Unlike the United States’ first transcontinental railroad, Canada’s was marred by delays, finances and red tape.
A transcontinental railroad had been promised to the colony of British Columbia to entice it to enter confederation. If the promise was not fulfilled, the province might choose to leave the dominion.
Completing the railway also would open the two sides of the nation for commerce and make settlement to the west easier. The railroad was used as recruitment tool in Europe to encourage emigration. New settlers were offered 160 acres for a $10 deposit.
Facts About the Railroad
Construction Begins: 1881.
Mileage Covered: 25 million acres, starting in Ontario and running through Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Demographics: 15,000 Chinese were employed in the construction as were European immigrants.
During Construction: First Nation people were offered compensation for their land, but not all felt the farmland they had been promised was a good deal.
A route was chosen near the U.S. boarder to keep American railroads out of the Canadian market. However, this route meant working through some rough terrain.
Cost: The Pacific Scandal erupted when it was uncovered that the contract had been awarded to a man who had contributed to the prime minister’s election campaign, and that Conservative members of Parliament had accepted bribes to influence the contract’s awarding.
In the scandal’s aftermath, a syndicate was formed and the government granted it a $25 million loan.
Canada Pacific estimated it would cost $100 million to complete the railroad.
The money quickly ran out and attempts to raise funds in Britain were unsuccessful. By 1885, the railroad was facing bankruptcy and requested a $5 million loan from the government.
Construction Completed: November 7, 1885.
Last Spike: Craigellachie, British Columbia.
Legacy: Shortcuts taken during construction because of weather meant the first trains had to wait months to use the line.
During World War One, Canada Pacific Railway’s vast network, that also included ships, were used to transport troops and supplies.
Can you imagine how this new means of transportation changed lives? Leave a comment below.
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