|Seth Partridge (2003)
(From the CPR Spanner Volume 6, No. 5 — 1985 — courtesy Canadian Pacific Corporate Archives)
Heroic actions by Canadian Pacific men on land, at sea, and in the air, in peacetime and war, have woven a bright thread of courage through the Company’s history. Few however have been more fraught with peril than that of J. S. (Seth) Partridge whose heroism in 1925 made him a legend in his own lifetime.
It was one of those muggy August nights and fireman Seth Partridge with Bill Adamson, engineer, had left field for Lake Louise for a pusher job on a heavy freight drag. Moisture was settling on the undergrowth, small rocks and debris occasionally clattered down the tracks and the indefinable sixth sense of experienced mountain railroaders warned intangibly of landslide or washout conditions.
The engine had been through both spiral tunnels and was on the high line, still climbing. They realized, almost before it started, that a slide was forming on the upper slopes of Cathedral Mountain. The lofty mountain was about to rebel. Devastation would lie in its wake.
Both men, knowing the terrain, realized the path of the slide would be down the mountain to the low line between the two tunnels, to the station and section house at Yoho where people would be asleep.
Seth Partridge jumped from the cab to carry the warning to Yoho, his engineer’s shouted warning ringing in his ears, “Don’t be crazy. You’ll be killed.”
Partridge scrambled and clawed his way down the steep slope. Underbrush tore his clothing and skin. He fell, sprawled and hurt himself, only to get up to run again.
He reached his objective in time. Sleepers at Yoho were awakened and herded to safety seconds before the slide swept down and engulfed the buildings. The old Liberty magazine picked up the story weeks later and awarded him a $1000 cash prize and the title Bravest Deed of the Month. The Royal Humane Society awarded him its gold medal, presented by E. W. Beatty, then CPR President, at the Palliser Hotel. He was given immediate railway promotion, but soon reverted to engine service, his favourite job.
Seth Partridge, who retired August 1, 1952, had joined the Company as a wiper in 1907, became a fireman in 1908. He served in France in the First World War as a railroader with the 230th Construction Corps and was engineer on the Royal Train for then Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth just before his retirement. He won 78 merit marks in his railway career.
Today, near the Spiral Tunnels, Partridge siding is one of the key centralized traffic control points in the mountains, guarded by two signal bungalows jam-packed with equipment for safety and efficiency in train control. It has been named in honour of Seth Partridge and the station name sign displays his name.
Seth Partridge has since passed away, but the station name sign at Partridge
remains — a reminder of this Canadian railway hero who beat the
slide on that August day in 1925.
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