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The Canadian Pacific Railway

The construction of a rail link uniting the West Coast with the rest of Canada was one of the conditions for the entry of British Columbia into Confederation. But the scandal that toppled John A. Macdonald's Conservative government in 1873 pushed this project back by several years.

The government of Alexander Mackenzie (see First Among Equals) would make certain attempts to start construction of the transcontinental railway, but it was only with John A. Macdonald's return and his National Policy that the construction of the Canadian Pacific started in earnest.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company was officially incorporated on February 16, 1881. The Canadian government gave it a grant of 25 million dollars and transferred approximately 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land to the company. The government also defrayed the cost of surveying these lands (37 million dollars) and exempted the Canadian Pacific Railway Company from property tax for the next 20 years.

William C. Van Horne headed this enterprise as general manager from 1881 to 1889, president from 1889 to 1899 and chairman of the board from 1899 to 1910. His eagerness and indefatigable energy put their stamp on the railway company's achievements as well as on its expansion.

Construction on the railway started in 1882 and ended in 1885. The first passenger train left Montreal on June 28, 1886 and arrived at Port Moody, British Columbia, on July 4 of the same year.


Lavallée, Omer. -- "Canadian Pacific Railway". -- The 1999 Canadian Encyclopedia : World Edition [CD-ROM]. -- Version 5. -- [s.l.] : McClelland & Stewart, 1998.