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Construction begins, and the troubles as well.

The CPR lost no time in getting at its task. During 1881, work began westward from Winnipeg with 404 miles of line located as far as Moosejaw Creek with 218 miles (near Moosomin) of that graded and rails laid for about 161 miles almost as far as Flat Creek (Oak Lake) over which traffic was carried. The Assiniboine River was crossed near Brandon and new track this year was about 130 miles.

The old boundary of Manitoba with Assiniboia NWT was at the 99th Meridian between Austin and Sidney at about Mile 90. Manitoba had joined Canada in 1870. The 1881 boundary was moved to about 75 miles west of Brandon, near Fleming. Manitoba expanded again in 1912, this time to the north.

A change was made in the location of the main line near Winnipeg. Instead of crossing the Red River near Selkirk as the government had been planning to do, the CPR headed west to Portage La Prairie from Winnipeg crossing the Red River nearer St.Boniface. The old main line was abandoned from Stonewall west 45 miles to Portage La Prairie while the Winnipeg to Stonewall portion became a branch.

Land speculation hit the CPR in 1881 and often resulted in a game of one-upmanship. Unfortunately few were immune to the fever and it cost two of the new Company's top officers their positions. The two Americans, A.B.Stickney, General Superintendent and Thomas L.Rosser, Chief Engineer became involved with land for the Brandon terminal causing it to be relocated across the Assiniboine River away from land speculators. This was proof that no one was indispensable, a lesson not learned by some others who followed over the many decades of the CPR including up to recent years.

Brandon, which replaced tiny Grand Valley, the original choice for a division point was the first CPR town and the handling of land speculation set the tone for dealing with future unreasonable demands. Division points had to be established approximately every 130 miles due to limitations of early steam locomotives and this known factor contributed to land speculation. The main street was named after Rosser and to this day it remains as Rosser Avenue. This practice was to continue for many years with streets and even towns all over Canada named after railway officials.

W. C. Van Horne (1843-1915) William Notman & Sons

The name best known in the CPR's history, better than Stephen or any of the others, even better perhaps than Sir John A. Macdonald himself was William Cornelius Van Horne. (biography) He was at the time 38 years old and the General Manager of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St.Paul. James J. Hill, (biography) the only operating railwayman in the CPR syndicate sought out Van Horne to come to Canada. Come he did and was impressed with what was offered him including the princely salary of $15,000 a year. He became General Manager December 31, 1881 taking over construction from Rosser and appointing John M. Egan, Superintendent of the small Southern Manitoba Railway as General Superintendent of the Western Division, at Winnipeg.

Van Horne promptly announced that in the coming year 500 miles of railway would be constructed! More than disbelief greeted that statement. This would take the line to the South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat, 661 miles west of Winnipeg. Van Horne had an ace up his sleeve. He knew of a reputable contractor in the USA, one whose two partners were competent and of good reputation for doing good work. A contract was signed on March 1st, 1882, with Langdon, Shepard & Company of St.Paul, Minnesota (General R. B. Langdon of Minneapolis and D. C. Shepard of St. Paul), for the construction of 500 miles of main line.

The winter of 1881-82 had been one of light snowfall to the end of February and things looked good. Men, horses and supplies were gathered at St.Paul in preparation of the big task ahead. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse in March and April as snow fell in the Red River basin which drains much of the Dakotas and Minnesota as well as Manitoba and nearby Ontario. Spring thaw came first to the southernmost areas of the Red River Valley and vast floods of water flowed north (contrary to most North American waters) into Lake Winnipeg where it backed up against the still frozen river. A disastrous flood resulted, even blocking the CPR main line west of Winnipeg. It did not abate for weeks which backlogged freight and settlers all along the line from the south.

Track laying began on April 12th near Flat Creek at Mile 169.30 from Winnipeg using supplies on hand there from last season. On May 25th. 36 miles of track had been laid before supplies ran out with 21 miles of roadbed still waiting. This was done on June 13th, and by the end of June there was 125 miles of track completed. The Manitoba-Assiniboia NWT boundary was crossed near Fleming NWT continuing on through Broadview towards Regina.

Stations were established about every eight miles, (the round-trip distance a farmer could travel with a horse and wagon in one day). They had a 2,000 foot long passing track while every other station had a 1,000 foot business track as well as a section house and a water tank. Division points were located about every 125 miles, the maximum distance a steam locomotive could operate without servicing.

Track was laid using 30 foot long 56 pound (per yard) steel rails made in the UK and Germany. Joints were opposite each other, and no tie plates were used. Splice bars had 4 bolts that were bolted with heads on the inside of the rails. These practices were to be changed in the years to come. (Joints would be staggered, tie plates would be added and bolts would be alternated, inside/outside.) Ties were of cedar, pine and tamarack, and were cut from tree trunks flattened on two sides (top and bottom) to a size of 8 feet long, 8 inches deep and 10 inches wide and laid with 24-inch centres. Earth ballast was all that was used.

Detailed description of tracklaying

Work advanced with increasing rapidity, working 10 hours per day, 6 days a week. July saw 64 miles laid and August 86 miles. On August 19th. 21,490 feet (more than four miles) of track was put down on the flattest part of the prairie between Pilot Butte and Regina. Again, on August 29th. a similar feat was accomplished when 21,384 feet of main line were laid between Pense and Belle Plaine.

Land and Financial Troubles

The terminal in Regina was set up so as to foil the efforts of speculators, it also resulted in a strange spread out townsite. It was here that the government and the CPR, as in other prairie towns, pooled their land holdings and shared the profits equally.

Land, and its development would continue to be a major concern. As the CPR advanced every twenty miles it was to receive alternate sections (640 acres) of land across the prairies to a total of 25 million acres. Identifying suitable land became a problem and there was not enough of it in the forty-eight mile belt, there was less than a third. The company was in a desperate cash position so, it sold five million acres to a British-Canadian syndicate, the Canada North West Land Company. This company would manage townsite sales in some forty-seven major communities with the railway receiving half the net profits. Canada West Wheat Land.

So bad was the financial position of the CPR that its account with the Bank of Montreal was badly overdrawn, land grant bonds were not selling and its stock could only bring 25 cents on the dollar due to poor market conditions in London and New York. In December of 1882 it was compelled to increase its authorized capital to $100 million from $25 million and to sell $30 million at just over 50 cents on the dollar.

Work Continues

The railhead reached Moose Jaw by the end of August. It was here that trouble began. Harder ground made the horsedrawn scrapers used to get earth fill for the embankment ineffective. Dump carts and wheelbarrows were needed which increased costs. Water became another problem; it was scarce and had high alkali content, unsuitable for steam locomotive boilers. As the supply line stretched out some 400 miles from Winnipeg, getting the right supplies to the railhead when needed became more difficult requiring more locomotive and cars. This slowed track laying progress slowing it to only one mile per day and at times stopped it all together. Troubles with weather and frozen water supplies plagued the construction crews until the end of season in early January 1883. Track had reached just past Colley, Saskatchewan, 589.16 miles west of Winnipeg. The goal of 500 miles had been more than met in spite of the late start. An amazing 418 miles of main track had been laid, 100 miles of track on the Southwestern Branch in Manitoba, and a further 57 miles of sidings.

Supplies included 57,660 tons of 56 pounds to the yard steel rail, 1.5 million ties, almost 3.4 million board feet of trestle material and a quarter million lineal feet of piles. 897 route miles of telegraph line were strung using over 1,600 miles of wire. Right-of-way was fenced, stations and other structures were built.

Northern Ontario

Getting better organized in the West

Avoiding the supply difficulties encountered required better organization. Van Horne turned to his former general storekeeper on the St.Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, Thomas G. Shaughnessy (biography) to become the CPR's General Purchasing Agent. He setup his office in Montreal to be near Van Horne where he would plan the orderly flow of material to the various construction sites. He would go on to become President in 1899.

The 1883 season opened with Langdon, Shepard & Company advertising for "A number of men…"
Talk about understated! For this work the contractor offered to pay $1.50 per day.

Medicine Hat was reached on May 31st, 1883 and not far beyond there was the Assiniboia-Alberta boundary, both part of the North West Territories.

Tracklaying increased to new records, in July 92.3 miles were laid. On July 3rd. near Cassils, Alberta 4.68 miles of track was laid and on July 7th. 6 miles and 120 feet were laid through Lathom. Finally, on July 28th. the highest record was set and never exceeded anywhere when 6.38 miles were laid near what is now Strathmore, Alberta. Then in mid-August Calgary was reached and passed, with the usual land speculation of just where the railway would locate the station. (It was not even a terminal back then.) It went on the west bank of the Elbow River much to everyone's surprise. Eventually, the buildings were moved from the east side. The railway made its way up the Bow River valley through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to a point east of where Banff was located. It was here that Tunnel Mountain was reached, a place where a 1400 foot long tunnel was to be excavated. Instead a new survey relocated the line to the north along the Cascade River eliminating the need for an expensive tunnel. October 27th. saw Siding 29 laid; it was later renamed Banff. Track laying ended for the season at the end of November just east of the BC boundary where the Bow River and Bath Creek intersected, just 6,600 feet east of the Continental Divide and about 961 miles west of Winnipeg. The rails headed along Bath Creek towards Kicking Horse Pass.

Woodburning 4-4-0 number147 hauling passenger train at Calgary in 1884. Canadian Pacific

All the while settlers were flooding into the North West in numbers no one could have anticipated. They came from England, Scotland and Ireland by the tens of thousands and headed west from Winnipeg at the rate of up to two thousand five hundred per week! In 1883 immigrants to Canada totalled 133,000 with two-thirds going directly to the West. While coping with this was a logistics problem for the CPR and a boom for the building towns it was the Indians that were most affected. The Blackfoot and the Cree were disrupted and driven from their traditional lands. The loss of the great herds of Buffalo, hunted to extinction drove them to starvation. They were a nomadic people used to wide open spaces, not ones to settle in one place. Now they were being expected to settle and take up farming since the game they hunted was gone, driven off by the tracks that blocked their instinct pathways. Cree Chief Poundmaker urged his people to change their ways if they were to survive. Not all agreed, including another Cree Chief, Piapot, who pulled up forty miles of surveyor's stakes and in May of 1882 camped his people in the path of the railway. It precipitated a brief standoff with the NWMP in the form of just two uniformed horsemen, who in 15 minutes ended it although greatly outnumbered, by simply kicking over their tents.

Chief Crowfoot
Wearing pass given him by
W.C.Van Horne

Father Lacombe

A potential deadly conflict had been narrowly avoided when the railway crossed Indian territory east of Gleichen. The powerful Crowfoot, chief of the Blackfoot nation had signed a treaty with Canada and now suddenly, the railway was preparing to cross their land without permission. Seven hundred armed braves stood ready to attack. Fortunately, at the behest of the CPR, the intervention of Father Albert Lacombe, (biography) an Oblate missionary who had a long and close relationship with Chief Crowfoot and the Blackfoot, averted trouble and the work went on peacefully. The CPR and Canada in general for the most part avoided conflict with its native Indians thanks in part to not only Father Lacombe but to the North West Mounted Police. All of the North West Territories was liquor dry by prohibition and enforced by the NWMP. Smuggled product and whiskey peddlers were a problem but nothing like it would have been if the Indians had easy access to it. It was a big factor in keeping men on the construction work as well, otherwise it is sure that the work would have been slowed considerably.

In appreciation of what Father Lacombe had accomplished the CPR directors arrived in Calgary on August 27th, 1883 on board Van Horne's private car and during a special meeting elected Lacombe president of the CPR for one hour. An unheard-of honour which the Chief of Prayer as Crowfoot called him, took advantage of to vote himself two lifetime passes and free use of the telegraph system along with free transporation of freight and baggage for the Oblate missions. The CPR further honoured Father Lacombe in 1943 by naming one of their business cars after him. It remains in use in 2005 and still bears the name Lacombe.

The establishment of the NWMP in 1873 before settlement began filling the west led to a peaceful country. Based in Regina, posts were established throughout the west. No less a personage than W.C.Van Horne himself wrote Colonel Irving, Commissioner of the NWMP stating " ….without the assistance of the officers and men of the splendid force under your command it would have been impossible to have accomplished as much as we did. On no great work within my knowledge, where so many men have been employed, has such perfect order prevailed." The rough nature of large gangs of men in construction camps had the potential for much trouble. Superintendent Sam Steele (biography) was the best known figure. A century later the CPR was to repay this debt in some small way when it came to the aid of a financially embarrassed Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride by becoming a sponsor of the famous precision horse team. No two organizations are more closely linked in Canada's history than the CPR and the RCMP.

By October 1st. the company was once again in serious financial trouble having spent the thirty million dollars raised the year before. Efforts to raise more money in a bad money market only made things worse.


The Mountains

Canada's mountains in the west are often referred to collectively as the "Rockies". In fact, there are three ranges of mountains going West from Calgary, the Rocky Mountains, the Selkirk Mountains, ( plus Columbian Range and Shushwap Summit ) and the Gold Mountains. Westbound trains had four major summits to climb: Notch Hill, 1,692 feet; Eagle Pass, 1,832 feet; Rogers Pass, 4,351 feet; Kicking Horse Pass, 5,329 feet.

Many possible routes had been surveyed through the mountains and the choice was subject to much discussion and dissent. Sandford Fleming (biography) preferred the Yellowhead Pass far to the north as it was a mere 3,642 feet, the lowest crossing of the Continental Divide in all of North America. All others were much higher and a way through the Selkirks had not been found even after the railway headed directly for them rather than to the north. It was a gamble that could prove costly if it failed.

James J. Hill knew of a feisty engineer in the US, an army major A.B.Rogers (biography) and in February 1881 Hill made an offer to pay him $5,000 and to name a pass after him if he could find a way through the Selkirks. Rogers took him up on it and so set the course that would bring him fame but not fortune as he later refused to cash the cheque, framing it instead. It took the offer by Van Horne of an elaborately engraved gold watch to get it cashed so the auditors could balance the books.

April 29th. 1881 saw Rogers set off with his nephew Albert and ten Indians from Kamloops to the mouth of the Illecillewaet. They struggled on but failed due in part to lack of supplies. It was a problem that was to plague Rogers' parties again and again as he foolishly risked their lives with meager food. In May of 1882 he again set out and failed and then repeated his attempt setting out on July 17th, soon they were at 4,500 feet and then on July 24, 1882 it all came into view, there was a pass, Rogers Pass.


Survey crew in Kicking Horse Pass. Public Archives of British Columbia

Work began late in the spring of 1884 due to the deep snow at the Continental Divide at 5332 feet. The boundary between the NWT and BC was crossed on May 25th, 1884. Mountain construction slowed and stopped track laying with a mere 73 miles laid from the Rocky Mountains Summit to the Columbia Valley. The tortuous route down the Kicking Horse River was the worst encountered. From the west end of Wapta Lake a uniform grade of 2.2% (116 feet to the mile) was originally surveyed to Otter Tail required a 1,400 foot tunnel through Mount Stephen and exposure to avalanche paths. Digging this tunnel would have delayed things for almost a year.

A temporary alternate route was built instead, descending at the rate of 232 feet per mile, or 4.5%! It ran down from Wapta Lake to the base of Mount Stephen, along the Kicking Horse to a point just west of Field, then climbing again to meet the original survey at Muskeg Summit. This latter portion was eliminated in 1902 when the Ottertail Diversion was built thus keeping the line at river level below Field. Three special reverse-grade dead end spurs to control runaways were built on the downgrade. The switch was left lined into the spur until the approaching engineer whistled to the switchtender acknowledging he had the train under control. Despite this there were still runaways and deaths. Of course, what went down also went up! The Big Hill between Field and Hector for eight miles became a notorious grade that was to remain "temporary" for nearly a quarter of a century. It took four engines to get a mere 710 tons up the grade. Trains were limited to 12-17 freight cars or 11 passenger cars and took a time consuming hour to cover the eight miles. It was dangerous and costly to operate. Eventually, in 1909 the famous Spiral Tunnels an engineering marvel were completed at a cost of $1.5 million, with a grade of "only" 2.2 %.

Elevations and Grades through the Mountains

The old and new grade, Field, BC.

Diamond-stacked 4-4-0 number 120 with typical freight train and rear pusher near Continental Divide 1888.
Kelowna Centennial Museum

312 and 313 built by Burnham, Parry, Williams & Co. #7434 #7444 10/1884

So steep was the grade that special locomotives had to be built to haul trains up the Big Hill. Baldwin Locomotive Works' predecessor built four heavy 2-8-0's enormous engines for their day they were the first Consolidation type locomotives but they were not the last. These ones were equipped with water brakes. Hundreds more would follow, bigger and stronger, some lasting until the very end of the steam era in spite of bigger and newer locomotives. They were stationed at Field which was built just for that purpose.
314's checkered career. (314, 315 BPW #7975, 7976 6/1886)

The CPR went on to build even bigger locomotives in 1909-11 to cope with the heavy grade of the Big Hill. Designing unique 0-6-6-0 Mallet locomotives with both sets of cylinders together, unlike any others.

Fourteen miles beyond Field, the railway and river made a 90 degree bend and proceeded through the rocky flume of the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River, crossing the turbulent river six times (and through four tunnels) as it searched for a firm footing. Winter was setting in and it became impossible to finish bridge abutments.

Another "temporary" piece of line was built following the early cave in of an unstable 500-foot tunnel cut through blue clay. Near Palliser the track was relocated using a 22 degree 15' (259 foot radius) curve, one the sharpest on a main line anywhere. A new 700-foot tunnel was completed in 1906.

Rogers Pass 1901 location.

Rogers Pass original location

Farther west lay Rogers Pass at 4340 feet with its 2.2% grade in both directions, a place where the winter snow fall totalled fifty feet! It was here that some 31 snowsheds were planned to protect the track, yet it quickly became obvious this would not be sufficient and 54 were built between here and Eagle Pass. Much of the track was hidden inside these sheds and thus were passengers deprived of the fabulous scenic view. Van Horne decreed that summer tracks were to built outside these sheds strictly for the tourists benefit. Snowslides were common and often disastrous. One particularly bad slide in March of 1910 caused the loss sixty-two lives and finally convinced the CPR to abandon Rogers Pass. This was accomplished by building the Connaught Tunnel, a double-track tunnel that was the longest in North America. The tunnel also eliminated the Loops, built to ease the grade down the west slope of Cheops Mountain to 2.2% otherwise it would have been nearly 4.5 % according to Rogers' original plan. The series of loops added three miles and five river crossings to the 500 foot drop in elevation, however, in addition to the much lesser grade its location along the base of the mountain took the line away from the worst avalanche slopes.

Dismantling Rogers Pass Line 1917

It was not until the late 1950's that work began on pushing the Trans Canada Highway through the Selkirks. Ninety-two miles were built using much of the old railway through Rogers Pass. It opened on July 31st, 1962 when following a ribbon cutting ceremony 9 miles of automobiles carrying an estimated 7,000 tourists went over Rogers Pass for the first time.

Loops, west of Rogers Pass

Glenbow Archives

Whyte Museum of the
Canadian Rockies NG-4-255


Interior of a snowshed shows the massive construction necessary to ward off slides. Boorne & May

Rails reached Golden City on November 5th, 1884. Here the line turned westward along the Columbia River to Donald just west of where a 400 foot long timber deck truss bridge crossed to the other side. This was to become the dividing point between the Western and Pacific Divisions. Reaching here rails had been laid in minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit! It proved to be a costly error as came the spring the track went out of alignment and bent rails had to be replaced. Two tunnels were dug between Donald and Beaver. The season's goal of Beaver River (Beavermouth) was not reached to the disappointment of Van Horne.

Donald, B.C.


Onderdonk Carries Onward

Onderdonk's Way

Onderdonk's private car Eva. Built by his employees at Yale, BC circa 1880.
Note: Although letterred Canadian Pacific Railway it was in fact owned by Onderdonk.
Sold 1886 to James Dunsmuir for Esquimalt & Nanaimo Ry. renamed Maude.

Andrew Onderdonk (biography) completed his government contract on the Pacific Section in the summer of 1884 and carried on under a new contract, this time with the CPR, from Savona eastward toward Eagle Pass, a further distance of about 170 miles. The work was aided by the presence of navigable waterways to deliver supplies unlike conditions faced by the approach from the east.

A new survey was required east of Savona because the route through the Yellow Head Pass had been forgone in favour of the Kicking Horse Pass. Rogers surveyed this new route along the 25-mile shore of Kamloops Lake, between Savona and Kamloops.

Kamloops was one of the few communities where settlement had preceded the railway by some years and where a problem was encountered getting the right-of-way through the village on July 13th. The track ran right down the "main" (only) street. This was cattle country and the presence of thousands of head of cattle presented a danger to trains such that it was recommended the line be fenced between Kamloops and Shuswap Lake. Along this lake there were 6 tunnels.

The hot and dry summer gave great trouble with forest fires both in the Selkirks and here near Kamloops destroying a large stockpile of ties (12-15,000). The result was that when crossing over Notch Hill the track was being laid with only half the required number of ties. Instead of 3,000 per mile (21-inch spacing) only 1,500 were used. Heavier 70 pound rail was being used in the mountains instead of the normal 56 pound (and 24-inch tie centres) used everywhere else.

Sicamous was reached on September 15th. Onderdonk had run out of telegraph wire at Notch Hill and he was to run out of rails on September 26th, 1885 on the west slope of Eagle Pass. He discharged all his men on the 30th, thousands of whom descended upon Yale. Ross was still 43 miles away having been delayed in the Selkirks.

1885 was to be the most challenging and most dangerous year of construction as the railway made its way thorough the Selkirks. The biggest non-physical challenge was the lack of cash, something not relieved until midyear. The biggest and most dangerous physical challenge was the terrain itself and the destructive snow slides. These deadly slides would plague the railway for years to come. In fact, they have never been fully controlled. The mountains have never been conquered, they have only been endured. The work was difficult and dangerous and the subject of numerous letters from James Ross to Van Horne detailing the dangers, some of which seemed insolvable. The need for extensive snow sheds was part of it.

Just beyond Beaver the line turned away from the Columbia River along the Beaver River. It was that the most spectacular bridges were built including, Mountain Creek, Surprise Creek and Stoney Creek, requiring incredible amounts of timber.

4-4-0 number 354 with work train on Mountain Creek bridge (1200 feet long and 175 feet high)
in the Beaver Valley of the Selkirk Mountains. Public Archives of Canada

The tracks crossed the summit of the Selkirks on August 17th, and made their way down the loops with curvature of 2,500 degrees, equivalent to seven complete circles! They continued along the Illecillewaet Valley where the curving track made an inverted S taking three extra miles to avoid snowslides and on through Albert Canyon. It took the entire season to make the way along here with the Columbia River being reached at Farwell (Revelstoke) on October 8th. A temporary pile bridge was erected and the men were at work on the grade in Eagle Pass for the next month and the end was in sight.

Finally, the day was at hand. Saturday November 7th, 1885. A special train hauled by 4-4-0 number 148 carrying Van Horne, Donald Smith, Sanford Fleming, John Egan, families and friends arrived at the scene where the last two rails remained to be placed. George Stephen, President of the CPR was in England working on a Pacific steamship connection with the Orient and Australasia.

The rails were placed and Frank Brothers, a track layer foreman took a plain spike from a keg and placed it in position. The honour of driving the last spike was given by Van Horne to Donald Smith who promptly bent it! The foreman replaced it and this time Smith carefully drove home the spike. It was 9.22 a.m. Pacific Time. A moment of silence was followed by wild cheering and in answer to a call for a speech Van Horne simply said: "All I can say is that the work has been well done in every way." It was done. The conductor called out, "All Aboard for the Pacific!" and they were off, arriving at Port Moody on the 8th. having laid over during the dark.

The most famous photograph in Canadian railway history, likely as well the history of Canada itself.
Driving the Last Spike in the C.P.R. on November 7th, 1885. Key to identities of men shown.

The place in Eagle Pass was named Craigellachie (cray-gal-akey) meaning Rock of Alarm, it was named after a rock in the Spey Valley in Scotland which was a rallying point of the Clan Grant, of which both Stephen and Smith were descendants. It had been used as a code word between themselves during the most difficult times of construction. "Stand Fast, Craigellachie!" Was the historic message telegraphed by George Stephen from Scotland where he was seeking out further funds, to Donald Smith back in Canada.

Van Horn's telegram to Sir John A.

This was not the end, for the railway was far from finished. It was in fact only the end of the beginning and it had been accomplished in a remarkable time of less than half the ten years it was obligated to. The CPR's founders saw this haste as necessary to get money coming in to keep things going unlike the government efforts that had dragged on for many years over a much shorter fragmented distance.

The line through the mountains was shutdown for the winter since much work remained to be done before regular train service could be commenced. Ballasting, laying of sidings, building stations, water tanks and other structures was all required. More importantly, the protection of the track and trains from the numerous snow slides remained to be solved. Observation camps were setup for the winter to record snowfall and slide paths. It was decided to construct 31 snowsheds having a total length of more than 5 miles in a distance of about 16 miles leading to Rogers Pass. This work was estimated to cost an additional $1,126,034, requiring 17,768,000 FBM (feet of board measure) of timber plus another 1.1 million lineal feet of piling. In spite of the high cost, Van Horne decided to spend even more! Not wanting to have tourists travelling through the scenic mountains hidden inside snowsheds, he had a summer track laid outside of the sheds.

In the spring of 1886 work got underway to clear the line which included 40 foot high snow slides, and complete the unfinished work to open the line for service. Hundreds of men were put to work doing this and building snow sheds. As the work neared completion the decision was made that the first scheduled passenger train would leave Montreal for Port Moody on Monday, June 28th. a connecting train from Toronto would be run east to Carleton Junction. A six day a week service was to be operated thereafter.

From Ocean to Ocean

Train Number One, the Pacific Express left Montreal at 8.00 p.m. on Monday, June 28th. 1886 (its equipment included dining car Holyrood and brand new sleeping car Honolulu complete with a bath!), and Toronto at 5.00 p.m. (The Toronto section was hauled by engine 305 and included sleeping car Peterborough). The train arrived July 4, 1886 in Port Moody, BC hauled by 4-4-0 number 371, having taken 139 hours over six days and 2,892.6 miles, on time at noon with about 150 passengers.

The train was sent back to Montreal to following day as the Atlantic Express, in a pattern that would go on for many years. It took 14 sets of equipment to provide the daily except Sunday (exc. Monday from the west) service.

Port Moody to Vancouver

Port Moody was not to remain the western terminus of the CPR for very long, it was simply inadequate, lacking sufficient land to accommodate present requirements let alone any future needs. Fifteen miles farther out Burrard Inlet at Granville near English Bay lay a large tract of level ground that was quite suitable. Here, Van Horne would create a division point, naming it Vancouver for Vancouver Island. (Vancouver's Island was named for George Vancouver, biography). The CPR would control the entire waterfront, for this extention he got from the BC government over six thousand acres of land!

On May 23rd, 1887 train number 1 hauled by 4-4-0 number 374 arrived at the new terminal in Vancouver. It was decorated to celebrate Queen Victoria's 50th. Anniversary Golden Jubilee. This locomotive was preserved and is still in Vancouver. So too was the famed Countess of Dufferin CPR 1 , preserved and displayed in Winnipeg where it arrived as the first steam locomotive in the west.

An Empire


Onderdonk's Way

More history of the CPR


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