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R. L. Kennedy

All photographs are from the Canadian Pacific archives,
unless otherwise credited.

The Dominion of Canada was born in 1867 from parts of British North America stretched across thousands of miles of country, much of it sparsely populated. To expand the fledgling country and to protect the boundaries of BNA across this vast land it was critical to have dependable transportation. Only a railway could provide the speedy year round transportation necessary. Building such a railway would be a formidable task, not only in overcoming the distance and rugged terrain it had to be built through but, also the cost which was a drain on the finances of the young country. Accomplishing this task would take time, break friendships, bring down a government and narrowly avert a civil war with the native Indians through whose territory the railway was being built to say nothing of the role the CPR played in transporting troops to put down the North-West Rebellion led by Louis Riel in 1885.

The Pacific railway was first talked about even before Confederation as being part of an Imperial Highway to link England with Cathay (China) and other countries of the far east as well as Australia. Trade with ancient Cathay for its riches of silk, tea, spices and other fine fare such as porcelain was an early benefit to the building of the Pacific railway along with opening land in the prairies for settlement. Now, it would become more than a national goal, it would become a commitment to the new province of British Columbia to link it to the rest of Canada. The government of Canada began the Canada Pacific Railway with a piecemeal effort hampered more by money than anything else.

Efforts by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1922) biography, in 1878 to induce private capital to complete construction of the Pacific railway met with no success. Neither did a plan to get help from England by colonizing 100 million acres for $1.00 per acre.

Then in the spring of 1880, an offer came to the government from a group of investors led by Duncan MacIntyre (biography) a Montreal capitalist who controlled the Canada Central. The investors were headed by George Stephen, (1829-1921) President of the Bank of Montreal, Donald A.Smith (1820-1914) biography, Chief Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company, James J. Hill, (biography) Norman Kittson (biography), and R.B.Angus (1831-1922), all Canadians living in St. Paul where they had rescued the bankrupt St.Paul & Pacific making themselves fine profits.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Charles Tupper (biography) and John Henry Pope (biography) went off to England to seek interest from the London money market. Henry Tyler, president of the British-owned Grand Trunk Railway of Canada indicated GTR investors were only interested if the Lake Superior route was cancelled and the GTR's main line from Montreal through Toronto to Chicago was used instead. Macdonald was having none of it and earned the hostility of the GTR and its investors.

Macdonald resumed negotiations with McIntyre and on October 21st, 1880, the contract was signed for the completion of the Pacific railway. The Syndicate consisted of George Stephen and Duncan McIntyre of Montreal; James J. Hill and R.B.Angus of St.Paul, Minnesota; J.S.Kennedy of New York; Morton, Rose & Company of London; and Kohn, Reinach & Company of Paris. Plus, an additional non-signatory, Donald A. Smith, whom Sir John A. still disliked over past political happenings from the time of the Pacific Scandal.

Terms of the contract called for the Dominion government to give the Syndicate 25 million acres of land in the fertile belt and $25 million cash to be turned over progressively as construction proceeded. Also included were 710 miles of railway as follows: Lake Superior Section; Prince Arthur's Landing, Ontario to Selkirk, Manitoba. Pembina Branch; Selkirk to Emerson, Manitoba. Western Section; Port Moody, British Columbia to Kamloops. The Prairie Section, partially completed from Winnipeg westward for about 100 miles was to be bought for the cost of its construction.

In return, the Syndicate would construct and equip 1,900 miles of railway as follows: Eastern Section; from Callander Station, near the east end of Lake Nippising, being the end of the Canada Central to connect with the Lake Superior section. Central Section; from Selkirk to Kamloops, British Columbia via the Yellowhead Pass. Totalling 2,600 miles which was to be operating by May 1st, 1891, after which they were bound "… to forever efficiently maintain and operate the Canadian Pacific Railway."

The House of Commons passed a bill incorporating the The Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and it came into being on February 16th, 1881 with the security deposit of $1 million.

On February 17th, 1881, the first meeting of the Company took place and elected were: George Stephen, President; Duncan McIntyre, Vice-President; with R.B.Angus and James J. Hill becoming members of the executive committee. Charles Drinkwater was Secretary-Treasurer and Hon. J.J.C.Abbott was legal counsel. By the end of the month $6,100,000 in shares had been subscribed. Stephen, McIntyre, Hill and Smith each held 5,000 shares; Morton,Rose had 7,410 and J.S.Kennedy & Company, 4,500.

In the months that followed J. J. Hill, the only railwayman in the Syndicate recruited A.B.Stickney from the St.Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba as General Superintendent in charge of operations and Thomas L. Rosser from the Northern Pacific who was made Chief Engineer. Major A.B.Rogers (biography) was hired as locating engineer to find a route through the Rocky Mountains instead of the intended Yellowhead Pass. Legislation was passed to permit this change.

Time Card No. 1 took effect at 12 O'Clock Noon May 1st, 1881. On that date the Government turned over 231 miles of completed and operating lines: Thunder Bay Section: Selkirk east to Cross Lake 75 miles; Pembina Branch: Selkirk south to Emerson 86 miles; Colville Branch: Selkirk to Colville 2 miles; and Prairie Section: St.Boniface westward via Stonewall to Portage la Prairie 68 miles. A further 36 miles from Cross Lake to Rat Portage (Kenora) was turned over to the CPR on January 12th, 1882.

Service in that Time Card included a daily except Sunday passenger train from Winnipeg to St.Vincent, 2 miles past Emerson, Manitoba, scheduled for 3 hours and 35 minutes; and a daily except Sunday Mixed train from Winnipeg to Portage La Prairie.

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Construction begins and the troubles as well


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