Before the Railway 1870- 1881

The history of the Canadian pacific Railway dates back to 1870. In 1870, the now-province of British Columbia asked the government to supply them with a transition link to connect the Confederation of Canada.  At the time, all they hoped for was a wagon road.  You can only imagine the excitement of the residents of British Columbia when the government introduced a new idea into the government: A Trans-Canadian Railway. Prime Minister MacDonald saw it as a necessity for an united Canadian nation, so he was in support of the idea. But mind you, this railroad was not made simply because that British Columbia had asked. One of the promises that British Columbia had to agree to was to join the Confederation of Canada. Remember, different provinces joined Canada at different time periods.

Sanford Fleming sent some men to do a brief area scan of Canada to report the route and the terrain. These parties braved the mountainous terrain, thick forests, and large swarms of insects to trace out the easiest route around the country. By 1872, the famous professor had planned a route around most parts of Canada. Now that all of this planning was done, MacDonald decided to have a man named Hugh Allan build the railway. The Liberal Party sensed some suspicious activity going on between Macdonald and Allan so they looked further into the relationship between Macdonald and Allan and discovered [The Pacific Scandal]. This lead to the resignation of Canada’s first Prime Minister.

After such a damaging blow sent to Conservative government, the Liberals were the most favored. This caused Liberal candidate Alexander Mackenzie to rise to office. Although the bill of the Canadian Pacific Railway was passed when Mackenzie  was in office, the construction had still not begun, the residents of British Columbia began to doubt whether the railway was going to be constructed after all.

After MacDonald’s resignation, the Canadian economy began to collapse. This resulted in the re-election of Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. In the year 1878, John was re-elected as Prime Minister of Canada. He decided to make the best of this, and push construction on the railway.  In 1880, he decided to let Andrew Onderdonk ‘s crewmen work on the parts of the Railway  stretching from Yale to Savon's Ferry.

On October 21st, the conservative government decided to contract a new syndicate, to build the railway. Their contract was a expensive one of 25 million dollars. (Approximately 625 million now) and 25 million acres of land to begin work. The  syndicate was made up of five associates: George Stephen, James J. Hill, Duncan McIntyre, Richard B. Angus, and John Steward Kennedy. On February 15, 1881, legislation received royal assent, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was incorporated with George Stephen as its first president. The route originally planned by Sanford was rejected by the CPR. A route through Palliser’s Triangle Saskatchewan, and Kicking Horse Pass was planned. But this route traveled through the Selkirk Mountains and the mountains were  was unexplored, so Major Albert Bowman Rogers was sent to explore this pass for a sum of $5000 and to name the pass in his honor. In 1883 he did discover a route, and so the Rogers Pass was named. Albert refused to cash the cheque, and framed it, preserving it as an antique until the Company gave him a engraved watch to replace the cheque.

Another problem that the planners faced: A first nations group, the Blackfoot, were in the route of the railway. A missionary priest, Albert Lacombe was sent to improvise. The problem was overcome when the missionary promised the chief of the Blackfoot a lifetime pass to the CPR.

Construction Time
The 1881 construction season was quite and very disappointing. The Chief Engineer and General Superintendent were removed from their positions after only managing to build a  measly 211 kilometers of track. Now, you make think this is a lot, but the railway is a total of 22530 km today. That would come to about 107 years of construction at this rate to get the railway we have today.

Everyone was fretting. The track was already seriously delayed because of Alexander Mackenzie’s reluctance to get work started on the railway until 1878. They had promised a 10 year frame from the day British Columbia joined the Confederation to the day the railway would be complete. Mackenzie had wasted 6. Now the seventh year was a very disappointing end. They needed someone with potential. And fast!

James Jerome Hill, one of the associates of the syndicate that contracted the railway, had mentioned that William Cornelius Van Horne was the right man for the right job. Van Horne  took a liking to the sizable salary that the position of a CPR general manager had to offer, so he took the deal.

Now, William was so confident of his skills that he hypothesized that he could build at least 800km in his first season of work. At the early days of the 1882 season, floods delayed and prevented railway work, and things were looking grim to make it past half his expectations. But at the end of the season, the crew managed to complete 673 kilometers of track had been done. Also another 177 km of branch line tracks laid down made Cornelius quite respected amongst the associates.

Although his process was considered remarkable, the fact was not actually that shocking. He had been working on railways  ever since he was 14.

By the end of 1883, the railroad was just miles away from Kicking Horse Pass. The years 1884 and 1885 were mainly  spent on working on the railway in the mountains and on the shore of lake Superior.  Now, All of this work couldn't’t only be done by Canadians, since there were only approximately 300,000 that were in the small confederation. Most had individual careers such as Doctor and all. Especially after the Klondike Gold Rush. Doctors were becoming more and more common since the Rush. This is when men were immigrated from foreign countries such as Britain, but most of the immigrated workmen were Chinese.

This is where our story starts...



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