As early as 1871 the Canadian government began proposing the idea of building
a single rail line to connect the entire country. However, it would
take nearly a full decade until the groundwork was laid in the Canadian
Pacific Railway being incorporated on February 16 of 1881 and soon after
construction actually began. Building this railroad was no small task.
Canada is notorious for having brutal weather and the terrain would be
equally as challenging in finding a route through the wilderness. The
construct the new line the young railroad was given a
C$25,000,000 loan from the government and 25,000,000 acres of land.
The CP itself actually began building west of Bonfield, Ontario. This is because the Canada Central Railway, which connected the future capital of Ottawa with the community of Mattawa became part of the CP system. The CP had a route surveyed which would operate through the rich farming areas of the North Saskatchewan River valley, a move that would have given the railroad much more traffic. However, the railroad chose a route running nearer the American border in an attempt to cut-off the US railroads from gaining access to Canadian markets. For more information and history about the Canadian Pacific please click here.
The biggest disadvantage to this route was the fact that the CP
would be required to navigate the treacherous Kicking Horse Pass in the
northern Rocky Mountains on the border of Alberta and British Columbia.
In its attempt to finish the line as quickly as possible the CP decided to build
a line through the pass that included a maximum grade of 4.5%! By
November 1885 the new line was completed to British Columbia with the
final spike being driven at Craigellachie. While the railroad was
finished more than five years ahead of schedule
it took another C$22.5 million in credit to do so because of the rugged
topography in which the line was constructed. Furthermore, the route
was built so hastily that it took almost another full year to upgrade
the line before through transcontinental service could begin.
Still, the new line was complete and over the next forty years the CP began building new lines and expanding its portfolio through outright purchases of smaller railroads. In 1888 the CP purchased several small railroads in the northern plains of the US to form the to form the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway, better known as the Soo Line. The Soo would become the largest railroad the CP would own, which gave it connections to US cities like Minneapolis, Chicago and the ore-rich region around Duluth.
The Soo (“Soo” refers to the word "Sault" in the Canadian city of Sault
Ste. Marie, is spoken as "Sue") was a medium-sized Class I system that
stretched throughout the upper Midwest connecting cities such as Chicago
and Minneapolis/St. Paul, with points west in North Dakota and southern
Canadian (such as Winnipeg and Sault Ste. Marie). Somewhat of northern
granger line the railroad was always a smaller line surrounded by those
much larger, such as the Milwaukee Road, Burlington, and Great Northern.
However, up until its takeover of the floundering Milwaukee Road in
1985, for most of its life the Soo was a well maintained and managed
company, earning healthy profits
in a territory blanketed with competitors. Perhaps what makes this
railroad so interesting is that its system crossed the U.S./Canadian
border and along with serving the northern plains of America also served
the southern Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.
Other railroads to fall under the CP banner include the
Dominion Atlantic Railway (which operated throughout Nova Scotia); the
Quebec Central Railway (which operated between Quebec and Newport,
Vermont); the Grand River Railway and Lake Erie & Northern Railway
(both of which operated between Waterloo and Simcoe, Ontario); the
Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (which operated between
Waterford and Toronto, Ontario and Buffalo, New York); the Delaware
& Hudson Railway; and the Milwaukee Road through the Soo Line. In
all the CP once had lines running throughout
Canada reaching as far east as Halifax, Nova Scotia to as far west as
Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington.
Notable Passenger Trains
Canadian: (Montreal - Vancouver)
Alouette/Red Wing: (Boston - Montreal)
Atlantic Limited: (Montreal – Halifax)
The Viger: (Montreal – Quebec)
The Frontenac: (Montreal – Quebec)
Toronto – Buffalo – New York
Montreal – Quebec
Montreal – Mont-Laurier
Montreal – Ottawa
Sudbury – White River
As one might expect the CP operated a wide range of passenger trains
during its years of service. Most famous of these was probably The Canadian, which was the railroad’s plush train between Montreal and Vancouver operating on a three-day schedule.
The streamlined train featured everything one could think of; dining,
all-Pullman status, and even “Scenic-Dome” service. It should be noted
that the CP also operated RDC, such as between Toronto, Buffalo and New
York. Today, its Canadian system is significantly smaller. It now
operates no further east than Montreal and mostly hugs southern Canada
along its original main line, although it does reach as far north as
Calgary and still terminates in Vancouver.
Along with its
aforementioned American buyouts it also recently purchased the
DM&E/IC&E, which spreads its reach to Kansas City and Rapid
City, South Dakota. At a point between 1968 and 1996 the CP was known
as CP Rail with a matching logo. However, this was dropped in favor of a
more traditional logo using the beaver and returning to its original
name, Canadian Pacific Railway. In the late 1970s rival Canadian National Railway sold off most
of its non-railroad holdings, with CP picking up the company’s hotel
chain. Then, in 1976, the government took over all passenger operations and renamed them under one banner, VIA Rail Canada (similar to the
Amtrak setup in the US). Like its rival, CP has managed to remain
independent and today is one of the seven remaining Class I railroads in
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Class I Railroads