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Canada and the States By Sir E. W. Watkin Characters: 9936

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Canadian Pacific Railways.

The pioneer suggestion of a railway across British territory to the Pacific has been claimed by many. To my mind, all valuable credit attaches to those who have completed the work. The christening of "La Chine"-the town seven miles from Montreal, where the canals which go round the rapids end, and the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa rivers join their differently coloured streams-contained the prophecy of a future great high road to the then mysterious East, to China, to Japan, to Australia; and it is to the Sieur de la Salle, who, 200 years ago, bought lands above the rapids from the Sulpician Fathers of Montreal, and began his many attempts to reach the lands of the "setting sun," that we owe the name; while the resolution of Sir Charles Tupper, carried in the Dominion Parliament, finally embodied in an Act which received the Royal assent on the 17th February, 1881, and was opposed throughout by the "Grit" party, was really the practical start. It would be inadequate to write of the Great Canadian Pacific Railway without some reference to the history of railways in Canada itself.

In the interesting book, "Rambles on Railways," published in 1868, it is remarked that great as has been the progress of Canada, in no respect has the growth of the country shown itself in a more marked manner than in the development of its railway system. It was in 1848, or almost immediately after the completion of the magnificent canal system of Canada proper, and by which vessels of 800 tons could pass from the ocean to Lake Ontario, and vice versa (ships now pass from Chicago to Liverpool of over 1,500 tons burthen), that the Canadians discovered it was necessary, notwithstanding their unrivalled inland navigation, to combine with it an equally good railway communication; and accordingly, in 1849, an Act was passed by the Canadian Government pledging a six per cent. guarantee on one-half the cost of all railways made under its provisions. In 1852, however, the Government, fearing the effect of an indiscriminate guarantee, repealed the law of 1849, and passed an Act guaranteeing one-half of the cost of one main Trunk line of railway throughout the Province, and it was under this Act that the Grand Trunk Railway was projected.

These terms were subsequently modified, by granting a fixed sum of 3,000_l_. per mile of railway forming part of the main Trunk line. It is true that prior to these dates railways existed in Canada. There was, for example, the horse railway from La Prairie, nine miles above Montreal, to St. John's on the Richelieu River, opened in July, 1836, and first worked with locomotives in 1837; there was also a horse railway between Queenstown and Chippewa, passing Niagara, opened in 1839, and over which I travelled in 1851; but with these exceptions, and the Lachine Railway, a line running from Montreal for seven miles to the westward, the railway system of Canada cannot be said to have commenced until after the passing of the Railway Act in 1849, and even then, it was not for about a year that any progress was made. Soon after that date, however, the works of several lines were pushed forward, and in 1854 the section between Montreal and Quebec was opened, the first train having carried Lord Elgin, who was then en route to England to confer with the home authorities respecting the future Reciprocity Treaty with the United States Government. So, whilst in 1852, Canada could only boast of about 30 miles of railway, she has now over 10,000 miles. The population of the Dominion is estimated roughly at 5,000,000, so that this mileage gives something over two miles of railway for every thousand inhabitants, a greater railway mileage system per head of population than, perhaps, is possessed by any other country in the world.

The old Grand Trunk proprietors feel that their early pioneer services to Canada, and their heavy sacrifices, have rather been ignored in competition, than recognized, by the Canadian Pacific not being an extension of the Grand Trunk system. Had I remained in office as President of the Grand Trunk, undoubtedly I should have laboured hard to bring about such a consummation, which undoubtedly would have economised capital and hastened the completion of the great Inter- oceanic work. But the London agents of Canada, who were, and are, responsible for launching the Grand Trunk and for its many issues of capital to British shareholders, have undoubtedly aided the competition and rivalry complained of; for in July, 1885, they floated-when other great financial houses were unable-3,000,000_l_. sterling, not for the Pacific line itself, but to complete other extensions of the Pacific Company's system of a directly competitive character with the Grand Trunk, and which could never have been finished but for this British money, so raised. While I do not enter into the controversy, it still seems to me that blame lies nearer home than in Canada,

if blame be deserved at all. Great financiers seem sometimes ready to devour their own industrial children.

The Canadian Pacific Railway from Quebec to Port Moody is a mixture of the new and the old. The first section, from Quebec to Montreal, is an old friend, the North Shore Railway, once possessed by the Grand Trunk Company, and sold back to the Canadian Government for purposes of extending the Pacific route to tide-water at Quebec, and making one, throughout, management. From Montreal to Ottawa, and beyond, is another section of older-made line. The piece from Port Arthur to Winnipeg is an older railway, made by the Canadian Government. Again, on the Pacific there is the British Columbia Government Railway. All the rest, round the head of Lake Superior up to Port Arthur, from Winnipeg across the Great Prairies to Calgary, and on to, and across, the Rocky Mountains, the crossings of the Selkirk and other Columbian Ranges, is new Railway-with works daring and wonderful.

Pioneer railways are not like works at home. The lines are single, with crossing places every five, ten, or twenty miles; ballast is not always used, the lines on prairies being laid for long stretches on the earth formation; rivers, chasms, canons and cataracts are crossed by timber trestle bridges. The rails, of steel, are flat bottomed, fastened by spikes, 60 lbs. to the yard, except through the mountains, where they are 70 lbs.

Begun as pioneer works, they undergo, as traffic progresses, many improvements. Ballast is laid down. Iron or steel bridges are substituted for timber. The gorges spanned by trestles are, one by one, filled up, by the use of the steam digger to fill, and the ballast plough to push out, the stuff from the flat bottomed wagons on each side and through the interstices of, the trestles. Sometimes the timber is left in; sometimes it is drawn out and used elsewhere. This trestle bridge plan of expediting the completion, and cheapening the construction, of new railways, wants more study, at home. Whenever there are gorges and valleys to pass in a timbered country, the facility they give of getting "through" is enormous. The Canadian Pacific would not be open now, but for this facility.

All these lines across the Continent have very similar features. They each have prairies to pass, with long straight lines and horizons which seem ever vanishing and never reached; mountain ranges of vast altitudes to cross, alkaline lands, hitherto uncultivable, hot sulphur springs, prairie-dogs, gophyrs, and other animals not usually seen. The buffalo has retired from the neighbourhood of these iron-roads and of the "fire-wagons," as the Indians call the locomotives. Here and there on all the prairies on all the lines, heaps of whitened bones, of buffalo, elk, and stag, are piled up at stations, to be taken away for agricultural purposes. The railways resemble each other in their ambitious extensions. The Canadian Pacific Railway, from Quebec to Port Moody, is above 3,000 miles in length, but the total mileage of the Company is already 4,600 miles, and no one knows where it is to stop, while Messrs. Baring and Glyn will, and can, raise money from English people; the Union Pacific possesses 4,500 miles in the United States; the Southern Pacific nearly 5,000; and the newest of the three, the Northern Pacific, has about 3,000 miles, and is "marching on" to a junction with Grand Trunk extensions at the southern end of Lake Superior, in order to complete a second Atlantic and Pacific route, through favoured Canada. Each of these great lines has found the necessity of supplementing the through, with as much local traffic, as it can command. Some of this is new, such as the coal traffic from Sir Alexander Galt's mines, situated on a branch line of 110 miles, running out of the Canadian Pacific at Dunmore, and the mineral traffic in the territory of Wyoming on the Union Pacific. But, again, some of it is the result of competition. Let us hope that the development of both Canada and the United States may quickly give trade enough for all. It seems to me, however, that the Ocean to Ocean traffic, alone, cannot, at present at least, find a good return for so many railways.

Canada has been unusually generous to the promoters of the Canadian Pacific Railway. A free gift of five millions sterling: a free gift of 713 miles of, completed, railway: a free gift of twenty-five millions of acres of land: all materials admitted free of duty: the lands given to be free of taxation for twenty years: the Company's, property to be free of taxation: the Company to have absolute control in fixing its rates and charges until it should pay 10 per cent. dividend on its Ordinary Stock: and for twenty years no competitive Railway to be sanctioned;-summarize the liberality of the Dominion of Canada, in her efforts to bind together her Ocean coasts. The work is essentially an Imperial work. What is the duty of the Empire?

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