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HUSTON, JAMES – Volume VIII (1851-1860)

d. 21 Sept. 1854 at Quebec

Confederation

Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier

Sports

The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

The Transcontinental Railway
 

In 1872 the Conservative government led by Sir John A. MACDONALD awarded Sir Hugh ALLAN the contract to build the transcontinental railway that was a condition of British Columbia’s entry into confederation [see British Columbia (1871)]. Within a few months a scandal erupted over the contract and it brought the government down the following year [see The Pacific Scandal]. Construction on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) continued despite two changes of administration, and was finally completed in 1885 [see The Canadian Pacific Railway]. The railway would bring the distant west into contact with the provinces established as the Dominion of Canada in 1867. William Cornelius VAN HORNE was the CPR’s general manager during its rapid expansion in the 1880s:

“To build up traffic, Van Horne directed the fabrication of increasingly complex systems that integrated agricultural and timber lands, grain elevators, flour mills, port facilities and terminals, maritime fleets, express and telegraph operations, and passenger and tourist services, including large hotels [see Bruce Price*]. To publicize the completed CPR, Van Horne, himself an art connoisseur, did not hesitate to turn to professional artists. John Arthur Fraser* and Lucius Richard O’Brien*, among others, received commissions in the 1880s to execute paintings of the Rockies for promotional exhibitions, and the inspiring photographic work of Alexander Henderson would lead to the formation of a photography department within the CPR in 1892. At the same time, but without the nationalistic/frontier aura of its western drive, Van Horne and the CPR moved steadily to expand in eastern Canada, in direct competition with the established Grand Trunk Railway [see Sir Joseph Hickson*]. In the 1880s the CPR completed a line to Windsor, Ont., with through trains to Chicago, and a series of acquisitions and construction projects was launched to take it across Quebec and Maine to the Maritimes.”


Among those who worked on the railway were 15,000 Chinese labourers, including YIP SANG:

“Yip came to Canada in 1881 to work on the Cariboo goldfields. Unsuccessful there, he moved to what would become Vancouver and sold coal door to door until he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway Supply Company on a construction gang. He became the company’s bookkeeper, timekeeper, and paymaster, and eventually its superintendent of Chinese labour.”


To learn more about the Canadian Pacific Railway and its role in Canada’s post-confederation development, consult the biographies in the following lists.

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