Volume 25, Number 08 August 2022 

On July 1. 1867, Canada became an independent country. At this time, it consisted of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Sir John A. Macdonald became the Confederation's first Prime Minister and turned his attention to ensuring that the rest of what is now Canada did not join the United States. Using the promise of a railway link across the continent, Macdonald persuaded British Columbia to join the Confederation in 1871.

The original plan was to have the government fund the construction, but to have the railway built and operated by private business. However, because of other financial burdens, the government was not able to do this and Macdonald began to look for a private group to take on the task.

In 1880, he met with a group of Montreal businessmen who formed the Canadian Pacific Syndicate. The main members of this group were George Stephen, President of the Bank of Montreal; his cousin, Donald Smith, Chief Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company; Richard B. Angus, a banker; and James J. Hill, a railway promoter and financier. A charter was awarded to the Syndicate to build the railway and Stephen became the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Building a rail line to the Pacific was one of the largest railway projects ever undertaken at that time. Millions of acres of wilderness had to be surveyed and mapped in order to find a route through the Canadian Shield and the mountain ranges of British Columbia

Major Albert Bowman Rogers, a well-known surveyor, was hired in the spring of 1881 to find such a route. On May 28, 1881, he found the incredible pass through the Selkirk Mountains that bears his name and it became the route of CP Rail. Realizing the building of the railway was a monumental task, the Syndicate decided to hire a top railway man to oversee the construction. On January 1, 1882, at 38 years old, William Cornelius Van Horne became the General Manager of CP Rail, earning the then-unprecedented salary of $15,000 per year.

Van Horne became a powerful driving force immediately, boasting CP Rail would lay 800 km/500 miles of track during the season. (To date, the Canadian government had taken 10 years to produce 480 km/300 miles of track.) He came a little short of his goal, laying 669 km/418 miles of track in the 10-month period.

In August 1883, the rails across the Prairies were completed to Calgary under the direction of James Ross, a Scottish civil engineer. Continuing along the Bow River, track was laid within 8 km/5 miles of Kicking Horse Pass by the end of 1883.

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Keep the Flowers Growing and the Trains Going.