 1916, the Connaught Tunnel was a “game-changer” for the CPR and a major engineering accomplishment, bypassing the worst sections of the Rogers Pass and dramatically improving its operating conditions. At 106 years old on December 16th, the Tunnel continues to be an important part of the Revelstoke Division.
Like all of his books, Doug Mayer has researched far and wide for archival and photographic content about the Tunnel, putting together a story which he is uniquely qualified to tell. Mayer explores topics as diverse as the Tunnel’s innovative design and construction, abandonment of the former Rogers Pass right-of-way, the massive 1931 flood, the Tunnel’s portals and infrastructure, and even the legendary incident of the stalled Selkirk steam locomotive. Weighing in at 100 pages and richly illustrated with photographs and archival information, some of which has not been published, this book is sure to please historians, railway buffs, industrial engineering enthusiasts, and anyone curious about the CPR’s Revelstoke Division.
“This book has been over ten years in the making. I have been intrigued with the Connaught Tunnel even before we decided to build a model of the Tunnel's West Portal into the Revelstoke Model Railway Club’s layout,“ says Doug Mayer, “Most Canadians are unaware of just how significant the Connaught Tunnel was, and still is.”
Doug Mayer is a local historian and author who is passionate about the railway. He is also a long time member of the Revelstoke Model Railway Club.
Mayer began the CPR on the Revelstoke Division Series as a fundraising venture for the Revelstoke Historical Railway Society in 2018. This series has become very popular due to the depth and quality of research he puts into each volume.
These books can be purchased in our Museum Store and online.
Mayer donates his time and research and donates all proceeds from the sale of his books to the Revelstoke Railway Museum.
Volume Six can be ordered now at the following link:
I’ve just finished reading the Connaught Tunnel book. I want to tell you how much pleasure it gave me. It is an excellent work with wonderful, well researched information, great illustrations and superb presentation. I thought that I knew a lot about the tunnel but I have learnt so much from the book. I think this is the finest new railway book that I have read in quite a few years.
I have just one criticism: When I look at the entire work - quality, information, illustrations - I think you have underpriced it! I think the book is a steal.
A great job, well done, and a valuable contribution to both regional and national history. My sincere thanks.
— Martin Booth
I just wanted you to know that I’ve been reading your latest book and, to me, it’s your finest book. I’ve read most of your books but this one answers so many questions that I’ve had, having travelled through that tunnel for years. I was always fascinated how the tunnel was built, over a hundred years ago, without all the methods we have now. I’ve tried, at different times, to drill a hole into a piece of wood, from both sides hoping that they would meet. I can’t imagine how difficult drilling a five mile long tunnel would be without the use of lasers, GPS, etc. The whole story is so well laid out. Congratulations.
— Bob Eley
Note from the Author
When I set out to write volume one, I had no prior writing experience. I’m sure if you could go back and ask my teachers from the schools of my youth about the likelihood that I could pull this off, you would have heard a resounding “No!”.
Regardless, during my career with BC Hydro as an electrician and later as a safety instructor, I did develop some writing skills. This came about because I had to write maintenance reports, safety rules and procedures and instructional Power Point presentations.
So when I decided to take a stab at writing a book about railway history I felt the best approach was just to present my stories as if I was standing in front of a group of people and just talking to them in an informal manner. I received lots of helpful advice from people that did the editing. Some of which I agreed with and incorporated into the books, other of which I did not agree and ignored the advice. Be that as it may, I think the end result works.
The one thing that I wish I had had was the advice of railroaders that worked during the steam era.
Unfortunately there are very few of them left. Those that were left, really only worked at the very end of the steam era and often they were not able to help. I recently asked one very nice gentleman about steam locomotive booster engines. Even though he worked on steam for a few years, he was a fireman and so had no working knowledge of booster engine operations. Furthermore, the booster equipped engines were only used on passenger trains and he didn’t have enough seniority at that time to work on passenger trains. A couple of the things he told me, I know for a fact were not true.
Had Ernie Ottewell still been alive when I wrote volume one, I am confident that he would have prevented me from making the mistakes that I made which I am now forced to correct. The one fortunate aspect of these mistakes is that I now know more than when I made them. What follows are three pages of edited text that the reader can download, print and insert in their books. All future printings of volume one will be correct.
Doug Mayer, May 25, 2020
Robert Turner's Book Review
The Canadian Pacific Railway's mainline through the western Rockies, the Purcells, Selkirks and Monashee Mountains in British Columbia, which became the Revelstoke Division, has been one of the most interesting and challenging sections of railway in Canada. Since the opening of the transcontinental railway in the 1880s, it has featured severe grades, harsh winters with massive snowfalls, heavy traffic requiring frequent trains that often operated with helpers, and always impressive engineering with spectacular bridges, snow sheds and tunnels. The Revelstoke Division has featured some of the CPR's most interesting locomotives from solid, workhorse 2-8-0s, the CPR's powerful 2-10-4 Selkirks and Royal Hudsons to an array of diesels including just about everything from 1950s F units to the most modern diesel power. As well, the division's infrastructure was fascinating, especially during the steam and early years of the diesel era which began in the 1950s. Revelstoke was a major division point with a large roundhouse, station, hotel, fuelling and watering facilities, and many related structures. It was a base for rotary snowplows and piledrivers. Elsewhere there were helper stations with smaller engine houses, bunkhouses and other facilities.
Doug Mayer, a long time NMRA member and modeller, has selected a fascinating range of photos and maps, for this first book in what is planned as a series of similar volumes, to illustrate some of the features of the division in different eras. Most photos or maps are presented one to a page with a lengthy, well written caption that provides insights into the locomotives, structures or facilities shown and often provides background information on the operation of the railway. The photos also show how dramatically the railway has changed through the years. The last group of photos within the book document the cab of P2k 2-8-2 No. 5468, which is preserved at the Revelstoke Railway Museum. Fittingly, one photo shows the late Ernie Ottewell, retired CPR engineer, who was one of the key people in the acquisition of the locomotive for display at the Museum and who spent many hours as a volunteer explaining the operation of the engine to the public.
For modellers of the CPR, and mountain railways, there is lots of useful and informative material in the photos and the extended captions. Many details in the scenes are identified that otherwise might not be recognized by anyone of a younger generation or not closely familiar with the day-to-day operations of a railway in the steam era, long gone from the CPR in the BC and Alberta mountains.
I enjoyed reading this informative book and learned a lot about the Revelstoke Division and how it operated. It is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to model the CPR and one of its toughest divisions. The proceeds from the book go to support the excellent Revelstoke Railway Museum.
Robert D. Turner - Photographer, Author, Heritage Consultant