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Farron: site of mysterious explosion has mysterious name

The Farron monument, commemorating the nine people killed in a train explosion on the Columbia and Western Railway in 1924, is seen here in 2002, before the bronze plaque was stolen. - Greg Nesteroff photo
The Farron monument, commemorating the nine people killed in a train explosion on the Columbia and Western Railway in 1924, is seen here in 2002, before the bronze plaque was stolen.
— image credit: Greg Nesteroff photo

Fifty-fourth in a semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Farron, the summit station on the old Columbia and Western Railway between Castlegar and Christina Lake, would be forgotten if not for what happened there one tragic night in 1924.

It was the stop closest to the mysterious train explosion that killed Doukhobor leader Peter (Lordly) Verigin, Grand Forks-Greenwood MLA John McKie and seven others.

In 1963, at the urging of Verigin’s granddaughter Anna Markova, a stone monument in the shape of a wheat sheaf was taken from his tomb at Brilliant and placed there as a permanent marker.

Markova rode out on a speeder with three men: Peter Voykin of Pass Creek, the concrete finisher; Peter Plotnikoff, who ran a Grand Forks building supply store and provided the shovels and equipment; and Fred Davidoff, who worked for the CPR and drove the speeder.

Until then the spot had apparently been marked with a stone. “Fred knew that spot from working on the railway,” Voykin recalled. “He always cleaned up that area to make it look presentable.”

A bronze plaque was added later, listing the names of the victims, but it was stolen about ten years ago. In 2011 a new interpretive sign was erected to commemorate the tragic event.

The memorial is 4.4 km from the valley floor on Paulson Detour Road, heading towards Castlegar, and is a lot easier to reach now that the old railbed has been converted to a multi-use trail. Annual pilgrimages are made there, on or near the anniversary of the explosion.

The Columbia and Western was built in 1898 but the earliest mention of Farron isn’t until the Nelson Tribune of March 19, 1900: “A heavy slide occurred on Saturday night a short distance east of Farron ...” On September 26, the Tribune added: “W.P. Tierney & Co. sent a gang of 40 men … to Farron … yesterday, to construct the sidetracks at that point, which has been established as a regular station.”

How did it get its name? The only source that ventures a guess is Roger Burrows’ Railway Mileposts, Vol. II which states Farron was “named for a Columbia & Western Railway construction engineer.” But who was he? There is no good answer.

On the 1898 BC voters list we find James Lawrence Farron, a ship broker in the Vancouver firm of Powers & Farron, plus Thomas George Farron, a law student. The latter, better known as Shad, became a writer for the Vancouver Province.

The 1901 census finds 34 Farrons in Canada, but only four in BC. In addition to the two mentioned above, there’s Shad’s mother Margaret and a Sarah Farron, 60, in Revelstoke.

The BC vital events index also turns up Francis Farron, who died in New Westminster in 1902.

But none of these people seem to be the obvious namesake, so it’s another unsolved mystery.

Previous installments in this series

Introduction

Ainsworth

Alamo

Anaconda

Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited

Appledale

Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead

Aylwin

Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing

Balfour

Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City

Beasley

Beaton

Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater

Brandon

Brilliant

Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat

Burton

Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again

Columbia

Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park

Comaplix

Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown

Davenport

Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood

Eholt

English Cove and English Point

Enterprise

Erie

Evans Creek and Evansport

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