Readers pitch answers to brick mystery, amend wood pilings history

WE ASKED: Help our Readers' Reporter solve the great brick mystery.

Last week, our Readers' Reporter tracked down the history behind old wood pilings along the shoreline of the North Thompson River, near Rayleigh. It was discovered that the pilings are remnants of an old riverside brickyard operation that turned out thousands of bricks a day in the late-1800s and shipped them downriver by barge.

While onsite getting photographs of the pilings, our Readers' Reporter found four large curved bricks in shallow water and asked Daily News readers for help in identifying them.

YOUR ANSWERS: "I just finished reading the story about the brick found on the shoreline of the river at Rae-Mor Park," Daily News reader Mary Friesen wrote in an email.

"This appears to be a brick belonging to a round brick barbecue. They are interlocking and therefore shaped as pictured. We still have the old brick barbecue in our backyard made up of numerous bricks exactly as the one pictured. I hope this solves the mystery."

Another reader posted the following on our Readers' Reporter website: "The bricks in the river look to me to be 'refactory' or 'fire bricks.' These were special bricks used to line furnaces and fireboxes in boilers. They were curved so as to conform to the shape on the inside of the furnace. Firebricks were able to withstand great heat, and spread the heat from a fire evenly over a heating surface.

"They had a rough life, and were replaced frequently, often during maintenance on the boiler and furnace. Because they were made to withstand great heat, discarded firebrick often stays around for years in the rubble of an old industrial site. Given that the article talks about the quality of Kamloops bricks, these curved bricks are likely from elsewhere from a brickyard, which specializes in making firebrick.

"An interesting sidelight. The steamboats, which plied the North Thompson during the building of the Canadian Northern Railway, would have had firebrick in their fireboxes."

Thank you to both of those readers for taking the time to comment. If any readers would like to add their answers to this topic, please send an email to or post a comment on the Readers' Reporter section of The Daily News website at


As avid history buffs, our Readers' Reporter team was absolutely delighted to receive a letter Wednesday from Jacob Befurt of Kamloops, who sent us some fascinating information about those old wood pilings at Rayleigh.

"I started firing steam locomotives in 1946 on the Canadian National Railway at Kamloops Junction, at which time there were still quite a few old-timers around who were willing to share their knowledge of events and history," he writes.

Befurt said he once asked a locomotive engineer about those pilings, who said they were part of a diversion and holding boom for logs that were floated down the river to supply a lumber mill at the downstream end of the pilings.

He says the mill was built by Mackenzie and Mann builders of the Canadian Northern Railway and was used to process timber, lumber and ties for railway construction.

"At one time, years ago, I took to scouting out this area and found several cement foundations and structures, which I assumed to be pads for boilers or heavy equipment," wrote Befurt.

"This may be where the curved bricks came from - the firebox of a steam plant."

Befurt also remembers seeing what he considered evidence of a "spur" track that may have be used to load and unload rail cars closer to the shoreline from the main rail line.

A special thank you to Mr. Befurt for taking the time to type such a detailed letter, on a typewriter no less. We're sure Kamloops Museum and Archives will find the information a valuable addition to its records of the Rayleigh area.

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