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The Farron CPR Train Explosion and its beleaguered mystery ...

With the upcoming centennial anniversary of the Farron Explosion and the death of their revered leader, Peter V. Verigin, in 1924, Doukhobors will be reminded that in spite of a century of speculation about the circumstances of his death, there has been no accountability for it, nor any closure to the ongoing quest for answers. Investigations into the disastrous explosion which occured on a CPR passenger train at the Farron Summit (now the Paulson, between Castlegar and Christina Lake), determined that it may have been caused by an "infernal machine" or home-made bomb deliberately placed under a passenger seat. Presumed to be a targeted murder of Peter Verigin, it also tragically caused the collateral death of eight additional passengers, and the motive and perpetrator(s), though suspected, were never confirmed.

Part of the unexplained mystery associated with this explosion, has been the inability or reluctance of the Canadian Pacific Railway to provide any substantive internal records of its own on this matter, even though it had conducted investigations at the time. The "disappearence" of the CPR records was specifically questioned by the EKCIR (a B.C. government sponsored committte on Doukhobor matters), during the course of its own extensive investigations into the death of Peter Verigin in the 1980s, without reaching a conclusive resolution of this matter. It now appears, however, that a collection of some CPR records actually did surface in more recent years, and it has been residing seemingly unnoticed at a museum in Penticton, British Columbia. The records were donated to the Penticton Museum and Archive in 1991, although the source of the donation has not been disclosed, and the donation was oddly made not long after the exhaustive EKCIR inquiry, just two or three years previously (much more on this to follow). This web page will describe this writer's personal involvement in this story, and will briefly look at a sampling of the records themselves.

Please note that a full visit on this web page may require at least 40 to 50 minutes, and readers may fast forward to the records on this web page more directly (Link).

Farron Explosion online and other existing resources ...

A current website by Larry Hannant (Link) is possibly the most ambitious online effort to bring public attention to the details of the Farron Explosion, as one of the "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History", offering curious readers transcriptions of relevant archival documents, coroners' and police reports, witness accounts and newspaper articles. Greg Nesteroff's blog (Link) examines "15 curious things" about Verigin's untimely death, drawing our attention to a lengthy 400 page compilation of assorted documents assembled into a volume by the late Doukhobor historian, Steve Lapshinoff. Limited copies of his 1993 book, "Documentary Report on a Death of Peter Verigin, et al, in a Train Explosion near Farron, B.C. in 1924", are available in local library collections. Lapshinoff's accumulation of documents and other findings for this book began during his involvement with the EKCIR, which carried on its comprehensive Doukhobor-related work during the 1980s.

"Documentary Report on the Death of Peter V. Verigin, et al" - transcriptions of 232 source documents in 407 pages, by writer Steve Lapshinoff. This compilation has been an invaluable source of information for this web page. - From a private collection.

The EKCIR Doukhobor inquiry ...

The research on the EKCIR has been a bit of an eye-opener for this writer, usually somewhat intimidated and befuddled by such cryptic looking acronyms. But it turned out to be a worthy exercise, as the EKCIR's full significance has clearly not been fully appreciated. Its lasting contribution - in bringing an end to decades of depredations, and attaining improved relations between the different factions of the Doukhobor community - cannot be overstated.

The EKCIR was an expanded version of its predecessor, the KCIR (Kootenay Committee for Intergroup Relations) initially announced in 1979, by B.C. Attorney-General Garde Gardom, to serve as a public forum in which the different Doukhobor factions could air their grievances and hopefully reconcile their differences. It was hoped that the Committee and the process would thereby help put a stop to the seemingly endless acts of arson and bombings that had afflicted the West Kootenay and Boundary regions of Southern BC for over half a century.

 

Grand Forks High School security guard house, 1950s. Night watchmen were regularly posted to discourage arson attempts threatening both Community Doukhobor and general public buildings. - Victor Stevenson photo

The unfounded notions that certain mainstream Doukhobor leaders may have inspired these depredations, and that Peter V. Verigin's son, Peter P. Verigin, may have even been involved in his own father's murder, were contentious issues which were also to be addressed. The KCIR Committee, unlike an earlier such initiative by the Doukhobors themselves, (the JDRC or Joint Doukhobor Research Committee, 1974-1982), included non-Doukhobor professionals. It was co-chaired by Dr. Mark Mealing (formerly of Selkirk College) and Doug Feir (former Grand Forks school principal and later a S.D. Superintendent). Although progress had been made by these earlier committee inquiries, there were no immediate positive practical outcomes. John J. Verigin, Honourary Chairman of the U.S.C.C. Doukhobors, however, continued to press the Attorney General's Office for a more concerted focus on the matter, designed to achieve a permanent resolution to the perennial problems.


Dr. Mark Mealing, John J. Verigin, and Robin Bourne. Much of the KCIR-EKCIR content on this web page, was derived from a documentary account (ISKRA No. 2108, November, 2016) by EKCIR member, D.E. (Jim) Popoff, as well as from the book by Gregory Cran (see below).

The new Attorney-General, Allan Williams, paid attention and in 1982 he formed a new expanded group, the EKCIR. Williams had recently hired Robin Bourne as Assistant Deputy Minister for Police Services, and he now appointed him as Chairman of the EKCIR. As an ex-military man, who'd also headed the Canadian federal Solicitor General's security group from 1971 to 1979, Bourne was well suited to serve as the new Chairman, presiding over the revamped process with greater vigor, a more rigid structure and additional resources. He was assisted in this task by Gregory Cran, in his role as Liaison for Doukhobor Affairs to the B.C. Attorney-General. Delegates to the EKCIR included the former KCIR representatives, to which were added formal delegations from all Doukhobor groups (including the USCC community Doukhobors, the Krestova Reformed Doukhobors and the Gilpin Sons of Freedom) as well as regional mayors, other government representatives, RCMP, CPR officials, and other professionals. A strict, court-room style procedure was maintained, reports were solicited and interviews were carried out at two or three sessions a year, and transcripts of the proceedings were routinely kept and made available to all delegates. The EKCIR sessions continued into the late 1980s, by which time some 11,000 pages of these transcripts were generated (bound into over 100 volumes), with complete sets distributed to selected archives as a historical record.

The EKCIR deserves credit for finally normalizing relations among the Doukhobors, all factions having signed an Interim Accord, condemning previous depredations and committing to preventing them in the future. In his PhD thesis and book, Negotiating Buck Naked: Doukhobors, Public Policy, and Conflict Resolution, Gregory Cran praises three individuals in the Ad Hoc Planning Committee within the EKCIR, for their measured and reasoned approach, which played a key role in helping to achieve these positive outcomes. Initially at odds with one another in their perspectives, Dmitri (Jim) Popoff, Fred Makortoff and Steve Lapshinoff, had over time in the course of their involvement, become friends.


The EKCIR and the missing CPR records ...

All EKCIR participants agreed that attaining a resolution to the mysterious 1924 death of Peter V. Verigin would be helpful in resolving other related and unresolved Doukhobor issues. A number of EKCIR transcript volumes focus exclusively on a wide range of questions dealing with the CPR Farron Explosion, suggesting that the Committee was indeed determined to have the final word on this subject. The Committee also evidently felt that the CPR itself was not sufficiently forthcoming with its own investigative reports and other documents.

The EKCIR transcripts include numerous verbatim accounts of the Committee's interviews with CPR officials to seek this information, and a particular 1985 interview is referenced in Lapshinoff's book on page 350, with a Mr. J.B. Eggett, the Superintendent of CPR Police from Vancouver. When questioned regarding their "missing" records, he admitted that his own search had also come up empty handed, even after consulting with the main Montreal CPR office and the CPR official archives. EKCIR transcripts reveal numerous additional interviews with Mr. Eggett, spanning at least three volumes, in which he repeatedly denied any personal knowledge of the whereabouts of any CPR records of their own investigations of the 1924 train explosion. While there may have been no evidence to doubt Mr. Eggett's sincerity, his inability to provide  any explanation about the "missing" records would have been surprising indeed, considering that the Farron tragedy was one of the most high profile unresolved cases in CPR history.

The EKCIR frustration with these inconclusive interviews in 1985, nonetheless, inspired Steve Lapshinoff and Robin Bourne to visit Ottawa in 1987, where they searched various repositories and amassed a collection of documents, many of which became a part of the voluminous "Documentary Report on the Death of Peter Verigin".

 

Police Departments, investigations and reports ...

Documents Nos. 186-206 in Chapter Six of Lapshinoff's book focus on the involvement of the British Columbia Provincial Police in the Farron explosion, and likewise the RCMP, in Chapter Seven documents 207-227. References to CPR Police investigations also appear elsewhere in his book, although to a lesser degree. But all three police forces were involved in these investigations, with an occasional overlap of personnel and resources.

The British Columbia Provincial Police Department and the RCMP

In British Columbia in 1924, law and order was administered and enforced by the local B.C. Provincial Police Force, unlike Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the federal RCMP was embraced at their Canadian Confederation. Our B.C. police force, such as it was, actually pre-existed the RCMP, its genesis as far back as the Colonial years, when it was introduced by James Douglas himself, to keep the peace between unruly miners and indigenous populations. In later decades, the Provincial Police however consulted the federal RCMP as necessary, and they coordinated their investigations, until the B.C. police force itself was ultimately absorbed into the federal RCMP in the 1950s.

In 1923, hardly a year before the Farron Explosion, the B.C. Provincial Police Department underwent an ambitious reorganization under J. H. McMullin, partitioning the province into a hierarchical system of Police Divisions and Subdivisions across the province. A 1924 Annual Report by the Superintendent details the status of the Department at that time, including the identities of the officers in their respective divisions. The introduction to the Report and a part of Appendix V (composite selections) looking at Division "A", "B" and "C" can be viewed here (Link).

By a strange coincidence, the Farron Explosion occurred in the Boundary Police District, just near the boundary of two adjacent B.C. Land Districts, the Kootenay and the Silmilkameen Division of Yale. (Farron Map) And the first news of the Farron Explosion was relayed to Boundary Division, Staff Sergeant Fraser, who was at the time in Greenwood, B.C.. He then quickly communicated the news to the Grand Forks and Nelson detachments.

Boundary and West Kootenay Division "B" officers, Staff Sergeant Fraser and Constable Killam from Grand Forks, and Staff Sergeant Gammon, from Nelson, were the first BC police officers to visit and investigate the scene of the Farron Explosion.

CPR Police Investigations

The Canadian Pacific Police Service was essentially funded and operated by the CPR as a private corporation. But like the B.C. Provincial Police, it was also under federal Crown jurisdiction, given equal authority to carry weapons, conduct investigations on their own properties, and make arrests, even though suspects might on occasion flee beyond CPR territorial jurisdiction.

Documents in Steve Lapshinoff's book reveal that CPR Police investigators were also very much interested in the Farron Explosion. CPR Constable E.J. House was the first CPR officer at the scene of the train explosion in 1924, accompanying B.C. Police Staff Sergeant Gammon from Nelson. CPR Police officers Mr. Burns and Mr. McGowan, from the Winnipeg Investigative Department, also immediately made their way to Nelson after being notified of the Farron Explosion. On November 1st, they were taken by Walter O. Miller, the Superintendent of the CPR Western Division, to Grand Forks, accompanied by the Nelson Division, Provincial Police Commanding Officer, Inspector W. R. Dunwoody, to attend the Coroner's Inquiry. The day after, on returning to Nelson, they investigated the site of the explosion at Farron, although fresh snow had then recently fallen and made their work somewhat more difficult.

The same group was also taken by Walter Miller in his private car several days later, to Coryell just south of Farron, from where they covered the whole railway line back to West Robson, stopping at every section-house to interview each and every person who might possibly give them information. A copy of all the statements taken on this trip was retained in the Nelson Police Department office, and presumably the CPR Police investigators would have likewise, retained their own reports on these same investigations. The investigators returned to Nelson once again in 1931, to follow up on the Farron Explosion and to investigate additional depredations inflicted on CPR infrastructure by Sons of Freedom arsonists.


Walter O. Miller, CPR Western Division Superintendent

Aside from assisting B.C. Provincial Police and CPR investigators, and playing a central role as a CPR Nelson-Farron train dispatcher, Walter Miller was a key facilitator and communicator in the aftermath of the Farron Explosion. This web page examines his Accident Report and a number of his telegrams in a later segment.

But first, a few details about Walter Oscar Miller himself, as he may well have had a personal interest in the forementioned Farron investigations, and Peter Verigin's untimely death. He was the first CPR official to be on site at Farron on October 29th, to witness the tragic consequences of the explosion and the shattered remains of the day coach. He left Nelson by special train in the early morning at 4:00 a.m., arriving at the station by 7:00, where he supervised the recovery of the dead and injured passengers. Hours later, he followed their train to Grand Forks for the Coroner's inquest.

The photograph at left appears in the B.C. Archive collection as Item D-01928. Walter O. Miller is pictured in the foreground, with John Sherbinin and Peter Vasilyevich Verigin behind. The photograph was taken at Brilliant in 1915 by an unknown photographer. This interesting photograph has raised speculation regarding the possible relationship between the Doukhobor leader and the railroad man, who also, as it turns out, was a Freemason of some distinction. His photo is at right.

Born in Fordwich Ontario and formerly a native of Kenora and Rat Portage, Walter Miller's career as a railroad man began in British Columbia in 1884 when he arrived at Yale, on the CPR mainline, at the age of 22, to be a telegraph "despatcher". In retirement later in Vancouver, he described his experiences in a 1937 City of Vancouver Archive interview with curator, Major James Skitt Matthews, Early Vancouver, Vol. 5 (Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011), 33.

As a CPR telegraph Railroad Man ...

“I was chief despatcher there in Yale in 1886, when the road was turned over to the C.P.R., and I hear that last message at the driving of the last spike, November 1885; the message from Donald A. Smith to Queen Victoria when the last spike was driven at Craigellachie; then later, in 1886, I despatched the first train.

“After I was married in August” [1886] “I was Chief Clerk for Superintendent William Downie at Port Moody, and in the spring of 1884 we moved to Vancouver, and I was” [the first] “Chief Despatcher, and received the first train into Vancouver.”

“The first telegraph office was on the south side of Cordova Street between Granville and Seymour, opposite the present C.P.R. Station; later we moved over to the wooden building on the other side of the street where I remained until 1898; then I was transferred to be Agent at Kamloops, where I remained until August 1900; then returned to Vancouver, and was Car Service and Fuel Agent until 1908; then superintendent at Vancouver until 1910; then transferred to Nelson, B.C. as superintendent” [for 17 years] until the “end of 1926, when I was retired.”

As a Freemason of distinction ...

“I was a charter member of Cascade Lodge A.F. & A.M.; was Worshipful Master in 1892 ... and of the charter members, Stanley Henderson, James Doig and myself, alone remain.”

As a Nelson resident ...

In Nelson, B.C., Walter Miller resided in a special CPR residence for high ranking officials near the railroad station on 420 Railway Street. The house is now well known locally as one of Nelson's most prestigious Victorian-era heritage buildings, designed along with other similar residences, by local architect Alexander Carrie. It was offered for sale in 2021 for $1,695,000.


His relationship (or not) with Doukhobor leader Peter Verigin ...

Pure speculation for sure ... but the photograph of the two does raise questions regarding the possibility of a historical or philosophical connection between Doukhobors and Freemasonry, both shall we say, being of an esoteric nature. But most likely, the relationship in question here, would have simply been a matter of normal business relations between the CPR as a transport carrier and Peter Verigin, as a paying customer. And being a "frequent flyer" on the Kootenay Express, he may well have been accorded certain privileges, including that of a closer relationship.

The Farron Explosion mystery becomes personal ...

In 2015, a small group of collaborators, including this writer, became rather incidentally aware of CPR Farron Explosion records of interest at the Penticton Museum and Archive, while fulfilling a commission to produce a dozen interpretive signs for the Columbia and Western Rail Trails Society. Our commission focused largely on the segment of the abandoned railroad trail between the Farron Summit and Castlegar. The project was initiated in 2011 by Steven Rigby, and the first completed sign was embedded in a special kiosk placed at the site of the Farron Explosion in October of that year. The design and production of this first sign was donated by this writer and a local sign printer, Peter Perepolkin, of Kootenay Biznet Signs, in support of what looked to be the beginning of a longer term worthy undertaking. The construction of the kiosk and its placement was done by C&W Rail Trail volunteers. Unfortunately since its original placement, the sign was subjected to apparent gunshot damage and both sign and kiosk have since then been replaced.

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Facebook photo - Christopher Stevenson

 

The subsequent eleven signs on this part of the trail, including a 2015 Farron Summit sign, more fully described on a related webpage (Link), were created under Society President Jeremy Nelson's watch. They are stylistically different from the first, involving considerably greater numbers of photographs and historical details.

In his search for suitable photographs for this and other interpretive signs, Jeremy Nelson frequently consulted local museums. The Penticton Museum and Archives appeared to be the recognized repository specializing in CPR-KVR (Kettle Valley Railroad) historical matters in the Okanagan, and it was there that the museum staff brought their CPR Explosion Records to his attention, assuming they might be of interest to the Doukhobor sign makers. Although these records were said to be only textual rather than graphical in nature, there was a three centimeter stack of them, and all were originals rather than photo-copies, many identified by hand script signatures. The museum staff generously scanned the documents and granted permission for their use on this web page, and for other non-profit purposes at our discretion.

 

Preliminary assessment of the Penticton records ...

The digitized copies of these records have been in this writer's hands for a number of years during which time private overtures were made to others for a more informed general opinion of their significance. While there were hopeful expectations that more evidence could be found to substantiate the cause and circumstances of the tragic Farron Explosion, the assessment of this collection seemingly fell short of those expectations. These were unfortunately not the records everyone was looking for. The documents were found to be more concerned with legal matters rather than the actual cause of the explosion and CPR Police investigations. This obsevation would not of course, preclude the possibility that other records could still be found located elsewhere.

Personal Remarks ...

Having personally examined the Penticton records more thoroughly, this writer would now concur with those earlier assessments and that many Farron questions remain unresolved. And furthermore, as it turns out, the relatively recent appearance of the records at the museum in 1991, and their undisclosed source, may perhaps even add more to the continued mystery of the Farron explosion.

The collection itself, however, should not be minimized or faulted for what it appears to be ... a collection from the Legal Department, rather than the Investigative Department of the CPR. And now thanks to the outreach and generosity of the Penticton museum, we are offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Company, to better understand what had preoccupied its lawyers in the aftermath of the Farron tragedy.

 

The Penticton Museum and Archive ...

Archive Hours:
Available only by email or phone (250-490-2453).
Wednesday-Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm
(Closed Statutory Holidays)
Admission: By Donation

The Museum is located at 785 Main Street, in Penticton, British Columbia.
Google Street View  and Facebook


Penticton Archive Description:

Repository: Penticton Museum and Archives
Title: Farron train explosion collection
Level of description: Fonds
Date of Creation: 1924-1928
Alpha numeric designation:  B.C.AUL control number: PEN-742
Physical Description Area: 3 centimeters of textual records
Scope and content: The collection consists of correspondence, legal documents, statements, clippings and an accident report concerning the CPR Farron Train Explosion of 1924, in which Peter Verigin, a prominent Doukhobor leader was killed.


Documents as artifacts or mechanical transcriptions ...

The Farron documents at the museum, like most other museum artifacts, are just that ... historic paper artifacts, old papers with all their creases, blemishes, old typewriter script, pencilled annotations, and in many cases original hand written signatures, all still intact. The museum digital files, as they are reposted here, also effectively retain their inherent visual appearance as artifacts. Although they are already readable in this form, they could still be made even more functional for research purposes, when converted or transcribed to editable text. The resulting text could then be imbedded into web pages or in word processing documents. In that regard, however, readers should be aware that the download of these files from this web page, and their use elsewhere, may require the explicit permission of the Penticton Museum.

 

The Farron documents, an overview ...

CPR Vancouver Legal Department telegram header and stamp - file # 0799, Folder # 7379


The museum Farron documents all appear to be identified with a file number, and are contained within a single folder, No.7379, presumably exclusively dealing with the Farron incident of 1924.

The majority of the telegrams are internal communications between previously mentioned CPR Superintendent, Walter O. Miller, from Nelson, B.C., and CPR Solicitor, J.E. McMullen, from Vancouver, primarily dealing with what might be considered housekeeping matters, procuring records and transmitting them to others. Other interdepartmental papers in this collection appear in letter form, as does the CPR legal interaction with outside lawyers. This correspondence largely concerns litigation proceedings initiated by passengers seeking compensation for loss of personal belongings or medical expenses.

One outstanding set of documents however concerns a law suit for the death of a passenger as a consequence of the explosion, and it wouldn't be at all surprising, if the Penticton records were perhaps kept private by the donor all these years, for that reason alone.

Another unique letter from a former CPR employee, actually does focus on the possible cause of the Farron explosion. And while doing so, it still raises potential legal concerns about CPR adherence to its own safety and security procedures in dealing with hazardous explosives.

But the surprising discovery that the Penticton records were original paper documents and many of them hand signed, makes them especially intriguing. There is something about a hand written signature on a legal document or statement, that seems to elevate its value and significance, bringing it to life, and authenticating the very evidence it reveals, far beyond simply looking at a mechanical transcription.


A selection of document files themselves ...

  • Kootenay Express Train 11 Crew Statements - Train 11, Engine 582, leaving Nelson Oct. 28, 1924, signed and dated Oct. 30, 1924. These sworn statements were given at the Nelson Coroner's inquest, rather than the Grand Forks inquest.

    Engineer William Harkness 2 pgs. (Link
    Fireman Munroe 2 pgs. (Link)
    Conductor Turner 5 pgs. (Link)
    Baggage Man Brennan 1 pg. (Link)
    Trainman Marquis 3 pgs. (Link)

  • Grand Forks and Nelson Inquests - mixed sworn statements Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 - 23 pgs (Link)

  • Grand Forks Coroner's Inquest - resumed November 1st, 1924, Sheet #4
    Multiple original witness statements and both (GF and Nelson) jury verdicts (Link).

  • Walter Miller's Accident Report

What we are looking at here is undoubtedly an internal company accident report to a company lawyer, in this case, Vancouver CPR solicitor, J. E. McMullen. As stated at the bottom, its primary purpose was to clarify in detail, the circumstances of the Farron Explosion, while it would also serve to document the Company's immediate response and concern for the welfare of its passengers. But the fact that it was directed to a lawyer, would in itself suggest that the CPR was also quite concerned about the legal implications of this matter. The report concludes with a statement that the cause of the explosion was undetermined, yet the Pintsch gas tanks under coach 1586 were intact, thereby implying that the cause of the explosion should be found elsewhere. This statement may have been an attempt to refute or counter an early unconfirmed newspaper story, that claimed the explosion was caused by a ruptured Pintsch gas tank or a faulty gas line. Despite this statement, it will be shown below, that CPR lawyers took this possibility quite seriously.

  • View Sample Telegrams (Link)

 

Legal Correspondence

In the totality of correspondence in this CPR collection, there is little to suggest that anyone denied the reality and the seriousness of the Farron explosion. What was in doubt, was whether the explosion was caused by "deliberate intent or by ignorance", as admitted by the Nelson Coroner's jury verdict itself. And it would indeed be useful to understand on which side of that equation the CPR would have preferred to stand, or from which it would benefit most. The CPR records seem to promote the "deliberate" external bomb or dynamite theory, rather than an internal mechanical Pintsch gas failure. Yet there could have been "ignorance" in the form of human error or even negligence, in either case.

The Hannan Law Suit

And that is how a Seattle law firm presented it in 1924, in its law suit against the CPR for the loss of the life of a Mr. Armstrong, a passenger on coach 1586, seeking $7500 in compensation (nearly $120,000 in modern currency). The entirety of the correspondence between the Seattle law firm and CPR lawyers, is posted further below for readers to interpret. Below is a preview of a portion of the initial letter, the opening salvo, from the Hannan law firm on this matter, to a CPR law firm, which as it happened, was also in Seattle.


George Hannan vs CPR Court Case

The following links track the exchange of correspondence between Seattle Lawyer Gorge F. Hannan, Vancouver CPR solicitor J. E. McMullen, and the father & son Bogle law firm in Seattle representing the CPR. The last letter (Dec 4), foreshadows potential court proceedings to be held in Vancouver, although unfortunately, there is no further correspondence or evidence to clarify whether these actually occurred or whether a settlement was made beforehand. Certain court proceedings are archived and publicly accessible in British Columbia, and this may be a topic of interest for others to pursue, as the CPR in that case, would have been forced to present and defend an alternate theory, rather than faulty gas tanks, to explain the Farron Explosion.

  • Nov 17 1924 george f hannan to cpr regarding armstrong 2 pgs (Link)
  • Nov 17 1924 sheehan to snell (Link)
  • Nov 18 1924 snell to peters (Link)
  • Nov 19 1924 mcmullen to hannan (Link)
  • Nov 20 1924 hannan to mcmullen (Link)
  • Nov 22 1924 to mr bogle seattle regarding hannan 2 pgs (Link)
  • Nov 24 1924 hannan to mcmullen (Link)
  • Nov 25 1924 bogle to mcmullen regarding hannan 2 pgs (Link)
  • Nov 27 1924 to bogle (Link)
  • Nov 28 1924 bogle to mcmullen (Link)
  • Dec 4 1924 bogle to mcmullen regarding armstrong 4 pgs (Link)
  • Statement of Mr. F.W. Shaver referenced in previous letter regarding Coach 1586 gas lines
    - Transcription of Lapshinoff Document 107, page 201 (Link)

Pintsch Gas Tanks and gas lighting
With a potential imminent law suit claiming CPR negligence in the care and use of Pintsch gas tanks, lawyers took measures to research and confirm the condition and age of the gas tanks on Day Coach No. 1586.

  • April -June 1925 Concern about Pintsch gas tanks and coach gas lines. (Link)
  • Pintsch Gas Handbook (Steam Heat portion excluded) - UBC Library Open Collections (Link)

The Mr. and Mrs. Frank Russo court case and settlement
The Russos, passengers on the same train, also made substantial claims against the CPR for damages, on the basis of negligence. Their case was heard and disputed at the Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Link)

Legal opinions (Link)

 

CPR telegrams, dark secrets and cipher codes

In our digital age, we no longer rely on telegraphy to send messages, most often using online email or SMS text. The privacy of our content is not always an issue, but should it be, we would look to using special encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Signal, to encrypt our messages so that they would be only readable to the recipient. The general idea of secret messaging hasn't changed much for centuries, although the methodology certainly has. We've come a long way since invisible ink.

A number of the CPR telegrams in the Penticton collection were encrypted, although even Sherlock's "Dr. Watson" would have found the procedure "rather elementary". Telegrams that warranted a degree of secrecy or discreetness, were created with a few embedded obscure code words within them, so that if some unintended viewer were to read them, the message wouldn't immediately make sense. The intended recipient would then need to look up the "nonsense" word in a special "cipher book" to make the message readable. Here's an example of the process, which also reveals the well intentioned effort of the CPR to offer rewards for information about the Farron Explosion.


The following Telegraph Cipher Code Book (from the UBC Open Collections) lists code words concerning CPR passenger matters. Its 42 pages cover numerous subtopics, the example page at right revealing a code word for every one of 365 Calendar Days of the year. The code word for December 25th is shown as "Award".

Code words for CPR Railway West Kootenay Boundary rail routes are shown as follows:
Tricky
Via Crowsnest and Kootenay
Trifle Via Crowsnest and Kettle Valley.
Trivet Via Kettle Valley.
Troop Via Nelson and Revelstoke.

Cryptography itself is obviously far beyond the scope of this web page, but the forementioned examples are hopefully sufficient to illustrate the CPR encryption process.

 

The Giant Powder letter ...

There is another letter in the Penticton collection that stands out as an anamoly, completely out of character with the rest. On first glance, its substance or content doesn't have much to do with litigation and liability, and it could be easily dismissed as irrelevant. But it does raise interesting questions.

Dated Nov. 5th, 1924, and marked "Personal and Confidential", the letter was from a former CPR employee, a Mr. Geo. M. Taylor, then retired and residing in Squamish, addressed to CPR Solicitor, F.W. Peters at Vancouver. The writer stated in the opening sentence of this letter, that he had useful information to help clarify the Farron mystery. The explosion was in his opinion, caused by Giant Powder dynamite, and/or its detonator caps, readily available explosives that were then in common use in the West Kootenay Boundary. He claims that he personally witnessed these explosives being often smuggled onto local passenger trains by miners, who placed them under their seats in their personal baggage. These explosives were not otherwise, legally permitted on passenger trains.

And it is indeed true, that the passenger transport ticket contracts explicitly stated so:

"Caution: It is unlawful to carry anything of a combustible, inflammable or explosive nature, such as matches, gunpowder, glycerine, dynamite, celluloid, moving picture films. Liquids of any description will not be carried as baggage."

The letter further encouraged the CPR to remedy this dangerous practise, by "taking all the precautions necessary".

It's interesting to note that this letter was addressed to the CPR Legal Department rather than to the CPR Police or investigators in the first place, but the only apparent response or reaction to it, at least in this collection, was a small, barely legible pencilled note on the flip side of the letter, with a signature, a folder number (7379), a routine rubber stamp to confirm its receipt, and a brief six word comment. Being inverted and vertically oriented in the margins, the comment was rotated and enhanced digitally to make it readable here ...

"There is nothing new on this."


A closeup view of the original pencilled note and a rotated preview. The full letter can be viewed here in its original form. (Link)

As there are no additional records associated with this letter for more context, we can only speculate as to what that six word comment actually meant. There may have been "nothing new" in the letter, but it may still have been of significant concern to lawyers, as it put a spotlight on CPR safety and security procedures concerning the transport of hazardous materials on passenger trains. If the practise of dynamite smuggling was well known by the CPR, and it did little to discourage it, that may indeed have been a problem from a liability standpoint.

And then of course, it is quite possible that this letter was considered quite innoquous by CPR lawyers, and was a "nothingburger", to use a modern legal term.

View the complete letter in its original form. (Link)

The Giant Powder story ...

Following up on Giant Powder dynamite and its local use in that time period, references to it were found in several Nelson hardware store newspaper ads, along with other mining and farming supplies. And that finding confirms its availability. But the actual source of the Giant Powder brand had its own unusual origins, which can be traced to the United States in the mid 19th century. The Giant Powder Company was licensed to manufacture dynamite in its own special factory in the San Francisco Bay area of California, by the very inventor of dynamite himself ... Alfred Nobel.


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