Crowell, Sandra and David Asleson Up the Swiftwater © 1980, 1995
Pages 85, 87 and 88
“There were three major rescue
runs on the railroad that Saturday night of August 20 in the Loop Creek area. At
the risk of being overly descriptive, one must say that those train rides were
daring, ridden with terror, and a little short of miraculous. With the railroad
construction still in progress, there were hundreds of people, perhaps even a
thousand, between Haugan, Montana, and Avery. Workers were completing the bridge
work and living in construction camps or with their families. Work trains, fire
trains, and helper engines were scattered up and down the tracks, and Avery’s
roundhouse had several engines on hand. Few trails or roads provided a way out
for the little railroad settlements of Stetson, Kyle, Falcon, Grand Forks,
Adair, and Roland. The trains represented the only means of escape from the
. . .
“[One of the ] rescue mission[s] started from Taft in the late afternoon. Earlier in the day Chief Carpenter W.E. Lanning had left Haugan on a work train going west toward East Portal, doing bridge work. In a flash the mountain glowed with fire, and Lanning quickly organized a mercy run for the big St. Paul Tunnel. Along the way the work train picked up dozens of people and emptied the Bates and Rogers’ construction camp of 100 men below East Portal. The sea of flames raged outside as nearly 400 people, including residents of East Portal and Roland, hovered inside the two-mile tunnel. But Chief Carpenter Lanning was worried about Marshall and the others. Engineer Blundell and Conductor Harry Vandercook volunteered to run an engine down to pull them out.
“There were still people along the tracks, paralyzed with fear. Railroad men and their families (Hungarians and Montenegrins), homesteaders, and refugees from Roland and Adair had probably been counting their last moments on earth when the engine and boxcar came churning down the tracks through the flames. Forty-seven in all clung to Lanning’s train. Bridges behind them were cracking with fire; way ahead another burst into flames. There was no way they would make it back to the St. Paul Tunnel or Falcon and Marshall. Tunnel 22 was closest, a short bore but their only hope. They opened the throttle wide—it was now or never! High over a burning trestle they raced, the three men forced flat on the deck by the heat. The tension was so great, the experience so terrible, that one passenger on the flatcar was seized with panic. He dove off the flatcar to his death on the rocks below.”
The man was later found and buried near the spot. “The gravesite was maintained for many years by George Murray, Milwaukee signal maintainer from Avery.”
The Shoshone County Coroner’s Record gives the man’s name as Francisco Gaglia, age 35, cause of death suffocation.
Research note - A Francisco Gaglia crossed the Canada-U.S. border in April of 1904 at Northport, Washington. He gave his age as 24 and his nationality as Italian.