Archie McLean Hawks was born in Detroit in 1865 to a family with a long history of law and engineering. In 1886 he came west and worked as a construction engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming and Colorado. He later worked on the bridge in Kansas City and the waterworks in St. Louis. He worked in Arkansas and later Denver on electric railways. In 1891 he went to Tacoma and became the engineer in charge of the Tacoma Light and Water Company. He worked as an engineering consultant for the cities of Vancouver, Victoria and Juneau to supply hydroelectric power for the mines at Treadwell, Perseverence, and Sea Level Tunnel.
Hawks wrote a book called “Enchantment,” that described his 1870 train trip from St. Louis, Mo. to Bristol, R.I.
He is known in Skagway for being the Engineer for the CR&T Tramway which was on the Chilkoot Trail. The Chilkoot Railroad and Transport Company (CR&T) was the largest, most comprehensive, and last of the Chilkoot Trail tramways to be constructed.
At first, they toyed with a horse-drawn tramroad and even a railroad going straight up the Taiya River valley, but financial restraints tempered these plans. The company settled on a wagon road to Canyon City, a two-stage aerial tram system (Canyon City to Sheep Camp and Sheep Camp to Stone Crib), and contracted packing services from Stone Crib to Lake Lindeman. This system enabled the company to be the first to offer an integrated transportation option that would transfer prospectors’ gear from the wharfs of Dyea to Lindeman City.
Construction began in December 1897 and both trams began running by May 1898. While CR&T merged with the Alaska Railroad Transportation Company and the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company just a month after CR&T opened its trams, its infrastructure was heavily used well into June 1899 when the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad construction reached Lake Bennett in British Columbia effectively rendering CR&T obsolete. Even then, however, CR&T’s freight rates were comparable to those of the railroad and so in 1899 White Pass and Yukon Route purchased the Chilkoot Railroad and Transportation Company’s trams and began dismantling them beginning in January 1900 and finishing by April of the same year.
Archie Hawks died on this day, March 8, 1963 in Santa Barbara at the ripe old age of 98. He is buried in the Madronia Cemetery in Santa Clara County.
A History of the Puget Sound County, 1903 online; Martinsen; California death index; the Winterthur Papers online