Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Shit, the Frank Slide!

Frank just after the slide

The town of Frank in Alberta, Canada was founded in 1901 as part of the ever-growing network of railroad towns in the Pacific Northwest. The Canadian Pacific Railway, coupled with a nearby coal mine, made it a lucrative option for anyone who wanted to And food. Those things were pretty important back then, as they are today.
Although this was always an option. (I went pretty obscure on that joke)

This particular frontier town was located in the shadow of Turtle Mountain. I say was not only because the town was eventually moved, but also because so did the goddamn mountain. Very quickly, in fact. In less than two minutes in 1903, more than 90 million tons of the mountain moved...right on top of poor Frank. The event is known as the Frank Slide, and it was one of the costliest and deadliest landslides in recorded history.

In the months leading up to the Slide, coal miners reported seeing unusual fissures in the mines. The limestone inside the mountain was cracked, and the fissures allowed water through to further erode the rock, which led to a dangerously top-heavy mountain. Stir in a bunch of mining activities and you've got yourself a disaster brewing. It got to the point where the coal was practically mining itself when the mountain finally collapsed.
Minecraft Coal
Everyone agreed that it kind of took some of the reward out of the whole process

Somewhere around 600 people lived in Frank at the time of the landslide, and of them somewhere between 70 and 90 were killed. We don't know for sure, because only 18 bodies were ever found, and 6 of those were discovered years later by a crew building a road in what was probably the most terrifying manual labor they would ever perform. The actual number is probably a lot higher - there were about 50 people camping near the base of the mountain hoping to find work in the mines who weren't listed among the population of the town.

In the aftermath of the Slide, Sid Choquette got to thinking. Being a brakeman for the Canadian Pacific Railway, he had a pretty good idea of the train schedule. Checking his pocket watch and twirling his handlebar moustache worriedly (I assume), he realized that the Spokane Flyer a passenger train goddamn full of people, was overdue to arrive and had no way of knowing what had happened in Frank. The rails that were supposed to speed it along were, at this point, hindered by a two mile long pile of rubble. This is what can be referred to in layman's terms as really shitty conditions for a train ride.
Sabin suplexing a train.
The only worse conditions would be "anywhere near Sabin."

So, ignoring the rubble and choking cloud of dust, Choquette ran over a mile without stopping and got the message to the approaching at literally the last possible second. His actions saved the lives of everyone on board the train, and the Canadian Pacific Railroad was so grateful they gave him...a kindly worded letter. And $25.
1898 Canadian dollar

You can see the results of the Frank Slide to this day:
Frank Slide Remains
That's mountain guts. That's what you're looking at. The guts of a mountain.

Holy shit.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, $25 in 1903 was not exactly chump change... Sid Choquette did not really get all that screwed.

    If he was paid in US Dollars: $25 in 1903 would be equivalent to about $657 today.
    If he was paid in Canadian Dollars: then $25 Canadian in 1904 would be equivalent to roughly $700 Canadian, or almost $775 US, today.

    If I saved a train full of people from landslide-covered tracks today, I think I might accept $775, and a nice letter of recognition, as a modest but reasonably fair reward... Not bad for a 1 mile run!