Canadian Pacific Railway, n.d.
The story of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) offers a fascinating look at a national icon and provides an intricate link to some early chapters in Canadian history.
In the years leading to Confederation, John A. Macdonald worked tirelessly to promote the union of the British North American colonies. One factor motivating Macdonald was that the western regions of the United States were being settled with immigrants and after the Civil War, some prominent Americans openly discussed the annexation of their northern neighbour. After complex negotiations, Macdonald and his colleagues succeeded in pushing through the British North America (BNA) Act and soon after, he spoke of building a railway linking the East to the West. He thought the railway would unify the country geographically and politically. In addition, British Columbia insisted upon the railway as a condition for joining the union.
The Hon. Donald A. Smith driving the last spike to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway, Nov. 7, 1885
At first, the idea seemed absurd. There was no solid financial support for such a venture and for those living in Canada, the West was a mysterious wilderness with few inhabitants. Nevertheless, surveys began in 1871 under the direction of Sandford Fleming. After many trials and tribulations, including a national scandal that kicked Macdonald temporarily out of office, the final rail was laid at Craigellachie, British Columbia in 1885.
The CPR's first president was the flamboyant William Van Horne, who was instrumental in making the term "Canadian Pacific" synonymous with transportation in Canada. The CPR came to own luxurious hotels, fleets of cruise ships and an airline, all the while promoting Canada and its own services relentlessly. They sent agents abroad, launching exhibits and publishing beautiful brochures and posters for tourists, and pamphlets and books for immigrants. The CPR continues its freight service but in 1978, their passenger service became part of VIA Rail.
Canadian Pacific Railway, 1925
Canadian Pacific Railway, 1938
Canadian Pacific Railway, 1948
In the 1890s, the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) was ready to move westward. The original plan was merely for an expansion from North Bay to Winnipeg, but the GTR's General Manager, Charles Melville Hays, convinced the company's board to stretch the railway line all the way to Prince Rupert. With this line, he argued, the GTR could capture a share of the Canadian Pacific Railway's (CPR) prairie grain market and exploit the natural resources of the area north of the CPR's holdings. The proposed terminus of Prince Rupert was closer to Asia then the CPR's Vancouver, thereby ensuring advantages in that trade.
Dining staff and porter, Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, 1914
Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, 1913
In 1903, the GTR obtained their charter and called their new subsidiary the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP). Hays was appointed the first president of the new company, but did not live to see his dream fully realized. Two years before the line was complete, he died aboard the Titanic. The GTP never lived up to the grand expectations and became one of the primary contributors to the national railway crisis at the beginning of the First World War. After only five years of full operations, the GTP was put into receivership and in 1920, folded into the new Canadian National Railways.
Canadian Northern Railway, 1917
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway, 1938, cover and centre pages
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