"Murder on the Kootenay Express" ...
Widely revered Doukhobor leader, Peter V. Verigin, died in a fiery explosion while travelling in a passenger coach on a slow moving CPR Kootenay Express train near Farron, British Columbia, on October 29th, 1924. Evidence was accumulated at that time to suggest that his death, as well as the collateral death of eight others, may have been caused by an "infernal machine" or home-made bomb, deliberately placed under his seat by perpetrator(s) unknown. Nearly a century later, a number of writers and current websites revisit the old evidence and possible motives, but the same questions remain unanswered to this day, and the mystery surrounding the tragic event has in a sense, even become somewhat popularized, not unlike a made for television cold-case movie. It might well have been called "Murder on the Kootenay Express".
But while the focus has understandably been on the explosion and the tragic loss of life, little is actually known about the Kootenay Express and Farron itself ... the railway station and the associated infrastructure that was in fact the "movie set" on which this event unfolded. This web page will examine various aspects of this "movie set".
Another associated web page examines a set of seemingly overlooked CPR Farron Explosion records that offer some insight into the inner workings of the Company as it faced the aftermath of the tragic event. (Link)
The CPR Kootenay Express - its origins, route and equipment ...
Confronted by American railway incursions into the southern interior of British Columbia in the decades following the mining boom of the 1890s, the all-Canadian CPR took measures to thwart this perceived threat. The hope was to resurrect a previously failed initiative to build a so called Coast-to-Kootenay railroad as an alternative. Not an easy task considering the mountainous terrain of southern B.C., this was accomplished over a period of time by building shorter railroad segments and buying out or taking control of pre-existing railroads and amalgamating them into a single route. The eastern component of this route between Nelson and Midway was completed yet in 1902, and was later administered after 1910 as the CPR Boundary Subdivision. But the route westward beyond Midway to the Pacific was not completed until 1916 when the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR), then also under CPR control, finally bridged the gap between the interior routes and the existing CPR mainline between Hope and Vancouver.
Annotated Kettle Valley Railway Map - Click to enlarge. - Canadian Railway & Marine World, February 1914.
Passenger trains began daily trips on this scenic route soon afterwards, over steep mountain passes and through deep river canyons. A 100 miles of the 300 mile stretch between Midway and Hope was on a difficult 2.2% slope. But although the terrain was picturesque, it hampered the speed of the journey which averaged a mere 19.4 miles per hour. To expedite this journey, the CPR inaugurated a special Express passenger service in 1919 which cut down the number of stops on the final segment of the route between Hope and the seacoast. The westward journey on this expedited route from Nelson, B.C. to Vancouver, was called the Kootenay Express, while its eastward return counterpart, from the coast to Nelson, was called the Kettle Valley Express. The trains were designated as Train 11 and Train 12, respectively. Until 1931, when the CPR absorbed the KVR, Columbia and Western crews maintained the trains east of Midway, and KVR crews took over westward from Midway. In the early years, CPR passenger train configurations on this route typically included either a D10 or D9 4-6-0 type steam locomotive, a coal and water tender, baggage car, a day coach or coaches, a sleeper and cafe diner.
CPR Kootenay Express train on its way from Nelson to Penticton, then Vancouver, likely just after 1919. It is crossing a massive trestle/bridge at Hydraulic Creek on the Carmi Subdivision, one of dozens such wonders of railroad engineering on this route. We can see the typical train configuration here, that was to be used on this route well into the early 1950s. Penticton Museum photo.
CPR Boundary Subdivision interactive map ...
The following interactive map of a segment of the Canadian Pacific Railway Boundary Subdivision, between Castlegar and Grand Forks as it existed in 1924, illustrates the westward route of Kootenay Express Train 11, Peter V. Verigin's final earthly journey. The map was created with a number of clickable markers linking to miniature station maps, to illustrate the stations along the way. A 1922 CPR timetable is also shown below with scheduled times for Train 11 and Train 12 from Nelson to Midway and back. As the CPR took its scheduling rather seriously, we could assume that the timing of the October 28th, Train 11 trip between Castlegar and Farron would have corresponded accordingly.
Click the map to view the enlarged interactive version.
Kootenay Express motive power ...
The D9c 500 series 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler" steam locomotives
The CPR ran several D9c engines on passenger routes in southern B.C., on this Express route as well as other CPR branches in the northern Okanagan. They were lighter in weight then freight locomotives but able to manage mountain passes with the assistance of helper engines. American made in 1903, in the Schenectady Locomotive Works in New York, these engines were numbered between 560 and 597, and all shared specifications, having 21x30 inch cylinders, with 190 pound steam pressure, 63" drivers, with a towing capacity of 34% (1% capacity equivalent to 1000 pounds tractive effort) and a 245,000 total weight of engine and tender. These specifications don't mean much to uninitiated amateur researchers, such as this writer. But the 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler" term is an easier mental lift. It refers to what is called the Whyte Notation, describing locomotive wheel configuration; the number of frontal pilot wheels, mid-engine drivers and the number of rear trailing wheels, the D9c engines in this case having none.
The Farron Explosion and CPR locomotive D9c No.582 - This ten-wheeler is shown here at the old downtown station in Trail, B.C. in 1922, just two years prior to its involvement in the tragic Farron Explosion. The photo was unexpectedly "discovered" while searching the BC Archives for other material on this subject. On further research, it appeared to be quite rare, if not possibly the only available photograph of this locomotive, which is surprising, as it continued service until 1957. According to the Canadian Rail Magazine (June 1958 issue) the CPR scrapped 233 steam engines in that year, more than in any other year of the Company's history, in its pursuit of dieselization. Locomotive D9c No.582 was finally "laid to rest" in the CPR Ogden scrap yards near Calgary, Alberta, in 1957, the last of the D9s to have suffered this fate. And in a wider context, it is also interesting to note, that steam engine passenger service itself was finally scrapped across Canada by the CPR and CNR only three years later. - BC Archive photo, photographer unknown.
CPR locomotive D9c No.572 at the Penticton station. This image offers viewers a good oblique or 3/4 view of a sister/brother engine, demonstrating the man-height of the 63 inch drivers. Typical of most Kootenay Express trains, the engine is followed by a coal/water tender for obvious reasons, with a baggage or mail-baggage car immediately behind it. - Penticton Museum photo.
Kootenay Express First Class Passenger Coaches ...
CPR passengers coaches in the early 1900s were constructed in the Montreal Angus shops by the Company itself, modeling them somewhat after the wooden stage coaches of the American West. Though built on a steel cage framework, they had wooden floors and were sheathed with red mahogany wood, the rusty red-ochre colouration becoming a stylistic characteristic of their passenger and cargo fleet well into the 50s and 60s, even after they transitioned to all-steel bodies. By 1912, there were 2237 passenger coaches on its roster, with 748 First Class Day Coaches, including No.1586, a casualty of the 1924 Farron Explosion. This wood-steel form of construction was perpetuated in other passenger coach forms including overnight sleeping cars, cafe parlor cars, tourist and colonist versions and business cars, with a variety of sub-categories. The Kootenay Express First Class "Farron" day coach (a similar car illustrated below) had a smoking room at the rear, and a ladies and gents bathroom at front and back near the vestibules, pleated expandable diaphragms that created fully enclosed passage ways between coaches in transit. Passenger coaches were typically heated by coal heaters or steam pipes from the locomotive, and lighted by Pintsch gas lamps from onboard gas tanks, or electric lamps powered by onboard batteries.
Permissible onboard baggage on these coaches - (from a 1922 CPR brochure)
[Permissible] Baggage consists of wearing apparel, toilet articles and similar effects for actual use and necessary and appropriate for the wear, use, comfort and convenience of the passenger for the purposes of the journey, and not intended for other persons or for sale and must be enclosed in proper receptacles such as trunks, valises, etc.
No single piece of baggage or other article of any class weighing more than 250 lbs. will be accepted for transportation in regular baggage service.
On presentation of valid transportation 150 pounds of baggage, not exceeding $100.00 in value will be checked without charge for each bona fide passenger and 75 pounds not exceeding $50.00 in value for a child travelling on a half ticket. Baggage exceeding these weights or values will be charged for at current rates, as will also any piece of baggage exceeding 45 inches by the greatest dimension.
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.
It should be noted however, that these restrictions did not apply to freight transport on CPR trains, which were able to carry dynamite up to a 60% strength (of nitroglycerine).
A photograph from the Montreal CPR Exporail gallery - illustrating a typical 1908 passenger day coach interior, featuring upholstered seats with armrests, a carpet floor runner, roll-down sunshades, overhead package trays, and electric lighting. Electricity in this case would have been powered by a bank of under floor batteries, which were in turn charged by an onboard under floor generator, driven by belts and pulleys from the car's axles. A fine W. Gibson Kennedy drawing (shown later below) illustrates this electrical system on a sleeping car. The technical illustration below depicts the use of Pintsch gas lighting, as used in the "Farron" day coach.
Pintsch Gas Lamps on Kootenay Express Day Coach No.1586 - The gas lamps were suspended from the ceiling, spaced at regular intervals along its longitudinal centre. As illustrated, the compressed gas was piped from an onboard gas tank, through the floor and upward along the wall of a rear compartment to the ceiling. A Mr. Shaver, who was a passenger on Train 11, claimed that he had detected what may have been a fault in the gas line at this point, near the smoking room at the back of the coach, raising the possibility that it may have contributed to the fire and explosion.
W. Gibson Kennedy Kootenay Express drawings ...
From the CPR Spanner Magazine, Feb-March 1967: "Gib" Kennedy is a recognized authority on Canadian locomotives and rolling stock and is a regular contributor on this subject to the U.S. publication, Model Railroader. Not only does he build the equipment in many cases, but he prepares the scaled blueprints as well. His specialty is what is known as HO gauge, a scale of 3 1/2 mm. to one foot.
In a bio for a Model Railroader magazine article, W. Gibson Kennedy recalled that he was "fascinated by trains ever since he was first able to differentiate between a horse and a locomotive". He maintained this fascination later in life in his employment as a dispatcher in the Canadian Pacific Telecommunications office in Trail, B.C., while photographing and documenting CPR rolling stock in the West Kootenay Boundary as a hobby at every available opportunity. The Penticton Museum and Archives now holds a collection of his fine railroad photographs. (Link) As an accomplished train modeling enthusiast, Gibb Kennedy built a remarkably life-like running model of a complete Kootenay Express train, set on tracks, and placed in a realistic railroad environment in a special display room in his home. Aside from the locomotive, shown above, which was a customized Japanese import, the train was built almost entirely from common household materials, thin paper, cardboard, thin wood panels, moldings and wire.
He also demonstrated how this could be done in a full set of step-by-step instructions in the June 1958 issue of Model Railroader magazine. The 15 page article included working diagrams as well as detailed full profile and plan drawings of each car, with dimensions adapted from actual CPR blueprints. Above and beyond the CPR prints, his drawings also illustrated certain additional features of these cars, such as Pintsch gas tanks, air tanks, water tanks, generators and batteries, to match the unique requirements of each car. And in a gesture of good will, he gave others consent to reproduce these drawings for non-commercial educational purposes.
A number of Kennedy drawings extracted from his article, are reposted here as a composite. The top drawing of the First Class Day Coach, shows a Pintsch gas implementation, the sleeping car and diner below it, being electrified with a generator and a bank of batteries.
The Farron Summit Interpretive Sign, its design and production ...
The Farron Summit sign below was produced and placed at the Paulson Summit by the Columbia & Western Rail Trail Society in 2015, at the site of the abandoned old Farron CPR railroad station .
One of ten other similar signs, it was commissioned by Society president, Jeremy Nelson, and funded partly by the BC Heritage Legacy Fund. Its design and production was a collaborative effort by this writer, Walter Volovsek, a local historian, and Peter Perepolkin, owner and operator of a Castlegar print shop, Kootenay Biznet Signs. The signs were printed in full colour on sturdy waterproof vinyl and adhered to a rigid aluminum substrate for durability. A similar workflow was used for the complete set of interpretive signs along the abandoned C&W railroad bed over a period of three or four years, and it was indeed a privilege to have collaborated with the two accomplished professionals on this long term assignment.
The Columbia and Western Rail Trail Society celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2017, hosting an opening of its new shelter and kiosk at the old Farron station site. Many guests attended and a flag pole and Canadian flag was raised, as this was simultaneously a 150th anniversary celebration of Canadian Confederation. But a special guest, John Peterson, who was born at Farron in 1932, and whose father was a section foreman at the time, was also invited to share the moment and his Farron memories. Jeremy Nelson is seen here holding the microphone, as John Peterson views and proudly displays a photo of his family (upper right on the interpretive sign) on a special photo-plaque presentation. Equally proud was this writer, to have contributed the design of the presentation poster. - Photos by Jennifer Small/Special to Castlegar News
The Farron Summit interpretive sign photographs ...
The photographs examined below, were embedded in the Farron Summit interpretive sign, offering trail hikers what may be the best existing views of the historic Farron CPR Station and its yard, in various stages of its existence. The sign is however, some distance off the highway, and not easy to access by the general public, and it was felt that the photographs were sufficiently worthy to be more widely appreciated online, courtesy of the respective contributors and the C&W Rail Trail Society.
J.W. Heckman photo (cropped), Farron Station dated 1901 - The survey and construction of the Columbia & Western railroad westward from the Arrow Lakes began in 1898, and according to a brief Nelson Daily report, a main through track and side track were completed as far as the Farron Summit at mile 58 by 1900. Trackage then continued to Grand Forks and reached Midway in 1902. The Farron station house and square water tank seen here were functional for only a few years until 1906 at which time a bush fire swept through the yard and destroyed them both. They were subsequently rebuilt in a different form shortly afterward. - photo courtesy of the C&W Rail Trail Society
View an early survey map of Farron District Lot 12805 and a C&W railroad center-line plot. (Link)
The following three photographs are credited to John Peterson, who was born at Farron in 1932, and where his father was a section foreman, and Bill Loukianoff, who was employed at the station office in 1952, taking train orders by telegraph and telephone for a number of years. Permission was requested from Mr. Loukianoff, and granted in a personal interview with the author, for the use of his excellent photographs online. Although his photographs were created in the early 1950s, he thought the CPR station and yards would have appeared much the same in 1924. The photos depict three views from different vantage points. To better understand their spatial relationships, viewers may also refer to a map of the Farron station, further below.
This is a northward view (toward Castlegar) of the CPR station. - The photographer's vantage point was from the shadow of foreman Axel Peterson's section house, which itself is out of view at right. Another identical section house, its roof barely visible behind the station, and a water tank, are slightly further north. Looking closely at the main track beside the station, we can see a cross-over to a secondary passing track, the third track being out of view further left. - photo courtesy of John Peterson & the C&W Rail Trail Society.
This is a southward view (toward Grand Forks), ca. 1952 - The CPR station house can be seen sandwiched between these same two section houses, the water tank being just behind the photographer out of view at his left. All three tracks are clearly shown in this image, as is the cross-over at the station. The main through track is at far left, originating from Nelson and leading toward Christina Lake and Cascade in the distance. The centre track is a long passing track, which originates at a railroad wye a considerable distance behind this viewpoint, but which joins the main track further south out of view, The track at right is much shorter, accessing a number of rail yard services, an engine house, workshop, sheds, and a number of worker residences. It then rejoins the centre track on its way north. Both of these side tracks can access a coaling plant as well as the wye turnaround. This railroad yard and track configuration was designed to handle regular through traffic while also enabling on site pusher engines to rearrange trains if need be, and to assist heavier freight trains over the Farron Summit from both directions. - photo courtesy of Bill Loukianoff .
A north-western view, ca. 1952 - The vantage point of this photograph was from a hillside above the northern Farron section house. From this point we can see a standard single occupant CPR privy , a better view of the 40,000 gallon enclosed water tank, and a number of worker residences in the distance across the three railroad tracks. An engine house had also previously existed here and can be seen in a following photograph and map. Subjected to considerable photo enhancement, this image revealed what appears to be a tall structure at far middle-right, looking northward into the distant background. The Farron map places a coaling plant or coal chute at this location, with a turnaround wye not far beyond. - photo courtesy of Bill Loukianoff .
Standard No.2 Section House blueprint - This is one of two versions of this plan, closely matching the design of the Farron section houses. Two additional sheets include window and door diagrams, a lumber and hardware list, and a listing of required painting and plastering materials. The Farron section houses do not have full width frontal porches as shown in this blueprint, but the house plans are otherwise identical, in cross-section, frontal and side elevations as well as floor plans. These blueprints are from a remarkable five hundred sheet book of 1908 CPR Standard Plans, which also happens to include engineering diagrams of the Farron water tank, the coal plant/chute and many other close-up drawings of the standard nuts and bolts of CPR railroad hardware.
Another southward view (toward Grand Forks) - Farron was a sizeable little community, its population listed as high as 100 in one CPR station chart, presumably including families. Various workers were stationed here in shifts year-round to service passing trains and on site pushers. The Farron crew included various trainmen, engineers, brakemen, and firemen capable of operating locomotives in all seasons. We can see the engine house at right, and at least four locomotives in this photo, two of which are equipped with snow blades ready for winter service. - photographer unknown.
The Farron Station map ...
The following map illustrates the Farron infrastructure. It is an enlarged vector drawing adapted from the C.P.R. Western Lines Boundary Sub. Condensed Chart, diagram/map of 1914. The inset of the associated survey District Lots and Sublots depicts the transition between the Yale and Kootenay Land Districts just south of the station. This appears to have been significant, in terms of the jurisdictional response to the explosion in its aftermath.
View photographs of the Farron Station site in the 1970s by John Leeming, in a related web page. (Link)