Canadian Pacific Railway names Kamloops’ interchange in honor of Chinese rail worker

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia –  In a ceremony highlighted by a Lion Dance that symbolizes good luck and good blessings, Canadian Pacific Railway named a railway interchange in Kamloops in honor of Cheng Ging Butt, a railway laborer who represented the dedication of those who came forward to work on the CPR transcontinental line in the British Columbia interior, the company announced.

Thousands of Chinese railway workers helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway from the West Coast to Eagle Pass in the Monashee Mountains of Western Canada and many perished.

"Cheng Ging Butt is representative of the extraordinary people who withstood hardships to not only help build a railway, but a nation, as well," said CPR Vice President, Paul Clark. "The Cheng Interchange also symbolizes the important role Chinese railway workers made in the development of the entire railway industry in Canada. In recognizing all Chinese workers for their sacrifices, CPR is paying our deepest respects and gratitude."

Joining the CPR at the ceremony were members of Cheng Ging Butt’s family, representatives from the Chinese community in Kamloops and officials from the City of Kamloops.

"Our Grandfather was just one of many Chinese men who worked on this railway. These men accepted the risks involved and many perished; but most survived. Our family was fortunate that our grandfather not only survived but also prospered after working for the CPR," said Cheng Ging Butt’s descendent, Kevan Jangze. "Today, our children are fourth generation Canadians, and have strong ties to the history of Canada. We are proud to be Canadian and are privileged that our grandfather chose to come to Canada to work for the CPR."

The Cheng Interchange is located just east of the CPR Station in Kamloops on Lorne Street. An interchange is a key part for any railway, as it keeps the efficient flow of rail cars from one railway to another. The Cheng Interchange is the central junction point for freight and passenger rail service in Kamloops.

Mayor of Kamloops, Mel Rothenburger, welcomed the designation of the Cheng Interchange. "This is a fitting honor for all Chinese residents in Kamloops and across the country whose forefathers built the railway. As well, it demonstrates the role Kamloops played as a center for western railway construction and the fact it continues to be a rail hub for CPR."

In addition to the Cheng Interchange, Canadian Pacific Railway announced a special monument in honor of Chinese rail workers would be unveiled in Kamloops later this year.

Clark added what Cheng Ging Butt and the thousands of other Chinese railway workers did many years ago made it possible for CPR to embark on its recently announced $160 million western corridor expansion project. "Their hard work and dedication to open up the west many years ago makes our company’s current expansion possible, which will benefit Canada’s economy for the future."

Cheng Ging Butt was born in Southern China’s Guangdon province in 1858, came over to work on the railway as one of the thousands who emigrated to Canada between 1881 and 1885. After 1885 when he had completed his railway construction work with CPR, Cheng Ging Butt settled by the tracks near Yale, where he ran a dry goods store, a temple and farmed cherries, which he and his children sold to CPR’s dining car staff and passengers on passing trains. Married with eight sons and two daughters, he also was the founder of the Cheng Association in Vancouver. Cheng Ging Butt passed away in 1930.

Between 1881 and 1885, 17,007 Chinese arrived in Canada (according to an 1885 Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration). Up to 9,000 of them worked building the railway for the federal government from Port Moody to Savona and for CPR through to Craigellachie, B.C., during the 19th century – from the West Coast to Eagle Pass in the Monashee Mountains of western Canada. They helped greatly to achieve a united Canada.

— PRNewswire-First Call