The Railroader's Wife

Letters from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway

Jane Stevenson

The story of the railway has never been told in a more charming voice as in these letters by Bernice Medbury Martin who married railroader Leslie Martin in 1912 and arrived in Prince Rupert at the height of rock blasting and railroad building. Lonely for her family in Wisconsin, Bernice wrote frequent letters home in which she described in striking detail the machinery and mudslides, the weather and the wilderness, the local characters and the outrageous cost of supplies. She wrote of her frustration at the slow pace of the railway work and her happiness at an invitation to a social event many miles away. She lived in a tent at Kitselas, a hotel in Hazelton, a shack in the Bulkley Valley and a hand-hewn log cabin at Decker Lake. Bernice’s letters span the two final years of Grand Trunk Pacific Railway track building and are neatly woven together by Jane Stevenson’s well-researched narration. A -stunning collection of photographs illustrates the enormous task of constructing a railway along the Skeena River, through the Bulkley Valley and on to Burns Lake.

Bernice travelled to a land her friends and family could not imagine, where she experienced the challenges and joys of the Canadian western frontier and witnessed the construction of the truly “Grand” Trunk Pacific Railway until the last spike was driven near her home early in the spring of 1914.