The Early Years of the CPR in BCCanadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia | About | Log in
Canadian Pacific Railway (1871-1885)
Categories: People

Walter Moberly

From AlanMacek.com

Walter Moberly (1832 - 1915) was a civil engineer and surveyor who played a large role in the early exploration and development of British Columbia, including discovering Eagle Pass, now used by the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway. He was born in Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire, England in 1832, went to school in Toronto, and did most of his work in British Columbia, Utah and in Manitoba.

His first survey work was laying out the streets for the community of New Westminster, now a suburb of Vancouver. Between 1861 and 1864 he worked on several government road building contracts. With Edgar Dewdney, Moberly help construct what is now called the 'Dewdney Trail' across the coast range from the town of Hope into the Okanagan. Also under contract from the government, Moberly was involved in building a section of the Cariboo Road north of Lytton in the Fraser Canyon. This road was built to provide access to the gold fields in the Cariboo.

In 1865, he was appointed Assistant Surveyor General of British Columbia. His job was to explore new routes for travel and trade for the growing population of the territory. It was during this time that he discovered Eagle Pass through the Gold Range between Shuswap Lake in the north Okanagon and the Columbia River at what is now Revelstoke. The story is that he shot at an eagle's nest and watched the birds fly up a valley. Figuring that the birds were unlikely to fly up a blocked in valley, he followed them up and discovered the pass. In his recollections, he says he blazed a tree in the pass and inscribed the words, "This is the Pass of the Overland Railway." The Canadian Pacific Railway did go through his pass but not for another 20 years.

After 1865, he left the province and worked in the mining fields of Utah.

In 1871, when British Columbia was about to enter confederation with Canada, one of the terms was a promise by Canada to build a railway across the continent. Moberly was sought out by Joseph Trutch, British Columbia's first Lieutenant-Governor as a province and invited back to organize surveys for the railway. His survey crews headed out into the wilderness on the day the province joined confederation. Moberly's survey crews were responsible for the territory around what is now Eagle Pass, Revelstoke, and Golden. Ever since he discovered Eagle Pass, he was convinced that was the best route for the railway.

In 1872, Sandford Fleming, the Chief Engineer for the railway project, asked Moberly to relocate his crews north to the Yellowhead Pass. Moberly was very frustrated with these orders to abandon his prefered route.

After the 1873 survey season, Moberly left the Canadian Railway surveys and moved to Manitoba. He continued to do private survey work there.

Moberly was very bitter towards A.B. Rogers, who got credit for discovering Rogers Pass in 1883. Moberly argues that while discovering Eagle Pass, he explored the Illecillewaet River and his journals aided Rogers in his exploration of the Pass.

Because of his early explorations and visionary, some say wishful, ideas on the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway, he has a prominent spot in Canadian Pacific Railway lore. The last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway took place in Eagle Pass at Craigellachie.

He published several books including his autobiographic book, The Rocks and Rivers of British Columbia (H. Blacklock & Co, London, 1885). There is also a 1909 reflection on the CPR, entitled Early History of the CPR Road.

Retrieved from "http://canyon.alanmacek.com/index.php/Walter_Moberly"

This page was last modified 05:16, 2 July 2005 by Alan Macek.


Find
Browse
AlanMacek.com
CPR in BC
This page
Printable version