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Story
John Kinnear photo
Author , circa 2003, trying to plug a hole in the seven foot
diameter wooden water line that replaced George's flume
Looking Back - John KinnearMy last column talked about the Scotsman George Henderson and his turn of the century plan to get gold out of the Bull River and build a power plant. When we left off, George’s plan had  found little gold and CPR was now running logs and railroad ties down the river right past his 9,300 foot long 8 foot wide flume.
 
Continuing then: All that blasting for widening and releasing log jams in the Bull River did some pretty serious damage to George's flume and camp and so it was in 1915 that George Henderson hauled CPR into court.
Damages were eventually awarded in the order of $18,500. Despite this victory no repairs proceeded on the dam and flume and reports on Henderson’s progress dropped almost completely out of the news.
George eventually fell into dire straits financially and all hope of raising the money to finish his dream were lost. With the flume in disrepair and depreciating steadily George Henderson sold his water rights and assets to a new company named the B.C. and Alberta Power Company and in 1920 George’s Bull River Electric Light and Power Company went into liquidation. 
The new company, using fresh American financing went to work immediately on the dam project. A new concrete structure was built 860 feet downstream from the original dam. Part of Henderson's flume was dismantled and on its foundation a monstrous seven foot in diameter wood stave pipeline was constructed. It ended where the first flume had ended on top of a cliff overlooking the power plant site. There a surge tank was erected and a steel pipe was secured to the rock face down to the proposed turbine location 273 feet below.
This new company also ran out of money in 1922 before they could get finished. Fortunately some Montreal interests came through to restart the process. This resulted in the renaming of the company to East Kootenay Power. The turbines and two 2500 kilowatt generators were installed and on May 7, 1922 the vision of George Henderson was finally realized. On that day Bull River power was connected to Fernie's distribution system and one month later Blairmore and Coleman on the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass came on line. Two years later Mr. Appleyard, the president of East Kootenay Power decreed that the Bull River plant be renamed Aberfeldie after a place in Scotland he was fond of.
The harnessing of the vast timber resources of the Bull River watershed is a story unto itself so here is a quick overview to aid your perspective.
 
Once the CPR mill was set up at the mouth of the river the new town site of Bull River was quick to develop. From it a 23 mile road was run upstream to what became known as Camp 6. That camp became the supply station for no less than 44 other logging camps, most of them upstream. Early in the game CPR encouraged loggers from Sweden and Norway who had worked in similar terrain to emigrate to BC to work for them. The demand for timber and ties was huge back then. CPR used 2800 ties per mile of railroad and new lines were criss-crossing B.C. from every direction.  Estimates indicate that between a half million and a million 8 foot long ties were hand hewn up the Bull River each year from 1910 to 1928, the last year a log drive occurred down the river. Incidentally hand hewn ties were preferred to mill cut ties by the railroad. The hacker’s sharp one side axe helped seal the wood as it was cut which kept the tie from rotting out from moisture much longer than mill cut.  Production out of the Bull River drainage average 10 to 12 million board feet per year. Ties and logs were racked by the tens of thousands in monstrous decks alongside the river all winter long and released into the river in early spring. Apparently the trick was to get them into the river before high water so that any that hung up would be refloated at peak runoff. Log jams continued to be a headache in the canyon. One such jam in 1924 had over a million and a half board feet of logs in it and required 30 tons of dynamite to free it up. Apparently half of a hand hewn tie was found later in Murray Lake well over a mile from the canyon. The sawmill pond was also a remarkable sight with millions of board feet of timber piled up as much as 15 feet high.
The timber harnessing of the Bull came to an end in 1928 when CPR opted to draw only from another massive operation at Yahk.
 So it was that the magnificent Bull River was harnessed for its water power, its timber and its scenery (silent movies). The dam, built in 1922, silted up and was replaced with another 90 foot high one about a mile downstream. April 1st, 1968 B.C. Hydro took over Aberfeldie and automated its operation.  In 2009 there was a 95 million dollar upgrade completed on the dam and its output was increased from 5 megawatts to 24.  It is now controlled out of Cranbrook and with a little maintenance it is generally believed that it will continue to produce electricity just as long as the Bull River runs downhill.
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