Macdonald returned to power in 1878, with the completion of the railway as one facet of his National Policy, and the contract was finally awarded to interests led by Donald A. SMITH, J.J. Hill and George STEPHEN. The Canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated on
These terms were loudly denounced by opposing interests at the time and remained contentious with the development of the PRAIRIE WEST. However, in the face of American expansion westward, Macdonald and the federal Conservatives considered completion of the railway a national imperative.
Under the management of W.C. VAN HORNE, construction was rapidly pressed across the plains. Sandford FLEMING had recommended a route through the YELLOWHEAD PASS but a more southerly route through KICKING HORSE PASS was decided upon late in 1881. Construction through the rock and muskeg of the Canadian SHIELD almost equalled in difficulty the ENGINEERING feats of construction through the mountains of BC. Extreme difficulties in obtaining an adequate work force in BC led to the controversial importation of thousands of Chinese.
At the height of the building activity on the Yale to Kamloops Lake section, more than two-thirds, or approximately 9000 workers, were Chinese. The line through to the Pacific coast was completed with the driving of the "Last Spike" at CRAIGELLACHIE in EAGLE PASS, BC, on 7 November 1885. The section from Callander to Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ont, was used to move troops westward during the NORTH-WEST REBELLION, though it was not quite complete. The first through passenger train left Montréal 28 June 1886 and arrived at Port Moody, BC, July 4.
During construction the CPR became involved in the sale and settlement of land (1881), acquisition of the Dominion Express Co (1882) and the acceptance of commercial TELEGRAPH messages (1882). The company provided its own sleeping and dining cars on trains and constructed tourist hotels (eg, at Lake Louise, Alta) and dining halls along the route in the western mountains. This foothold on the tourist industry benefited the CPR later in its international development of hotels, steamships and airlines (see HOTEL; TOURISM).
Following construction, the greatest challenge facing the CPR was to develop business to make the line self-sustaining. Though settlement proceeded rapidly in the wake of the rail lines, population in western Canada was insufficient to sustain the line fully for many years. To increase business, the corporation became very active in promoting trade in the Pacific. Within days of the arrival of the first train on the west coast in 1886, sailing vessels chartered by the CPR began to arrive from Japan, bringing tea, silk and curios. By 1891 the company had secured a contract from the British government to carry the imperial mails from Hong Kong to Britain via Canada. The result was the purchase of 3 ocean passenger-cargo vessels, forerunners of the present-day fleet.
By 1900 the mountain hotel system had expanded into the major cities, led by the Hotel Vancouver (1887), Québec's Château Frontenac (1893) and Montréal's Place Viger (1898). Other services expanded simultaneously. A line was opened (1889) across northern Maine from Montréal to Saint John giving the CPR direct access to an all-weather Atlantic port. Attempts to capture traffic from the western American states were made with construction of a line to North Dakota (1893) and control (which remains today) of what is now the Soo Line Railroad Co in the US. Branch lines were greatly extended to feed traffic to the E-W main line. Rapid settlement followed construction of branches to southern Manitoba, from Regina to Prince Albert (1890) and from Calgary N to Strathcona (Edmonton) in 1891.
Expansion into the Kootenay mining region of southern BC (1898) involved the acquisition of a railway charter that included a smelter at Trail, BC. This was the nucleus of the CPR's involvement in MINING and METALLURGY, formalized by the formation of what is now Cominco Ltd (1906), a CP-controlled company. The Pacific fleet was improved and, in 1903, the CPR purchased the Beaver Line and opened service in the N Atlantic. In 1914-15, after the 1909 purchase of the long-established ALLAN LINE, Canadian Pacific Ocean Services (after 1921 Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd) was organized. The widespread expansion of the company, much of it under the presidency of T.G. SHAUGHNESSY (1899-1918), placed a heavy drain on company resources, but continuance of the NATIONAL POLICY, with its substantial tariffs, meant continuing high rates in the West.
Attacks on these rates in 1896 had helped to bring about the defeat of the Conservatives. The Liberals reduced rates with the CROW'S NEST PASS AGREEMENT in 1897 and certain grievances were removed by the passing of the Manitoba Grain Act in 1900. Finally, charters were granted to the CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY to develop the huge area of northern prairie left vacant by the CPR. Between 1899 and 1913, the CPR increased its trackage from approximately 11 200 km to 17 600 km. More than half of the new track was in the Prairie provinces, and it was intended both to provide branch lines into areas of need and to ensure that the CPR would remain competitive in relation to the developing transcontinental lines or the Canadian Northern Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
Consolidation and expansion in the 1920s and the Depression in the 1930s were major challenges, as was competition from the CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY, formed by the government of Canada between 1917 and 1923. The CNR consolidated the failing Grand Trunk Pacific, Canadian Northern, Intercolonial and Canadian Government Railways, and competed with the CPR in hotels, telegraphs, steamships and express services as well as railway services. Despite this massive, government-supported competition, CPR survived as a commercial enterprise. In WWII it provided not only transportation, but also the production in its own main shops of armaments and materiel. During the conflict, much of its merchant fleet was commandeered for military transport purposes, resulting in the loss of 12 vessels.
Canadian Pacific Air Lines (later CP Air) was organized in 1942 with the purchase of Grant MCCONACHIE's Yukon Southern Air Transport and numerous other flying concerns. Under McConachie's leadership after 1947, CPA developed into an international carrier serving the Far East, Australasia, most of South America and several European countries (see AVIATION). In 1987 CP Air was acquired by Pacific Western; the 2 companies began operations as Canadian Airlines International. It was later expanded with the purchase of WARDAIR. A rigorously competitive market and government regulation caused the significant changes to the airline industry in the 1990s. CAI was taken over by AIR CANADA in 2000.
Until the late 1950s CP's diverse interests were looked upon as ancillary to the rail system. Beginning at this time, management embraced a policy of full diversification by making each operation fully self-supporting. Thus, operations that had been handled traditionally by specific departments in the railway corporate structure were set up as enterprises in their own right; eg, Marathon Realty Co Ltd (1963), which took over the administration of real estate other than that required for railway use; CP Hotels Ltd (1965); and CP Oil & Gas Ltd (1958), which became PanCanadian Energy Corporation. Its merger with the Alberta Energy Company Limited in 2002 created EnCana, one of the world's leading independent oil companies.
Nontransportation interests were vested in a holding company, Canadian Pacific Enterprises Ltd, founded in 1962, leaving the railway, air, ship and highway transportation fields under the jurisdiction of the parent company. In 1968 a new corporate identity program gave the names CP Rail, CP Ships, CP Transport and CP Air to the various transportation modes. In 1971, to reflect the new and broader orientation of the company, its original name was altered to Canadian Pacific Ltd (CPL). In 1967 the communications wing was integrated, along with CN's parallel organization, into a new, jointly owned company known as CNCP Telecommunications Ltd. In 1990 CNP became Unitel Communications.
Author OMER LAVALLÉE
P. Berton, The National Dream (1970) and The Last Spike (1971); J.M. Gibbon, Steel of Empire: The Romantic History of the Canadian Pacific, the Northwest Passage of Today (1935); H.A. Innis, A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1923); W. Kaye Lamb, History of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1977); J.L. McDougall, Canadian Pacific: A Brief History (1968).
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Canadian Pacific Railway
The CP Rail website features information about the company's extensive services and operations. Click on "General Public" to access the multimedia "Our History" section.
Kettle Valley Steam Railway
This site is devoted to the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in BC. Includes an illustrated description of steam locomotive mechanics.
Collection Profile: Rail
An extensive overview of Canada's railway history from the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Sir Sandford Fleming
An illustrated history of the life and times of Sir Sandford Fleming. A Virtual Museum of Canada website.
A Heritage Minute about the Chinese people who came to British Columbia in 1882 to work on the final link of the Canadian Pacific Railway. From the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related learning materials.
The Adventure Train!
Travel back in time to discover important historical milestones in the development of Canada’s extensive railway system in this fun interactive game from the Virtual Museum of Canada.
The Train Messenger
Explore Canada’s railway history as you construct your own freight train in this fun game from the Virtual Museum of Canada.
The Chung Collection
This multimedia UBC website features poignant stories about the hardships and challenges faced by Chinese immigrants who came to Canada in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Crowsnest Pass Railway Route
This collection of photographs records the history of rail travel through the Crowsnest Past region of British Columbia. A Canadian Museum of Rail Travel website.
The Edge of the World: BC's Early Years
Watch a series of short films about the events, people, and places that shaped British Columbia's early history. Features a wealth of archival photographs. From knowledge.ca.
Brooks Aqueduct National and Provincial Historic Site
Explore the history of Brooks Aqueduct at this Alberta Community Development Historic Sites and Archive Service website.
Canadian Pacific Railway
A brief history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. From the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.
Revelstoke Railway Museum
The website for the Revelstoke Railway Museum. Check out the online photos of their collection.
Donald Smith drives the last spike at Craigellachie
This famous image of Donald Smith driving the “last spike” at Craigellachie, B.C. is from “The Canadian West” feature at Library and Archives Canada.
The online home of TMX Group, which owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange. For real-time and historical market data, sector profiles, and financial information about listed companies, click on listed company directory on left side of page or enter stock symbol in the search box.
How the Northwest Rebellion spurred the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Features photos and other archival material. From Library and Archives Canada.
System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval
Search the SEDAR online database for disclosure documents of Canadian public companies and mutual funds. From the Canadian Securities Administrators.
When Coal Was King
The multimedia website “When Coal was King: Coal Mining in Western Canada” explores the history of Alberta’s coal mining industry. Check out the glossary and educational activities. From the Alberta Online Encyclopedia.
Atlas of Alberta Railways
Climb aboard the "Atlas of Alberta Railways" website for a fascinating multimedia tour of Alberta history. This site will take you to a great collection of fascinating maps, old newspaper articles, scenic photographs, charts, graphs, and much more. From the University of Alberta Press.
Canadian Railway Hall of Fame
The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame honours Canadian achievement in the railway business. It fulfills a need to recognize various technology, communities and individuals that have been instrumental in the development of this vital Canadian transportation system.
Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society
A great resource for railway heritage sites throughout Nova Scotia.
Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada
The Parks Canada website for the Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada.
Engine 1095 Restoration Project
See an online gallery of photos of Engine 1095 aka “The Spirit of Sir John A.," a former Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive currently located in downtown Kingston. Shows the locomotive in various stages of restoration. From flickriver.com.
The Philosophy of Railways: The Transcontinental Railway Idea in British North America
A synopsis of A.A. den Otter's book in which he challenges popular ideas concerning the role of the transcontinental railway in spurring the West's integration into Canadian confederation. From the Memorial University website.
From C to C: Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration
Explore an interactive timeline that chronicles the multidimensional history of Chinese immigration to Canada. View archival documents, photographs, and videos that focus on the legal and societal obstacles encountered by migrating Chinese, as well as the substantial achievements of Chinese-Canadians through the generations. From Simon Fraser University and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (a Vancouver multicultural organization).
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...