Canadian Pacific Railway


Canadian Pacific Railway
(CPR)
   Canada’s first transcontinental railway, built for the most part between 1881 and 1885 to connect the Pacific Coast province of British Columbia with Eastern Canada. British Columbia had made such a rail link the precondition of its membership in the Canadian Confederation, and the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald also saw the railroad as the commercial backbone of British North America, a unified Canadian dominion stretching across North America, invulnerable to economic absorption by the United States, with manufacturing interests in the East fueled by the resources of the West.
   The railway’s construction had to overcome the engineering difficulties of crossing the Rocky Mountains and the danger of labor in rugged terrain. Immigrants from Europe and imported workers from China made up the manual labor force, the latter group in particular suffering a high rate of fatality in doing the most dangerous work. When complete, the Canadian Pacific Railway was the longest railway ever constructed. Much of the railway’s freight consisted of the fundamentals of a developing economy such as coal, timber, and wheat; but after 1890, it also carried raw silk cocoons from the Orient between the Pacific port of Vancouver and silk mills in New York and New Jersey.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Finley, J. L., and D. N. Sprague. The Structure of Canadian History. Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1984;
    McInnis, E. W. Canada, A Political and Social History. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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