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The Taku-Teslin Railway (Yukon Short Line)


    The plans of The Yukon Mining, Trading and Transportation Company, which have now been perfected for a railway from the Pacific Coast to the navigable waters of the Yukon, have not been hurriedly conceived or adopted, because of the recent Klondike craze, but were being prepared and most carefully considered when Klondike was unknown, and few persons outside those immediately interested, had any idea that gold in any quantity would be found on the Yukon. Those persons primarily interested in the Company, have been quietly at work on the problem of transportation of men and supplies, from the coast to the Yukon for several years past. They adopted as their motto - More money can be made from supplying the miner than from mining, and working on that line the great question to be answered was, how miners and prospectors could be carried to and from their mines, most cheaply and expeditiously and supplied with food, tools, clothing and machinery.

    No ordinary problem of transportation was presented.

    The distances to be traversed exceeded that across the western plains when gold was found in California.

    The country was arctic or sub-arctic producing no food, except for practiced hunters and little forage for animals, and as late as 1891 the forbiding terrors of the Chilkoot Pass and the rapids, canons, quagmires and morasses, which now render the trails through both Chilkoot and White Passes from Dyea and Skagua Bay practically impassable, were supposed to guard the best entrance to the inland watershed from the Coast of Alaska.

    Lieut. Schwatka, U. S. A. in 1891 led an exploring expedition, under the auspices of the N. Y. Ledger, into what is now known to be the greatest gold country of the world, via the Taku River and his accounts published in 1892, while they created some enthusiasm in Juneau, Alaska, because he had found an easy route to the Yukon right at their doors almost, failed to excite any general attention.

    Several years passed, during which, news slowly leaked out from the Yukon that gold in paying quantities was being found on that river. Some mining had been done in the '80's by hardy adventurers, and loath to disclose their good fortune they said little, and what little was told was doubly discounted while the inhospitable character of the country deterred all but the most hardy from seeking their fortunes under the North Star.

    In the winter of 1894, Mr. Paris I. Packard, of British Columbia, receiving what he thought most reliable information of rich finds of gold in the Yukon Valley, became intensely interested, and in the Spring of 1895 began his explorations for an easy way to reach the mines and solve the problem of transportation thereto, which he believed if rightly solved would prove the greatest gold mine on the Yukon.

    Quietly but pertinaciously pushing his explorations with Mr. J. W. Seaman, who was an old "Yukoner" and had travelled all the passes to the river from the coast, and all down the lakes and river to St. Michaels, he thoroughly examined the route by the way of the Taku Inlet and River, up to Nakana over the plateau and to Lake Teslin, and knew he had discovered the future route to the gold fields of the North if they should "pan out" as the reports he had heard, made him believe they would.

    His "Pardner," all Western Explorers and Miners have a "Pardner," an electrical engineer. Mr. Hutchings, had meanwhile come East and through him Mr. Packard presented to some of those now in the Yukon Mining, Trading and Transportation Company, several propositions including transportation, mining and trading schemes, for Mr. Packard had found gold bearing quartz, had traded with the Indians, living with them for months at a time, and had thought out the transportation problem on the ground.

    These gentlemen believing that the transportation scheme would probably be a paying one, and that mining and trading might be, informally organized the Yukon Mining, Trading and Transportation Co., and in 1896 sent Mr. Packard back along the Taku River from the Coast to the great Teslin Lake, wide and deep and long enough for ocean steamships to sail upon, to settle all questions of a doubtful character necessary to be determined before success and profit could be assured.

    He returned more certain than ever and brought out the first reliable information of the great gold finds which have since driven the adventurous gold seekers of the world almost wild, and caused the insane rush to the Yukon or Klondike fields, and practically demonstrated the impracticable character of the White Pass or Skagua Bay route, and the Chilkat and Chilkoot passes to the Yukon.

    It had been the intention of the projectors of the Taku Railway, up to the time of his return, to build only a wagon trail or toll road from the Coast to the Yukon, but convinced that a great gold country had been found and would be worked, they determined that a railway would be needed to accommodate the travel which would come, and at once secured a very liberal charter in the State of West Virginia, authorizing them to engage in all kinds of railway and steamboat transportation in Alaska, British Columbia, the Northwest Territory of Canada and elsewhere, to engage in mining, trading and exploration, and assist, join in and promote such enterprises.

    This Company, registered under the Foreign Companies Act of British Columbia, enabled those interested to proceed with their plans, and at the next Session of the Provincial Parliament of British Columbia, by special Act, the Company's concessions of railway rights along the Taku River to Teslin Lake were granted and the Government introduced and passed an Act granting to the Company in consideration of their building the railway, lands amounting to about three quarters of a million of acres (alternate sections along the railroad three miles wide and eight miles in depth.)

    Hastening from Victoria the Seat of the Provincial Government of British Columbia, in which the railway will be built, to Ottawa the Capitol of the whole Dominion of Canada, application was made for a Dominion Charter with powers to extend their railway and transportation lines into the Northwest Territories. A liberal Charter was here granted to the Company and its enlarged powers fully confirmed within Canada, and the Company's railway was declared to be "a work for the general advantage of Canada."

    This classification of the Company's enterprise recognizes the national character of the work, and it was expressly authorized to receive Governmental aid and subsidies which are confidently expected to be received at the next Parliamentary Session.

    Up to this time the name "Klondike" was unknown.

    Some of Ogilvie's letters had been received by the Canadian Government, but they were not published, and the idea of building a Railroad from the Pacific Coast to the Yukon River, an Alaska-Yukon-Arctic-Railroad, was a sort of joke and the foresight of the Yukon Mining, Trading and Transportation Co., in obtaining railway franchises and concessions based on accurate information, accurate maps, and careful exploration, through, several years, was termed foolishness.

    Legislatures, Congress and Parliament adjourned, and within sixty days every child knew of "Klondike" and its gold.


and forehandedness was amply justified during the summer of '97, by the news from the Klondike fields, but all the glowing accounts from the Yukon Valley were anticipated, though hardly expected for another year, to have the great publicity they have obtained.

    This news did not cause a single change in tlie plans of the Company, but while steamers, loaded to the guards, with prospectors and adventurers were hurrying to the impracticable White and Chilkoot Passes, impracticable except for small parties because of natural obstacles, the Company's Civil Engineers were surveying and mapping the future line of railway along the valley of the Taku from the Coast to Teslin Lake, which will accommodate and readily furnish easy transport for men, animals and freight, tourists, pleasure seekers, miners, hunters, prospectors, machinery and supplies, for not only Klondike, but the whole Yukon Valley within a year, if the plans and intentions of the Company are carried out and realized as they have been heretofore.

    The Company purposes to erect wharves, warehouses and trading stations at Taku, at Tolsuque, at Inklin Junction and probably at Nakana on the River and at Teslin Lake.

    Ample temporary accommodations will be built at convenient points along the line.

    Connections will be made at Taku Wharf with all lines of Ocean Steamers from San Francisco, Seattle, Tacoma and Victoria, B. C., and with River and Lake steamers at Teslin Wharf, for all Yukon River points.


from Teslin Wharf to the mouth of the Yukon is easy on river steamers.

    Passengers and freight can quickly and cheaply be sent down stream while the early breaking up of the ice at the headwaters of the Yukon, which becomes an ice jam further down stream and at its mouth, gives a much longer period of open navigation than from the mouth, and Dawson City at the Klondike can be reached by steamer from Teslin Wharf, about two months at least, before a boat could come up the Yukon from St. Michaels.

    The saving in time is enormous, and in the cost of continuous transportation almost incalculable. The actual saving in distance from all points on the Pacific Coast is over 2,800 miles, as far as from New York to London or to San Francisco.

    One would think to accomplish this great saving in time and distance almost a transcontinental line of railway would have to be built, and it seems almost incredible though it is actually the case that


will connect the Wharf at Inklin Junction or Nakana on the broad Taku River with Teslin Lake. Steamers can reach the Pacific Coast via the Taku River on one side in 51 miles, and any Yukon River point on the other via Teslin Lake and River.

    The great rivers of Alaska and the British Northwest are little known except by those specially interested in their navigation. Few people realize that the Yukon River is 2,600 miles in length, or the immense volume of it and its tributaries.

    Lieut. Schwatka, the great Alaska and Yukon explorer, was astonished in 1891, to find the Taku River about two miles wide, and declared it one of the great rivers of British Columbia, even at Tolsuque and Inklin Junction, the river is about equal in width to the Tennessee at Chattanooga and much broader below.

    One naturally wonders why this river and the short trail to the Yukon has been so little known and used, but until the Spring of '95, tales of savage and warlike Indians on the Taku, which was their rich hunting ground, determined prospectors to take no chances on it. A very well authenticated story was current of a white man, who had been held in slavery and made to do the hard drudgery of an Indian camp for two years, by the natives on the Taku trail. Indian packers at Chilkat and Chilkoot were comparatively plentiful, but the Takus were a different breed and hard to deal with, everything conspired to assist the Indians in protecting their fine hunting grounds.

    Lieut. Schwatka, said in 1892, that a railway could be readily constructed, the whole length of the Taku River, but no apparent reason existed to consider the project from a commercial point of view, until its valley had been chosen and the right secured to use it for that very purpose by the projectors of the Taku-Teslin Railway, in 1896 and 1897 before general interest in things Yukon was aroused.

    While a railway one hundred miles long will for the present afford unrivalled facilities for transportation, the road should in order to save the cost of transhipping from ocean steamers to river boats, be built or extended from Taku wharf where the largest Ocean Steamers can discharge directly into the cars, and the freight carried through without breaking bulk, one hundred and fifty miles to the headwaters of the Yukon.

    The valley of the Taku is singularly well adapted for railway building.

    Prof. Pratt, in his report of the survey of 1897, says:

    "Considering the banks of the river for railroad construction they present very favorable features, especially in view of the mountainous and rugged character of the country through which it flows. Its general course is also remarkably direct, and this may be said of the whole line to Lake Teslin."

    Nature has provided all along the river fine beds of gravel, as if anticipating the needs of ballast for a railway, and Schwatka noticing the great slopes of crushed rock at one point on the line, said there was enough rock ballast ready made, to ballast the Canadian Pacific Railway, the longest line in the world, from end to end.

    The whole line can be built with easy grades, nowhere over 3% and only two bridges are deemed worthy of special mention in the engineer's report of the survey to the Company. One of these has only one span and that only one hundred feet, While the other though a thousand feet long, can be built on pile piers with 100 foot spans.

    Prof. Pratt, the eminent engineer, who had charge of the surveying party in the summer of 1897, stated in his report that the route "does not present any special difficulties to railroad construction, and will compare advantageously with any crossings of the Alleghany range," and both Prof. Pratt and Lieut. Schwatka say, that the road would cost less than an average road through the Alleghanies, and this must be so with no tunnels, little rock work worth the name, with but two bridges of short span (all other streams can be crossed on trestles) and ballast ready to one's hand.

    The possible difficulties from snow have been considered and satisfactorily settled.

    The line of greatest snow fall is far to the South somewhere between the Northern and Union Pacific Railroads, and the heavy precipitation of the coast is escaped as soon as the first high mountains along the river are passed, and a dry climate is found before the line rises in altitude more than 600 feet.

    These conditions are so marked that where mountains near the Coast, as for example those at the head of Lynn Canal at Dyea and Skagua, where only about 3000 feet high, may be covered with snow throughout the summer, yet in the interior mountains 6000 feet high seem entirely free. No fear of snow would prevent the operation of the Railway throughout the year.


may run into very high figures. With freight costing about $140 per ton via. St. Michaels, and forty cents per pound (or even 15 cents per pound, which was the regular rate before the rush) packed over the White or Chilkoot Passes, it is believed that such rates on freight could easily be obtained and would be cheerfully paid as would bring sufficient profits to the company while for the easy railroad passage any miner or prospector would most gratefully pay a large sum, rather than encounter the terrors and hardships of the passes, the perils of rapids and the delays of packing, canoeing, portaging and rafting via. the Passes and Lakes, Linderman, Bennett and Lebarge.

    When a man expects to wash out hundreds of dollars per day and months in time can be saved, the transportation line that saves the time is regarded as a public blessing and entitled to extraordinary profits.

    Probably 10,000 people reached or tried to reach the Yukon Gold fields in 1897.

    Probably 30,000 will try to reach there in 1898.

    Each man in the Yukon requires, at a low estimate a ton of food, clothing, tools and necessaries each year, and all has to be taken in by some method of transportation. A small part can be packed in over the passes and rafted or canoed down the river. Almost all must now be shipped by Steamer to St. Michaels, 2,700 miles, then transhipped to light draft river boats, able to cross the bar at the mouth of the Yukon, and carried up stream against a 4 to 6 mile current for 1,700 miles. The river boats must depend for fuel on uncertain supplies of drift wood and such scanty timber as can be cut and piled along the banks.

    The assertion is confidently made by experienced river men that the cost of freighting via. St. Michaels cannot be lessened but will likely increase as fuel grows more scarce.

    Even the discovery of convenient Coal Mines would not remedy the difficulty for the small boats required to use on the river could not carry an ample coal supply as well as freight.

    The transportation problem must be solved from the head of the river, where freight can be sent down with the current and wood is plentiful, and this the Taku-Teslin Railway does.

    The question of the Company's profits from transportation can be safely left to each person who may be curious and have a lead pencil and piece of paper handy.

    The conditions are given as fairly as possible and whether those who go to the Yukon Fields remain throughout the year or return to the Coast each Autumn or Winter, they must have transport for themselves , or for their food and necessaries.

    The only uncertainty is as to the number who will seek the Gold Fields from now on, from year to year.

    The Gold Fields are almost without limit, and the surface has been but scratched. They will hold the attention of the world's adventurers for twenty years.

    Quartz mining will begin as soon as transportation matters are settled and supply regular and steady traffic.

    Some will pack and tramp in, and doubtless some freight will always come in by St. Michaels, but the Taku-Teslin Railway will get its share and with that it will be content.


can be safely counted upon.

    The Taku route runs through a mineral country which promises great future development of quartz mining. The Treadwell mine on Douglas Island is near its western end, and in the east it taps the western slope of the Cassiars. Like conditions prevail through its entire length, and the development of quartz ledges along its route will give it regular and continuous traffic in addition to supplying the through trade on the Yukon, all of whose gold-bearing tributaries are in easy reach.

    Mr. J. S. Johnson, of San Francisco, a mining expert who represented the Alaska & Yukon Gold Mining & Trading Co. of that City, asked and was accorded permission to accompany Prof. Pratt's surveying party over the Taku Route in the Summer of I897. He assured Prof. Pratt that the Mineral "Indications along the line were as fine as he had ever seen and that if a railroad was built he would have no difficulty in locating a dozen companies on paying quartz propositions." (See Prof. Pratt's report.)

    One good quartz mine would probably pay the cost of constructing the whole line. Under this head the letter of Mr. G. W. Garside, C. E. and Mining Engineer located at Juneau for 13 years, in another publication of the Company, and what is contained herein under the sub-head of "Mines and Mining" is referred to.

    For information as to the Company's railway line in detail Prof. Pratt's report should be consulted as well as other publications of this Company.


The Company has full power and authority under Canadian special Acts to engage in this business and enter into arrangements with other companies thereabout.


By special acts of the Provincial Parliament of British Columbia and the Dominion Parliament of Canada the Company may establish and maintain lines of Steamships, Steamboats and other vessels in all inland and coast waters of British Columbia and the North West Territories, and also in Alaska.

    Steamboat and Steamship lines are anxious to co-operate with this Company, but it may be found desirable and profitable to operate its own connecting lines, in which case it will be done and propositions of this character are under consideration.

    The Company may promote, amalgamate, merge and consolidate with other Companies under its charter and the authority of Special Canadian Acts of Parliament.


Quartz mines will be located, developed, worked and promoted along the Company's line wherever possible, but it is not likely the Company will engage in placer mining. Good quartz has been found along the railway line and assays have run over $80.00 to the ton.

    Special authority is given by the Dominion of Canada to this Company to engage in and promote and subscribe toward enterprises of this character with power of utilizing water powers for flumes, for generating electricity, &c., and this promotion and development of mining industries will doubtless be a profitable branch of the Company's business.

    It is more than likely, however, that the Company itself will simply discover and develop claims and promote mining operations, offering its stockholders very favorable opportunities to subscribe early for the stock of subordinate companies which will be formed.

    The trade and freighting for mines along its route will furnish ample opportunities for large and legitimate profits to the Company's transportation enterprises.

    Under this head attention is directed to the letter of Mr. G. W. Garside in another publication of this Company to Prof. Pratt's report and to the statement of Mr. J. S. Johnson, Mining Expert of San Francisco.


Included in the land grant to this Company by the Province of British Columbia is much of the finest available timber land on the Taku and Teslin Lake.

    The Company proposes to establish a saw mill at an early day on the lake on its own land and cut timber both for its own use and for Commercial purposes.

    The custom of miners and prospectors has been to whipsaw their own boat lumber and large profits can be made out of a saw mill alone.

    Lumber can easily be rafted down Teslin Lake to the gold fields if more than the local demand can be supplied, which is doubtful for sometime at least, and it is authoritatively stated that the mill owned by Joseph Ladue at Dawson is making net profits averaging $1,350.00 per day.


    Trading in furs with the Indians, whose great trading trail to the coast is along the Taku, will undoubtedly be very profitable for some years, but if the placer and quartz mines of the Yukon are developed, as the Company expects, in the next few years game and furs will become scarce, while the furnishing of food, clothing, tools and necessaries to the miners and attendant population will assume immense proportions.

    The Company intends to establish stations and warehouses at Taku Wharf, Tolsuque, Inklin Junction, Nakana and Teslin Wharf, and is expressly authorized to do this.

    In concluding this general statement of the Company's aims, purposes and objects, attention may be again called, without displaying, it is hoped, too much self satisfaction, to the foresight of the Company and its state of "preparedness" to secure its share of the golden profits of the Yukon River Valley.

    Its plans matured long in advance have anticipated in every way, so far as was possible, the great gold craze of the world.

    Its projectors believed more than a year ago that history was about to repeat itself and the California days of '49 and the '50's were about to be re-enacted.

    So far as transportation matters can be similar, considering the changes the mechanical and commercial world has seen since then, it is believed that -

    What the Panama Railroad was la the California of 1850, the Taku-Teslin Railroad is to the Yukon of today, but while the Panama line is said to have cost a life for each tie in its roadbed the Northwest is a healthy, wholesome land and no human life need be lost. The Taku-Teslin Railway may save from death by exposure, cold and starvation as many as on the Panama Railroad died of fevers.

    Where the Panama Railroad cost dollars the Taku-Teslin Railway will now cost dimes only and shillings will go almost as far now as pounds sterling went then in construction.

    All questions of doubt have, the Yukon Mining Trading and Transportation Company believes, been satisfactorily resolved and its conclusions it is willing to submit to the decision of fair minds, itself assured as to the future of its enterprise.

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