I was uneasy beginning this article, simply because I did not know what to write about. However, I settled on Bill Miner and the Kamloops 2141. I am very excited to show you this post; I am sure this will be brand new for many (we did not learn about the 2141 throughout the Kamloops 2014 Provincial Fair, so this should be new for some of the alumni as well).

The 2141 is the Kamloops steam engine (pictured below).

Julia - photo1
Photo courtesy of Kamloops Tourism, 2012

The 2141 was built in the fall of 1912 (the same year as the Titanic), but luckily, this train has lived much, much longer than the Titanic.

And this here is Bill Miner, Canada’s first successful train robber.

Julia - photo2
Photo courtesy of RCMP Archives, Ottawa ON

Bill Miner had committed a couple crimes and spent many years in jail by the time he got to Kamloops. It was 1906, and Miner and two friends, Dunn and Colquhoun came to Kamloops as prospectors. Miner and his gang held up a west-bound Trans-Continental train 13 miles east of Kamloops (May 1906). The train was supposed to contain valuable packages for the San Francisco earthquake victims and gold from the Nickel Plate Mine, but it did not.  The mail car did contain some bank packets containing $35,000, but Miner overlooked them.Miner ordered the engineer to uncouple the mail car and take the train further (where he supposedly had horses waiting), and he departed in disgust, with a total of $15 and some mail.

Miner headed off to the south, towards Campbell Creek, and the train quickly reassembled and sped off to Kamloops to inform the police with the news of the hold-up.

The following morning it was discovered that the gang was headed south towards Nicola Valley, without their horses. First Nations trackers, cowboys, Chief Constable E.T.W. Pearse, and Bill Fernie were sent to look for Miner, but it ended up being Constable William Fernie who found them first (he was alone, so he waited for the Mounted Police). The robbers, however, had seen Fernie, and fled. Fernie and Sergeant Wilson went on horseback looking for the men, and when they finally found them, near Quilchena, they were in the middle of eating lunch.

Though Bill Miner and his gang pretended that they were simply prospectors, Fernie did not think so, and Dunn shot his gun in a panic.

The police took the gang to a farm nearby, where the inhabitants claimed that the gang was a group of very kind people (apparently Bill Miner aka George Edwards, had worked at the farm). The police weren’t sure, and took the gang to Kamloops anyways. Miner was recognized because of a couple tattoos he had, and the gang was sent to New Westminster to be put in jail. Bill escaped a couple years later, and then was caught again, and kept in the US. Though Bill Miner was indeed a robber, he was known as the “Gentleman Robber” for he never hurt anyone intentionally. He died in 1913.

Now, how did the 2141 come into play? It obviously wasn’t the train that Miner robbed. Well, to shorten the lengthy explanation, after it was fixed, it became very important (to me, at least). It was 2002 when the train started offering the Spirit of Kamloops rides. These rides were about an hour and a half long, and the Bill Miner robbery was reenacted.

Although, I must admit, the robbery was much more exciting faked (they at least found some gold and shot gunpowder). I remember sitting on the train and looking at all the pretty views, and then, at one point, these men on horses would come riding by and they’d stop the train. One of them would climb up on the train, and force one of the employees to give him the “gold”. My grandfather was actually one of the volunteers. I remember one time, he got to be the robber that climbed onto the train and he came over me (I was probably like four) and announced that I was his granddaughter (everyone laughed). Looking back on it, I laugh too, but at the time I was super confused.

I also celebrated my first birthday on the train.

The train was such a fun thing, and has given me many memories. However, the train is so old, it constantly needs to be repaired, and it is not always able to run anymore, because they sometimes don’t have enough money to fix it.

I can’t really give you a site to look at Bill Miner, but here is the 2141 website: www.kamrail.com

(To write this, I used online Kamloops Archives.)

Author: Julia

 

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