Re: Narrow gauge - in 1905
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All of your examples are also somewhat special cases.
The Great Falls and Canada was primarily the southern half of a coal carrier, connecting the then best best known regional coal district, at Lethbridge, with a large scale coal user at Great Falls, and indirectly with the booming western Montana mining districts. Yet they only lasted 13 years before gauge conversion.
The Newfoundland Railway was a government line, and for most of its lifetime a millstone around the government's neck, regardless of which party was in power and being attacked for mismanagement. Perusing the fairly extensive local histories, its construction was initially as much a public jobs program as essential transportation. Completed, it became an essential element of interior transportation, up until the completion of Hy 1 across the island. One that had to be kept running regardless of the costs. Those costs were a significant factor in several government crisis, one of which came close to ending Newfoundland's status as a self-governing colony. Which is why the Newfoundland government made the CN takeover an absolute requirement for joining the Canadian Confederation in 1949. And why CN was allowed to pull the plug, once there was a viable alternative in place.
The White Pass was not, for long, your average lightly built NG railroad. It was built to SG clearances, 16'x22', and laid out with 16 degree curves (24 degree "temporaries"), so the design was generally up to contemporary SG mountain road standards in all but gauge. While not generally known, the WP&Y was also heavily rebuilt during the first 5 years or so after it was opened. See president Graves' "On the White Pass Payroll", published circa 1907 and since reprinted. The early new built White Pass engines were large for their time, all but one of them outside framed, and WP&Y 68 & 69 rated C-30 in the D&RGW's 1923 classification scheme. The steel arch over Switchback Gulch was a major bridge by any railroad's standards. Most of the initially numerous timber trestles were solidly filled in, many behind dry rubble stone retaining walls, medium heights behind concrete walls, and 6 tall ones replaced by steel trestles. An RfP for a steel viaduct at Glacier had been prepared, but was not acted upon. This heavy investment ceased shortly after president Graves' early death, but the White Pass was able to coast on it, to a considerable degree, for the next thirty years, avoiding much of the high ongoing expenses inherent in the usual light NG construction. But between the railroad and river divisions, they also had an effective monopoly on transportation into the Yukon, which by the late 1930s was financing additional improvements. It is no accident that the railroad folded shortly after the Klondike highway opened, although the actual trigger was the closing of their major ore customer.