“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bonners Ferry in Boundary County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)

Railroad Laborers

Railroad Laborers Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 8, 2018
1. Railroad Laborers Marker
Captions: (upper left) Constructing the line; (upper right) Northside rock cut; (center right) "Tie Hack;" (center left) Fry Creek Trestles; (center right) Section crew on speeder; (bottom left) Rock oven built in 1905; (bottom right) Rock oven built in 1891. These ovens were built along all three rail lines within Boundary County.
Inscription. A vast labor force was needed during construction of the railroads. Workers came from many ethnic groups, bringing a piece of "home" with them as they contributed to the growing culture of Boundary County.
Laborers hired for low wages, became experts in blasting rock, building tunnels, and grading the rail beds. They acquired colorful titles such as "swampers" and "powder monkeys."
Laborers constructed bridges and trestles across waterways, gullies, and swamps. "Tie hacks" hewed ties by hand, crews spiked rails to ties.
Railroads employed "track walkers" to inspect two mile sections of rail line for obstructions. Later, handcarts and speeders were used. Section crew men called "gandy dancers" continued to maintain the rail line.

Rock Ovens

The aroma of freshly baked bread spread throughout the railroad construction camps. Dome shaped rock ovens, attributed to the Italian laborers, were built of local rock and chinked with clay. This have been mistakenly called "Chinese ovens" because Chinese crews used similar ovens along other earlier railroads. A fire would be built inside and kept going until the rocks sufficiently hot. With the coals raked out, loaves of dough were placed inside to bake.
Erected 2009 by Boundary County Historical
Railroad Laborers Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 8, 2018
2. Railroad Laborers Marker
Location. 48° 41.861′ N, 116° 18.693′ W. Marker is in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in Boundary County. Marker can be reached from Main Street near Riverside Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7229 Main Street, Bonners Ferry ID 83805, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Spokane International Railway (here, next to this marker); Railroad Services (here, next to this marker); Kootenai Valley Railway (here, next to this marker); Great Northern Railway 1892 (here, next to this marker); A Town is Born Along the Way (here, next to this marker); Logging Railroads (here, next to this marker); Semaphores (here, next to this marker); Pelton Wheel (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bonners Ferry.
More about this marker. This marker is located on the backside of the building at 7229 Main Street near the entrance to the Boundary County Museum.
Categories. Railroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page was last revised on August 31, 2018. This page originally submitted on August 31, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 43 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 31, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
Paid Advertisement We are suspending advertising until they remove an ad for a certain book from circulation. A word in the book’s title has given rise to number of complaints. The word is inappropriate in school classroom settings.