Archie Burns was the builder and operator of another early mechanized hauling operations over the trail. He was born in 1864, and moved into the north country as a young man.2 During his tenure in the north he worked in a variety of jobs and developed several businesses which involved the transportation and sales of goods. As a prospector he took part in both the Fortymile rush of 1887-88 and the Circle City excitement of 1893-94.3 By late 1894 he had moved to Juneau, and by December of that year had opened up a freighting business there. He continued operating it through the following May, but by June he decided instead to build and operate a restaurant.4
His exact whereabouts for the next year are unknown, but he probably resided in Juneau. Wherever he was, he doubtless heard much about the growing movement of prospectors over Chilkoot Pass, and probably heard about Peterson's tram, which was operating over the pass in the spring of 1894 through 1896. Accordingly, this "schemer of restless energy" set out to claim as much of the Chilkoot Pass business as possible for himself. In the fall of 1896, he claimed the summit of the Chilkoot for a trading and manufacturing site, effectively blocking out all competitors. Soon afterwards, he was operating a horse-drawn tramway system through the spring of 1897. This tramway lifted goods from the Scales to the false summit. In addition to his tramway business, Burns also was hauling goods on the trail below the Scales.5
Several passing travelers noted Burns' operation. Inspector W. H. Scarth emphasized its simplicity. Stopping at the Scales, he wrote that "there is a sort of tramway running up to the top from here, which is run by horse power. It is only a sled let up and down by a rope, which is passed around a dead man at the top." A guidebook published that year noted that "an enterprising man named Burns has rigged a windlass and cable there, and with this he hoists up some freight at a cent a pound." J. H. E. Secretan observed that "some enterprising individual had established a wire cable for the last six hundred foot lift, worked by two wretched horses, who were plodding around in a circle, winding up sleigh-loads of supplies and passengers at one and one-half cents a pound. I heard casually that this gentleman was clearing one hundred and fifty dollars a day by the operation." Secretan watched a woman being pulled up in one of the sleds.6 Joaquin Miller, who was not a direct observer of the operation, noted that Burns "set up an elevator here ... and used it with great results till the snow faded away." Goods were brought up the slope on "a sort of street car sled." A Juneau newspaper, perhaps citing the name of the manufacturer or its design type, called it "the Nash tramway at Dyea." Its design was similar to those used around many Western mining camps.7
In the summer of 1897, Burns probably returned to Juneau, but stayed there for only a short time. By mid-August he was on the trail again, driving a herd of cattle to Dawson. He returned to Juneau in late October via Chilkoot Pass, and was soon residing back in the country between Dyea and Chilkoot Summit.8 Taking full advantage of his experience and the available opportunities, Burns was an active businessman during the winter of 1897-98.9 His financial interest in the tramway was apparently purchased by Juneau merchant C. W. Young, and for the next several months Burns served as the manager of the C. W. Young Freighting and Trading Company. This firm was a major packer over the Chilkoot Trail. In order to guarantee the smooth access of his pack trains, one of his duties was to maintain portions of the trail surface.10 In addition to packing, the company also operated what was advertised as "the old, established and original summit aerial tramway."11 Under Young's ownership, Burns operated several tramways between the Scales and the summit at various times during the winter. None, however, was an aerial tramway. One surface tram was run by steam power, the other by gasoline.
Although Burns operated these businesses as a manager and not an owner, his name was either formally or informally associated with them. Observers noted, for instance, that the various tramways bore Burns' name. In addition, the company's Dyea stables, located on River street south of Fifth street, were called Burns' Stables.12 A third business enterprise in which he was probably associated was a store and hotel in Sheep Camp. Advertisements indicate that the C. W. Young Freighting and Trading Company had a branch office in Sheep Camp, and that C. W. Young also ran a supply store there. No business of Archie Burns' is listed. A news article in April 1898, however, notes "Archie Burns' store" at the north end of Sheep Camp.13
By April, Burns had been operating a motorized tramway for some time. Although one account suggested that he began operating this service in early December 1897, he probably did not begin until the middle or end of January 1898. On December 17, stampeder Harvey Condon noted that "about 20 of us helped pull Archie Burns' boiler on a big sled up to the falls."14 On January 19, the Dyea Trail announced further progress, stating that "a steam engine for handling Burns' cable is being placed on the summit by Captain Purvis of this city."15 The tramway began advertising on January 19; it probably commenced operations shortly afterwards. It appears that Burns did not own the tram, instead, it was part of the C. W. Young Freighting and Trading Company, but like the other enterprises, his name was commonly associated with it.
For the next two months, Burns ran the only tramway operation that ran directly up Chilkoot Pass. For the first month or more, before the Peterson tramway began operating, his only competition came from Indian packers. He profited handsomely from the growing traffic.16 By late February, his tram was lifting five tons of goods daily up the slope from the Scales. His rates apparently fluctuated according to the demand for services; on March 2, he charged two cents per pound, but later he charged four cents per pound or more.17
Shortly after he put it into operation, Burns apparently found his steam-powered tramway in need of assistance. Perhaps it was not sufficiently strong to haul the necessary loads; perhaps Burns had difficulty in securing an adequate supply of unfrozen water with which to operate his boiler; perhaps he simply needed more capacity than the steam boiler could supply. For whatever reason, Burns supplemented the steam-powered tram with a gasoline hoist. The steam hoist continued operating until late spring.18