Title: The romance of the Canadian Pacific Railway
Author: R. G. MacBeth
Release date: December 19, 2022 [eBook #69588]
Original publication: Canada: The Ryerson Press, 1924
Credits: Al Haines, Jen Haines & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net
Copyright, Canada, 1924, by
THE RYERSON PRESS
|II.||The Approach to a Great Task||11|
|III.||Giants in Action||18|
|IV.||The Chariot Wheels Drag||33|
|V.||Getting Up Speed||43|
|VI.||A Great Adventure||53|
|VII.||The New Company||67|
|VIII.||A Constructive Genius||79|
|IX.||Crossing the Prairie||94|
|X.||Battling for Life||110|
|XI.||Ocean to Ocean||129|
|XII.||Guardians of the Road||151|
|XIII.||Intensive and Extensive Work||164|
|XIV.||The Guiding Hands||181|
|XV.||The Wonders of the Deep||207|
|XVII.||The Floodtide of Wheat||235|
|Typical Canadian Pacific Scenery||Frontispiece|
|The Bow River Valley and Banff Springs Hotel; Lake|
|Louise; Mount Sir Donald and Illecillewatt Glacier;|
|Lord Mount Stephen, First President; Sir William Van|
|Horne, First General Manager and Second President; Lord|
|Shaughnessy, Early Financier and Third President.|
|An Interesting Group||93|
|Lord Shaughnessy, Lord Strathcona (Donald A. Smith),|
|The Present Management||188|
|E. W. Beatty, President; Grant Hall, Vice-President;|
|I. G. Ogden, Vice-President of Finance; W. R. McInnes, Vice-|
|President in Charge of Traffic; A. D. Mactier, Vice-President,|
|Eastern Lines; D. C. Coleman, Vice-President, Western Lines;|
|Sir George McLaren Brown, European General Manager.|
|The late David McNicoll, Vice-President and General|
|Manager; the late R. B. Angus.|
|The Bassano Dam; the Brooks Aqueduct; Supply Farm at|
|Strathmore, Alberta; Canadian Pacific Docks at Quebec.|
The Romance of the Canadian
THE ROMANCE OF THE
The fascination for studying the genesis of things that exist seems to be universal. Men have an instinctive and urgent desire to find out how objects that are seen actually originated. Scientists and savages alike, for instance, are still hammering out theories as to the process by which the world was made, though to most of us the most ancient account is adequate. Once I knew an Indian boy on the prairie who was so curious to discover how the figure of a dog appeared at the centre of a large glass “marble” we were playing with, that when I had turned away for a moment, he broke it open with the back of a tomahawk. Similarly, we have known exploring scientists who spent laborious lives in the endeavour to find the sources of a great river.
To be indifferent to the beginnings of things which have become part of our lives, betokens either the calamitous absence of a thinking mind or that horrible satisfaction with present possession which ignores the toil and the tears and the sacrifices of past generations. To persons of such vacant or selfish natures all the explorers and the pioneers—the men whose souls yearned beyond the sky-line of their immediate surroundings—are of no particular account. The untrodden ways which daring pathfinders opened up with adventurous feet are of no consequence to the unthinking who settle comfortably on lands pre-empted by the blood-marked footsteps of the trailmakers.
It is because we are not of the number who are sodden with crass materialism and seared by the branding iron of greed, that we desire to learn the history of the things which minister to our continued existence and comfort in this great new day, the far-off vision of which made glad the brave seers and workers of earlier times.
These thoughts come to me now just as I am riding westward on the public observation car of a Canadian Pacific Railway train, through the great mountains that are piled up on the sunset verge of the Dominion of Canada. The traditional weariness of travel is practically banished by these wheeled palaces, which that living, breathing, throbbing locomotive, under the skilful direction of her driver, draws through passes and tunnels and glorious river canyons down to the Western sea. And I thought of how, in times gone by, that Western Sea had been in the dreams of gallant men who hoped to reach its shores some day. I recalled how noble sea-rovers, like Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin, had thrown away their lives in the attempt to find a North-west Passage by water across the North American continent, from the Atlantic. And I remembered, too, how Alexander MacKenzie, the fur-trader, starting by trail from near the old Peace River Crossing, had gone over the mountains on foot, and how he wrote on a rock by the Pacific the amazing inscription, “Alexander MacKenzie, from Canada, by land, July 22nd, 1793.” We call that inscription amazing because behind it and flashing through it is the story of an invincible will in heroic action and the record of physical daring unsurpassed in the palmiest days of the athletes and gladiators in Greece and Rome.
Thus did Alexander MacKenzie blaze the trail across the mountains. If the North-west Passage by water had proved a myth, MacKenzie demonstrated the reality of a passage by land which, in the years afterwards, others would follow. Strange, too, it was that in the same year, 1793, Captain George Vancouver, an English sea-rover, dropped the anchor of his wooden, white-winged vessel in the great harbour where there is now a queenly city bearing his name, on the West Coast of Canada.
Little did these adventurous pathfinders who discovered mountain passes and ocean lanes think that, before a century had passed, a group of men with vision and courage would follow the inspiring example of the explorers by land and sea, and achieve not only the crossing of a continent, but the girdling of the earth in a magnificent transportation system. Yet despite the gloomy prophecies of failure uttered by sceptics who declared that the thing could not be done, the Canadian Pacific Railway has driven its iron horses through the mountains to stand by the Western Sea. And from the land terminals, East and West, this unique organization has set its vessels on the tides of all the oceans of the world, as well as upon the gentler waters of our inland seas.
There were many weighty reasons for the building of this railway and the launching of its great ships, as well as highly important considerations which demand its continued efficiency in our times. Let us study them together in this book, which, as an eye witness of the genesis and development of the railway, though never at any time connected with it, I have written and published independently, as a humble contribution to our history as a British Dominion. Like my preceding books, it is sent out because generations arise which ought to know with what hazard and struggle on the part of the pioneers the foundations of Canada were laid.
The name of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company fixes in our minds the original objects of the road. The Railway was particularly the outcome of a new national consciousness in Canada, arising out of Confederation, and it was designed with the special idea of knitting the older parts of Canada in the East with the newer provinces and territories which were growing up in the wide West, and which would some day form an integral part of a Dominion whose Western border would rest on the Pacific tide. “Westward the star of empire takes its way” is a saying which has found historical support in the descent of the centuries from the immemorial East, which is now a graveyard of ancient kingdoms. And once the prows of exploring vessels struck the Eastern shores of this new continent of America, there were unresting souls that pressed onward throughout the years till they reached the pillars of the sunset beside the alluring Western sea.
In those earlier years Spain was a great sea-going nation and the West Coast map of the United States is dotted all over with Spanish nomenclature. This is found also to some degree on the long coastline of what is now British Columbia, though in this latter region the British element was always more pronounced owing to the British blood of the early explorers, both by sea and land, and to the passionate patriotism of British-born men who were in the employ of the great fur-trading organizations. In this connection it is interesting to recall the origin of the name British Columbia. The territory now covered by the province consisted originally of Vancouver Island and other islands and the mountain mainland, at one time known as New Caledonia. It was good Queen Victoria who gave the name of British Columbia to the great mainland area, and this name was later extended to include Vancouver Island when both were united in one colony in 1866. The Queen wrote in 1858 to Sir E. Bulwer Lytton, statesman and novelist too, that the only name she found on the map of the mainland common to the whole area was Columbia, but as there was a Columbia in South America and as the United States people called their country Columbia, at least in poetry, the Queen thought that British Columbia would be the most suitable name. And British Columbia it remains to this day, proud to have been named by our noble Queen and to have sprung from so illustrious an ancestry. Later on, British Columbia, as we shall see, proved magnetic enough to draw the steel of the great railway across the continent to the Western Ocean.
On the general subject, it may be well to remind our readers that a railway with its locomotive steam engine is a comparatively modern arrangement for travel, although trucks of various kinds were wheeled on tracks in the coal mining regions of England two centuries ago. But George Stephenson, rugged old Scot, with his primitive engine, the “Rocket,” began as late as 1829, a revolution in modes of travel. There lived in Manitoba, some years ago, an old railroader, Charles Whitehead, Senior, who was said to have taken a hand in making the “Rocket” go. Stephenson’s invention was not a flash in the pan, or, to change the figure, it did not “go up like a rocket and come down like a stick.” It stayed, and not only won the prize of £500 for a steam engine that would actually run and draw, but it became the fruitful progenitor of the moguls and other colossal “fire-wagons” which rush to and fro on a gridironed earth in our time. Of course, Stephenson, like all other originators of new means of transport since the days of Noah, had to bear the sneers and jocularities of the idle crowd. Some one asked him what would happen if a cow got on the track, just as Nehemiah’s enemies suggested disaster to his wall if a fox ran upon it. But the grim old Scot only replied that it “would be bad for the coo,” and went on to perfect his engine. Hence came the graceful iron horses which, with steaming breath, race along the steel trails in all countries in our time.
Canada had not begun as a Confederation when the first prophecy—an astonishing foretelling—of the Canadian Pacific Railway was made by Joseph Howe, in Halifax, in 1851. Canada was then simply the old Central Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Down by the Atlantic, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were, in a sense, isolated British possessions, which in many ways were in closer touch with the United States on the Atlantic than with the Canada of that day. Joseph Howe had been to London and received assurances that the Intercolonial Railway would be built to link up the Atlantic Maritime areas with Quebec and Ontario. But Joseph Howe, orator, poet and statesman, saw beyond that limited plan, and in his address in Halifax in 1851 outlined in his own masterly way the future of British North America and its immensely important possibilities. We quote a passage of this remarkable address as follows:
“With such a territory as this to overrun, organize and improve, think you that we shall stop at the Western bounds of Canada? Or even at the shores of the Pacific? Vancouver Island, with its vast coal measures, lies beyond. The beautiful islands of the Pacific and the growing commerce of the ocean are beyond. Populous China and the rich East are beyond; and the sails of our children’s children will reflect as familiarly the sunbeams of the South as they now brave the angry tempests of the North. The Maritime Provinces which I now address are but the Atlantic frontage of this boundless and prolific region. God has planted Nova Scotia in the front of this boundless region—see that you discharge, with energy and elevation of soul, the duties which devolve upon you in virtue of your position. Hitherto, my countrymen, you have dealt with this subject in a becoming spirit, and, whatever others may think or apprehend, I know that you will persevere in that spirit until our objects are attained. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I believe that many in this room will live to hear the whistle of the steam engine in the passes of the Rocky Mountains and to make the journey from Halifax to the Pacific in five or six days.”
To some who heard this remarkable appeal and forecast it may have sounded like the effort of a rhetorician. In reality it was the deliberate and well-grounded hope of a man who was a life-long student of public affairs, who had all the passion of a patriot and the fervor of a seer, and who desired to see a great British North America in unified devotion to the ideals of the British people. The fact that Joseph Howe, in later years, differed from others as to whether this Federation should be brought about without a plebiscite of the people of Nova Scotia, does not in any way detract from the extraordinary fact that in 1851 he prophesied a transcontinental railway, which even in 1871 some prominent public men denounced as a mad and impossible undertaking. One has to confess that, even twenty years after Howe’s prophecy, the thing did look impossible; but not only has the apparently impossible project of a railroad from ocean to ocean been accomplished, but that trans-continental has become part of a world-encircling transportation system which is a marvel of efficiency. The Canadian Pacific Railway not only welded together the scattered areas under the flag on the North American Continent, but it has taken its place as an organization of Imperial significance and value in peace and war, as many events have proven. How and by whom this modern wonder-work has been done it is our hope and purpose to make known in some imperfect, but earnest, way in the chapters that follow.
Though planned in the East, where statesmen and financiers were facing the problems of the New Dominion, it was in the wide West-land that the need of this transcontinental railway was most manifest, and it was in the West that the road first appeared. Hence we must study enough of the history of the West to see the stage set for the entry of the steel trail. Or, to put this in another way, we should find how the West had developed so as to successfully challenge the attention of Eastern statesmen and effectively call for a large Federal expenditure, in order that it might become linked up with the already developed East for the welfare of the whole Dominion. With this in view we shall, in the next chapter, meet those who, before the coming of the railway, began to make for the West a place on the map of history.
Salvaged from a “Highland Clearance” in the North of Scotland, and brought out to the Red River country in 1812, a colony of Scottish crofters settling midway across British America became the corner-stone of the stately edifice now known as Western Canada. These people were brought out after a harsh landlordism had displaced them from their tenant farms and replaced them by sheep, as more remunerative occupants of the strath. The plight of these evicted tenants, whose humble homes were burned to bar their return, excited the compassionate attention of that gentle, but heroic, nobleman, the Earl of Selkirk, and he, obtaining a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company, brought them to the Red River and placed them on land there. Lord Selkirk’s name liveth for evermore, not only because his friend, Sir Walter Scott, wrote that he never knew a man more fitted for high-souled undertakings, but because the colony he then planted was destined to prove to the world that the West was a land worth possessing as an illimitable area which would some day be the granary of the Empire. Moreover, those early settlers laid foundations for the future in religion and education. They builded churches and they erected schools. They were of that strong creed which believed that without moral sanctions and intelligence no country’s business future could be secure. With these elements in a community, prosperity will be fostered and of such a country great hopes will be entertained.—
“It dreads no sceptic’s puny hands
While near the school the church-spire stands;
Nor fears the blinded bigot’s rule
While near the church-spire stands the school.”
The steady progress of that old colony on the Red River and the somewhat hectic development of British Columbia, the latter not through colonization so much as by gold rushes and trade exploitations, were the leading factors in drawing the attention of Eastern statesmen to the enormous possibilities of the West. In consequence the Canada that was formed by the four old provinces in the East felt that the wide West-land must also be brought into the Dominion that was to stretch from sea to sea.
As one born in that old Selkirk Colony, where my father was one of the original settlers, I confess to finding some amusement in the theories of later arrivals as to the opening up of the West. Some, for instance, allege that the Hudson’s Bay Company had kept the West closed against colonization and gave out the impression that the country was not fit for agriculture. In refutation of that charge we have the fact that it was the Hudson’s Bay Company that founded the first colony and protected it through all the difficult years till it demonstrated that the country was worth while. And it was the Hudson’s Bay men at posts all over the vast North-west who cultivated plots around their posts and sent to scientific schools evidences of the country’s fertility. It matters not that Sir George Simpson, or some other individual man of the old company, said that the prairie country was exposed to dangers as to grain crops. In our own day people in Eastern Canada said the same thing and commiserated their friends who left Ontario to settle in what they called “hyper-borean regions.” The real fact is that settlers would not come into the country until some railway communication was assured, and no lesser force than that of Confederation in Canada could undertake to build a railway into the West. Until that was done the country was closed by an isolation which could not be remedied except as indicated above. Few people would care to face the hardships and sufferings of the Selkirk colonists, who were nearly ten years in the country before they got enough from the soil to furnish subsistence. But they, as stated already, endured till they demonstrated the value of the country. And when the statesmen who saw and understood, conceived the plan of the Canadian Pacific Railway to traverse and develop the West I feel that a new glory was shed on the work of the old pioneers. I am glad to remember that my father, one of the last survivors of that early colony, lived long enough to see the iron horses pass the Red River on the steel trail to the Pacific across the plains where he had seen the buffalo roaming, and on over the mountains where some of his intimate friends, like Robert Campbell, of the Yukon, had gone on their great explorations. These early settlers had done their part, and rejoiced to know that others were making real the things of which they, in the pioneer days, had so daringly dreamed.
A quite extraordinary linking up of events makes it possible for us to say that, historically, the old Red River colony was not only by its demonstration of the value of the West a procuring cause of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but that the old colony was the means of bringing into special prominence, and enthusiasm for the West, the famous engineer, Sandford Fleming, who directed all the preliminary surveys for this pioneer trans-continental road.
It happened on this wise. Fleming’s interest in the problem of transportation was known to Mr. James Ross and Mr. William Coldwell, both of whom I remember as publishers of the Nor’Wester, the first paper in the Red River colony. These newspapermen had large influence locally, and got the colonists interested in making an application to the Imperial and Colonial Governments for a roadway from the Eastern Provinces to the Red River and on to the Rocky Mountains. The idea was to have a through route on British soil, and the plan was to begin with a wagon-road as the forerunner of a transcontinental railway. Mr. Sandford Fleming, though at that time he had not visited the Red River colony, had advocated the undertaking as far back as 1858, in a lecture which he published. So it came that when, in 1863, Mr. Fleming severed his connection with railway building in Ontario, he was asked, on behalf of the Red River colonists, to present and support a memorial to the Canadian and Imperial Governments praying them for the establishment of communication between East and West. The memorial was prepared by James Ross and William Coldwell, and bears the mark of their literary skill as well as their strong devotion to British interests. After outlining the plan which the memorial desired to see adopted, it goes on to indicate that such a road with its commerce and traffic would fill “Central British America with an industrious, loyal people. Thus both politically and commercially the opening up of this country, and the making of a national highway through it, would immensely subserve Imperial interests, and contribute to the stability and the glorious prestige of the British Empire.” This memorial was adopted by the Red River colonists at a mass meeting—a fact which suggests that despite their isolation of half a century there were men amongst them who had the vision of “a grand confederation of loyal and flourishing provinces skirting the United States’ frontier and commanding at once the Atlantic and the Pacific.” Verily, the colonization plan of the high-souled Lord Selkirk, which some men of his time called visionary and Utopian, was justifying itself in these Red River settlers, who not only laid a foundation of solid moral worth in a new land and demonstrated its great resources, but were also doing their part in welding together the links of a far-flung Empire under the British flag. This gives the noble founder of the colony, as well as the colony itself, an assured niche in the temple of our country’s fame.
Mr. Fleming was very enthusiastic over this memorial, and presented it to the Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald, then Premier of the Canadian Government. He accompanied it by a strong appeal in writing to Mr. Macdonald, in which he visioned the great importance of the road across the continent. Immediately thereafter, Mr. Fleming, at the request of the Red River people, proceeded to the Old Country, where he presented the memorial to the Duke of Newcastle, then Colonial Secretary. From his visit to Canada three years before, with the Prince of Wales, the Duke was familiar with the situation and discussed it with Mr. Fleming with great interest and freedom.
This visit to the Duke of Newcastle in 1863, while not productive of immediate results, was, according to the opinion of Mr. Lawrence J. Burpee, who writes an excellent biography of Mr. Fleming, the turning-point in Fleming’s career. It made him an Empire figure and intensified his worthy ambition to aid in building and consolidating into one vast commonwealth the scattered colonies under the red cross flag. Mr. Fleming’s later achievements in this regard are known to history. They brought him the esteem of his generation, the appreciation of his sovereign and the well-won and worthily-borne honour of knighthood. Mr. Fleming had barely returned to Toronto from his visit to the Colonial Secretary in the interests of a transcontinental roadway, when he was summoned by the Premier, John Sandfield Macdonald, to come to Quebec, then the Canadian capital. The result of that visit was that Mr. Fleming, with the cordial support of all the governments concerned, including the Imperial Government, represented by the Duke of Newcastle, was placed in charge of the surveys for the projected Intercolonial Railways in 1864. With his work on that important undertaking, till its completion, we cannot deal in this story. But we have traced the connection from the old Red River colony in the West to Mr. Fleming’s visit abroad on its behalf—a visit that led in large measure to his work on the Intercolonial, which, in turn, led to his being appointed in 1871 to the gigantic position of engineer-in-chief of the proposed transcontinental, the Canadian Pacific Railway. All this was preliminary and was part of Canada’s approach to a colossal task. In the next chapter we shall look more closely into the inception of an enterprise which now belts the globe.
In an early chapter of the most famous of all Books, reference is made to the inhabitants of the earth at a certain period, in the descriptive statement, “There were giants in those days.” This is generally accepted as indicating the physical stature and strength of those ancient men. But there have been periods since that time concerning which we could repeat the statement in the light of their distinctive achievements, not necessarily because of the physical prowess, but because of the mental and moral energy of the men who wrought great deeds.
Such days, it seems to me, have been found in Canadian history in the period of the heroic men and women who pioneered in all the provinces, in the period when strong men grappled with the problems of confederating the scattered colonies of British North America into one Dominion, and in that period when the young Dominion, with only a few millions of people, undertook and accomplished, with incredible speed, the gigantic task of binding the provinces together by a band of steel. It is, briefly, with the confederation achievement, but, much more extendedly, with the building of the first transcontinental that our present writing deals. The battle of the pioneers was principally against poverty and climatic conditions. The battle for Confederation was intensified by political, racial and even religious issues, though ultimately none of these was much affected, as provision was made for the autonomy of the Provinces in their own affairs. The battle for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway was first of all between political gladiators who differed as to the practicability and value of it. But when construction actually began, the struggle was against rival interests, and difficult financial conditions, as well as against such terrific natural obstacles that the undertaking was looked on by some as the very climax of engineering impossibility. Now that the smoke of battle has cleared away and that both Confederation and the Railway are running smoothly, we can look back and see the giants who fought victoriously to create the conditions we now enjoy. Some of these great men did not live to see the realization of their dreams, but they died in the faith that their dreams were so good that they would come true some time. Like the gallant soldiers of all time, they fell, still gripping the sword-hilt and cheering their comrades on to victory. Let us be grateful enough to halt for a moment with bowed heads and lay a wreath of memory on their honoured graves. Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war, and Canada must not forget her heroes in either.
There were several causes operating, midway in the last century, to lead the older Canada of Ontario and Quebec, and also the Maritime areas of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, to consider the advisability of federating together for the good of the whole. The commercial power of the United States had such a magnetic pull upon some of the provinces that the tie which held these Provinces to Britain was being subjected to some strain. Moreover, the Imperial Government noticed with some anxiety that political prejudices and feeling between the various parts of the British possessions made any concerted plan for military action difficult to accomplish. Accordingly, as it is now known and can now be told, Lord Monck, who was the Governor-General in the “sixties,” quietly used some pressure to keep Confederation before the minds of public men in the various parts of the country. Besides all that, there was very considerable difficulty in carrying on government in the Canada of Ontario and Quebec, owing to racial differences and double leadership, which meant an almost constant danger of legislative deadlock.
Moreover, the British possessions from the St. Lawrence to the Pacific were like a dumbbell, big at the ends and weak in the middle, as a Westerner once said. There were the immense areas of older Canada and the still more immense areas west of Lake Superior—but the North Shore of that inland sea was a wilderness of unproductive rock where no link of settlement would seem possible. Hence, as the aforesaid Westerner expressed it, “Canada would break off in the middle unless we linked it up with the steel trail.” There was much truth in that statement in those early days and highly important truth it was. Many, in our day, cannot realize how swiftly inter-travel and inter-trade over the pioneer railway across Canada brought the East and the West together.
All these considerations, realized out of actually existing or foreseen conditions, impelled the statesman of Canada in the 60’s to take definite steps towards confederating the old provinces and then annexing the vast territories all the way to the Pacific Coast. And here entered the giants. Thus, for instance, in 1864 that great tribune of the people, Mr. George Brown, of the Toronto Globe, reported in favour of Confederation from a committee of the Canadian Legislature. About the same time the Legislatures in Nova Scotia, mainly through the efforts of Dr. (later Sir Charles) Tupper; in New Brunswick, through the influence of Mr. Samuel L. Tilley; in Prince Edward Island, by the exertions of the Hon. W. H. Pope, passed resolutions appointing delegates to a Conference in Charlottetown for the purpose of discussing a uniting of the Maritime Provinces. When that Conference met in Charlottetown a deputation from Ontario and Quebec was received consisting of unusually strong men, namely, John A. Macdonald, George Brown, George E. Cartier, A. T. Galt, T. D’Arcy McGee, Alexander Campbell and Hector L. Langevin. As a result of the Charlottetown meeting larger horizons loomed upon the vision of that remarkable gathering. The souls of the men who then assembled yearned beyond the sky-line of their own immediate surroundings and, thinking of the extent of British Possessions in North America, they were inspired and attracted by the greater task of confederating them all into one great Dominion from sea to sea. It was a tremendous task for that early day, but the men who faced it were giants who could not rest satisfied with being cabinned and cribbed in a narrow circumference, but who said:
“No pent-up Utica confines our powers
The vast, boundless continent is ours.”
After some discussion, the Charlottetown Conference adjourned to meet as a larger gathering in Quebec City on October 10th, 1864—a red-letter day not only in the history of Canada, but of the British Empire and the world. The object of the Quebec Conference was as stated above; and therefore there were men there from all the then organized British Provinces. These were men who could have filled places in the “Mother of Parliaments” at the world’s metropolis, but who at the Quebec meeting were engaged in the, perhaps, more difficult undertaking of bringing into being, out of diverse elements, a new nation within the Empire. These men were “The Fathers of Confederation,” and the famous picture of that conference should be in every Canadian home. Etienne P. Tache, who once said that the last gun fired in North America for British connection would be fired by a French-Canadian, was chairman. From Ontario and Quebec came John A. Macdonald, George Brown, George E. Cartier, A. T. Galt, William McDougall, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Oliver Mowat, Alexander Campbell, James Cockburn, Hector L. Langevin, and Jean C. Chapais. From Nova Scotia there were Charles Tupper, W. A. Henry, Jonathan McCully and R. B. Dickey. From New Brunswick came Samuel L. Tilley, John M. Johnston, Charles Fisher, Peter Mitchell, E. B. Chandler, W. H. Steeves and John H. Gray; Prince Edward Island was represented by Colonel Gray, Edward Palmer, W. H. Pope, George Coles, Edward Whalen, T. H. Haviland and A. A. Macdonald. Newfoundland sent F. B. T. Carter and Ambrose Shea, though it was not yet to come into Confederation.
It is not our purpose, in the present writing, to dwell on this great meeting beyond saying that it led to the Confederation of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1867. Prince Edward Island entered in 1873 and the Western prairie country and British Columbia in 1870 and 1871. The two latter entered with somewhat reluctant feet; Manitoba, retarded by Louis Riel’s stand against the incoming of Canada lest the rights of the natives should be ignored; and British Columbia, unready to come in unless the railway across the continent to the Pacific Coast was guaranteed within a given time. These difficulties were finally overcome, but the details do not belong to this story. Suffice it to say that Confederation being accomplished, the new sense of national unity led to combination in the immense undertaking of a railway from sea to sea. The courageous facing of such an enormous task had no precedent in the business history of the modern world. The big Republic to the South of us has done some amazing things, such as the Panama Canal in recent years, but even that commercially daring country only attempted a transcontinental railway when it had nearly forty millions of people. Canada undertook the task when her population was less than four millions. To the onlooking world the attempt must have appeared like “a forlorn hope”—a sort of a “Charge of the Light Brigade” against batteries bristling with obstacles of a wholly unprecedented kind. But there are always some men who are unafraid, and the dream of seers was to be realized. Once Confederation had been accomplished, a transcontinental railway became a national necessity. This was true not only from the standpoint of politics and trade, but from the standpoint also of law and order in the far-flung country. It will be remembered that Louis Riel started a revolt against the incoming of Canadian authority in 1869, and that he held high carnival in the West till Colonel Garnet Wolseley and his soldiers reached Fort Garry from the East, nearly a year after the Riel outbreak started. All this period was not consumed in travel; but it had taken three months’ steady travel overland, after mobilization in the East, before Wolseley reached the scene of Riel’s revolt. The whole Western country might have been swept by the rebel chief’s revolt in that time, and the necessity of swifter communication between the different parts of Canada became painfully apparent. And so, when British Columbia came into Confederation in 1871, there was an understanding that the railway from the East to the Pacific should begin in two years and be finished in ten. This daring pledge was given by Sir John A. Macdonald and his Government at Ottawa, despite the fact that a distinguished explorer and engineer, Capt. Palliser, sent out by the Imperial Government, had reported after four years on the ground, that on account of the mountains being impassable, a transcontinental railway could not be built from sea to sea on British territory. But Sir John Macdonald went ahead and sought to interest some big business men who might form a company to build the Canadian Pacific to the Western sea.
At that time Sir Hugh Allan, head of the Allan line of steamships, was probably the most able and prominent business man in Canada. He was not only interested in steamships on the Atlantic, but had acquired railway interests as well. There is no doubt that Sir Hugh Allan had been pressing upon men in public life the project of a transcontinental railway, which he might lead in building, with the further idea, no doubt, of having another line of steamers on the Pacific. This was a worthy enough ambition for a great Canadian. There is no reason to think that Sir Hugh Allan was mercenary or avaricious, for he had no need of more wealth than he possessed. In any case he, being of the same political party as Sir John Macdonald, as well as a man of great ability and financial power, was one of those in line as a possibility for such a big task.
Accordingly Allan formed a company to build the railway. So also did Mr. D. L. Macpherson and a group of Toronto capitalists, who alleged that Allan was in league with American interests in a degree that would militate against the success of the Canadian Pacific as a Canadian road. Sir John Macdonald tried in vain to get these two projected companies to amalgamate. Finally it seemed to be settled that a new company should be formed of Canadians and that Allan would have control. He was spending money with a lavish hand and when the Dominion election was held in 1872 he furnished the large sum of $160,000 for campaign funds to Macdonald, Cartier and Langevin. It is known that Allan had always contributed to the campaign funds of the party, as others did, but the fact that these campaign funds in 1872 were contributed at a time when a huge contract was pending, made the whole transaction look dangerous. All campaign funds are legally and morally wrong, and the fact that they were customary and that everybody knows they are customary, does not make them right.
In this particular case, Cartier, who was then mentally as well as physically broken down, and who, contrary to Macdonald’s advice, ran for an impossible constituency, where he was defeated, seems to have made the largest demands on Allan. It seems clear also that Cartier held out to Allan, hopes of the contract. But it is also clear that the other leaders got certain sums which they used in the campaign. The Macdonald government was elected. After the election a new company, called the Canadian Pacific, was formed, with representative men from all the Provinces as directors. That new board chose Allan as President, it is said, without any pressure from the Government. This is not unlikely, as Allan was, as we have said, the biggest business man in Canada at the time. To this company the Government granted a charter to build the Canadian Pacific, but American interests were to be excluded as the Government insisted. Allan agreed to this and repaid the money the Americans had advanced. The New York men, of course, were annoyed at this and gave the opponents of the Macdonald Government some hints as to those campaign funds from Allan. Then Allan’s personal correspondence with American interests during the election year was stolen by a clerk in the office of Allan’s solicitor, Mr. J. J. C. Abbott, and, being made public, raised a tremendous political storm.
When the House of Commons met the atmosphere was tense and electric. Only a few days elapsed before Mr. L. S. Huntingdon, for the Opposition, moved for the investigation of the charges that were floating around in regard to these campaign funds, the suggestion being that Sir Hugh Allan got the railway contract in return for his monetary contributions. On an immediate vote the Government was sustained, but there was an uneasy feeling abroad and men of independent mould were breaking away from party ties. Sir John Macdonald, who saw the situation with his usual political sagacity, himself moved for the appointment of an investigating commission, and the House adjourned till that commission would be ready to report. When the House met in October, 1873, the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, leader of the Opposition, moved a vote of non-confidence and supported it by quoting from the report of the commission. The debate in the House was hot. Charles Tupper, the “war horse of Cumberland”—a masterful debater, who later was the tremendous drive wheel of the railway project—supported the Government, but Huntingdon replied that the Government had kept itself in power by the lavish use of money from men who were desiring contracts. Sir John A. Macdonald spoke for nearly five hours in defence of his action, dealing with the whole history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He made a special appeal for support in order that East and West might be connected by rail and the whole of Canada developed. Sir John, though at no stage of his career a great orator, was possessed of a magnetic manner and could coin phrases that had indescribable force. Such, for instance, was the expression he used once at a great mass meeting in Toronto, when he said dramatically, “A British subject I was born—a British subject I will die.” On this occasion, in 1873, in the House, when he made explanation of his policy in regard to the railway contract, he closed his five hours’ address in the words: “But, Sir, I commit myself, the Government commits itself, to the hands of this House; and far beyond this House, it commits itself to the country at large. We have faithfully done our duty. We have fought the battle of Confederation. We have fought the battle of unity. We have had party strife, setting Province against Province. And more than all, we have had, in the greatest Province, every prejudice and sectional feeling that could be arrayed against us. I throw myself on this House; I throw myself on this country; I throw myself on posterity, and I believe that, notwithstanding the many failings of my life, I shall have the voice of this country rallying around me. And, Sir, if I am mistaken in that, I can confidently appeal to a higher court—to the court of my own conscience, and to the court of posterity. I leave it to this House with the utmost confidence. I am equal to either fortune. I can see past the decision of this House, either for or against me, but, whether it be for or against me, I know, and it is no vain boast of me to say so, for even my enemies will admit that I am no boaster—that there does not exist in Canada a man who has given more of his time, more of his heart, more of his wealth, or more of his intellect and power, such as they may be, for the good of this Dominion of Canada.”
This speech was listened to by a full house and crowded galleries, amongst those present being Lord Roseberry, then on a visit to Canada. Sir John closed his speech about two o’clock in the morning, and the Hon. Edward Blake rose to reply. Blake was probably the ablest and most massively intellectual man that Canada has produced. He lacked the magnetism of Sir John, but had the power, almost to a fault, of dealing with a subject in such detail that when he was through with it there was little left to be said. Mr. Blake was at that time quite sceptical as to the practicability of a transcontinental railway, anyway; but that night in the House of Commons he concentrated his tremendous argumentative oratory against the Government for having, as he alleged, won the election with campaign funds from interested parties.
There was doubt as to the result in the House till some of the independent members who might ordinarily have supported the Government began to indicate otherwise. Curiously enough, Mr. Donald A. Smith (afterwards Lord Strathcona), the man who, later on, drove the last spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway, under the Premiership of this same Sir John Macdonald, in 1885, was the member who really dealt the Government its knockout blow in 1873 in the House of Commons. No one knew what the course of Mr. Smith, who was never a party man, would be, and when he rose to speak every one listened with strained attention. His opening words seemed to favour the Government, but he was simply absolving Sir John Macdonald from personal blame. Here is the report of what Mr. Smith said: “With respect to the transaction between the Government and Sir Hugh Allan, I do not consider that the First Minister took the money with any corrupt motive. I feel that the leader of the Government is incapable of taking money from Sir Hugh Allen for corrupt purposes. I would be most willing to vote confidence in the Government (loud cheers from the Government side), if I could do so conscientiously (loud cheers from the Opposition). It is with very great regret that I cannot do so. For the honour of the country, no Government should exist that has a shadow of suspicion resting on them, and for that reason I could not support them.” (Renewed Opposition cheers.) In the afternoon of that day, November 5th, 1873, Sir John A. Macdonald informed the House that he had placed his resignation in the hands of the Governor-General and that the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie was called upon to form a new administration.
Sir John Macdonald had resigned without waiting for a vote of the House and no one to this day knows just how it would have divided. But the feeling in the country was hot and, like a wise man, he bowed to the inevitable. He said that someday the people would understand and call him back to power. The fact that they did call him back five years later astounded his political foes, one of whom had said in the House, during the debate, that Sir John “had fallen like Lucifer, never to rise again.” But he did rise, to the surprise of many. The fact that he came back later on was due, in some degree, to his personal magnetism. But it was also due to the fact that people knew that Sir John had not profited in any personal way and that he and Sir Hugh Allan had become almost obsessed with the idea that the continuance of Sir John in office at that time was absolutely necessary to the opening up and development of Canada. They acted accordingly, as if the end they had in view justified the methods they adopted. Moreover, it was shown that Sir John had definitely told Allan that he would not give the railway contract to him, but to an amalgamation of the two companies. Allan said in connection with the whole matter: “The plans I propose are the best for the interests of the Dominion and in urging them I am doing a patriotic action.”
In the meantime, when Sir John resigned, Mackenzie took office and, in a general election shortly afterwards, swept the country. Sir Hugh Allan, unable to raise capital in the presence of the political earthquake and the business depression, threw up the charter for building the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a new programme had to be adopted. For the time being the curtain had to be rung down on the gigantic project.
The name of Alexander Mackenzie, the stonemason, who succeeded Sir John Macdonald as Premier of Canada in 1873, deserves to be uttered with profound respect. By the most intense application to work and the most diligent use of his opportunities in the right way, he rose steadily, not only in circumstances, but in the esteem of his fellow-countrymen, till he attained the highest office in the gift of the Canadian people. Born in the Highlands of Scotland, he came out to Canada as a young stonecutter. He returned some thirty years later to the romantic scenes of his childhood as the Premier of the Dominion, a credit alike to the land of his birth and the land of his adoption. Once, in my student days, I met him in Winnipeg. He had made the trip to the far West, but was in poor health—a rather pathetic figure, I thought, whose unflinching resistance of down-grade influences had made his public life harder than stonecutting.
But while we thus pay him personal tribute, we find that, whether as a result of the dissolution of the Allan Company, or pressure of lean years, or the lack of enthusiasm amongst his following in the House, Mackenzie, despite his good intentions, made little progress with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway during his five years in office. It was not easy for Mackenzie and his supporters, after attacking the general extravagance of Sir John Macdonald’s plan for a transcontinental, to accommodate themselves to carrying out the scheme of a railway from ocean to ocean. Edward Blake, Mackenzie’s great lieutenant, had openly said more than once that the rounding out of Confederation by pledging a railway to British Columbia within a fixed term was too costly. The population of the West Coast Province was only some ten thousand or so of white people, he said, and this country was “a sea of mountains.” One of the chief newspapers of Mr. Mackenzie’s party said that the Canadian Pacific “would not pay for axle grease” over certain sections. Mr. Blake, it is true, in 1891 visited the West Coast over the completed railway, and made a brilliantly humorous and eloquent apology for his mistaken conception of the country. But that was too late to help Mackenzie with his problem, and the fact that Mr. Blake and some others of his party actually voted in the House against Mackenzie’s proposal regarding the Esquimault railway on Vancouver Island did not help the heavily burdened Premier. But one must allow that it is much easier to be optimistic about British Columbia now than it was at that time. Very few people then dreamed of the development that could and would take place in the Province which Mr. Blake, speaking for thousands in the East, called “a sea of mountains.” It looked like that in those days before the world knew that British Columbia had not only mines and forests and fish, but that vast areas would be opened up along the rivers and in the mountain valleys which would prove immensely adapted to agriculture, fruit-growing and dairying. Therefore let us be kind to the men who were sceptical about the whole railway undertaking. We are quoting their scepticism here only to show the problem that Premier Mackenzie had to face when he came into power in 1873. Under all the circumstances he did the best he could at the time—that is, the best that could be done by any man who lacked the full-hearted support of some of his own friends, and who felt that to meet the demands of the naturally impatient and almost resentful British Columbia, was practically impossible in the lean years that seemed imminent and beyond his power to control.
But Mackenzie began on the problem and we find him, in 1874, in an election address to his own constituents in Lambton, Ontario, unfolding his plan. Briefly, the transportation system was to be a sort of amphibious animal. Mackenzie, realizing that traffic by water is the cheapest type of transportation, thought he saw a possibility of securing a transcontinental, without undue cost, by utilizing “the magnificent water stretches” across Canada, linking them together by rail as funds would be available. In this way he claimed that railway construction would be gradual enough to avoid excessive financial expenditure, and that the country would be gradually settled. Settlement would keep abreast with railway construction and thus the possibility of having the railway going ahead of the settlement across an uninhabited, and therefore unproductive, country would be eliminated.
Mr. Mackenzie was perfectly sincere in this, as he was in everything. The plan was not without merit under the circumstances, but it had defects which arose out of a lack of knowledge of the Western country generally, and particularly of the attitude of the people of British Columbia. It also ignored the strange, but characteristic, impulses of human nature in regard to migration. Every now and then in history some section of humanity strikes its tents and goes on the march, railway or no railway. Especially does the Star of the Empire draw people westward. Before there was a railway in the West at all, many of my own kith and kin loaded their few belongings on ox-carts and took their way five hundred miles north-westward to Prince Albert, on the North Saskatchewan. And so also will some people go on in advance of the railway, despite all advice to the contrary. For years I heard it said by some that had the Canadian Pacific not been built so rapidly, settlement would have been more compact along the line. But this theory is contradicted by the actual fact, as we saw it, that when the trains were only running to Brandon, west of Winnipeg, settlers were leaving the train there and trekking on westward with prairie schooners. Great numbers may not thus go forward in any particular case, but since a country grows by the enterprise of the adventurous, it becomes the duty of such a country to follow with utilities, the people who thus widen the horizon of the land.
Moreover, Mackenzie’s well-intentioned policy of using the water stretches would have made transportation too slow and too expensive for shippers, owing to the constant need for transfers, with necessary delays and damages. And, most important of all, that policy indicated too tardy a construction of the transcontinental to satisfy British Columbia, which had entered confederation on the distinct understanding that a railway would be built to the Pacific within reasonable time.
Mackenzie made an effort, by sending Mr. J. D. Edgar to British Columbia, to secure a modification in the terms of Confederation in regard to railway construction. This mission was resented in British Columbia, and Mr. Edgar was recalled. The people of British Columbia looked on the attempt to change the Confederation terms as a breach of faith on the part of Canada, and said so in their usual straight-flung words. Both parties put the case before Lord Carnarvon, who offered to arbitrate. His award was on the whole rather favourable to Mackenzie’s effort for modification, and was accepted in the meantime as the best obtainable. British Columbia, feeling that even the modified terms would not be carried out, began to discuss withdrawing from Confederation, and motions to that effect were actually submitted in the Legislature.
Things were not looking well, and that master diplomat, Lord Dufferin, then Governor-General of Canada, resolved to visit the West Coast, accompanied by his gracious lady. They crossed via Chicago and San Francisco by rail, thence by H.M.S. Amethyst to Vancouver Island. They were warmly welcomed to Victoria, but were given, from the beginning, to understand that British Columbia wanted the railway and wanted it without delay. At one point they saw a horse blanketed and upon the blanket were the words “Good, but not iron.”
In Victoria arches were numerous. One arch had an inscription, “Our railway iron rusts,” and another very conspicuous one had the menacing message “Carnarvon terms or separation.”
Lord Dufferin knew his relation to the Crown and to the Government of the day too well to allow his courtesy to run away with his conception of duty as Governor-General of Canada, and so he declined to drive under the arch which had upon it the threat of secession. So he ordered the carriage to detour until that arch was passed. Afterwards Lady Dufferin said, “The Governor-General would have driven under the arch if one letter had been changed so as to have the inscription read ‘The Carnarvon Terms or Reparation.’ ” The incident caused some excitement, but Lord Dufferin knew his constitutional law too well to be moved. On the whole the visit of this brilliant diplomat and magnetic orator made a great impression for good. His speech at the close of the tour of the Coast was a noble eulogy of the wonderful beauty and potential wealth of British Columbia. While not becoming a partisan advocate for the Dominion Government, Lord Dufferin expressed his view that Mr. Mackenzie had done his best under all the circumstances, and would continue so to do while he was in power. The speech of the eloquent and tactful Governor-General had a pronounced effect in allaying the indignation of the people against the Government of the day. They settled down to wait development with as good grace as possible.
However, after waiting two years more without seeing any railway construction begun on either the mainland of British Columbia or Vancouver Island, Premier George A. Walkem, in the Legislature at Victoria, moved the famous resolution to the effect that unless the Dominion started railway construction by May of 1879, the Province of British Columbia should withdraw from the Confederation and even ask damages from Canada for delay in carrying out their railway promises to the Province. This extraordinary motion was carried by fourteen to nine, with the probable intention of waking up both the Imperial and Canadian Governments to the discontent on the Western Coast. The resolution reached Ottawa in October, 1878, just after the Mackenzie Government had been defeated, and owing to the confusion caused by the change it was put into some pidgeonhole for a rest, and did not reach London till March, 1879. By that time Sir John A. Macdonald, who had come back to power with his aggressive and indomitable Railway Minister, Sir Charles Tupper, was getting down to a new programme of railway building, and British Columbia, in consequence, was becoming more contented and hopeful. So no one asked any questions when the famous secession resolution of the British Columbia legislature found oblivion in the files of Downing Street.
All this does not mean that Mr. Mackenzie was inactive in the matter of the transcontinental railway. Considering the facts we have mentioned already, namely, that many of his chief supporters were lukewarm in regard to the whole project, which they considered premature, and the further fact that there was a cycle of lean years, he strove to get things moving, but the chariot wheels dragged. There was no popular enthusiasm over the undertaking, because the times were hard and there was general failure on the part of the people to get a vision of the illimitable possibilities that lay to westward. But some progress was made. Extensive surveys were carried forward. And several contracts were let for the easier portions of the route. The hard places, like the North Shore of Lake Superior, and the mountains in British Columbia, were not attempted. Lord and Lady Dufferin, at Emerson, Manitoba, in 1877, drove the first two spikes in the portion which started at the international boundary-line, where the railways linked up with an American line. This was later called the Emerson Branch, and ran from the boundary east of the Red River through St. Boniface, across from Winnipeg, to East Selkirk. From Selkirk a portion of the railway to Thunder Bay, on Lake Superior, was begun. It was the plan of the Mackenzie Government to cross the Red River at Selkirk, and strike westward over the prairies, side-tracking Winnipeg, which was then becoming a considerable centre of population. I recall a locomotive round-house at East Selkirk built in Mackenzie’s time, but later abandoned when the line was changed to run through Winnipeg. Budding political orators made merry over this round-house, as being the only assurance they had that a road which would require the stabling of iron horses at a divisional point would some day be constructed.
The slow progress of transcontinental railway building afforded ammunition to the opponents of the Mackenzie Government in the House of Commons. And there is no record of an Opposition ever allowing an opportunity to oppose to go by unused. In one year we find that redoubtable fighter, Dr. (later Sir) Charles Tupper, moving a long resolution urging the Government “to employ the available funds of the Dominion to complete the road.” This was voted down. Next year that unique, somewhat peculiar, but quite brilliantly versatile publicist, Mr. Amor de Cosmos, of British Columbia, moved a vote of censure on the Government for the slowness of their building of the road to the Coast. This resolution did not get far in the House. The Coast was so far away that the project of building all the way to the Pacific gave even the Opposition a chill when it came squarely before them. Hon. George W. Ross, a Mackenzie supporter, moved that only such progress should be attempted as would “not increase the existing rates of taxation,” which manifestly would mean not much progress. Dr. Tupper came back to the attack in April, 1877, with a motion of censure, but this was negatived also. During all this time that astute statesman, Sir John A. Macdonald, was studying the political horoscope, and all of a sudden, in 1878, he propounded a policy of protection and railway construction which caught the popular imagination and he was swept into power again. There was a swift revival of optimism, because there was a revival of trade, and the wave carried the Canadian Pacific Railway enterprise on its crest to new heights of success.
Whether a protective tariff brings real or fictitious prosperity, and whether it enriches the few or the many, are questions which are fortunately outside the scope of this book. But, anyway, the fact, historically, is that with the advent of Sir John Macdonald and his National Policy of protection in 1878, there came quite a pronounced outburst of new faith in the future possibilities of Canada. There were, no doubt, other subsidiary causes, and some even hold that lean and fat years come in cycles. But, in any case, there was a decided restoration of public confidence in all legitimate business enterprises, and, what was still more important, there came a distinctive national sentiment and pride which made the vast project of the Canadian Pacific Railway from ocean to ocean a distinct possibility.
Portions of the railway had already been under construction by the Mackenzie Government, as we have seen. These portions were mainly east of the Red River, but surveys had been carried on with far-reaching results in the mountain region of British Columbia. These surveys were under the general direction of Mr. Marcus Smith, an engineer of remarkable experience and ability. He had done work in the British Isles and Spain before coming to this side of the ocean, where he was on service in South America, as well as on the Grand Trunk and the Intercolonial in the older parts of what is now Eastern Canada. The other day here, through the kindness of Mr. Newton Ker, now head of the Coast Department of Lands for the Canadian Pacific, I had the privilege of reading a scrap book kept by Mr. Marcus Smith over many years, and willed by him to Mr. Ker. This book indicates that Mr. Smith had a very wide interest in social, civil and political life, as well as in his own special vocation of engineering. The man who gathered that collection of articles together had a big outlook on things, and would regard his work in the mountains as of national significance.
The remarkable explorations of Mr. Walter Moberly, who later discovered the Eagle’s Pass by watching the flight of eagles evidently following a fish-stream, had produced good results and his experience in connection with the building of the famous Yale-Cariboo wagon road made his later services specially valuable. Mr. Henry J. Cambie, and Mr. Thomas H. White, his personal assistant and associate in solving the engineering problems through the Fraser River canyons, are still, happily, living in Vancouver, highly regarded as citizens who did their share of nation building. Other noted engineers of that period in British Columbia were H. T. Jennings, H. P. Bell, Henry MacLeod, C. E. Perry, G. A. Keefer, Joseph Hunter, L. B. Hamlin, W. F. Gouin, C. F. Harrington, E. W. Jarvis, John Trutch, C. Horetzky, C. H. Gamsby and, later on, Major Rogers, after whom Rogers’ Pass was named, although Moberly always contended that the pass had been discovered by Albert Perry, one of his assistants in a survey in 1866. Of course there were many others, but these are representative of the famous body of men who made their way along the dangerous rivers, through the tangled forests, by precipitous cliffs and across terrific canyons, until they finally found safe location for the steel trail through a region that many had pronounced to be impenetrable—a sort of supernatural barrier interposed between the prairies and the Western sea. Most of these men have, as already intimated, passed over the Great Divide into the Unseen; but, at great cost to themselves in hardship and suffering and privation, they made it possible for the people of to-day to travel in rolling palaces where once they themselves trod with aching and weary feet. Let us highly honour the memory of the engineers and surveyors and their men, who were the forerunners of the mighty engines which now thunder through the echoing mountain passes, along which these heroes of the transit and the chain, long years ago, pursued their painful and precarious way.
The Macdonald Government came back into power in 1878, as we have seen, on the wave of the National Policy movement. But, for two years, they worked on the lines of their predecessors and linked up some of the disconnected portions of the road which Mr. Mackenzie had constructed in various localities, mainly between the Lakes and the Red River. Then Sir Charles Tupper, that militant and aggressive Minister of Railways, took the bold plunge and let to Andrew Onderdonk, a young American railroader of San Francisco, contracts to build portions of the Canadian Pacific through “the sea of mountains” in British Columbia. Canada was young at the railway business, as indicated by the fact that it was an American who got the contract to build the first parts of the mountain road. Later on, as the construction of the road from ocean to ocean began to get under way, Canadians developed by the score into great practical railway builders. Young men who had begun by chopping in the bush grew into contractors for getting out ties for the track-layers, and finally themselves took contracts for actual building of the railway over rock and boulders, through mountain vastnesses and quaking bogs until the steel reached tide water. It was in itself an act of splendid audacity for a people of less than four millions in number to start on the task of throwing a railway across an immense and almost uninhabited continent to the shores of the Western sea. And this daring on the part of the young Dominion was backed gallantly and effectively by scores of native-born Canadians who, with genuine Canadian initiative, learned a new trade and followed it with tremendous energy and skill.
It has been my good fortune and privilege to meet many of these men. Some of them made money and some of them did not. The task of calculating the cost of a piece of work over a given stretch of country, where unexpected obstacles emerged, was not easy. There were stretches on the North Shore of Lake Superior where the old Laurentian rocks had to be blasted to pieces at a cost of half-a-million a mile. There is a well-known muskeg east of Winnipeg where seven tracks went under, till a solid foundation was secured in what looked for a while like a bottomless pit. And there were tunnels and bridges and cuttings in the mountains which challenged the resources of a race of Titans. So, we say, these contractors did not, by any means, always make money. But my knowledge of them leads me to say that very few of the contractors or engineers cared for the money end of it in any case. They felt that they were engaged in a work of significance, not only to Canada and the Empire, but to the world, and that was an inspiration worth while. I recall being told by the secretary to one of the most famous of these railway builders that, so intent was this railway man on his work, that he very often forgot to have money enough in his pocket for personal necessities. In one sense he handled millions; but, only for the precaution of his secretary who knew his ways, this railway magnate would often have been personally stranded. “He thought so little of money,” said the secretary, “that he hardly ever carried any with him. But he was generous withal. The real fact was he was so engrossed in the great enterprise of helping to build a road across Canada that he forgot his own personal needs.”
Going back to Mr. Andrew Onderdonk, it is interesting to recall his influence on the social life of British Columbia by his importation of a few thousand Chinese coolies to work on railway construction. Mr. Onderdonk claimed that he was unable to get enough white men who were willing to do that particular kind of work. Be that as it may, the present fact is that we have a very large Chinese population in this Province which faces the Orient. It is equally sure that the presence of so many Orientals causes many serious problems. It is fashionable for some people who do not know the history, to lay the responsibility for the presence of Chinese here on the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. But the fact is that it was Mr. Onderdonk who imported these Oriental coolies while the road was still under Government supervision, two or more years before the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was formed. It is only fair always to apportion praise or blame justly, so that every one shall bear his own burden of responsibility without having to carry more than his share. Hence, the company, be it known, was not the originator of the importation of Chinese coolies for the construction of the road. On this subject we are not now moralizing either way, but are simply making a statement of historical fact.
In any case, Mr. Onderdonk knew the business of railway construction and kept steadily on, taking over some portions from other contractors, till he had the steel laid from Port Moody to Kamloops, and made a creditable record for railway building across an exceedingly difficult section of Canada. In fact, Sir Charles Tupper, the militant Minister of Railways, said quite openly that, though the construction of a piece of the road on the Pacific Coast would not mean much till it was linked up with the Eastern part of Canada, he wanted to get the mountain section under construction without delay for certain reasons. One was that the construction of that exceedingly difficult section, if successfully accomplished, would show the possibility of the whole task of the transcontinental being completed in due time. The other, of course, was that the people of British Columbia, fortunately for them, had several ably-insistent and politely-vociferous leaders who would give no rest to any Government till the work of railway construction had actually begun on the Coast. There were some prominent men elsewhere who did not look at things in the same light. An Opposition in Parliament opposes the party in power as a sort of a constitutional principle, nominally at least, for the safety of the country, which otherwise might have unwise legislation imposed on it. But even apart from that, we need not now look with undue criticism on the record of men like the Hon. Edward Blake, a statesman of great ability and integrity who, when Onderdonk was going ahead with his contracts in the mountains, moved in the House of Commons in 1880 that “the public interests require that the work of constructing the Pacific Railway in British Columbia be postponed.” Others of his party took the same stand, and it must be admitted that, apart from the prerogative of an Opposition above indicated, the whole project seemed vast enough to appal men who did not personally know the West well enough to visualize its illimitable future. The gigantic undertaking, as already mentioned, looked well nigh quixotic for less than four millions of people, and the fact that there were, in the years following, times when the whole effort seemed on the verge of disaster, ought to restrain our wholesale condemnation of early sceptics. Incidentally, it ought to bring us to the salute when we think of the railway builders who fought their amazing difficulties and, by fighting, gathered strength to win out in the end.
Andrew Onderdonk in the mountains and other contractors between Lake Superior and the Red River, were doing good work, but their detached pieces of road ended in the air. And Sir John A. Macdonald was quick to see that something more had to be done. Accordingly, at a Cabinet meeting at the close of the first session after his return to power, Sir John brought up the question of building railways in the North-West in order to attract immigrants. Sir Charles Tupper, who, being at the head of the Department of Railways, had made special study of the situation, agreed with Sir John that something should be done at once and neither one of them was in love with the idea of Government ownership and operation of railways. Sir Charles thought the policy of a transcontinental should be again emphasized, and that a responsible company should be secured to build it. Sir John said that was always his idea; but it was a “large order” and they had better take a week to think it over. On the appointed day Sir Charles submitted a carefully prepared report in favour of a through line, built, owned and operated by a chartered company. Putting it in brief form, the suggestion was that the Government should complete and hand over to such a company the parts of the railway then built or under construction, estimated at about seven hundred miles, which, when finished, would have cost about thirty-two millions of dollars. The portions of the road then built, or being built, were the lines from Port Arthur to Winnipeg, from Kamloops to Port Moody and the Emerson Branch on the east side of the Red River, from the boundary-line to St. Boniface and Winnipeg. In addition to getting possession of these portions, the company would receive a cash grant of twenty-five millions of dollars, and fifty (later reduced to twenty-five) million acres of land along the railway.
The suggestion was heartily agreed to by Sir John, and the Cabinet was unanimously in favour of the plan proposed. The Cabinet adjourned immediately after the decision was made. The members thereof had good reason to call it a day. The Rubicon had been crossed and the country was on the march to a new destiny. There were to be many obstacles encountered before the objective would be reached. It was a mighty venture of faith, but men of thought and men of action would clear the way.
Meanwhile the contractors on the portions under construction carried on, but the Government was looking eagerly to the financial magnates of the Old Land to form a company to carry out its policy. Yet, despite a visit of Sir John, Sir Charles and the Hon. John Henry Pope to London, there was no rush on the part of British financiers to build a railway across a vast, thinly populated continent. And when it looked as if there was going to be a disappointing set-back, there arose a small group of men on our own continent who were destined to lead in making the projected transcontinental what Lord Shaughnessy, a few hours before his death, called so finely, in a conversation with President Beatty, “a great Canadian property and a great Canadian enterprise.” We shall, in the next chapter, meet the men who came to the rescue.
Playing safe” is a better programme than reckless foolhardiness, but it is a poor programme as compared with the spirit of adventure. Without adventure, based upon faith, humanity’s horizon would never have widened out and new continents and new avenues for the expenditure of human energy in great enterprises for the good of mankind would never have been discovered. Satisfaction with present attainment means stagnation, and it is better to reach out after the apparently unattainable than to allow our God-given energies to suffer atrophy through disuse.
In our present study of the building of a great railway across Canada, traversing vast unpeopled plains, and boring its way through what some had declared to be impassable mountain barriers, it is a very interesting thing to find the enterprise somewhat closely linked up with a certain other organization that had been chartered in 1670, under the title of “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.” The big word in that title is the word “adventurers,” and it applies both to the men who hazarded their capital and to the men who fared forth from the Old Country into the unknown spaces of the new continent on this side of the sea. This Hudson’s Bay Company not only attracted attention to the new world that had still to be conquered, but its able and resourceful employees in the North-West became distinct elements in the progress of the country.
In this particular connection one Donald Alexander Smith (later Lord Strathcona) who had come out from Scotland as a lad to Labrador, in the service of the Company, had risen to be head of that Company in Canada at the time of Confederation, and was a member of the House of Commons for Winnipeg when the project of a transcontinental railway loomed up as an actual possibility. Mr. Smith was a restlessly ambitious man, or he would not have so risen, and there is no doubt in my mind (and I knew him in his later years) that when the discussion arose he began to cherish the hope of being an instrument in linking up the East and West in some way by the much-discussed railway.
Since writing this I came across a letter, dated November, 1872, at Stuart Lake, B.C., from the Hudson’s Bay Company factor then in charge there, to the officer in charge at another post. This letter not only shows that the Hudson’s Bay Company, instead of retarding the opening up of the country by rail as some have affirmed, was actively assisting and making possible the work of explorers and surveyors who were beginning to blaze the way for the road. And it also shows that Mr. Donald A. Smith was, even that far back, on his own behalf and on behalf of the ancient fur-trading organization, contributing his quota in that direction. Here is an extract in the letter from one Hudson’s Bay man to another: “The bearer is a botanist belonging to the railway survey who arrived here in company with an engineer, and who is the bearer of a letter from Mr. Donald A. Smith to us men in the service to assist the surveyors as far as possible. He also showed me a letter from Mr. Sandford Fleming, authorizing the engineer who goes down the Skeena to sign any bill of expenses he may have with the Hudson’s Bay Company and it will be good. I have told him that you would forward him to Victoria and push him through as quickly as possible. The engineer’s name is something like Horetzkie.” The writer of that letter had caught the name of the engineer all right. And it shows not only how these Hudson’s Bay posts made the work of these and other explorers possible, but in this particular case it links the name of Donald A. Smith with the new day that was dawning.
I do not think that Mr. Smith was by any means the ablest of the men who later formed the Canadian Pacific Railway Company Board. But he was unquestionably the pivot on which the project turned, from its doubtful success as a Government undertaking, to its becoming an accomplished fact as a privately owned and operated concern.
And it happened on this wise. Mr. Smith had to travel frequently between West and East, through St. Paul, Minnesota, on his way from Fort Garry to Ottawa and Montreal, in connection with parliamentary and Company business. In St. Paul he usually called on Mr. Norman W. Kitson, a Canadian, formerly a Hudson’s Bay factor, and met along with him another Canadian, James J. Hill, who was then in the coal business. Kitson and Hill were both interested in transportation to the Red River country, and were anxious to get a hold of a three-hundred-mile railway called the St. Paul and Pacific, running from St. Paul to the Red River, and later to westward, if it could be kept going. This road had fallen into misfortune because grasshopper plagues and Indian troubles and massacres had depopulated the territory through which it ran. So the Dutch bondholders had thrown it into the hands of the receiver, and the bonds were not saleable in the ordinary way. Hill and Kitson, who knew more about the country than the Dutch bondholders, felt that the road could be built up into a really valuable concern, and Smith thought the same. But they lacked the capital to acquire it.
Mr. Smith, on arrival in Montreal, told all this to his cousin, Mr. George Stephen, another Scot, who had prospered well in business and was President of the Bank of Montreal. Stephen (later Lord Mount Stephen) was a man of unusual strength and vision. They talked it over with Mr. R. B. Angus, also a Scot, and a very able business man, who was, at that time, general manager of the same bank. Stephen and Angus agreed generally with Smith, but they had not then seen the country and were not of the kind to be rash. However, in 1877 Stephen and Angus had to be in Chicago on banking business and, having a few days at their disposal, decided to run up to St. Paul and see Hill and his country. They saw both, as well as the railway, and were satisfied it had a big future. The grasshoppers were disappearing, the Indians were all peaceful or dead, and settlers would rush in to the rich areas. Stephen was a man of swift action when he was satisfied, and so he hied himself away to Amsterdam, got an option on the railway and came back with that option in his pocket. The necessary money was raised, bonds were later on floated, and Stephen, Hill, Angus, Smith (all Canadians), with John S. Kennedy, of New York, took over the railway and the land-grant. We need not follow the history of that St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway (which later developed into “Jim” Hill’s Great Northern); but everything seemed to come the way of the adventurous Canadians who had risked much on it, and they became multi-millionaires in a surprisingly short time.
It was to this group of men, who were doubtless ready to be approached, that Sir John A. Macdonald, after having tried in vain in Europe, turned, when even Sir Charles Tupper, who was never disposed to be afraid of anybody or anything, called the Premier’s attention to the prodigious task ahead if the Government itself attempted to build and operate a railway across Canada from sea to sea. By these financial men and a few more, as we shall see, the project that had terrified Governments of both political shades was undertaken, and by them it was ultimately, and after terrific struggle, carried to completion. Even Mr. J. J. Hill came in at the outset, but, differing from the rest on the policy of building over the North Shore of Lake Superior and thus having an all-Canadian route, and finding it impossible to serve two masters in two railways that would clash somewhat, he retired soon after the Canadian Pacific Board was organized. But we are not to forget “Jim” Hill, a Canadian abroad, for it was through him that the great triumvirate, Stephen, Smith and Angus, got a taste for railroading and a certain training therein which stood them and Canada in good stead in the stormy days that lay ahead.
It was, in a sense, natural that the men we have mentioned should take hold of the Canadian Pacific undertaking. Some of them, at least, knew the great West-land by actual observation. The others would bank on the statements of those who knew the country. Stephen was the most cautious and so the least inclined to take risks in regard to such a colossal enterprise. But once he entered upon it, we are probably safe in saying that, though he had his hours of depression, he became the mainstay of the Board in the dark storms of difficulty that were at times to settle down on the project during the desperate days that were ahead. All three, Stephen, Smith and Angus, hailed from the land where there is a saying, “A stout heart to a stey bræ.” And these men and their associates were to face, in every sense of the word, “steep hills” in the financial world as well as in actual rock-ribbed obstacles to railway building, greater than any contemplated by the originator of the inspiring saying quoted above. There was to be a time, as we shall see later, when Stephen’s famous cablegram to Smith, in the single Gælic word “Craigellachie” (stand fast), would be needed as a ringing admonition to men in Canada whose resources became so completely exhausted that failure seemed practically inevitable.
In the meantime we have only reached the stage in our story where these men, Stephen, Smith and Angus, reinforced by another highly capable, careful and successful Montreal man, Mr. Duncan McIntyre, at the threshold of the gigantic undertaking, were in consultation with the Macdonald-Tupper administration at Ottawa on the subject. They all sensed the almost overwhelming bigness of the task and, although they were attracted by the challenge of its immensity, and were prepared to accept that challenge, they all realized that they should try to secure the co-operation of the world’s financial centres before they could even hope for success. Hence we find, in the summer of 1880, Sir John Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper and John Henry Pope sailing for London, in company with Stephen and McIntyre, to interest British capitalists. Englishmen are generally willing to take a “sporting chance” and plunge into an adventurous scheme. But this project of building a railway across the continent through Canada’s far stretches of thinly populated country, with the gigantic engineering problems of the rock region on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the apparently impenetrable barrier of the mountains in British Columbia, was too large an order for the most courageous of London’s money magnates. It is doubtless a good thing for Canada that the delegation had to return from London empty-handed. Projects and business concerns owned and operated by long-range directors and shareholders have never been a huge success in Canada, unless practically conducted by local advisory boards, and railways are no exception to that rule. More important still, this fruitless search for financial assistance put Canadians on their mettle by throwing them back on their own resources at the outset, and thus developing the strength and the endeavour which a big undertaking always brings if bravely attempted. It was a good training in national athleticism, and the young Dominion that had to wrestle with difficulties at the beginning developed astonishing strength and initiative power. Later on, when, within a few months of the last spike on the road, the youthful giant had reached the limit of resource, and was in danger of falling short, British capital was to come in to help to a triumphant finish. But the time was not yet.
The delegation to London returned to Ottawa in 1880, and the Government signed a contract with George Stephen, Duncan McIntyre, of Montreal; James J. Hill, of St. Paul; John S. Kennedy, of New York, and four outside this continent, Cohen, Renach & Company, of Paris, and Morton, Rose & Company, of London, though in the latter case it was really the New York firm of Morton, Bliss & Company that went into the organization. It is interesting from a psychological standpoint to find that the name of Donald A. Smith, one of the big three, was not in this original contract. Ever since the day when Mr. Smith had cast his vote in the House of Commons, in 1873, against Sir John Macdonald in the matter of the “Pacific Scandal,” as Macdonald’s opponents called it, or the “Pacific Slander,” as Sir Charles Tupper designated the affair, there was, to put it mildly, a coolness between Smith and Sir John. For these two to be in the conferences that would often arise between the Canadian Pacific directors and the Government, would throw a wet blanket on the meetings. Later on these two became punctiliously friendly, and even though Mr. Smith’s name was not visibly in this original Canadian Pacific Railway Company, every one knew (including the keen-minded Sir John) that he was actually in it for all he was worth.
The contract terms sound generous enough if we could only keep out of our minds the tremendous extent of the undertaking and the endless risks taken by the new company, in view of the fact that the real cost of the railway from ocean to ocean was almost a haphazard conjecture. Up to the date of the signing of the contract the way through the mountains of British Columbia was unsettled, and the character of the work on the North Shore of Lake Superior was practically unknown. That North Shore problem had frightened Sir Henry Tyler, President of the Grand Trunk, in London, from going into the Canadian Pacific scheme, partly because that eternal wilderness had no prospect of local traffic compared with a line south of the Boundary, but partly also because the interminable miles of rock to be built through looked too formidable to be attacked. Take it all round, the terms of the contract signed in Ottawa may have looked too generous to the man on the street. But only men of courage who visioned the far future would have set their names to a covenant to build thousands of miles of a railway which not only some public men, but some experts also openly declared would “never pay for the axle grease.”
Briefly stated, the Government agreed to give the new syndicate the seven hundred miles of railway already built or under contract to be built by the Government, together with twenty-five millions in money and twenty-five millions of acres of selected land in the West. In addition, the syndicate was promised exemption from import duties on all material brought in for construction, from taxes on land for twenty years after Crown patents were issued, as well as freedom from taxes on stock and other property for all time, together with exemption from regulation of rates till ten per cent. had been earned on capital invested. To guard against premature competition by roads connecting with the States, the Government agreed that for twenty years no charter would be granted to any railway south of the Canadian Pacific Railway from any point at or near the Canadian Pacific Railway except such as should run south-west or westward of south-west; nor to within fifteen miles of the Boundary-Line.
In Winnipeg, in my student days in the 80’s, I recall hearing many rather stormy discussions over this contract at public meetings, because the West was particularly affected. The two things most strenuously opposed, as being too generous to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, were the grant of land, which was said to be too large, and the section which prevented competing lines being built to the south. Neither of these objections ever seemed to me very reasonable. The land grant looked large; but land was worth very little before the railway came in to make it valuable. In my boyhood I knew that some of the land along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers (and there is no better land anywhere) was sold for fifty cents an acre. If the twenty-five millions of acres given to the railway were valued at pre-railway prices the amount would not be great. When the railway was built the price of land went up with a rush, but it must be borne in mind that it cost the Company millions to bring the railway in, to make the land worth while. And it should also be remembered that the railway made other people’s land as valuable as its own, although the increase to the other people did not cost them anything beyond their ordinary taxes. In any case the land went up when the railway came in, but the railway did not come in by magic. It is interesting to recall in this connection that Sumner, a famous statesman in the American Republic, once advocated giving half of one of the great agricultural States in the West to any one who would build a railway through it, as it was of little use till a railway would enter. What some people in Canada, who denounced the Government for giving twenty-five millions of acres, might have said if the Canadian Pacific Railway had been offered one-half of the Middle West, would probably be too incoherent to print.
We may read later something of the cyclonic protests made in my native Province of Manitoba against the section of the contract which denied to any others the right to build railways south of the Canadian Pacific into the States; but, like many other movements, the one against this temporary monopolistic clause was, to say the least, lacking in proper perspective. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company, to enable Canada to keep faith with British Columbia and thus hold Confederation together, was struggling to build two thousand miles of road over a territory where there was little prospect for years of a paying traffic. It is hard to see that it would have been just, without adequate compensation to the Canadian Pacific, to allow other railways to hamstring the transcontinental by building in the only region where there was population enough to give a railway some reasonably remunerative business.
A rather peculiar thing was that no one objected to the cash subsidy except those who attacked the whole business from end to end, as ruinous to the young Dominion. Reasonable onlookers, however, who knew something of the tremendous cost of construction over certain sections, thought the syndicate was mad to tackle it at almost any price. Later on these reasonable people found justification for their view in the fact that construction was costing in some sections half-a-million a mile—though even they would have gasped if they knew that in after years a single tunnel in the mountains was to cost over eight millions to construct. There were some who considered that the free gift to the company of several hundred miles of railway, built by the Government over a term of years, was too generous. But Canadian Pacific Railway experts in 1889 testified before an Interstate Commerce Inquiry, and said that parts of the Government sections were unwisely located, and the cost of joining up with these unwisely located sections was so great that the amount the sections were supposed to represent should be heavily discounted. It is possible that experts will always differ over this big contract of 1880 which, for years, furnished offensive and defensive political orators with abundant ammunition in party conflicts.
As I write these paragraphs regarding the famous contract between the Canadian Government and the pioneer railway across Canada, I have before me the Dominion Statute of 1881 in which the contract is incorporated. It has some rather illuminating clauses, of which I here quote a few. In the section of the Act in which the Company is required to complete the work by the year 1891, and the section in which the Government is required to complete and hand over certain portions of the railway then under contract, both parties are safeguarded by the words “unless prevented by the act of God, the Queen’s enemies, intestine disturbances, epidemics, floods or other causes beyond control.” That was sufficiently comprehensive to guard against any contingency. There is a very interesting statement at the conclusion of section 7 of the Act, where, after saying that the road built by the company and the portions built by the Government when completed, shall become the absolute property of the Company, the Act goes on to say: And the Company shall thereafter and for ever efficiently maintain, work and run the Canadian Pacific Railway. I think the testimony of all is that the Company is living up to that contract, since its amazing efficiency is the admiration of the world. But the words “for ever” indicate with unconscious frankness that the Government had grown weary of Government construction, ownership and operation of such an immense project, and was devoutly thankful to hand it over for all time to a responsible private organization.
The contract which we have been thus studying had to run the gauntlet through Parliament, and we shall follow its course there and the new programme of railway building by the new Company in the ensuing chapter.
When the contract with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was submitted to the Canadian Parliament, Mr. Edward Blake, then leader of the Opposition, and his party, met it with a chorus of indignant and derisive protest. They declared that the Dominion would be ruined by such a contract and that they intended to fight the matter out before the House and the country. There is no need now to cast any personal discredit on Mr. Blake and his following for their action at that time. He was a man of unblemished name and of intense conviction, as evidenced by many facts in his distinguished career. And, besides, he and the leading men in his following then in Ottawa had already committed themselves at former sessions of Parliament by taking the position that the Canadian Pacific would have to be built by slow stages if built at all. Mr. Blake had not then visited the West, and seriously doubted its future. He and Sir Charles Tupper, who introduced the bill, were the combatant officers of their respective parties over this railway problem. So when Mr. Blake declared an itinerating attack on the Canadian Pacific amongst the people of Ontario, where the Grand Trunk, the rival road, had been long in undisputed possession, Sir Charles wrote asking for an opportunity to reply on the same platform. Mr. Blake answered that he would require all the time each evening, as the subject was a big one. This was true, and Blake’s exact legal mind led him generally into more exhaustive detail on any subject than an ordinary public audience could appreciate. But Sir Charles had girded on his armour for the fray, and found a plan of action by having his friends announce at each of Blake’s meetings that Sir Charles would appear in the same hall the following night to give reply to Mr. Blake. Sir Charles thus had the advantage of having Mr. Blake’s speech in hand a few hours after its delivery, and next night was able to assault Mr. Blake’s position effectively by a characteristic fighting answer.
To complicate matters for the Government, a rival syndicate was suddenly formed of Ontario capitalists, headed by Sir William Howland, who offered to build the railway for three millions less in money and three millions less in land acreage, and at the same time give up practically all the privileges which the Government had agreed to allow the Stephen group. The Government denounced the Howland syndicate as trying to draw a herring across the trail by making a transparently impossible offer in an effort to break the contract already signed with the other company. There is no reason to think that the Howland syndicate, which was composed of well-known citizens of high standing, would not have tackled the building of the railway if they had got the contract. But the Government had already signed with the other organization and, denouncing the offer of the Howland syndicate as utterly impracticable, and intended only to hamper the construction of the road, Sir Charles Tupper rallied the Government forces and put the original contract through Parliament on a straight vote, in February, 1881.
We do not dispute the good intentions of the Howland syndicate; but if the gentlemen of that syndicate really could have seen into the future they would have breathed a sigh of relief when their offer was rejected. They had asked for the contract, but it was a mercy for them that their request was declined without thanks. For if the Stephen men, who knew the country better and had already some extraordinary allies, came up later against so many unexpected obstacles that they were more than once within a hair-breadth of failure, it is safe to say that the Howland men, with their hurried and unconsidered offer, would have ridden for a fall, disastrous alike to themselves and to Canada.
By the action of the Dominion Parliament, in adopting the contract and giving it the force of law, in February, 1881, the field was clear for Mr. George Stephen (who was elected President of the new Company) and his colleagues. They lost no time in unlimbering their artillery and going into action with the bearing of men who knew they were going to have a hard battle, but were moving steadily forward as gentlemen unafraid.
Concerning Mr. George Stephen (who chose his peerage title from the mountain that was called after him in British Columbia, and so became Lord Mount Stephen) much might be written, but he was so unobtrusive that, as compared with others, hardly anything has been put in print about the first President. Mr. Smith, his cousin (later Lord Strathcona), was much better known and more in the public eye, and no one would think of minimizing Mr. Smith’s great achievements and his services to Canada and the Empire. But so far as the Canadian Pacific Railway is concerned, Mr. Smith’s greatest contribution was made when, after getting in contact with Hill, he persuaded Stephen to branch out from business in Montreal and become a railroad builder. Once again in this connection let me emphasize, though it anticipates the narrative somewhat, the peculiar sequence in the chain of Canadian Pacific men and events in the following way: Smith secured Stephen, Stephen secured Van Horne, and Van Horne secured Shaughnessy. It was an extraordinary succession, and every link in a chain that holds is worthy of equal honour. These men were different in many ways, but the truth is that, historically considered, no man ever really takes the place of another, even though he succeeds him. Each man must do his own work in his own way and bear his own burden, and in each man’s assertion of his own individuality we find the true law of human progress. We can standardize inanimate things such as motor cars, but we are essaying interference with the Divine order when we try to standardize men.
George Stephen was the son of a carpenter and was born, in 1829, in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland. His youth was not rose-coloured. He was educated in the parish school (the world owes much to many an unknown school-teacher), served for a season as herd-laddie on the glebe at Mortlach, and then was sent to Aberdeen to learn the drapery business. One day a customer from Montreal noticed that the clerk signed his name “George Stephen,” and it turned out that the customer and clerk were cousins. As a result the young clerk was taken out to Montreal and showed such devotion to business and such capacity, that he became President of the great Bank of Montreal when he was a little over forty years of age. He was a man of a high sense of honour and of intense powers of concentration. He had public gifts and could speak well on political and other topics, but all through life he applied himself principally to business and the development of the country. Years afterwards, when the one-time “herd laddie” at Mortlach and draper’s apprentice had become a man of wealth and a peer of the realm, recognized amongst the foremost as a builder of the Empire, he was presented with the freedom of the city of Aberdeen. In his reply to the address of presentation, he shattered some modern theories as to the making of men by saying: “Any success I may have had in life is due in a great measure to the somewhat Spartan training I received during my Aberdeen apprenticeship, in which I entered as a boy of fifteen. I had but few wants and no distractions to draw me away from the work I had in hand. I soon discovered that if I ever accomplished anything in life it would be by pursuing my object with a persistent determination to attain it. I had neither the training nor the talents to accomplish anything without hard work, and, fortunately, I knew it.” All of which would be a good motto for every young lad to paste in his hat, so that he would see it frequently. It is well also to remember that Sir George made good use of the wealth he gained in later years by laborious effort. His benefactions were wide-spread, amongst them being the contribution of half-a-million, to go with a like amount from Lord Strathcona, into the establishment of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. And when Dr. Barclay retired from St. Paul’s Church in the same city, it was Lord Mount Stephen who supplemented the donations of others by a princely gift in bonds to the minister of his Montreal days.
It was this great man, George Stephen, then, who became President of the new Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1880, and continued in that responsible office for the eight most critical years of the company’s struggle to live and conquer. On him, in the grim days ahead, was to rest most heavily the burden of financing, although his cousin, Mr. D. A. Smith, was forward in securing the help of financial magnates at every opportunity. The time was to come when these two were to pledge all their private possessions to keep the Canadian Pacific going on to completion. I think it worth while to say here that none of these men seemed to care about money as an end, although they appreciated its value as a means to achievement. They had no reason to go into the Canadian Pacific Railway undertaking to make money, for when they began it they all had enough. In fact it is well known that some of them demurred strongly at first for fear they would be left penniless in their old age. But they were all amenable to the appeal for the building of Canada, and that was sufficient. In this connection it is interesting to recall that on May 26th, 1887, Mr. Smith (Strathcona) said in the House of Commons, “The First Minister will bear me out when I say that Sir George Stephen and the other members of the syndicate did not approach the Government with regard to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway until the Government had tried in Europe and elsewhere to get others to take it up, capable of carrying it through, but had not succeeded in this. I say distinctly that the gentlemen who undertook the charter, although at first unwilling to assume the responsibility, ultimately consented, more with a view of assisting to open up the country than from any expectation of gain to be derived from it.” It is equally interesting to note, in this same connection, the attitude of Mr. James J. Hill, who once wrote to an old Canadian friend saying, “I think you know that I am not anxious about the money part of it. I am sure I have all and more than all I will ever want and all that will be good for those who come after me.”
It was in this spirit, then—that of Empire-builders, rather than money-makers—that President Stephen and his associates took up, in 1881, the tremendous task of building the Canadian Pacific Railway across the Dominion of Canada. It was the wide West-land that had called the transcontinental into the orbit of public vision, and though, when Eastern connections would be made, it was inevitable that the headquarters of the road would be in Montreal, where the leading directors lived, offices were first of all opened in Winnipeg. Canada, as already noted, was young in the railway business. Later on she would find her own men for leaders in every department, as we know by this time she has done. But in those days Canada had to go to her big cousin, the American Republic, for railway experts. And so Mr. A. B. Stickney, who was later President of the Chicago and Great Western, was installed as General Superintendent in Winnipeg. With him came, as Chief Engineer, General Rosser, who had been a dashing Confederate cavalry officer in the Civil War. Those were my school days in Winnipeg, and I recall seeing Rosser once—a man of very distinguished bearing. But, for various reasons, neither he nor Stickney remained long, though I confess I never pass the little station of Rosser just west of Winnipeg, but I visualize again the tall, handsome Southerner after whom it was called in those early days.
When these men were going, Stephen turned again to his old friend Hill, who knew all about railroad men, and Hill recommended William Cornelius Van Horne, then General Superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. This was another of Hill’s great contributions to his native Canada. Though these two strong men, Hill and Van Horne, eventually became rivals and heads of practically opposing systems, they doubtless, to the end, recognized the consummate ability of each other. If they had to contend at times they could at least realize
“That stern joy which warriors feel
In foeman worthy of their steel.”
In any case, Hill’s commendation of Van Horne to Stephen in 1881 was whole hearted and emphatic. Hill said that of all the men he knew Mr. Van Horne was altogether the best equipped, both mentally and every other way. A pioneer was needed, and the more of a pioneer the better. And to this Mr. Hill added, in his message to Stephen, “You need a man of great physical and mental power to carry the line through. Van Horne can do it. But he will take all the authority he gets and more; so define how much you want him to have.” This last was a well-meant—and somewhat necessary admonition. Mr. Stephen then offered Van Horne a bigger salary than any one in a similar position had ever received in this country. I do not think that the salary was the main thing with Van Horne. Neither would I say that he did not take it into consideration. He was such a many-sided man that he seemed like several men. He could be lavish in entertaining or spending for things that he specially fancied. But he could be close in other ways. No doubt the unprecedented salary was, in his mind, worthy of thought. And one cannot wonder at that, because he was asked to give up a high position in the railway work of the States, with a presidency certain there in a few years at most. He was, in fact, staking the prospects of a career on his decision in favour of moving. But he did not decide to move without some idea of the prospects of the country to which he was invited. So he made a sort of incognito visit to Winnipeg, and took some survey of the vast plains. He saw the possibilities of unlimited grain and root production, and noted the practically inexhaustible soil along the Red River, where the Selkirk settlers had been sowing and reaping for three-quarters of a century. It is interesting to find here, as noted by writers on Van Horne’s life, special allusion to the Selkirk settlers. These settlers were stated in an early chapter of the book to be a factor in leading to the inception of the Canadian Pacific Railway undertaking, as they had demonstrated the agricultural possibilities of the West. And they are mentioned by Van Horne’s biographer, Mr. Vaughan, as one of the elements whose demonstration of the country’s suitability for the world’s foundation industry helped to draw to Canada the extraordinary man who, in the face of apparently insuperable obstacles, threw a railway line across her wide-flung spaces.
One wonders yet at the fact that Van Horne left an assured career in his own land, the richest country in the world, to come to the Canadian West, which was then, and for some years afterwards, as I recall it, a sort of illimitable and sparsely inhabited wilderness. He came to undertake a railway building project such as neither his own country or any other in the world had ever planned in similar circumstances. No doubt he, with the keen mentality which flashed out in many varied gifts, foresaw the country’s future. But no doubt also, as his biographer above-mentioned affirms, and as men, like Sir George Bury, who were intimately yoked up with him in practical work on the road declare, it was the difficulty of the work that successfully appealed to him. The fighting spirit of his imperturbable and determined Netherlands ancestors rose to the challenge of the opportunity, to satisfy what Mr. Vaughan calls his master passion “to make things grow and put new places on the map.” So, after visiting Winnipeg and the plains, Van Horne accepted Stephen’s offer and came from the States to become a great Canadian who, without forgetting his lineage, grew into a deep devotion to his adopted country.
Reference has been made already to the many-sidedness of this colossus amongst railway builders. Once, many years after his coming, I recall meeting Mr. Van Horne at a dinner in Lord Strathcona’s house in Montreal, when nearly all the leading business men of their group were present. I happened to be in the city at the time, and as Lord Strathcona and my father had been close friends in the old Fort Garry days, he asked me up to that dinner. Gentleman of the old school that he was, with the courteous manner and considerateness of the perfect host, he asked Mr. Van Horne to show me through the picture gallery. I had known Mr. Van Horne in a general way as a forceful railroader who had begun in railway work at the age of fourteen, and knew it from the ground upwards in practically all departments, and I also knew something of his taste in art. But I was hardly prepared for the wealth of the acquaintance with painting and literature which his conversation, in easy, flowing language, revealed that evening. And yet this was the same Van Horne who could make men quake with the strength of his invective against incompetency or carelessness in work, and who was apparently at times a mere impersonal dynamo for the purpose of driving seemingly impossible enterprises to completion. There was something more than Napoleonic in the way in which he abolished the word “fail” from the dictionary as he drove his undertakings onward. And yet again he was an inveterate player of practical jokes, and was, on occasion, a sort of big boy with a sufficient spice of fun about him to keep things from becoming dull. If he knew how to work he also knew how to relax, and that is a great thing.
It was this composite man, then, who, at President Stephen’s call, threw up golden prospects in his own country and came up to Winnipeg on New Year’s eve in 1881, to take practical command of a vast new problematical enterprise. His powers may have been defined by Stephen and his associates, but the definition must have been very much tantamount to a free hand, as the sequel will show.
Mr Van Horne, who was a native son of Joliet, Illinois, struck Winnipeg just as 1882 was dawning, and the thermometer was ranging around forty below zero. Those of us who were born in or near Winnipeg can testify that in such an hour the ozone makes one tingle with energy, and leads to an active life as a natural consequence. Van Horne was an embodiment of driving power anyway, and perhaps the stimulating atmosphere raised that power to a high algebraic degree. Certain it is that every one around Winnipeg, especially in the service of the new railway, realized that a human projectile had been shot into the community and that things had to move on under its impulse or move out of the way. So distinctly was this felt, that not only was the climate rather frigid, but the social atmosphere around offices and clubs took on a certain degree of coolness. That any one should come in from the outside and, after a brief survey, should start in to make swift changes and equally swift appointments, regardless of social or political influence, was not likely to make the man who so acted a general favourite. But in a short time the marvellous efficiency of the man commended him to everybody worth while. His bigness in ignoring any prejudice against him, his hearty, magnetic and utterly unaffected personality, soon won the respect of his men in all ranks and he in turn came swiftly to have a high respect for the courage, ability and initiative of the Canadian people. For a while he had to have around him some experts from his own country, like that Master-Superintendent, John M. Egan, whose ability as a practical railroad builder was a great asset to the new enterprise. But Van Horne soon had a small army of Canadians in training under his own leadership, and to them he became deeply attached. It is now, at least, an open secret that when men back in the States heard that his reception in Winnipeg was rather cool they sent him word “to come back to your friends and let the Canadians build their own road.” But Van Horne, knowing that his own brusque entry and method laid him open to some blame for the situation, and knowing also the solid worth of the people to whom he had come, declined to return. Again, a few years later, when the Canadian Pacific Railway project seemed on the point of failure for lack of funds, even though the Directors had put their all in the great venture, some one said to Van Horne that he need not worry, because there were positions waiting for him across the line any time he wished to go there. But he stood by his guns and said that he was not going back to the States—“I’m not going to leave the work I have begun. I’m going to see it through, no matter what position is open to me in the United States.” The time was to come, however, when even the iron nerves and the tremendous staying power of this apparently stolid and determined scion of the Netherlands were to be tried to the limit, and when Van Horne found in Canadian men the invincible spirit which made their joint work a sort of miraculous success.
In the meantime, when he had done some highly necessary things in Winnipeg, in that fateful year of 1882, he went down to Montreal to meet President Stephen and the Directors. No doubt there was a mutual “sizing up” of each other, but with satisfactory results. The President and Van Horne took to each other at once, and became thenceforward the two that did the most perfect team work. But they could not have pulled the enterprise far without the steady, persistent co-operation of the other Directors. They all got into the harness and they all fell in with the Western teamster’s homely prescription for success: “Keep the tugs tight; never mind the hold-backs.”
Thenceforth Van Horne became, till the completion of the Transcontinental, the trusted railway expert and, in this regard, completely supplanted Hill, who had been the only man of the original Canadian Pacific Syndicate who was a practical railroader. Under the leadership of Van Horne, Canada would now begin to grow her own railway men as a home product.
One of the items taken up on the occasion of Mr. Van Horne’s first visit to Montreal was the construction of the Railway over the rock-wilderness on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Mackenzie Government, as we have seen, thought that section could wait for a somewhat indefinite period, and in the meantime Mackenzie said that the great fresh-water sea could be used as a link in transportation. Then, when the Stephen-Hill Syndicate was formed, both of these gentlemen agreed with the policy of not constructing that section until there was more settlement in the West. But Stephen and Hill, not believing in the tardy water-stretches as links in railway construction, proposed to build from the East to Sault Ste. Marie, and there join up with a branch of Hill’s road, the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, to which, as the architect of their fortunes, they were financially and otherwise attached. This of course would have given Hill, in large measure, the control of Canadian traffic from East to West.
It will be recalled that neither Sir John Macdonald nor Sir Charles Tupper, his fighting Railway Minister, approved of this American link in the road, and that in England they had broken with Sir Henry Tyler, of the Grand Trunk, on that particular point. And when Van Horne went east to meet the Directors in 1882, he made short work of the plan which both Stephen and Hill had cherished. He felt that to give Hill’s road the haulage of through Canadian traffic over a section of his track would make the Canadian Pacific a sort of subsidiary of his line, and such a situation was abhorrent both to Van Horne’s railroad instincts and to his estimate of his ability to run his own road. In a proper sense of the word Van Horne was always egoist enough to assert his own dignity when occasion required. In fact he would let no man rob him of the opportunity of boasting on any occasion when it seemed legitimate and necessary. Hence, when he met the Canadian Pacific Directors, at that first meeting, he drew for them a verbal picture of what the traffic on an all-Canadian route from ocean to ocean was to be in the future, and by the time he was through his visualizing, the President and the other Directors let this new General Manager have his will. Van Horne was no half-way man, and when he started out to build the Canadian Pacific Railway he was going to put emphasis on the word and idea of Canadian. The day was to come when, despite some partisan and political mud-throwing, all true Canadians would acknowledge that the big railroader was right. Of course, this action of Van Horne and the Directors was, as already intimated, the last straw for Hill. He was too keen and clear-headed a man not to understand that he and Van Horne, with their big projects more or less competitive, could not work together to advantage. So he withdrew with some emphasis, but we are not to forget that he made railroaders of Stephen, Smith and Angus, and that through his recommendation, Van Horne came to Canada. The Canadian boy, James J. Hill, who had left his home in Rockwood, Ontario, to seek his fortune in the States, and become a maker of its North-West, also did, for various reasons and motives, a good day’s work for his native land.
When Van Horne met the Directors in Montreal they discussed also the momentous question of the route to be followed. When Sandford Fleming was Chief Engineer during the regime of the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the line was mapped out to cross the Red River at Selkirk, thence westward through the North Saskatchewan country, crossing the Rockies by the Yellowhead Pass, and so on to the Pacific. But the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, in 1881, decided for a southerly route through Winnipeg, and across the plains and then through the mountains by the Kicking Horse Pass. For the most part the engineers preferred the Yellowhead Pass, on account of the comparatively easy grades and fewer obstacles in the way. Van Horne favoured the Kicking Horse Pass and the Directors agreed to that also, although up to that time there had been no pass discovered through the Selkirk range that lay right beyond the Rockies like an impregnable rampart. But if no pass was found through the Selkirks, the track might be laid in a more roundabout way along the Columbia. Once again these men were making a big venture under the leadership of Van Horne, who seemed to be having pretty much his own way at the Board meeting. The Directors had secured him at a large salary because he was a practical railroader, and they were evidently going to give him opportunity to earn it by letting him assume heavy responsibility.
The change of route from the Yellowhead to the more difficult Kicking Horse Pass has been much discussed and, in some considerable degree, criticized. But there were weighty reasons for the change as Van Horne saw them. The transcontinental route from the East through the Kicking Horse Pass was one hundred and twenty-five miles shorter that the other, and that is an item, when the costs of construction were considered, as well as time in the trip across the continent. Besides that, the Kicking Horse route, if adopted, would preclude the possibility of any railway building between the Canadian Pacific and the boundary-line and thus draining traffic towards the States. The great valleys of the Kootenay, the Columbia and the Okanagan were more accessible by the Kicking Horse route, and such valleys are supreme in productiveness in British Columbia. And I am not sure but Mr. Van Horne, with his strong sense of the artistic and the scenic splendour of the southern route, felt that in the future it would, as a tourist route of unequalled attractiveness, become one of the greatest and most remunerative assets of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The supremacy of the Kicking Horse route in that regard has been fully recognized by world-travellers. The famous Sir Edwin Arnold, author of “The Light of Asia,” who had been in practically all countries, one day said to Mr. Castell Hopkins, of Toronto, as they met on a Canadian Pacific Railway train in the Rockies, “These vast ranges exceed in grandeur the Himalayas, the Alps and the Andes, all of which I have seen.” The matchlessly inspiring scenery of this route will always remain to make it an irresistible magnet to tourists and travellers generally. For the rest of it, any problem in gradients will vanish at any time desired, by the lowering of grades and electrification, if ever the situation demands such action.
Before leaving the Kicking Horse Pass discussion, it may be interesting to some of our readers to relate the origin of this striking name. When I first went down along the river I recall some one on the train who told his version by saying that the name was given to the river because as it rushed down the grade it was constantly thrown back in splashing spray by the rocks, as if by the kicking of a horse. This is a poetic description of a very turbulent stream where the rocks look vicious enough to kick anything to pieces that might be hurled against them, but it is not the real origin of the name. The prosaic fact is that when, in 1858, Capt. Palliser and Dr. (later Sir James) Hector were exploring the region they were leaving the camp by this river one morning and Hector, while trying to round up a straying packhorse, was kicked in the chest by his own riding horse as he was passing him. Hector was laid up in the camp for several days, and the incident was so impressed on the explorers that they anathematized and immortalized this lively animal by calling the river and pass after him.
When Mr. Van Horne went back to Winnipeg from the meeting of Directors in 1882, things looked well around that Western gateway city because the advent of the Canadian Pacific had given rise to a real-estate boom whose intoxicating influence had gone to people’s heads so that they were all hilariously rich, at least in imagination, and, therefore, indomitably optimistic. This phase of undue excitement passed, but Winnipeg is my old home city, and hence I am able to testify that in no city with which I am acquainted was it so true, as it used to be said of the people of Winnipeg, that “they lived on hope.”
However, it remains true also that the collapse of that famous Western real-estate boom, the crash of which affected every place from the Great Lakes to the mountains, made the task of the Canadian Pacific Board and Mr. Van Horne an exceedingly difficult one right at the outset. The sudden deflation in Western land values and the large number of business failures through the recession of the boom wave shook the faith of outsiders in the country’s future and depressed the people within the country at the same time. I have known the West all my life, but I do not recall any period more generally discouraging than that after-the-boom period in the 80’s, during which the Canadian Pacific Railway was begun and carried to an amazingly successful completion. The sudden drop in everything, as well as the rumblings and then the outbreak of the Riel Rebellion on the plains, put, in large measure, a damper on immigration; and railway building through an uninhabited land is not exhilarating work.
These were local conditions, but there were other things which sprang up at the very beginning to make the way of the new railway company hard. A few of these things may be indicated for the benefit of the superficial people who think the Canadian Pacific got an easy start. In reality it had from the first to fight every foot of the way against adverse influences. When the Company had to do its financing it found influential forces barring the doors. The Grand Trunk, with its host of big Directors and shareholders in the Old Country, attacked the new transcontinental which would be sure to invade its rich reserves in Eastern Canada; and so the London market was, in large measure, cold to any efforts made by the new Canadian Pacific Board to raise money in the world’s financial centre. Similarly the United States railways which were headed for the Pacific saw the danger of a successful Canadian rival, and did all they could to prevent the Canadian Pacific from securing any money in New York. With hostile forces thus operating in these two famous money centres, any one can understand that the new Canadian venture was in for a bad time. And we have to add to all these barbed-wire fences around the money markets abroad, the regrettable fact of almost constant nagging and criticism in Canada from sources of such wide range as the “will-never-pay-for-axle-grease” politicians, and the men who wished to cut in with the railway lines in productive territory while the Canadian Pacific was struggling to cross leagues of unpeopled rocks and plains, not to mention the people who thought the new road should benevolently carry everything for them at bare cost.
Keen-minded men like Mr. Van Horne and the Directors of the Canadian Pacific, saw that the way ahead bristled with difficulties. But they declined to quail. They had started on a great adventure and they were looking far ahead so steadily that they were saved from morbid contemplation of what lay between them and the final triumph. Their attitude toward the unproductive Lake Superior North Shore rock-wastes was typically prophetic. Despite the derisive critics who always have ridiculed the inception of big undertakings, the Canadian Pacific Railway men looked beyond the North Shore to the West-land that would someday become the granary of the Empire. Thus did they keep their courage alive. Like a famous warrior of old, they refused to see the intervening difficulties while they knew that across somewhere was the land of promise and the triumph that was worth a great struggle to attain.
When Van Horne left that meeting of Directors in Montreal he hurried back to Winnipeg with the fire of a great railway-building battle in his eye. He felt he had the support of a strong and determined body of men, and they were fully satisfied that they had in Van Horne a man worth backing. They all began to realize very vividly, from the attitude of the financial world as above outlined, that the fabled achievements of Hercules would have to be made real in the building of the road. Van Horne, as the practical builder, set his mind on his own side of the work. His energy had been pretty well tested out in the States, but he knew perfectly well that anything he had done hitherto was child’s play compared to what he was now going to attempt. I was much interested the other day in coming across an item somewhere which suggested that, some years before, Van Horne had been contemplating building a railway in the Western States to tap the Canadian North-West. The vast unpeopled territory, labelled on his map, “British possessions,” appealed to his pioneering and adventurous spirit. It was the land of romance and mystery and of illimitable possibilities, where he could blaze new trails and build steel highways over a territory bigger than half-a-dozen European kingdoms.
And now his opportunity had come in an unexpected, but better, fashion, and, as stated, he set his mind upon it with a sort of terrifying concentration. He found that Government contractors in 1881 had built some 160 miles of railway on the plains. He told the Directors in Montreal that he would build 500 miles on the prairie in 1882. He started in to do it and looked to the Directors to pay the bills. Some years after it was all over Van Horne said one day, as a tribute to the President, “Stephen did more work and harder work than I did. I had only to build the road, but Stephen had to find the money.” Those who remember them both are ready to say that the honours were even. Each did his part well and each had many helpers.
In view of the fact already stated, that Canada was new to the railway-building business, it is surprising to find that Mr. Van Horne brought very few assistants from the States. Besides Egan, who did most excellent work in construction days out of Winnipeg, Kelson of the Milwaukee road was brought to be general storekeeper at Winnipeg. There was urgent need of a key man in Montreal to be the general purchasing agent for the whole road. And as everything had to be purchased for a new undertaking an altogether unusual man was required. Besides other supplies, the man who came as purchasing agent would have to be a sort of quarter-master-general to feed an industrial army spread out in a long line from East to West and with practically no line of communication along which to transport the necessaries of life. For that position Mr. Van Horne had his eye on a young man named Thomas G. Shaughnessy, who had been on his staff in Milwaukee. Mr. Van Horne had opened up offices over the Bank of Montreal on Main Street in Winnipeg. “One day,” says Mr. E. A. James, who was then Mr. Van Horne’s private telegraph operator, “there came into the outer office a fashionably-dressed, alert young man, sporting a cane and giving general evidence of being what we call a live wire. He asked for Mr. Van Horne and gave his name as Shaughnessy. I looked up Mr. Van Horne in another office and gave him the message. He said to the gentleman to whom he was speaking, ‘I am glad Tom has come; he is the man I want for general purchasing agent.’ ” And thus another notable star swung into the orbit of the new company. But beyond these just mentioned to take hold at the beginning, Mr. Van Horne said no one else was needed from outside, as the new General Manager found Canadians so full of initiative and energy that he had no difficulty in getting men of calibre and zeal without going beyond the Dominion.
Incidentally it may be mentioned that a fire took place in the building during that winter of 1882, and the offices of the railway and the Bank had to be moved to temporary quarters in the old Knox Church building. There Mr. Van Horne occupied the vestry and Mr. I. G. Ogden, who became famous as auditor and finance minister for the road, held office space in the library of the Sunday school, while the bank itself did business in what had been the main auditorium of the church. The quarters were unusual and not very convenient, but the atmosphere would be good.
It was still winter of the year in which Van Horne had said he would build 500 miles of the road on the prairie. He had to wait for the spring’s approach; but meanwhile he was stacking up supplies at Winnipeg, “from the ends of the earth,” as people there said, and in enormous quantities—rails from Britain and the Continent, ties from the woods east of Winnipeg, stone from every available quarry within reach, lumber from the Minnesota country and from the Lake of the Woods. Much of this came in during the frozen months by rail from the south, and the yardmen in the States were delighted to send along whole trains of material for “Van Horne’s road” as they called it. The main thing was to get the stuff forward. And Van Horne kept the wires hot in seeing that there would be no delay.
He became suddenly the organizer of an army—not for destruction, but for construction—a great mobile force which was to move steadily forward under the direction of his genius and daring. That army was to use high explosives and unbounded physical energy, but it was with a purpose to enrich and not to devastate the country. It was to use ploughshares instead of swords, but its victories were to be certain and enduring. The fight was to be hot and at times the line would waver, but there would be no retreat. It will be interesting to follow that army with two such leaders as Van Horne as the master builder and Shaughnessy as the matchless provider of supplies.
In 1882, when Van Horne began to swing his cohorts of contractors and their men into the struggle to build a half-thousand miles of railway westward beyond Winnipeg, the Red River went on an angry rampage and flooded out the city and the surrounding country. This was somewhat of a damper at the beginning and, as the sequel proved, it clipped a few miles off the anticipated record. But a record was made notwithstanding. Experienced railway contractors were required, and Van Horne brought Langdon & Sheppard from St. Paul and gave them the work of building from Oak Lake in Manitoba straight across the plains to Calgary. This was a large order, and the contractors evidently knew it, for they startled the community by advertising for an army of three thousand men and four thousand horses. Those who recall conditions at that time will readily concede that there was no unemployment problem abroad in those busy days. No one worth while needed to be unemployed when Van Horne was forcing an undertaking to completion. And to make quite sure that things would be properly completed, this railway building enthusiast organized a large gang of men under his own orders who would follow up the contractors and give the finishing touches after the aforesaid contractors had complied with the literal requirements of their agreement to lay the steel. One can readily see that this flying column of Van Horne’s would keep the contractors moving ahead rapidly, lest the flying column should be treading on their heels and remarking on their tardiness. And one can see also that this follow-up work would lead to the soundness of the road-bed for which this pioneer railway was noted from the beginning. Construction was amazingly rapid, but there were no chances taken in regard to the safety of the road.
And so these thousands of men and horses were feverishly, but systematically, at work on the plains, where not many years before the buffalo had roamed with earth-shaking tread. The ploughs and scrapers of this great constructive army were making their way through the buffalo wallows and casting up a high grade where once the Red River cart had worn deep ruts in the rich black mould. Some of us recall busy days on the farms or the hayfield, riding and working on the plains, and, as boys, we had sometimes a feeling that the time of labour was unduly prolonged. Hours of work were not limited in those days, except by darkness and dew at either end of the day. But Mr. Van Horne’s army became unlimited as to time, because there were relays working in the night, building bridges and culverts and laying track when conditions allowed—a sort of sleepless army that moved on without cessation. In this way some three miles a day were finished enough to allow the construction trains to follow up with their gigantic loads of material and food for men and horses. In the spring-time there was not much grass for the horses, and all grain had then to be imported to a country which is now the greatest grain-exporting region in the world. Trainloads of stuff were constantly passing over United States roads all the way from the New York seaport, and hundreds of checkers reported on their whereabouts every day, so that they could be counted on by a certain time. All this matter of material was in the wonderfully capable hands of Mr. Shaughnessy, whose brain worked with such unerring activity and precision that supplies were kept up to the minute. Shaughnessy’s office in Montreal was as great a hive of industry as was Van Horne’s moving army on the plains. And men learned, as they had never learned before, that brain and brawn were both necessary to the carrying on of the world’s business and that these are mutually dependent on each other. Capital, labour and management are the inseparable three in the material success of great undertakings, and when the world discovers how these can co-operate and share the results in proper proportion, we will have industrial peace and progress on the earth. That vast army of road-makers on the plains would have been helpless without the directing minds of the men who were the brain centres that kept all in active movement, and the converse is equally the case. And a certain nation that has recently experimented in a new social order by destroying or exiling its men of brain is the outstanding warning of our time against such suicidal folly.
During this period of prairie construction there was something almost uncanny in the way in which Mr. Van Horne seemed to be everywhere. Now in his office in Winnipeg and now on the plains, riding on flat cars or hand cars or in cabooses or, where the rails were not laid, in wagons and buckboards over the prairie. He knew railroading from the ground up and did not hesitate to ventilate his views forcibly if necessary. He would discharge, off-hand, men who were indifferent to their work or who were disposed to shirk carrying out his orders. He sometimes ordered the impossible; but he expected men to try the impossible without question. And yet there was, withal, a heartiness, enthusiasm, magnetism and energetic competency about the big chief that commanded the admiration of the men. They admired his courage and nerve in going on inspection trips, where, despite his weight, he walked ties and trestles at dizzy heights and did other daring things. His practiced eye could calculate what was dangerous or otherwise. One day he asked an engine-driver to go across a ticklish-looking place and the driver demurred. Van Horne, who could drive an engine as well as anyone, said, “Get down and I will take her over myself,” and the engineer had such faith in Van Horne’s judgment that he said, “If you’re not scared I guess I aint,” and over he went to the other side.
Under this energetic and unquestioned leadership of Van Horne who, at the same time, saw that the men had abundant food of the best quality obtainable, there was record railway building accomplished on the plain in 1882, there being in one place a phenomenal register of twenty miles in three days. But the handicap of the Red River flood in the spring had delayed operations, and it began to look as if the promised 500 miles of road in 1882 would not materialize. Van Horne called the engineers and contractors together and, metaphorically speaking, read them the Riot Act and demanded that they get on with the work at a faster pace. They declared they were driving to the limit, but that the estimate could not be reached. Van Horne threatened to cancel their contracts unless they would bring in more men and horses and get ahead. This the contractors did and with the added equipment they worked till stopped by the winter cold. Even then Van Horne brought up his flying column and continued until nothing more could be done on the frozen prairie. Then on taking stock it was found that, counting sidings and a section on the South-western Branch in Manitoba, the estimate had been passed, although the actual work on the main line showed about 445 miles, with some more graded ready for the spring. The whole thing was looked on as phenomenal and all the railway world wondered. The Company Directors in Montreal were delighted, and they, in turn, delighted the Dominion Government by declaring that, instead of taking ten years as allowed by the contract, to complete the road from ocean to ocean, the Canadian Pacific would be in operation across the continent in little more than half that time. When one considers that the part of the road built up to the end of 1882, being across the plains, was the easiest section, and that the Laurentian rock wilderness around Lake Superior, as well as the ramparts of the vast mountains, had still to be attacked, the fearless optimism of the Directors and their whirlwind railway builder was amazing. But the work that had been accomplished showed the Government and the people of Canada that things of an unprecedented kind in railway annals were being done in their new country. And it also created in the hearts of people from sea to sea such a feeling of nationhood that they began to realize the illimitable possibilities of Canada. To such an extent was this true that when, later, a day came in which the Company needed the reinforcement of Government backing to carry through the project in the face of unexpected and gigantic obstacles, that temporary backing was finally given with the general approval of all but a few chronic opponents of the road. No thinking person now ever affirms that the Government was wrong in the emergent action taken at a crisis time in the history of Canada.
When the spring of 1883 opened Van Horne was facing the problem of building on the rocky North Shore, finishing the prairie section and then storming the bastions of the mountains which seemed to frown defiance against the invader of their sublime precincts. The North Shore came first of the new sections, as the prairie region could be left to the ordinary routine now that it had gone so far towards the foothills, and would proceed as a matter of course on into the mountains. It was not comforting in that anxious hour to the Directors of the Canadian Pacific and to Van Horne, who had declined to accept any alternative to the North Shore line, to find that, to head off help from financial men, both they and the people who would back them in their big undertaking were held up to ridicule by a Grand Trunk pamphlet issued in London, the money centre of the world. The famous pamphlet practically stated that to build, under the contract, a railway across the North Shore of Lake Superior, was a piece of madness, and hence that men of finance who backed it should be looked after by their friends. It was not comforting reading for the Canadian Pacific men at that particular juncture, but it was a good answer later on to those politicians and agitators who talked as if the Canadian Pacific had despoiled the Dominion in order to build their transcontinental road. The Grand Trunk pamphlet said that the country north of the Lake was a perfect blank even on the maps of Canada. All that is known of the region, it said, is that, “It would be impossible to construct this one section for the whole cash subsidy provided by the Canadian Government for the entire scheme.” Thus out of the mouth of a hostile witness there is evidence that the Canadian Pacific Railway subsidy, as outlined in the contract, was considered utterly inadequate, even by men who were making special study of railway undertakings.
In reality the Grand Trunk pamphlet was, in so far as the cost of construction was concerned, based upon a pretty sound conjecture. The cost of the North Shore was terrific and, doubtless, there and at other places, many a contractor discovered that unexpected difficulties had upset his calculations. It is worth while to say here, as applicable to the whole undertaking, that, though the contractors did not know it during the period of their work, the Canadian Pacific, on discovering that a contractor had lost seriously, began investigation with the desire to give a square deal. If they found that the contractor had taken reasonable precautions with his estimates and calculations, but had met with conditions and obstacles beyond his power to have foreseen, or to control when they arose, the Company, without any ostentation, took steps to save deserving men from loss as far as possible. No company in commercial life can be a benevolent association in the ordinary sense, nor can it be reckless with the funds of shareholders who have invested their money in its undertakings. But from the beginning, the Canadian Pacific, while bearing all that in mind, made a reputation for dealing with men, in all matters, in a big way, till, with the passing of the years, there was built up a tradition which made mean and small things a positive contradiction of the Company’s policy.
Mr. Van Horne did not require to read the above-mentioned Grand Trunk pamphlet to learn about the difficulty of building on the North Shore of Lake Superior. He knew all that a great deal better than the pamphleteer. The North Shore was a big problem. But as Sir Charles Tupper, the war-like minister of Railways, once said of this railroader: “No problem that ever arose had any terrors for him.”
Van Horne, therefore, went ahead. He attacked the problem from the great lake whose north shore he was going to iron down or fill up to a level roadway for the steel track. He decided, therefore, that for the most part he would not build far back from the shore even though tracklaying might be easier there, for he wanted to land supplies for the work by water transportation. This would be cheaper and would facilitate distribution. In order to carry out this plan he acquired the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway, and thus made connection between the East and the Lake at Owen Sound. From that point he had steamers to carry the supplies and land them at certain distances along the North Shore. When the winter set in, these supplies were distributed by horse and mule teams and even by dog-trains, where the snow and the ice on the little lakes off the main shore permitted. With the advent of the summer, small boats on these little lakes, and wagons elsewhere, were used to distribute endless loads of material along the right of way.
Though supplies were thus on hand, it was 1884 before tracklaying on the North Shore was regularly in operation. We get some idea of the immensity of the work and the tremendous energy that had to be put forth to complete it when we find a great host of 12,000 men and 5,000 horses at work on this section as well as a tracklaying machine to relieve the gangs, who found it almost impossible to do track labour in the ordinary fashion, on account of mosquito-infested swamps encountered here and there. Van Horne imported this machine from Chicago. It was new to the French-Canadian track-layers, and its almost human action seemed to them rather uncanny; but they soon adapted themselves to its operation and found it a valued ally. There was an enormous amount of blasting to be done, and to lessen the cost and the danger of importing the high explosives necessary, three dynamite factories were erected to produce the supply for distribution to near-by points. Despite every possible care exercised in this regard, it was inevitable that in such an army of men there would be a good deal of danger in the handling of explosives in the ordinary course of their duty. They knew the danger, but they went on steadily with their work. In consequence there was such considerable loss of human life along that wild section of the railway that those who now enjoy the pleasure and the profit of travel and traffic by the picturesque inland fresh-water sea of Superior, ought to recall that the splendid road-bed was laid, not only at vast cost in substance, but with much sacrifice of that infinitely greater thing, human life. And “if peace hath her victories no less renowned that war,” there is no real reason why we should unfairly discriminate between men who have, in the course of duty, given their lives in the one or the other sphere. And there is no reason why we should not value equally the possessions that have come to us by the sacrifice of men in the ways of necessary industry or in the struggles of unavoidable war.
As the work proceeded on the North Shore, some new methods were introduced rather unexpectedly. We say unexpectedly, because there had been very little work done before that time in Canada over similar territory. The process of levelling rocks down was found to be practically impossible, on account of the great expense and time involved in the effort. So the plan of levelling up was tried with excellent results. Wooden trestles were built in a great many places between the rocks. Then the construction trains came over and dumped broken stone until the space below was filled up with the best possible material out of which to make a safe and durable road-bed. In order to get the material for this process, great quarries were opened up all along the line, whence crushed rock was taken to find the new and excellent use just mentioned.
Of course all this tremendous expenditure of labour and capital on the North Shore gave the critics of the whole Canadian transcontinental railway idea a new opportunity. Capt. Palliser’s report as to the impracticability of a railway across the continent on British soil, Mackenzie’s idea in regard to using the water stretches for transportation as links in a trans-continental system, as well as the early Stephen-Hill plan of linking up with Hill’s line at Sault Ste. Marie, and thus having traffic between East and West in Canada go for some few hundred miles through the States—all these arguments were brought out to support the statement that Canada would be ruined by such wild schemes as building a railway section across the barren waste of rock on the North Shore. These persistent endeavours to block the work of construction were having their pernicious effect in sowing the seeds of discontent throughout the Dominion. And, what was much more serious, these statements, sown broadcast in the Old Country, made London centres of finance dubious in regard to the judgment of the railway directors who would undertake such an exceedingly difficult piece of work. This means that the raising of money in London was practically impossible. British investors have always been venturous enough and will, when Empire interests are in the balance, be ready, for patriotic motives, to take some special hazards. But in this case they were being told by mischief-makers, not only that the North Shore section was outrageously expensive, but that, according to the honest opinion of as great an authority as Sandford Fleming, it should not be constructed with the hope of making running expenses until the West had a population of three millions. It had then not many thousands. And the British investors were being also informed by opponents and rivals of the Canadian Pacific that no Imperial interests would suffer if the North Shore construction was postponed indefinitely and traffic allowed to go through the States according to Hill’s suggestion. Even the contractors and the men on the North Shore began to lose heart, as men will who are being made to feel that they are engaged in a work that is not only dangerous and unnecessary, but likely to prove unprofitable should the Company become insolvent through the terrific expenditure. And these men began to lose even the incentive to endeavour when they were also told that they were engaged in a task which resembled the mythological case of Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a great stone up a hill only to have it always slip at the top and roll down again. No man likes that endless and fruitless prospect in his work. Nor does he like working on a tower which will have to be left uncompleted for lack of means.
But amid all this discouragement Van Horne remained doggedly determined to make an all-Canadian line and to build the railway on the North Shore. He doubtless used some strong language in regard to the hostile and the faint-hearted, but he pushed ahead with the stolidly unemotional will-power of his Dutch ancestry. As his ancestors in Holland had successfully dyked against the inroads of the ocean, Van Horne defied the seas of pessimistic and hostile criticism to inundate his life and put out the fire of his purpose. Then in the midst of this struggle an opportunity came his way. And his keen brain seized upon it with the swift precision of a steel-trap in action. One Louis Riel, who had stirred up a rebellion against Canadian authority in 1869, and had been hybernating in Montana for the intermediate years, began stirring up another revolt in the Saskatchewan country in 1884. Those guardians of the North-West, the Mounted Police, scattered over the vast area in small detachments, had notified the Canadian authorities ten months or so before the actual outbreak came in March, 1885. It seems now as if much of the information they gave was tied up in a bundle with red tape and pigeonholed by civil service officialdom in Regina. However, that is not part of our present story, beyond our saying that it looked at one time, to those of us who were on the ground, as if the whole Middle West, with its thousands of war-like Indians, would in a short time be swept by a prairie fire of rebellion which would leave ruin and desolation in its wake. It was vitally necessary that in such an event there should be, without delay, an overwhelming demonstration of force made by the Canadian authorities. Riel was sending his runners through the half-breed settlements and Indian camps, telling these primitive and uninformed people that if they all rose they could drive the Canadians off the plains and have these vast spaces for themselves and the wild game again.
Mr. Van Horne, who had been up and down the prairie part of his line frequently, had been watching the rising cloud of discontent amongst the half-breeds there. He did not worry over the political aspects of the situation, but he saw that if the Indians were to be drawn into revolt there would be a general devastation over the whole country. He at once saw the possibility of demonstrating to the country the value of the railway as a carrier of troops to the West, if necessity arose. He pointed out to members of the Dominion Government that the Company would in such a contingency have a strong claim on the Government for help in the financial crisis to which, by reason of the tremendous expenditure in construction, he saw the road to be swiftly and inevitably heading. A member of the Government told Van Horne that the possibility of having to send troops to the West would undoubtedly put a new face on any application by the Railway to the Dominion for a loan to tide them over their difficulties.
It was only the brilliant and marvellously resourceful work of Shaughnessy, in Montreal, in this period that was making the continuance of the work possible, and that was preventing impatient creditors from launching proceedings against the Company. Thinking “as if his brain were packed in ice,” this consummately cool and alert purchasing agent seemed to make a thousand dollars grow where there was only one before. The thousand dollar amount was not actually there, but he handled the situation as if it was visibly in existence. He promised and threatened alternately. He made partial payments and told creditors that if they pressed unduly the Company would do no more business with them. He gave notes and arranged collateral with such extraordinary skill that, so far as I can find, no claim for money due in the ordinary way was ever brought into court, and no note ever signed by the Company ever went to protest. But despite Shaughnessy’s masterly handling of the situation, things were desperate enough, although Stephen, Smith and Angus were pledging their private property and turning over their private investments to keep things in operation.
And now the mountain section had to be completed. More millions would have to be found somewhere. No one seemed to know where to replenish the empty treasury, and the mental strain on the members of the Board was terrible. The fight against rocks and swamps and mountains waged by the Company and contractors and men was fierce enough, but it was not to be compared with the constant battle that had to be waged by the Directors against heart-breaking and nerve-shattering financial conditions, for years after the signing of the original agreement with the Government of Canada for the building of the road. In the next chapter we shall study this particular phase of the subject for a space.
We can say at once, in explanation of the financial struggles before mentioned, that the Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed to a finish across Canada in a period of monetary storm and stress. Leaving out of count the early years when the successive Governments were building short stretches here and there, in a way so leisurely that no financial difficulties occurred, beyond the ordinary impecuniosity which haunts all Governments, the period from 1881 to 1885 was pre-eminently a difficult time. During those years everybody was having what men on the prairies call “hard sledding”—an expression taken from the experience of travel with sleighs when the thaw has left bare patches on the plains. On those patches the sleigh runners catch with a disheartening tenacity and impede progress. At such junctures it is fortunate if there are several men travelling together, because by “doubling up” their teams, they can get over the otherwise impossible gap. Life is full of opportunities for mutual helpfulness, and the great railway which now spans the continent and bridges the oceans found itself more than once, in the construction period above mentioned, at the end of its resources and had to call on the Dominion Government for temporary assistance. It was a case where “doubling up” became necessary if the hard places were to be traversed. We are not sure that the Government was as willing and ready to assist as the ordinary good-natured and open-hearted teamster used to be on the prairie. But even a Government, which should be cautious because it handles trust funds for the people, may be brought to see when an unforeseen expenditure can be and must be made, in the interests of the people themselves. In this particular case of the Dominion Government and the Canadian Pacific Railway the Government would not and did not at any time give even a temporary loan till it had made the most exhaustive investigation into the whole problem. There are some facts so outstanding that even a superficial investigation could find, without much delay, why the Company required and deserved temporary assistance by way of loan during the construction period in a trying era.
It should be remembered, to begin with, that the principal men in the Company, Stephen, Smith and Angus, were men of practically independent means before they entered on railroading with Hill in St. Paul. In their association with Hill, owing to causes set forth in a preceding chapter, they had become very wealthy in a short time and hence did not have to take up any further work of the kind. Of worldly goods they had enough and to spare and might have reasonably, from their own standpoint, have continued the even tenor of their ways in their ordinary and familiar occupations in Canada. But Sir John Macdonald, as soon as he knew that their wealth had become great, and that they would be looking for new avenues for investment, approached them with an appeal to undertake the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was the biggest railway construction project in the world, and the proposal to build the road, except by slow stages, was characterized, not only by prominent public men, but by some well-known experts, as sheer madness. Stephen, as we have seen, was not disposed to go into such a huge undertaking at all. There was no mercenary reason why this already successful trio should make this hazardous attempt. However, the appeal of patriotic duty to their country, as well as the fascination of immensity in task, finally drew these Canadian men into the enterprise. And once they took up the matter it is well-known and can now be told that they put not only themselves, but all they had, into the determination to carry it through to a successful issue. Hence they deserved the commendation of the country and not the condemnation, for their gallantry.
Twice the Company had to apply to the Government for either loan or guarantee of bonds and during the months when these matters were hanging in the balance, the founders of the Company and the General Manager and Purchasing Agent, as well as other responsible officials, passed through what can be truly called, agonizing experiences. To these experiences they gave utterance at times. It is anticipating somewhat and disregarding sequence for the moment, but during those years we have it on the word of friends that Stephen returned one evening to the Russel House after a vain effort to get Sir John A. Macdonald to say that he would recommend that a loan should be made. Stephen, upon whom, as President, there was unusual strain, threw himself into a chair in the rotunda and when an acquaintance passing the time of day said, “How are you?” Stephen, without looking up, replied “I feel like a ruined man.” One day he shed tears in the office of Mr. Collingwood Schreiber, not because he cared for himself, but because it looked as if the whole great project of the Canadian Pacific was going to a crash that would block the future of Canada for a time at least. On another night Mr. Stephen, after a hopeless sort of interview with the Government, came down the Russel House stair grip in hand and told Senator Frank Smith, a gallant friend of the railway, that he was going to Montreal to make a personal assignment of all he possessed. Even the redoubtable Van Horne wired frantically one day that the pay car could not go out because there was nothing in it! On another day he said to Mr. Schreiber at Ottawa, “If the Government does not help us we are finished.” And shortly afterwards, meeting Sir John Macdonald in the corridor, he said, “Sir John, we are dangling over the pit of hell and ruin.” On another occasion, when the Directors were in session, the Chairman said, “Gentlemen, it looks as if we had to burst——” But Donald A. Smith looked hard at him and said, “It may be that we must succumb, but that must not be as long as we individually have a dollar.” And it is related that he went out and raised on his personal security enough to meet pressing accounts which Shaughnessy said had to be paid at once.
My impression is that Donald A. Smith, with that craggy head and beetling brow of his, was the most doggedly determined Director of them all, though less able as a financier and diplomatist than Stephen, to whom, generally speaking, those who know the history of the road quite properly give endless credit for his masterly work as President of the Company. After writing the preceding sentence, I came across the following statement by Sir Charles Tupper, who himself did so much to carry the great project through. He said in 1897: “The Canadian Pacific Railway would have no existence to-day, notwithstanding all the Government did to support the undertaking, had it not been for the indomitable pluck and energy and determination, both financially and in every other respect, of Sir Donald Smith.”
I can quite understand some reader putting in a question here, as to how it was that men of such ability, after having estimated the cost of constructing the Canadian Pacific, found themselves at the end of their resources within two years of their taking the contract. It is not enough to say, although it was true, that there was an immense amount of unexpected expenditure in battering the way through the Laurentian rocks on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and in boring a road through the mountains of British Columbia. There were other causes for the hard circumstances that came upon the railway. The chief reasons for the financial difficulties of the Railway Company, beyond what has been already indicated, lay in the facts that, succeeding the boom inflation in the West in 1881, there came a very serious depression all over the country. On account of this, immigration fell far short of what was expected. In consequence, both freight and passenger traffic was very scanty. The Railway Company, for the same reasons, could not realize anything worth while on its land, which was for the first ten years a drag on the Company rather than an asset, as can be readily ascertained by a study of the question. Thus the two main sources of expected revenue failed to materialize. In addition, the threatening discontent of the half-breed population which culminated in the Riel outbreak, further discouraged the incoming of settlers. Resolutions, passed unwisely at conventions in Manitoba, warning immigrants not to come until there were other railways linking up with the States, being used by immigration agents for other countries, created a bad impression as to the Canadian West. And because investors abroad were also influenced against the Canadian Pacific at the financial centres of London and New York, by certain rival railway interests, the assets of the Canadian road could not be turned into money. In this connection it is well to recall again the bitter “Disallowance” agitation carried on against the Canadian Pacific, chiefly in Manitoba, all through the construction period. There was persistent effort made by that Province to charter local railways, mainly linking up with the United States systems, despite the clause in the Canadian Pacific contract with the Government to the contrary. The charters granted by Manitoba were promptly disallowed by the Dominion Government, mainly, first, because of the contract with the Canadian Pacific, second, because money could not be raised to build the main line of the Canadian Pacific if the productive areas along that road should be tapped by rival roads, and, third, because it was contended that the East had made tremendous sacrifices to build the road and that on that account Western traffic ought to go over the North Shore to build up the Eastern part of Canada, rather than go southward to build up a foreign country.
The Canadian Pacific, in self defence, would not yield to the granting of rival charters, and the Dominion Government said they would keep faith according to the terms of the contract. But Manitoba would not be appeased and made many attempts, even to violence, to break the “monopoly” clause. I recall passing on a Canadian Pacific train to Southern Manitoba, and seeing large forces of men at a point where a road from the south was striving to cross the Canadian railway. A Canadian Pacific locomotive on a switch hastily constructed, barred the way and some 200 men stood beside it to prevent the crossing. The agitation checked immigration, and produced altogether a condition exceedingly harmful to the West for a time. But the Canadian Pacific was clearly within its rights and this was part of its battle for life during that period.
One cannot remember that fiery era without recalling how fortunate it was for the Canadian Pacific Railway that its Western representative was William Whyte, a princely type of man, whose courage, imperturbable coolness and inflexible determination made him a tower of strength. People might fight the railway, but no one of right mind could dislike William Whyte, whose high character and immense personal popularity with all classes, including especially all employees of the road, made him unassailable. Leaving much of the administration of his office to men like the genuine, and diplomatic, “Jim” Manson, Whyte (who was knighted later for his services to the Empire) gave much time to the “disallowance” problem, and to preventing open trouble as far as possible. But there was general satisfaction when Manitoba, under the continued work of men like John Norquay, Thomas Greenway and Joseph Martin, in the local Government of Manitoba, persuaded the Dominion authorities to cancel the “Monopoly” clause by giving the Canadian Pacific compensation. The whole agitation, however sincere, had greatly hampered the development of the country, and crippled very considerably the efforts of the Canadian Pacific in a confessedly difficult period of wide-spread depression.
Some railways in the wealthy country to the south were, for various reasons, going into the hands of the receivers during the construction period of the Canadian Pacific. So that, despite the consummate ability of the Canadian Pacific financiers, it is small wonder that the Company saw bankruptcy looming up ahead. Even Stephen and Shaughnessy could not make bricks without straw. And all the time Van Horne was driving ahead with construction at top speed. He knew the situation, but declared that any stoppage or even slackening up would lead to the Company being pounced on by creditors, who would wind it up. His view was that the whole undertaking must be kept alive as a hopeful, going enterprise, and that its position would improve immensely when it, refusing to acknowledge defeat, spanned the continent to the Western seas. Even then, Van Horne, as after events proved, had his eye on trade with the Orient as a great feeder to the road. So he went ahead, and let the others find the money, though at times he took a hand, in his trenchant way, in letting the Government know what he thought of the whole situation.
It was late in 1883 when the Canadian Pacific, which had been keeping the facts before the Government at Ottawa, made formal application for a loan of twenty-two and a-half millions to ward off failure. The situation was desperate, but the Government, which had a lively recollection of the fight put up against the original contract, was afraid to risk defeat by granting the request. The security offered for the loan was to all appearance ample, as it included a lien on the Company’s main line, the branch lines in Manitoba, and the unpledged land grant. In addition they gave the astonishing pledge that they would clip five years off the contract term and finish the road in 1886. Sir John Macdonald, who always kept his hand on the public pulse, knew that people in the East were being persuaded by the Parliamentary Opposition that the West was being developed at the expense of the East. Men in his own cabinet and many of his supporters in the House, were being infected with that idea, despite all efforts to make them see that, in the long run, the development of the West would be an immense gain to the East. Sir John, with the prospect of a divided cabinet, possible defection amongst his own followers in the House, as well as the bitter attitude of the Opposition and the likelihood of a revolt in the country against the granting of the loan, was indisposed to yield. Things looked black for the Canadian Pacific. Stephen was utterly discouraged after interviews with Sir John, and it was on one of those occasions that he was giving up and leaving Ottawa for Montreal when Senator Frank Smith prevailed on him to wait over till they would have a midnight interview with Sir John. Even that interview seemed fruitless till Mr. John Henry Pope went to Sir John and told him that if the loan was not granted, the Canadian Pacific would go to the wall, the Conservative party would go with it, and all Canada would be in a panic. Sir John did not want to smash Canada nor the Conservative party, and he explained that he was personally in favour of the loan and would try to get his Cabinet and party united in an effort to put it through the House. This was enough for Mr. Pope, who knew Sir John’s powers, and at two o’clock in the morning Pope returned to the well-nigh despairing Stephen and the rest, and uttered simply the tonic words, “Well, he will do it.”
In the meantime Sir Charles Tupper, who, while still holding the portfolio of Minister of Railways, was in London as High Commissioner for Canada, had been cabled for to come to the rescue. He left for Ottawa at once and, on arrival in Canada, found everybody at their wits’ end. He got Mr. Miall, the expert Government accountant, and Mr. Collingwood Schreiber, the highly respected and able Government engineer, to work on the Railway Company’s books in Montreal. They reported everything satisfactory, and Mr. Schreiber, whose word went a long way, recommended the granting of the loan.
But there was still the task of getting the Cabinet united on the subject, and the caucus of the Government members in the House into a favourable and unanimous attitude. Fortunately for the Government and the Canadian Pacific and the country at large, the Cabinet had in its number the rare personalities of the magnetic and diplomatic Sir John Macdonald and the formidable, fearless Sir Charles Tupper, who made a sort of irresistible combination. Sir John could sway by the conciliatory eloquence and the appealing personal touches which held the devoted allegiance of his party to the “old Chieftain” through many extraordinary vicissitudes in his long career. Sir Charles could marshal arguments with the consummate forensic power of which he was a master, and thus became a veritable regiment of storm troops to carry his points and reach his objective. These two men solidified their own party and, despite a fierce resistance from their opponents in the House, the Bill authorizing the loan was carried, as Sir Charles said, “at the point of the bayonet.”
This relief gave the Company a new lease of life and the work, which had never slackened, even though men had to wait for their pay, was forced ahead by the aggressive Van Horne, while Shaughnessy handled every dollar with such consummate skill that it seemed to do the work of two. But the terrific expenditure in construction on the North Shore and through the mountains, caused the twenty odd millions to melt like snow before the sun. Smashing the rocks and levelling up the chasms on the North Shore and finding a sure foundation in shaking and almost bottomless morasses which sucked down material like an insatiable undertow, all meant enormous unforeseen expenditure. The Company would not allow any careless work and, if necessary, the contractors would stay at one spot for months till the road-bed was absolutely secure. Van Horne was rushing to complete the railway, but he was too thorough a railroader to sacrifice security to speed in construction. Expense was of no consequence. He was going to “get the work done right and send in the bills to Stephen and Shaughnessy.”
Just at the juncture when the railway seemed in imminent danger of coming to a sudden halt because its coffers were again bare, and the Government was afraid that the country would not stand for any more assistance to be given to what some thought was a wild commercial venture, an event occurred which threw the Canadian Pacific into the limelight as an undertaking of immense Imperial value. That event was the Riel Rebellion, which Van Horne had foreseen as a possibility and concerning which he had warned the powers at Ottawa when he told them that if it did occur, he would carry troops from the East to the prairies in the space of a few days. Sir John Macdonald and the Government, with a strange pertinacity, born of the mysterious red tapeism of Regina officialdom, refused to think such an event possible. However, it came with sudden and deadly emphasis when at Duck Lake, in March, 1885, on the North Saskatchewan, a small force of civilians and police suffered heavily in a sort of rebel ambuscade. Fifteen years before, this same Riel had, at Fort Garry, run amuck, and then it had taken six months for the soldiers under Col. Wolseley, coming by land and water, to reach the scene. Now, in 1885, with the Lakes frozen and no chance of going through the United States with armed men, the whole middle West might be swept by the carnage of semi-savage rebels on the war path. The time had come for Van Horne to play a winning card, and he played it. The Government made frantic appeal to him because months before he had intimated his willingness to help in such an event. But before their appeal was actually known to the general public, Van Horne had trains ready with steam up at the centres in the East where troops would make their points of departure. He knew that there were gaps on the North Shore and that there would be hardships, but to reduce these to a minimum he stipulated that he and Shaughnessy and the Railway Company officials should have complete control of both transportation and commissariat. He always believed, for he had proven it by many a test, that when men were well fed with nourishing food and stimulated for special effort with strong black coffee, they could do and endure greatly. And so he would not leave the soldiers to the tender mercies of inexperienced quarter masters with meagre supplies on the bleak North Shore of Lake Superior.
In one or two places the soldiers had to march along the shore-ice on the lake. In other places they were taken by teams and sleighs, or else on flat cars over some hastily laid track. They had what might well be called a hard time over part of the way, but soldiers do not expect luxury on active service, and they got through in fewer days to Winnipeg than it had taken of months to accomplish in Wolseley’s expedition, years before. From Winnipeg the troops, with their Western comrades, were distributed by rail and trail over the plains as far as the mountains, and the rebellion was soon quelled. From that day the most fiery opponents of the North Shore section of the Railway, the chief point of critical attack, found their calling gone and had to subside. Some of them would still oppose the whole system through force of habit, but the extraordinary and unexpected service rendered by the Railway in a crisis time would make it comparatively easy for even a cautious Government to give temporary help to the Company, with the consent and approval of the grateful Canadian people. Not only so, but the Canadian Pacific Railway had thus suddenly become of such significance and value as an all-British route across the North American continent, that men in the Old Land who believed in the continuance of the Empire, realized as never before that a new factor in Imperialism had come into history. This railway was seen to be, not only a commercial transportation company which traversed a portion of an overseas Dominion, but a great link in the chain of an Empire that girdled the earth. It would no longer be ignored in the financial circles of London, where the centre of Empire stood.
Meanwhile, right on through the rebellion, the work was being pushed ahead in the mountains, although it was not generally known then that the Company at first had boldly thrust its spear-head against the embattled hills without very definite knowledge of how it was to get through beyond the Rockies. The Kicking-Horse Pass showed the way, along its flashing, frothing river, through the Rockies, but for some time there was doubt about how the Selkirk Range was to be pierced. So anxious was the Company about this problem that Mr. Sandford Fleming, the famous engineer, was summoned by cable from the Old Country to look into the situation. He journeyed by train to Calgary and went by trail through the Kicking Horse, but just then Major Rogers, a hard-bitten, adventurous man, acting on some information given by Walter Moberly years before, discovered the famous pass called Rogers’ Pass to this day. Rogers was an American engineer who, with his son Albert (after whom Albert Canyon was called by Principal Grant of Queen’s University, Secretary to Sandford Fleming on his journeys), had explored amid much hardships to find a pass through the Selkirks. When he did find it, the Company was so pleased that a bonus cheque for $5,000 was sent to Rogers. A few months afterwards Van Horne met Rogers and reminded him that he had never cashed the cheque. Rogers, who was well educated, but rough at times in temper and language, evidently had abundant sentiment withal. For he replied, “Do you think I would cash that cheque? I was not out there for money, but to have a hand in a big project. No, sir, I have that cheque framed in my brother’s house in Waterville, Minnesota, where my nephews and nieces can see it as a token of some work their old uncle did in his time.”
Contractors who became famous later on in various ways were at work on the mountain section. The work on the prairies had been child’s play compared to it. A good old Scotch elder who came in to see me at the Coast twenty years ago was amazed at the enormous task that had been accomplished. In political life in Manitoba he had attacked what people called “the ruinous expenditure” on the road. But he said to me then, in 1903, in Vancouver: “Now that I have seen it I wonder that men ever undertook the work at any price, and so far as I am concerned I am through with criticism of the expenditure on construction.” And then the good man added, “The fact is that if the good Lord had not bored through the mountains with rivers, there is not enough money in the Empire to build to the Coast.” There was much in what this honest man said that day.
The expenditure was almost incredible. Where the rivers ran, there was, for miles on end, the necessity for cutting into the solid rock to get room for the road-bed and trains. There were miles of snowsheds to be built, and tunnels through solid rock almost without number. Up the mountain sides there were built various devices to protect the road and make it safe from slides and avalanches. Rivers were deflected from their channels and retaining walls were built. When I first passed over the road, not many years after it was opened, there seemed to be leagues of trestles, now filled in or replaced by steel or tunnels. Everywhere there was need for the ceaseless flow of millions of money. But Van Horne, who knew all about the business, saw that nothing was left undone to make the road beyond criticism. And so well was the work done that once, shortly after the road was completed, Van Horne, who was taking some arbitrators over the mountains to value the government construction section, had the engineer run over fifty miles an hour to show these gentlemen “that the Company section was a real railroad even if the government sections were not.”
It was no wonder that with the vast expenditure indicated by the above paragraphs the Directors saw that they must raise some more millions or perish.
Accordingly, in 1885, when the Riel Rebellion, by reason of the service rendered by the Canadian Pacific Railway in transportation of troops, had been quelled, Stephen approached the Dominion Government again for assistance. The rebellion services of the railway had solidified the Government support in the House, which was then in session, and had pretty well silenced the Opposition. The assets of the Railway were already subject to a lien for the former loan, but the Government, besides a few minor concessions, finally allowed the Directors to issue $35,000,000 stock, of which it was to guarantee $20,000,000, the rest to be issued by the Railway Directors. Stephen went to London, not very hopefully, to sell this bond issue. The Directors in Canada waited anxiously to hear the result, for the bankruptcy of the road and of the Directors (though they cared less for that) was only hours away if Stephen’s mission failed. Sir Charles Tupper, then High Commissioner for Canada in London, that steadfast friend of the road, had done some most effective preparatory work with the famous banking house of the Barings, of which Lord Revelstoke was the head. Stephen had scarcely begun his explanation of the situation when Lord Revelstoke broke in and said, “We have been looking into the whole matter already. We are satisfied with the outlook in Canada and the future of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and will take over the whole issue of your stock at ninety-one.” Stephen was overjoyed, because the question of the solvency of the great railway was settled for all time. He sent an exultant cable at once to Canada. Mr. Angus and Mr. Van Horne were in the Board Room in Montreal when it was delivered. They read it with a sort of glad surprise too deep for words. They were matter-of-fact men, but they shook hands with some emotion. Then they threw some of the chairs about and danced around the room. The relief to the tension had come and they had to relax somehow. They were human.
They knew in that hour that the road would be completed. And out along the line in the great mountains there would be a station called Revelstoke. And where the steel met from the East and the West, there would be another station named “Craigellachie,” after the Gælic cablegram meaning “stand fast,” which Stephen, as we have already recorded, had sent to his cousin, Donald A. Smith (Strathcona), in the dark days some years before. The name would remind succeeding generations of the men whose steadfastness was like unto that of Craigellachie, the unshaken rock in the old glen of Strathspey.
As we have followed the story of railway construction across the continent, over the North Shore, athwart the vast plains and on into the mountains, our eyes have been on the Western sea. It was to win and hold the illimitable spaces of the North-West that the Canadian Pacific was first conceived, and it was specially to link up British Columbia with her sister Provinces to the east that the iron horses were being driven on steel trails to drink on the sunset shore of Canada.
But we must always keep in mind the fact that this railway was to be transcontinental in its extent, and that it was down by the Atlantic, first of all, that men who saw visions and dreamed dreams forecasted its great destiny by land and sea. They saw it spanning the continent, continuing across the Pacific, and finally, under one system, girdling the globe. Others, earlier, made conjectures and expressed vague hopes, but the most clear and confident note of prophecy was sounded by Joseph Howe at Halifax, in 1851, in the famous speech quoted in our first chapter. Later, in the old Province of Quebec, where in a sense Confederation was first definitely outlined at the Conference of the Fathers of Confederation in 1864, this prophetic note was taken up and rendered more emphatic. Thus were the Atlantic statesmen planning ahead.
Moreover, it is interesting to recall that it was Mr. Sanford Fleming, the engineer of the Intercolonial, peculiarly an Atlantic Railway, who was called on to explore a railroad way to the Pacific. It was his secretary on that expedition, the brilliant and versatile Rev. (later Principal) George Munro Grant, then of Halifax, who made the expression “Ocean to Ocean” current coin in Canada, by publishing a book under that title. And still another Halifax writer, Robert Murray, immortalized the expression, by composing a remarkable hymn with the same designation. Thus were the oceans early linked prophetically by patriotic seers and mystics.
Just now I am looking at the realization of these dreams as portrayed in a unique picture which ought to be found on the wall of every school in Canada. This picture is commonly called “Driving the last spike,” and to the superficial observer, unacquainted with the history of the Canadian Pacific, it means simply the act of joining together the steel rails which met at a given point in the mountains, as the track-layers, working from East and West, finished their protracted task. But, in reality, it means much more than a single isolated act along the progress of the years. It is a composite deed into which is merged and concentrated a long series of astonishing achievements wrought by men of brain and brawn. It represents many mental, moral and physical forces converging into a climax which could only have been attained by the persistent, determined efforts of those who believed that obstacles are thrown in life’s pathway in order that men may wax strong through the overcoming of them.
In this picture, “Driving the Last Spike,” there is nothing to suggest “the shouting of captains and garments rolled in blood.” But for those who will study and enquire, it holds the story of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, by a gallant constructive army whose mission was not to destroy but to build, for the welfare of a nation and lands beyond its borders. That is why I say it should be on the walls of our schoolrooms, in order that teachers might relate to young Canadians the story of an amazing accomplishment on the fields of peace.
Just how amazing and how dangerous was the task of building through certain parts of the mountains, not far from the scene portrayed in the picture, may be gathered from the experiences of the engineering staff. As I am writing I recall that Mr. Noel Robinson, a Vancouver newspaper man who deserves much credit for his work in connection with the work of old-timers, elicited once from Mr. Henry J. Cambie, who put the road through the Fraser River canyons, a few words on the subject. Mr. Robinson says: “In response to some pressure as to the difficulty of laying out the work—apart altogether from the difficulties of construction—Mr. Cambie admitted that these were great. Mr. Cambie spoke particularly of the Cherry Bluffs section, and said that quite a stretch of it was laid out by a few men, as there was only room for a few to work. Two agile men, with experience on sailing vessels, sprung ropes from rock to rock or from tree to tree. Then a few engineers, steadying themselves with these ropes, went along in their bare feet to lay out the work, with a precipice and then Kamloops Lake, of unknown depth, down below them. Mr. Cambie admitted that he was one of these engineers. One of the engineers, Mr. Melchior Eberts, in 1881, while climbing over a bluff covered with snow and ice, slipped and fell head first down a steep slope, to his death.” Speaking of the difficulties, Mr. Cambie went on to say: “We had to increase the curvature beyond anything we had ever seen up to that time on a main line of railway, and in order to get round the face of some of the bluffs we had to construct what we called grasshopper trestles, that is, trestles with long posts on the outside, standing on steps cut in the rock, and on the other side a very short post, if any, because very often we had half a road-bed. These things have since been done away with and their places taken by retaining walls.” In my own conversation with Mr. Cambie he has spoken to me feelingly about the loss of life through the canyons of the Fraser during construction days. Practically all the work was through rock which had to be dynamited in places where it was very difficult to get shelter when shots were fired. Men were drowned also here and there along the river. Thus again we are reminded that this battle in time of peace was only won, like other battles, by great sacrifice. These are things we must never forget when we enjoy the results of the struggles of others in our own or earlier days.
The spot at which the last spike was driven was named Craigellachie, as already intimated. The story of the name has not always been correctly told in this connection, beyond saying that the word was sent as a cablegram from Stephen to his fellow-directors in a crisis hour to encourage them not to give way, though the position seemed hopeless at the time. The expression is in reality not one word, but two, Craig Ellachie. This was the name of a grey rock in a Scottish glen, the home of a famous clan. And the legend is that when the clansmen went forth to war, the windswept pines and heather on the lonely hilltop whispered to the forth-going men the war-cry “Stand Fast, Craig Ellachie.” And now, in a new land, at a place where rails met through the steadfast persistence of these Scottish men and others, the mountains heard the echoing blow of the hammer which is in the forefront of the picture, “Driving the Last Spike.” Contrary to a general impression, created by the importance of the occasion and by some writers, the last spike was not of gold, but iron, like the other millions of them that had been driven all along the line. The event itself was so intensely dramatic that it needed not any conventional setting to give it éclat. Mr. Van Horne, who was not disposed to waste in any case, perhaps felt that iron was more significant of the spirit in which determined men had accomplished the apparently impossible. And so he had said in a matter of fact way, which was in itself abundantly thrilling: “The last spike will be as good an iron spike as there is between the two oceans, and any one who wants to see it driven will have to pay full fare.” The Directors who had passed through the fierce fire of the economic struggle to build the road could not afford, without a sort of sacrilege, to have anything conventional to bring people from the ends of the earth for the occasion. There was grim, but splendid, simplicity about the ceremony that was profoundly appropriate under all the circumstances.
It was on November 7th, 1885, that the rails met in the Eagle Pass section of the road, and a group of men alighted from the train to be present when the last spike would be driven. By general concensus of opinion, the hammer to drive it was placed in the hands of Donald A. Smith. It was a great honour, but worthily bestowed on the white-haired veteran and victor in a hundred fights against obstacles. It was a far cry from the little village of Forres, in Morayshire, to the way station of Craigellachie in the mountains of Canada. But Donald A. Smith, the lad who had left Forres with all his worldly possessions in a carpet bag, and endured cold and snow-blindness in the Labrador till he rose to the higher places in the Hudson’s Bay Company, had now come to stand on Canada’s pioneer transcontinental steel trail and drive the spike that would link up, into a true Confederation, the scattered Provinces of the Dominion.
Mr. Smith had not done much manual labour in recent years. But he was no stranger to physical toil. While in Labrador he had run with his dog trains in winter, and in summer cultivated an astonishing garden and farm, which was a surprise to all who visited the bleak locality. So, despite the years that had elapsed since that time, Smith swung the sledge hammer with a will that day, and the iron spike was driven home to forge a new link of Empire. I have been listening in imagination to the echoes of the hammer-blow through the passes and along the mountain sides, and thence around the seven seas of the Empire. For this was a right royal event, which evoked swift messages from good Queen Victoria, the Marquis of Lorne, and many others who recognized the enormous Imperial significance of what had taken place in the heart of the great mountains under the Red Cross flag. And the day would come when a great war was to break suddenly over the face of the world. In that day of the Empire’s danger she would realize, even more vividly, the value of this Canadian transcontinental road which, by the time of that war, had transformed the Middle West of Canada from a wilderness into a vast storehouse of food supplies. In that day of war the Canadian Pacific would transport by land and sea hundreds of thousands of soldiers and labourers to the sphere of conflict, and, from its own employees, would furnish for the safety of the Empire not only a large quota of fighting men, but some of the most expert railway builders and transportation officers in the world. All this was wrapped up potentially in the thrilling incident of driving the last spike at Craigellachie.
So once more I look at the picture. The camera could not take in a large group, but it is representative in some fair degree of the men who made the event of that day possible. Tracklayers and sectionmen, engineers and contractors, superintendents and Directors, and others, were present, for they all had a share in the victory. Some of them I can pick out in the crowd; others are to me unknown. Some one, whose face is hidden by a bystander, is holding Donald A. Smith’s overcoat, for the veteran had taken it off in order to swing the hammer in workmanlike fashion. The tall figure of Mr. Sandford Fleming, his beard and hair white with the snows that never melt, is conspicuous near the foreground. He will be remembered as the engineer-in-chief who blazed the way through the mountains in the early days, and who, though not then on the staff as engineer, was called from the Old Country in 1883 to help in finding a way through the Selkirks. After retiring from the engineering staff he became a Director of the Company and so remained to the end of a distinguished and highly useful life. Other engineers whom I see in the group are Marcus Smith, a quite remarkable man who had general charge of the Coast section; Major Rogers, the famed finder of Roger’s Pass through the Selkirks; and Henry J. Cambie, who put the railway through the Fraser River canyons, one of the most picturesque, but one of the most difficult, portions along the line. Van Horne did not always love the engineers, whose care in location did not entirely chime in with his ideas of speed in building. But after letting them know his mind in emphatic language, he recognized the sphere of their responsibility, and, after discussing other possible ways, let them have their way if they made out a case. The three above named were near enough to be present at Craigellachie on that eventful day, but they represented a band of very gallant men in the same vocation—men who often ventured their lives in the dangerous places they were investigating. Representing the contractors, who were a legion, we find in the group James Ross, who had much building to do in the mountain section, and who had witnessed many difficulties in dealing with a large army of men of many nationalities. Generally speaking it can be said that the contractors gave themselves with enthusiasm to their work, and the Canadian Pacific was the training school for a host of young Canadians in the business of railway building. In after years many of these men became famous in railway work. Their ambitions, begotten and intensified by their experience on the pioneer transcontinental road, led them into very large enterprises of their own in the same line. Some of their undertakings were premature, in view of Canada’s population, but some day they will enure to the benefit of the country.
While speaking of the contractors, one would like again to say something of the thousands of track and tunnel men, represented at Craigellachie that day by the hundred or two on that section at the time. Their lot had not been easy as they toiled on through summer’s heat and winter’s cold. Every effort was made to the end that they should be well fed and sheltered, where possible, but certain hardships which were inevitable were for the most part cheerfully borne. In the dark days they had to wait for their pay, that being true of all the employees at times. But these men had faith in the big enterprise and took their share of the hard times, saying, as did one business man on the North Shore, who had several thousands coming to him for supplies, “Van Horne will put this thing through and I will wait.” This was showing a good spirit; albeit we ought to remember that the men who were undergoing the most terrific strain were the Directors, who had not only pledged all their private means, but were facing at times the peculiarly unbearable possibility of the whole vast undertaking crumbling into failure before their eyes.
Two of the Directors, Mr. Sandford Fleming and Mr. Harris, appear in the group when the last spike was driven, and behind them stands Mr. John H. McTavish, one of the famous family connected with the Hudson’s Bay Company through many years. Just within that circle in the picture stands a little boy with his neck craned to see the veteran nailing the steel to a tie. He was the water boy who carried drink for the men as they toiled on the road. I sometimes wonder what became of that boy who had the rare privilege of looking on when this extraordinary event in Canadian history took place. He was witnessing what might be called the birth of a nation.
With hands in the pockets of his overcoat, in a characteristic attitude, and apparently gazing intently at the hammer and spike, stands the strong, powerful figure of Mr. Van Horne, the general who had reached his objective after a desperate battle. His favourite type of square-crowned hat is pulled well down, and his whole posture suggests determined strength. His face, withal, has a dreamy cast, and one would give more than the proverbial penny for his thoughts. His mind, no doubt, was dwelling on the struggle through which he had fought for four tremendous years. But he was doubtless also looking into the future. No one knew so well as he did, that though, in one sense, the road was completed, there was another sense in which it had only begun. Many improvements and extensions were still to be made, branch lines and double tracks were to be laid, traffic had to be developed, the land had to be peopled and the obligations of the road, incurred for bringing it to the last spike, had to be met. But it is a striking thing to recall that the total indebtedness of the Company to the Government was met within a year of the opening of the road, and that the Company has never had to ask the Government for a dollar since that time. The road was to prosper immensely, and the man who, in some trepidation, had written this same Van Horne in the darkest days, as to the Company’s securities, and got the laconic telegram, “Sell your boots and buy C. P. R. stock,” did well if he accepted the advice.
Men who were present at Craigellachie when that last spike was hammered home, tell us that for a while after the sound of the blows ceased there was absolute silence. The few hundreds who had the privilege of being there seemed, in a sense, stunned by the enormous significance of the event. Then some one gave a shout—perhaps it was that little “water boy,” because it is like what a boy would do—and then the mountains echoed with a perfect frenzy of cheering, that continued for minutes, breaking out again and again. Mr. Van Horne was called on by the crowd for a speech. Without changing his attitude and with his eyes still upon the junction of the rails, the great railroader said simply and quietly, “All I can say is that the work has been well done in every way.” It was a short speech, but it was a profound tribute to everybody who had taken part in this colossal enterprise. Directors, officials, contractors, navvies, teamsters, stonecutters, bridge builders, train men, telegraph operators and all the rest were embraced in this terse, but heartfelt, and richly-deserved eulogium. And the conductor had a splendid conception of a climacteric moment when he shouted “All aboard for the Pacific,” and the train took its swift way down to the Western sea. Two centuries had gone by since daring British explorers had essayed in vain to go across the North American continent by some hitherto undiscovered waterway to the Pacific. They were amongst the famous forerunners of the gallant and able men who had now, after amazing endeavour, laid the steel across prairie and mountain where not many years before hunters and trappers, by packhorse, snowshoe, travois or wooden cart, had broken adventurous trails. Thus there had now been opened up a new Empire, whose enormous extent and productive capacity would make it one of the wonders of the world and the Mecca for millions of the human race.
Regular passenger service was not inaugurated till the following spring, the first through train reaching Port Moody in June, 1886, and Vancouver in May, 1887. Port Moody was the statutory terminus, but the extension to Vancouver was inevitable, although Port Moody real estate owners naturally threw every obstacle in the way of the railway going farther. Vancouver had been swept by the great fire in 1886, but the courageous inhabitants started to rebuild and there were probably two or three thousand people, under the leadership of the first mayor, Mr. Malcolm A. MacLean, to greet the first train with rousing cheers and an address. It was a great day for Vancouver. A generation has since grown up which does not fully understand, because it does not know. But the people who know the story of the fire-swept area of rocks and blackened stumps into which the first Canadian Pacific train rolled that day, thirty-seven years ago, bringing in with it the dawn of a new day, do not forget. It linked the cold ashes of the new townsite to the throbbing power of Eastern Canada, and put a new name on the map where Orient and Occident looked each other in the face across the Pacific. It is rather a striking coincidence that I am writing these words on the 23rd of May, the anniversary of the arrival of the first Canadian Pacific Railway train in Vancouver in 1887. And on this day, in this Year of Grace 1924, the Empress of Canada, one of the Company’s great steamships, has just come back to this West Coast after a five months’ voyage around the globe. The space of time between is brief, considered as a span in history, but in that time the Canadian Pacific has not only covered the Dominion in all directions with its steel trails, but has compassed all the oceans with her floating palaces.
That day in May, 1887, the prominent officials of the road on the Pacific Division were the heroes of the hour—a group of able and reliable men—Messrs. Harry Abbott, Richard Marpole, W. F. Salisbury, Henry J. Cambie, D. E. Brown, George McL. Brown, H. Connon, Lacy R. Johnson, A. J. Dana, with a faithful band, the forerunners of the present host, in their employ.
As I am writing this paragraph on the eve of May 24th, the anniversary of the birth of good Queen Victoria, of immortal memory, it is fitting to note the following fine letter from the Marquis of Lorne to the Canadian Pacific authorities: “The Queen has been most deeply interested in the account which I have given her of the building of your great railway, the difficulties which it involved and which have been so wonderfully surmounted. Not one Englishman in a thousand realizes what those difficulties were; but now that the great Dominion has been penetrated by this indestructible artery of steel, the thoughts and purposes of her people, as well as her commerce, will flow in an increasing current to and fro, sending a healthful glow to all the members. The Princess and I are looking forward to a journey one day to the far and fair Pacific.” It was in keeping with the idea running through this letter that the Queen conferred a baronetcy on President George Stephen and a knighthood on Mr. Donald A. Smith. And out in the great mountains which these two Scottish men so wonderfully helped to pierce with the steel trail, there are monuments to them in the cathedral peaks, Mount Stephen and Mount Sir Donald, “More enduring than brass.”
Since that day in 1887 there have been, as the Marquis of Lorne’s letter prophesies, a constant succession of most distinguished travellers. The princes of our own Royal line, including our present gracious King and the present Prince of Wales; noblemen, statesmen, scientists, novelists, poets, soldiers, sailors, missionaries and others of world-wide fame, have passed and repassed over this iron highway, entranced and amazed at the richness, the fertility, the resources and the incomparable scenery of the country. Volumes could not record their praise for the country, for the travelling accommodation and for that courtesy and considerateness by employees for which the Canadian Pacific is known the world over. It has always been the aim of the road to see that children, ladies, old and feeble people, can travel alone with the utmost safety and comfort, and the testimony of travellers is that this tradition is steadily maintained under all circumstances. There are doubtless many travelling people who are selfish, unreasonable and hard to please, but generally speaking (and I have seen this exemplified scores of times) the official or employee of the Company proceeds on the assumption that “the passenger is always right,” and in the end everybody is satisfied.
In this connection Lady Macdonald, who went with her distinguished husband, Sir John, on the second regular train to the Coast, wrote in her account of it: “It was quite touching and something new in railway life to find the brakeman grieving over the smoke and apologizing for it.” If there was a forest or prairie fire abroad the train-hands were not to blame. If the reference was to the old coal-burners in the mountains, the Company now uses fuel oil.
To give another example: One day Mr. Van Horne overheard a trainman in rather sharp altercation with an irritable and unreasonable passenger, and speaking to this trainman afterwards, Van Horne said: “You are not to consider your own personal feelings when you are dealing with these people. You should not have any. You are the road’s while you are on duty; your reply is the road’s; and the road’s first law is courtesy.” The reader will see that while, in one sense, this seems to suppress the individuality of the employee, there is another sense in which it honours his position by making him, in that connection, the accredited representative of the Company. Mr. Van Horne inculcated this in many different ways, till employees took a pride in the road. They felt they were part of it. Even Van Horne’s faithful coloured car-porter, the well-known Jimmie French, used to tell passengers “how we built the C. P. R.” It will be recalled that when that porter died, Mr. Van Horne, who grieved greatly over the passing of a friend, walked in the funeral procession as chief mourner. That is the spirit of the road.
It would be impossible to mention a fraction of the famous travellers who have made the Canadian Pacific their way of travel, but there are two of the public men of that period who had been protagonist and antagonist on the subject for years, whose journey to the Coast had more than usual interest on that account. The one was Sir John A. Macdonald; the other was the Hon. Edward Blake.
Sir John and Lady Macdonald crossed to the Pacific on the second train that made the through trip. Sir John, being the head of the Government, was nominally at least the sponsor for the Canadian Pacific, although we must not forget that his Minister of Railways, Sir Charles Tupper, did the larger part of the fighting to get it through. Sir John, however, was always the man who had the last word as to assisting the road, and though he tried the patience of Stephen and Van Horne at times, he was the real originator of the plan and in the end gave it his powerful assistance in the days of stress. Sir John, during that trip over the road in 1886, made one of his characteristically witty and magnetic speeches at a great mass meeting in the McIntyre Rink in Winnipeg. Those were my student days, and the chance to hear the popular Premier, who was on a sort of triumphal trip over the completed road, was not to be missed. My recollection is that the speech was non-partisan, except for a few humorous references, and not very heavy. Sir John was alert and bright even to jauntiness, but he spoke as a man who was through with a puzzling problem and was light−heartedly taking a care-free holiday. His allusion to the Canadian Pacific, a strange blending of pathos and humour, swept the house into a hurricane of cheers. He said “There was a time when I never expected to live to see the completion of this great railway. But I knew it would be completed some day, and in that day I said I would see my friends crossing the continent upon it as I looked down upon them from another and better sphere. My friends on the Opposition side of the House kindly suggested that I would more likely be looking up from below. But I have disappointed all conjecturers, and I am doing this trip on the horizontal.”
It was during that pioneer railway trip that Lady Macdonald loyally rode for part of one day in the mountains on the cow-catcher of the engine, as a way of advertising to the world the safety of the new road. Mentioning Lady Macdonald recalls the story told by that big-hearted humorist, Col. George Ham, whom everybody knows and likes. It appears that Superintendent Niblock, of the Medicine Hat division of the road, had to be away from home when Sir John’s train was due to pass. But desiring to show some courtesy he wired some one at the Hat to send Lady Macdonald a bouquet of flowers. The message appears to have become mangled and when delivered had “flowers” spelled “flour” and “bouquet” contracted to “boq.” This looked unusual, and “boq. of flour” was interpreted to mean “a bag of flour.” This was accordingly despatched to Sir John’s private car, where the porter had no room to spare, and refused to accept it. And so both the courtesy and the gift fell by the wayside, although the intention was good.
The other distinguished public man, as above noted, who travelled to Vancouver over the Canadian Pacific a few years later, was the Hon. Edward Blake. He had steadfastly, consistently and, no doubt, conscientiously, opposed the construction of the road as involving what he called “ruinous expenditure” for a young and sparsely settled country. Mr. Blake’s memory remains as that of one of the ablest and most high-minded statesman in the public life of Canada and, by general consent, the most outstanding intellectual force this country has produced. But, as observed in a preceding chapter, he had never been West before the famous railway debates took place, and therefore underestimated the country and its possibilities. When he did come, in 1891, he made a notable speech in Vancouver. In that speech he not only accepted the situation in a frank and manly way, but, calling on his large vocabulary and his somewhat unsuspected sense of humour, he gave a remarkable description of the country by putting everything in words opposite to the reality. Mr. Blake said: “As I approached this country I was struck by the remarkable change from the rugged and upheaved territory of the plains of the North-West to the smooth and level slope of the Rockies; as I ascended the slope and came upon the somewhat level and monotonous flats of British Columbia; as I travelled by the languid Bow and descended again through the valley of the tranquil Kicking Horse; as I crossed the calm Columbia and travelled down the dead waters of the Beaver and along the placid Illecillewaet and by the drowsy Skuzzy; as I passed by the slow Thompson and last of all by the banks between which the Fraser meanders its sluggish way, I turned to the fertile resources of your shores and viewed the horizon where it spanned the meadows of the Selkirks, the fertile level plains of the Gold Range and the broad plains of the Coast Range, and I reached here converted.” For a while the audience, thinking that Mr. Blake was getting things mixed because this first swift trip was confusing him as to locality, preserved a well-bred, silent attitude, as if much puzzled. In a little while, as he proceeded, they saw that he was purposely and skilfully putting everything in the converse way, and the house simply rocked with delighted laughter in peal after peal. When people are enjoying an uproarious laugh, they cannot cherish resentment. And so when Mr. Blake, dropping the jocular vein, went on to say, “When the railroad was built and finished I felt myself that it was useless to continue the controversy longer, in deference to this whole country which Canada has risked so much to retain,” the people in British Columbia forgave him for calling their Province “a sea of mountains,” and, like true Westerners, declared that he was playing the game in a sportsmanlike way and they would call off their feud.
And thus was the great railway opened from ocean to ocean. Much remained yet to be done in the way of constant improvement of the road and increase of the rolling stock. But the system was in operation, and the trains passed East and West over the once “Great Lone Land” and through the mountain passes. Circumstances have changed somewhat since the following fine verses were written some years ago by the late Pauline Johnson, but in general they still represent the situation. Born in Ontario in the region made famous by her great ancestor, Joseph Brant, ally of the British people, this gifted poetess, with the Indian blood of which she was so proud, saw in the Canadian Pacific trains not just so many cars and engines, but new and living factors in the expanding life of her beloved Dominion. And so she makes “The C. P. R. No. 1, Westbound,” say:
“I swing to the sunset land—
The world of prairie, the world of plain,
The world of promise and hope and pain
The world of gold and the world of gain,
And the world of the willing hand.
“I carry the brave and bold—
The one who works for the nation’s bread,
The one whose past is a thing that’s dead,
The one who battles and beats ahead
And the one who goes for gold.
“I swing to the ‘Land to Be.’
I am the power that laid its floors;
I am the guide to its Western Shores
I am the key to its golden doors
That open alone to me.”
And she calls on “The C. P. R. No. 2, Eastbound,” to say:
“I swing to the land of morn—
The grey old East with its grey old seas;
The land of leisure, the land of ease,
The land of flowers and fruit and trees
And the place where we were born.
“Freighted with wealth I come:
For he who many a moon has spent
Far out West on adventure bent,
With well-worn pick and folded tent
Is bringing his bullion home
“I never will be renowned,
As my twin that swings to the Western marts,
For I am she of the humbler parts—
But I am the joy of waiting hearts;
For I am the Homeward bound.”
From “Flint and Feather,” by E. Pauline Johnson. Published by arrangement with the Musson Book Company, Limited.
Now that we have followed the main line of the Canadian Pacific to the coast and have paid tribute to the actual builders it is fitting to devote a brief chapter to a body of men who, while not taking part directly in the work, did so much to make that work possible that they were often officially thanked by the railway heads for their extraordinary assistance. I refer now particularly to the part played on the stage of Western development by that famous corps, the North-West Mounted Police. I am giving here the original title. Since the time when they were so designated, the prefix “Royal” was given by King Edward, as a recognition of the great services of these knights of the saddle. Still later, when, shortly after the outbreak of the Great War, they were for obvious important reasons distributed all over the Dominion, they were given the present name of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Names have changed, but throughout the fifty years from their organization these riders in the scarlet and gold uniform have done their duty as law-and-order men, inflexible, untiring and incorruptible, in their guardianship of life and property on the widest frontier in the world. The fact that they became an important factor in the conception and building of the Canadian Pacific Railway was foreshadowed in the famous report made by Capt. W. F. Butler (afterwards Sir William Butler, of South Africa,) in the year 1871, when he travelled over the “great lone land” and made recommendation how to preserve law and order in that vast prairie country. The railway would not have come into a country that would not some day be populated, and no country would be populated unless immigrants and homesteaders were given assurance that their lives and property would be protected in the new country. So it was that Butler recommended the formation of a “mobile force,” because a force located at fixed points or forts “would afford no adequate protection outside the immediate circle of these points and would hold out no inducements to the establishment of new settlements.” And Butler says he made his recommendation because he saw “a vast country lying, as it were, silently awaiting the approach of the immense wave of human life which rolls unceasingly from Europe to the American continent.” Butler added that, though the Western plains were far from the Atlantic seaboard, “still that wave of human life is destined to reach those beautiful solitudes and to convert their now useless vegetation into all the requirements of civilized existence.” And it is historically true to say that homesteaders began to come to the great lone land with more confidence once the Mounted Police had taken control of the country in the early 70’s. The notable painting, “Any Complaints?” by Paul Wickson, is based on this idea. It represents the police patrol riding up to the homesteader at his plough and asking if he has been troubled by horse thieves, or cattle stealers or lawless Indians. It was because the homesteader could pursue his way in peace that a railway to carry what he imported and exported, had a future. And not only from possible human enemies, but from the terrific danger of prairie fires and such like, did the rider of the plains stand on guard. When one, for instance, sees Constable Conradi, despite warnings that he was attempting the impossible, spurring his horse through rolling clouds of smoke and saving a family from death at the risk of his own life, one realizes how these knights of the saddle gave people a sense of security. Or when one sees thirty of these gallant riders sweeping the plain till they found a lost child and restored her to her mother’s arms, he understands how the presence of these men robbed the life on the prairies of the sense of insecurity. The element of security drew settlers to the plains and thus encouraged railway building.
Coming to railway construction time we have the cases in which the contractors and engineers were terrorized by the Indians in the early stages of their work. One chief, Pie-a-Pot, who had always been a source of trouble on account of his ugly disposition and his evident determination not to acquiesce in the incoming of civilized life, took it into his head one day to camp on the railroad right-of-way on the prairie. The surveyors and engineers worked up to that point and found Pie-a-Pot’s tent squarely in the way. Around him were many other tents and all supported by a big band of braves who, mounted on their ponies, circled around, discharging fire-arms into the air and indulging in war-whoops and other hostile demonstrations. The surveyors and engineers asked the hostile chief to move, but he only laughed at them and urged his braves to more violent exhibitions of their prowess. The men of peaceful occupations discreetly withdrew to a safe distance and halted their work, but at the same time managed to send back word to the Mounted Police headquarters as to the situation. Headquarters sent a message to the detachment of police nearest the scene of disturbance, though it was many miles away. That detachment of police consisted of only two men, a sergeant and a constable. Numbers have never counted either way with the Mounted Police, and so these two in the scarlet and gold uniform rode miles to Pie-a-pot’s camp on the railroad right-of-way. They told Pie-a-Pot that they were instructed to ask him to move out of the way, but the defiant chief sat in front of his tent and encouraged his braves to rush the two police horses with their ponies. The sergeant and constable, however, sat their horses unmoved and again warned the chief, who laughed in their faces. Then the sergeant, pulling out his watch, indicated the minute hand and gave the chief ten minutes to move. The Indians became more violent, but the police sat tight and at the end of the ten minutes the sergeant, throwing his reins to the constable so that the horses would not be stampeded, leaped over Pie-a-Pot’s head and, entering the chief’s tent, kicked out the centre pole and brought it down in a hurry. He did the same with the four tents of the chief’s head-men and then told them to get out at once. The Indians saw the kind of men they had to deal with and so they moved swiftly, and the Canadian Pacific surveyors and engineers went on with their work.
Not long afterwards there was a similar case, though it did not go so far. Eastern contractors and workmen, who had not been used to seeing war-paint, were naturally somewhat alarmed one day when a band of Indians rushed at them with the air of people who owned the earth and wished to hold it for themselves. Superintendent Shurtcliffe of the Mounted Police received an S. O. S. call on that particular occasion from a contractor who was getting out ties from a bush, and had been forced to leave “on the double quick” when a chief with the portentous name of “Front Man” swooped down on his tie gang with a band of yelling Indians. Shurtcliffe summoned “Front Man” and told him how dangerous a thing it was to interfere with the progress of work authorized by the Canadian Government. When Mr. “Front Man” heard that it was practically the Government he had been chasing, he was very penitent and promised the Mounted Police officer that he would behave himself in the future. Whereupon the contractor and his men, with a new appreciation of the men in scarlet and gold, went back to prosecute, unmolested, their peaceful and highly necessary tie business.
There was a famous riot case at the Beaver River in the mountains, early in 1885, where several hundreds of rough men, many of them reckless aliens, went on strike during construction, and were backed by lawless camp-followers at that temporary terminus. There were only some eight Mounted Police to keep order, although many of the navvies and the disorderly characters in the place were heavily armed. The police detachment, however, was commanded by that redoubtable officer, Superintendent Samuel B. Steele (later Major-General Sir S. B. Steele), with his second in command, Sergeant Fury, a short, heavy-set, quiet man who could be all that his name suggested if occasion required. When the strike was pending Steele told the strikers that he would not interfere in the question itself as the police never took sides, but he warned them that they must keep the peace and not commit any acts of violence or he would punish them to the full extent of the law.
A few days later Steele was down in bed with mountain fever, and one of his men, Constable Kerr, had gone to the town to get him some medicine.
When Kerr was coming back he saw a mob being incited by a well-known desperate character to make an attack on the barracks and to destroy the railway property. Kerr, though alone, promptly arrested the man, but he was overpowered by the mob and the prisoner rescued. Kerr reported to Fury, who in turn reported to Steele, who was in bed, as the strikers knew. Steele said, “It will never do to let the gang think they can play with us,” and sent Fury with one of the constables with orders to arrest the man. The arrest was made, but the two policemen were again overpowered and came back to report with their uniforms torn by the mob. The police were not “gunmen” and never used weapons unless as a last resort. The limit had been reached in this case, and Steele said to Fury, “Take three men and go back and shoot any one who interferes to prevent you making the arrest.” Fury went back with Constables Fane, Craig and Walters, while the other four constables guarded the barracks which were slated for attack. Johnston, a magistrate, was there to read the Riot Act, if necessary. In a few minutes there was a shot, and Johnston said “Some one in that gang has gone to kingdom come.” Steele leaped out of bed and went to the window. Craig and Walters were dragging the prisoner across the bridge over the Beaver, the desperado fighting like a demon and a scarlet woman following them with oaths and curses. Fury and Fane were in the rear, trying to hold back a mob of some three hundred men. Steele called on Johnston to come and read the Riot Act, and ignoring his own fevered condition, he grabbed a rifle and started running across the bridge calling the other men to follow. The mob could hardly believe their eyes when they saw Steele and shouted with oaths, “Even his deathbed does not scare him.” In the meantime the desperate prisoner was struggling fiercely with his captors, biting, kicking and shouting till they were on the bridge, when Walters lifted his powerful fist and struck him on the head, and, with Craig, dragged him like a rag into the barracks, where they left him and rushed back to help their comrades. Johnston read the Riot Act and Steele, rifle in hand, told the rioters that if he saw any man of them trying to reach for his gun he would shoot him. He told them to disperse and that if he saw more than ten of them together he would order his men to mow them down. And the little detachment of eight policemen stood there with magazines charged ready to carry out orders. The riot collapsed in five minutes, and the leaders of it were sentenced next day. The trouble never cropped up again. The roughs at the Beaver had tried the game of rioting with the wrong men. And cool, daring men like these were all along the line to keep the lawless in mind of the fact that lawlessness would not be tolerated for a moment in the Mounted Police country.
It is not unexpectedly, then, that we come across two special letters from builders of the great railway, expressing their thanks to the Mounted Police. The first is from Mr. (later Sir) William C. Van Horne, who was not given to saying gushing things. Here it is,
“January 1, 1883.
“Our work of construction for the year 1882 has just closed, and I cannot permit the occasion to pass without acknowledging the obligations of the Company to the North-West Mounted Police, whose zeal and industry in preventing traffic in liquor and preserving order along the line of construction have contributed so much to the successful prosecution of the work. Indeed, 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. On behalf of the Company and all their officers, I wish to return thanks and to acknowledge particularly our obligations to yourself and Major Walsh.
“I am, sir,
“Yours very truly,
“W. C. Van Horne,
“To Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Irvine
“North-West Mounted Police,
And at the close of the next year we find the following from another very practical man, John M. Egan, General Superintendent of the Western Line, who did not make incursions into the realm of the sentimental. The letter runs as follows:
“My dear Colonel:
“Gratitude would be wanting did the present year close without my conveying, on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway, to you and those under your charge most sincere thanks for the manner in which their several duties in connection with the railway have been attended to during the past season.
“Prompt obedience to your orders, faithful carrying out of your instructions, contribute in no small degree to the rapid construction of the line. The services of your men during recent troubles among a certain class of our employees prevented destruction to property and preserved obedience to law and order in a manner highly commendable. Justice has been meted out to them without fear or favour, and I have yet to hear any person, who respects same, say aught against your command.
“Wishing you the season’s compliments,
“Yours very truly,
“Jno. M. Egan.”
Taken together these letters, written by matter-of-fact men, are great tributes paid to the men of the Mounted Police for the part they played in those critical periods of the history of the pioneer railway. In such masses of railway men of all kinds and nationalities thrown together in construction times, there was constant danger of disorder under certain conditions. There were amongst these men, many adventurous agitators who cared nothing for the ultimate success of the railway. Had the whiskey-peddlers who always hover around such camps been allowed to ply their nefarious trade, there would have been constant danger to the men themselves from high explosives carelessly handled. And there would have been the ever-present menace of unreasonable outbreaks causing delay and damage to a great and necessary undertaking. No wonder that such highly practical and observant men as Van Horne and Egan understood and gladly acknowledged the co-operation of the Mounted Police in a vast national enterprise.
People have often wondered how this road, traversing some three thousand miles across lonely prairie and lonelier mountains, escaped having its trains held up by robbers, as was common in some other similarly situated countries. In an official report some years after the road opened Superintendent Deane of the Mounted Police at Calgary refers to an effort at train-robbing that year and starts out with the following revealing statement: “It has for years been an open secret that the train-robbing fraternity in the United States had seriously considered the propriety of trying conclusions with the Mounted Police, but had decided that the risks were too great and the game not worth the candle. After the object lesson they received last May, it may be reasonably supposed that railway passengers will be spared further anxiety during the life of the present generation at least.”
The special event to which Deane refers was a train hold-up at Kamloops in British Columbia by a notorious train-robbing expert, Bill Miner, alias Edwards, etc., assisted by two other gunmen, William Dunn and “Shorty” Colquhoun. A train robbery had been committed by the same gang some months before, but local authorities could not trace the robbers. When the second robbery took place at Kamloops, the railway heads thought they could not afford to take more chances, although Provincial Police, especially Fernie, of Kamloops, were doing good trailing work. Mr. Richard Marpole, then Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the Coast, who was always devoted to the interests of the road, wired to General Manager (later Sir) William Whyte to secure the help of the Mounted Police, who were not then on duty in British Columbia. Mr. Whyte telegraphed to Regina to Commissioner A. B. Perry, head of the Mounted Police, who, wiring Calgary to have two detachments ready, left for that point to take charge of the case. From Calgary, Perry (now Major-General and C.M.G., retired after years of distinguished service) sent Inspector Church, an excellent officer, with a detachment, to Penticton to cut off the escape of the robbers over the boundary-line. Perry left for Kamloops with a detachment under charge of Staff-Sergeant J. J. Wilson, with Thomas, Shoebotham, Peters, Stewart, Browning and Tabateau. The weather was bad and the horses secured at Kamloops were poor, but, despite these handicaps, this posse trailed and captured the robbers, after a sharp fight, within forty-eight hours. The effect of that lesson is still apparent, as Deane prophesied.
When the last spike had been driven on the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigellachie, and there was a through train to the Coast, Steele, above-mentioned, who was back again on Mounted Police work in the mountains, was given a trip to the Pacific out of compliment to himself and the force generally. It was a time when the railway men were trying out the road which they knew had been well constructed. Steele describes his trip in a semi-humorous way, and speaks of the train going at fifty-seven miles an hour, roaring in and out of the tunnels and whirling around the curves. He says it was a wild ride, but adds these fine words, “Many years have passed since that memorable ride, and to-day one goes through the mountains in the most modern and palatial observation cars, but the recollection of that journey to the Coast on the first train through, is far sweeter to me than any trips taken since. It was the exultant moment of pioneer work and we were all pioneers on that excursion.” And we add again, all due honour to the law-and-order men in scarlet and gold who had watched over the construction of the long steel trail.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, after terrific fighting against heavy odds, had reached its objective in the completion of the main line from sea to sea. It was a thin steel line reaching across the continent. But the driving of the last spike at Craigellachie simply gave the Company a base of operation from which to reach out for other conquests, in order that the work already done might prove productive of the best results. Mr. Van Horne, who had a perfect passion for doing new things and for bringing unknown places into the limelight, saw tremendous opportunities looming up for the full play of his abilities in that regard.
It was well for the road and for Canada that he saw the vista thus opening up ahead with the lure of great prospects for the exercise of his powers. Because otherwise he might have taken up work elsewhere. It is well known that more than one board in the States was ready to throw its presidency at the head and the feet of the man whose astonishing record on the Canadian Pacific had attracted the attention of the railway world. In fact Van Horne, on reaching Montreal after returning from Craigellachie, found a letter (and others followed from several directions) from Mr. Jason C. Easton, a great banker and railway man in Wisconsin. The letter expressed the hope that as Van Horne had only agreed to stay with the Canadian Pacific for five years, he would soon go back to the States and take a railway presidency there.
But besides the fact that the bigness of the task still to be undertaken in Canada held him to this country, the truth is that he had become personally attached to President George Stephen and his Scottish-Canadian associates. A little sidelight is thrown upon this phase of the matter by the incident connected with the driving of the last spike by Mr. Donald A. Smith (Strathcona). Mr. Smith owned a country home near Winnipeg, called Silver Heights, once the property of the Hon. James McKay, the handsome and famous frontiersman and interpreter who had such a large share in the making of the successful Indian treaties on the plains. After his removal to Montreal Mr. Smith allowed the house to remain closed except for the caretaker and those who looked after the farm stock and such like. On the way west by special train to Craigellachie, Mr. Van Horne thought it would be a good idea to have the house at Silver Heights opened up and have a spur-track laid to it from Winnipeg, as a surprise to the veteran who was to drive the last spike. When the train returned to Winnipeg the engine was reversed and the special began backing out of the station. Mr. Smith after a while noticed it, and then began to look out of the window. In a little while he said: “Why, gentlemen, if I can believe my eyes this ground looks familiar and there are Aberdeen cattle just like mine and that place looks like my house.” The train stopped and the conductor shouted “Silver Heights.” Mr. Smith was delighted beyond measure and again and again expressed his appreciation of the courtesy and thoughtfulness that had planned the surprise. It was just one of the ways by which the apparently unemotional Van Horne paid chivalrous personal compliment to the men whose character and courage he had learned to respect as they stood by him to their last dollar in the great task to which he had given himself so determinedly for four laborious years.
When Mr. Van Horne reached Montreal, after the opening of the main line, he began to speed up the plans he had been putting already in operation for the perfecting of the road and the increase of traffic in all directions. The quality of the road-bed was of even higher standard than the Government contract required. It will be remembered that once, when the road-bed was still new, Van Horne had aboard his train a number of Eastern men who were going out West in regard to the valuation of the Government section of the road constructed by Onderdonk. While still on the Canadian Pacific section in the mountains, Van Horne walked up the platform at Field and said to the engineer, Charley Carey, a fearless, skilful driver, “Let her out a bit, Charlie, we will show these fellows that they are on a railroad fit to run on, though the Government section is not.” Charlie “let her out” and made a fifty-one-mile run in an hour and wound up by doing the seventeen miles from Golden to Donald in fifteen minutes, and all safe. When they pulled up there, with a flourish and flashing fire on the rails as the brakes were put down hard to prevent running by the platform, the gentlemen from the East needed no further demonstration. The Canadian Pacific road-bed was all right even in those early days.
But Van Horne knew that much had still to be done. Construction had been careful, but rapid, and steel and stone and cement would have to replace many wooden culverts and bridges. Trestles had to be filled in or replaced by stone or steel. Rolling stock, shops, roundhouses, yards, stations, wharves and all manner of similar things had to be provided. Branch lines to feed the main line would have to gridiron the country, and connections would have to be made with the big systems south of the line.
Incidentally, it was as a result of his observation before he came to Canada at all, that he insisted on the Canadian Pacific keeping such auxiliary utilities as the telegraph, express and sleeping car departments. These also in their several ways would be feeders to the main treasury account. They were not the big tent, as Van Horne said, using a circus illustration; but the side-shows, as he called them, went a long way to increase the receipts. It had been the custom in other places to let other organizations have these franchises, but Van Horne said they took the cream of several kinds of business and “left the skim milk to the railway.” Van Horne wanted the cream, as the road would need the money; and so the Dominion Express and the Canadian Pacific Telegraphs and the Railway’s own sleeping cars, got into business for the big Company from the start. And these, like the dining car department and others of the same type, are marvels of service and efficiency, as every one now knows.
To speak about the creation of traffic is to use a somewhat peculiar, but well-founded, expression, because, in this case, it applies to traffic which had practically no existence before. Nothing escaped Van Horne’s notice. In the evening hours when he would be in camp on the prairie during construction time, he took delight in planning sports of various kinds for the men. “A change is as good as a rest,” is an old saying with a lot of truth in it. I have seen men apparently fagged out with a day’s march become lithesome as kittens over a game of baseball in the evening on the plain. Mr. Van Horne, who was a true artist, became interested in the bleached bones of buffaloes amongst the construction tents. And many a great buffalo head with its wide white frontal bone did the big railroader adorn with sketches made in coal or pencil, to the delight of the onlookers. And at the same time he was thinking of traffic in these buffalo bones. In my boyhood I have ridden through acres and miles of prairie where the white bones of the buffalo “lay thick as the autumnal leaves in Vallambrosa.” These acres of skeletons were an indictment against the selfish and greedy buffalo-hunting sporting men who had rounded up the herds, killed them by thousands, and took nothing but the tongue and the hide. Van Horne saw in these vast surface cemeteries how the slaughtered buffalo could still be of value. And so he had men gather up the bones and pile them in great heaps along stations and sidings, to be shipped by trainloads to Eastern factories that were glad to get them. Thus the railroader, who got the material for the cost of gathering, made good profits for the Railway, and at the same time cleared the land of an encumbrance. The man who could think of such things was not likely to fail in creating traffic.
Van Horne was anxious to get the country settled up along the great spaces in the Middle West. So he lured many cattle-men across the line by the advertising he did for the rich grazing lands in the southern portion of the North-West Territories, as the prairie country was then described. He drafted some striking and rather freakish advertisements for billboards in Eastern Canada, thus “capitalizing the scenery” of the Great Lakes and the mountains and making a special bid for tourist traffic. Some of these posters, such as “Parisian Politeness on the C. P. R.” and “ ‘How High We Live,’ said the Duke to the Prince,” are somewhat belittled by smart modern advertisers; but somehow they stuck in the memory of those who saw them, and that is the acid test of all advertising. The stream of tourists or other travellers on the main line was a very small rivulet in those early days, and there are records of cars with one or two passengers. But all passengers became enthusiasts over the comfort and courtesy of the road, so that the movement of travellers is now a steady-flowing river of humanity which, in certain seasons, almost overflows in a great tide of sightseers and business people.
It is interesting to recall in connection with Mr. Van Horne’s endeavours to secure settlers by various immigration plans, that he studied social conditions amongst the incoming settlers. That was before the day of rural telephones and motor cars, and he discovered without much difficulty that one of the obstacles to settlement of the prairies at that period was the dread of loneliness and isolation. And the keen-minded railroader formulated a plan to offset that dread in the minds of possible newcomers. He thought that tracts of land should be surveyed so as to permit settlers to live in communities at the apex of a triangle. In order that they might enjoy the social amenities and advantages of community life while their farms spread out from that place of common residence to the farther extremity of the land they held. It is of additional interest to recall that the introduction of the rectangular system of land survey from the United States led to considerable unrest in the Canadian West. It gave Louis Riel a chance to play on the emotions of the half-breed settlers on the South Saskatchewan River, where these settlers desired to hold their land as the early settlers did on the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, their homes near together on the river bank and the farms running back some distance on the plain. And Riel told the half-breeds that the Government wanted to break up their social life and make it difficult for them to have schools and churches and business places near at hand. In fact, the introduction of the rectangular survey, with its comparative isolation, was one of the prime reasons at the base of the Riel Rebellion. So that Mr. Van Horne had a good idea in operation when he advocated the settlement of newcomers close together. The Government, however, did not adopt the scheme. Some settlers, like the Mennonites, followed the plan of community settlement, even though the square farms made them lose time in going backwards and forwards to their work.
Mr. Van Horne’s efforts for the settlement of the country led also to his company building immense elevator accommodation at the Great Lakes and providing facilities for transport thereto.
There were flashes of humour in this grim fight for the settler. Mr. Van Horne was restively asserting one hard year that the grain-buyers who were paying only thirty-five cents a bushel for wheat were practising highway robbery on the farmer. Mr. L. A. Hamilton, the Company’s land commissioner, said to him, “Why not go in and outbid the grain-buyers.” The idea appealed mightily to Van Horne and he sent Alex Mitchell, a grain man from Montreal, to the West to organize some agency and offer fifty cents a bushel. No one knew that Mitchell was acting for the Canadian Pacific, but when he offered fifty cents a bushel, grain poured in on him till all the cars were full and bags of wheat were piled up along station platforms on account of the car shortage. Then the enemies of the Railway who were on the lookout for chances to find fault with the Railway and who, of course, had no idea that the Railway owned the wheat, attacked the Company because it could not take care of the crop and ship it out of the country. These active enemies got photographs taken to show the congestion of the grain at stations and on platforms along the line. Van Horne said nothing, but had these photographs bought up by scores and sent abroad to show that the prairies were so productive that the railway was caught unprepared to handle the enormous crops. All this was great immigration material, and a boomerang for the men who had gone to the expense of getting the photographs.
These things indicate how eagerly Mr. Van Horne was trying to get the country settled, and generally to build up within its borders, prosperous and successful communities. There is a theory in the minds of some kinds of people that a railway like this has been always bleeding the country to death. Hardly any theory could be more assinine and ridiculous. It could only spring from the alleged brains of the unthinking, even though it passes muster as a piece of stump or soap-box oratory. It may sound well as a vote-catcher, but thinking people will not be deceived by such a manifest contradiction in terms. The country and the railway, in such a case as this, must stand or fall together. Each is necessary to the prosperity of the other. Hence for one to attempt the destruction of the other is practically a round-about, but effective, way for that one to commit suicide. And a business concern has sense enough not to commit suicide. In this connection there is a fine paragraph in a sort of valedictory review of the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway, given in 1918 by Lord Shaughnessy, then President of the Company and Chairman of the Board. It is quoted here in advance of the chronological order of our story, because it is specially applicable to the point we are discussing, namely, the interdependence of the country, and the road. The paragraph is as follows: “The shareholders and Directors of the Company have always been impressed with the idea that the interests of the Company are intimately connected with those of the Dominion, and no effort or expense has been spared to help in promoting the development of the whole country.” This statement was intended to cover the whole record of the railway, and Lord Shaughnessy had such an outstanding reputation for stern rectitude and straight-flung veracity that we are fully warranted in taking it at its face value. Hence when we recorded above the efforts of Mr. Van Horne to extend and create the business of the road in the years immediately succeeding the completion of the main line, we were justified in saying that Mr. Van Horne’s endeavours in that regard were in the interests of both the railway and the country. The Canadian Pacific was from its inception an integral factor in creating and extending the social and productive activities of Western civilization.
Mr. George Stephen (first knighted and then raised to the peerage as Lord Mount Stephen, in recognition of his great services to the empire as a railway builder) held the Presidency of the Canadian Pacific from the beginning in 1880 till 1888, when Mr. Van Horne succeeded him. There was something very fine in the deep personal friendship that existed between these two men. And there is something almost pathetic in the correspondence carried on between them over Mr. Stephen’s desire to retire from the Presidency, and later on, when his health and age demanded rest, from the directorate of the road. The President and Mr. Van Horne had been specially close personal friends from the beginning, and their intense struggle to build the railway had cemented their friendship into a type of affection that was unmistakable, even though these two strong men were not of the kind to be demonstrative before the curious onlookers by the wayside of life. Stephen, on undertaking the Presidency in 1881, had indicated even then his purpose to retire when the task of building the road across the continent was completed. The greatness of this task was even then foreseen, although the enormous difficulties that developed, as we have noted in previous chapters, could not have been anticipated by finite vision. The burden of responsibility carried by the President was well-nigh crushing. And there is no doubt that Stephen, at times, felt keenly the fact that not only did some public men in Canada actually oppose what he was trying to do for the country, but that even some of those who had stood as sponsors for the railway undertaking were so slow to appreciate the terrific strain upon Stephen and his colleagues that they only came to their assistance after they were humbly besought for aid. Stephen’s nature was sensitive under these discouragements, but he kept his word and stayed till the main line was built. It was largely at Van Horne’s request that Stephen kept on for two years more and thus gave the General Manager a chance to consolidate and conserve what had been accomplished as well as proceed with extensions and branches. But in 1888 Stephen retired from the Presidency, and Mr. Van Horne was the logical choice to be his successor. In a fine letter which has vivid historical interest to all who know something of the stress and strain of his term of office, Sir George Stephen, under date of August 7th, 1888, wrote to the shareholders of the Company, his resignation. After referring to his determination, at the outset, to remain in office till the completion of the main line, Sir George relates how he remained two years more at the request of his colleagues. Then he goes on to say, “warned now by the state of my health, finding that the severe and constant strain which I have had to bear for the last eight years has unfitted me for the continuous and arduous work of an office in which vigour and activity are essential; feeling the increasing necessity for practical railway experience; and believing that the present satisfactory and assured position of the Company offers a favourable opportunity for taking the step I have so long had in contemplation, I have this day resigned the Presidency of the Company which I have had the honour to hold since its organization.” After referring to the fact that he would continue to have an abiding interest in the Company and remain meanwhile on the Board of Directors, Sir George, reticent and undemonstrative Scot though he was, goes on to say an evidently heartfelt word for the incoming President, as follows: “It is to me a matter of the greatest possible satisfaction to be able to say that in my successor, Mr. Van Horne, the Company has a man of proved fitness for the office; in the prime of life, possessed with great energy and rare ability, having a long and thoroughly practical railway experience and above all an entire devotion to the interest of the Company.” And so Mr. Van Horne succeeded in the Canadian Pacific Presidency, his friend, who was raised to the peerage, choosing the title from one of the lofty peaks in the Rockies. Thus did George Stephen, erstwhile “herd laddie” from the North of Scotland and draper’s apprentice from Aberdeen, become Lord Mount Stephen, and retire to spend his closing years at a beautiful country seat in the Old Country, where he had some rest from the heavy burden of responsibility.
But Mount Stephen still remained on the Directorate of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and many questions were still referred to him and many communications by letter and cable passed between him and Mr. Van Horne. There was some serious effort on the part of Grand Trunk men in London to bring about a unification of the two railways to be operated under the capable direction of Mr. Van Horne and his colleagues. But some indiscreet action on the part of Grand Trunk Directors in regard to advancing rates in order “to get all they could out of the people of Canada,” caused Van Horne to call negotiations off and say he would have no more discussions with men at long range. He had no great love for men who had tried to block the Canadian Pacific in the money markets of London, and he had no faith in the idea that a railway in Canada could be run satisfactorily if men in London were interfering. So the negotiations were ended and the Grand Trunk went on its extraordinary way. But that way is not part of our story.
As we have been discussing the intimate relationship between Mount Stephen and Van Horne, it is interesting to note that, much to the latter’s regret, the former President of the road, on account of his health condition demanding release from business, began to express again his desire to resign from the Board of Directors. He had remained on the Directorate and had been actively interested, as we have seen. But now he must have complete rest from responsibility. He was pressed to stay on the Board with less active participation, but he declared that “he could not be a figurehead and give himself no concern,” a statement which all directors of all companies should take to heart these days. And there is something touching in the fact that Mount Stephen, himself feeling the results of the heavy strain, began to warn Van Horne to be careful of his health and to throw more responsibility on others. As a matter of fact Van Horne was doing this within a short time after he became President. For Shaughnessy was moved up to be a Director and Vice-President and was making his brilliant business qualities felt in the management of the great enterprise he had seen grow from a small beginning.
But Van Horne consented with great reluctance to Mount Stephen’s retirement. The caution of the quiet Scot had been a fine counterpart to the intense and almost headlong impetuosity of the practical railway builder, and a great friendship had grown through the years. So that we are not surprised when we find that Van Horne had written Mount Stephen saying, “Your withdrawal would not be the withdrawal of a Director, but of the soul of the enterprise.” The business world is sometimes as drab and dead and unemotional as a sand waste, but it has its oasis spots, and words like those just quoted mark one of them. During those years, however, it is a notable thing, that whenever a proposal was made even by Mount Stephen to Van Horne, that the business administration of the Canadian Pacific Railway should be conformed to English methods, the bluff railroader refused point-blank. He said that “the English methods work in England, but they will not do here.” He allowed that the English system of stabilizing the financial conditions of a railway was the best, but when it came to operating the road the extent and character of Canada made English methods wholly inapplicable. Mount Stephen knew that Van Horne was a past master at administrative operation, and wisely counselled English capitalists to trust in Van Horne and his Canadian associates to run the road. When I say “Canadian associates” the expression must be understood as meaning that men resident in Canada were to administer and operate the Canadian Pacific Railway. Many of these men were Canadian born; others in the early days were from outside; but throughout the years they have constituted a wonderfully able and efficient and splendidly loyal staff. We have gone forward of events somewhat, owing to our discussing Lord Mount Stephen’s retirement and the relationship subsisting between him and the new President. We may go back a little and see the work of the railway under Mr. Van Horne in that high office. No other name could have been suggested to succeed Mount Stephen, but there is something exhilarating and encouraging to all young men on this continent in contemplating the career of Mr. Van Horne, who though born in another country and of alien parentage, came into the British Dominion of Canada and not only overcame any resentment against his intrusion, but who “made by force his merits known,” till he came to be acknowledged as one of the foremost citizens of Canada.
Mr. Van Horne, both before and after he became President of the Canadian Pacific, set himself not only to create local traffic, travel and immigration as already recorded, but he also very particularly began to secure branch lines and connections as feeders to the long main line from ocean to ocean. In this sort of work he was in his element, planning new lines and building them, buying out old roads and putting new life into them, getting access to the big centres of the East and linking up with the railway systems south of the line. This immense task of opening new lines and establishing new industries has been continued by all Van Horne’s successors till the Dominion and a good deal of the States knows the Canadian Pacific as it knows its city streets and country roads. In fact the Canadian Pacific is so ubiquitous that men take with the utmost gravity the old joke that the clocks of the country are set to the railway time as if the road was in control of the calendar. All these sayings, grave and gay, indicate such a widening of the sphere of this road since the last spike was driven that the mystic monogram “C. P. R.” is understood by every passer-by and the house-flag of the Company’s fleet is known upon the seven seas of the world. About this tremendous expansion and a few of the men back of it we may study more in the next chapter.
Nothing runs itself unless it is running down hill. This saying may be contradicted by advocates of “blind chance” theories, but, generally speaking, it will be accepted as a practically accurate statement of all movements. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company has never allowed things to run themselves. Strong minds and resolute hands were always at work, and nothing was permitted to run unguided and uncontrolled. If this vast transportation system has become one of the wonders of the modern world, it has not just happened, but it is the result of a deliberate and a well-ordered plan in which an intelligent sense of personal responsibility for one’s own share of work is recognized as imperative in order that the whole system may be a success. A human being is not, as is sometimes said, a cog in the wheel, but a living link in the chain of business causation. Every one’s work in every occupation is monotonous in one sense, and in many cases it seems to the worker that his or her task is of very little importance. But one can never estimate the value of work by superficial standards, for the man or woman who gives a telephone number or raps out a message on the key may be the means of transmitting messages that will change the face of the world.
The Canadian Pacific has endeavoured, with a large measure of success, to magnify the significance of every worker’s task and create a feeling of esprit de corps in its great army of over one hundred thousand workers. Hence, for instance, I was not surprised to hear that in a certain city when a merchant had made a foul public attack on the Company, a host of the Company’s employees stayed away from that merchant’s store. They were of the company that had been unfairly attacked, and they were not going to stand for it. It was in that spirit, I suppose, that Mr. Van Horne’s faithful porter, already mentioned, used to put himself along with his “boss,” and speak of both in the expression “we railway men.” All this means that, from the beginning, the Company knew that it would owe its success not to any one man, however great, but to the many who, though guided generally by one dominating force, would be in particular directed by the heads of the various departments.
In the world’s oldest Book, advice of a sage character was given to Moses, the greatest human leader our world has known, by Jethro, his father-in-law. The wise old chief saw that Moses was going to break down because he was trying to do everything himself. And he told Moses that, in order that he might have time and strength for the heavy task of leadership, he (Moses) should share the responsibility with others by “choosing out of all the people able men, and by making them captains over hundreds and fifties and tens.” The Book which contained that wise advice was a text-book in the schools of Scotland when George Stephen, the first President of the Canadian Pacific, was brought up, and one does not need much imagination to see that such a maxim of wisdom became almost unconsciously part of his being. In any case, when he came to be burdened with the Presidency of the great railway, he practised the advice and passed it on also to others. Hence it was that he brought Mr. Van Horne to take over part of the burden. Stephen knew his own limitations. He could raise money, but he could not build railways. Hence also we find this same Stephen, as we have seen, advising Van Horne to put some of his load on others; and so Shaughnessy, the General Purchasing Agent, moved up to be Mr. Van Horne’s first great assistant and understudy, in line to be “the King of Railway Presidents” in his time.
The Canadian Pacific Railway system has now over one hundred thousand people on its payroll, and their remuneration means a monthly expenditure by the Company of nearly eight millions of dollars—an almost incredible sum—for salaries and wages of employees every thirty days. It would be manifestly impossible to give any more than a few outstanding names from this formidable host, and even they would be given with the feeling that they were only representatives of the host of men and women who in all departments have been, for these four decades, carrying on their work in a splendid way.
Titles are now under the ban in Canada, but before that era of extreme democracy arrived, the Crown had recognized the Imperial services of the following men associated with the Company: Lords Mount Stephen, Strathcona and Shaughnessy, Sir William Van Horne, Sir Thomas Tait, Sir George Bury, Sir George McLaren Brown, Sir Arthur Harris, Sir William Whyte, Sir Augustus Nanton, Sir James Aitkens, Sir E. B. Osler, Sir John Eaton, Sir Vincent Meredith and Sir Herbert Holt. Mr. W. R. Baker, who excelled in social qualities during royal visits, was given a decoration by our present King.
But following out our theory as to the importance of every place in service, my recollections swing from the contemplation of the work done by men of such remarkable ability and initiative as those above named, without whom the road could not have succeeded, and I recall more men than I could possibly mention in many volumes who out in the humbler places did their enormously important work. Many an hour, for instance, did I spend on the back platforms of the last coach on the old Southern Manitoba trains with Charlie Panser, than whom no better or more reliable roadmaster ever watched the ties and spikes and fish plates and switches anywhere. Nothing escaped his attention, and his little notebook recorded his observations in his own way. And I think in that connection of all the maintenance-of-way or section men, whose faithful labours through summer heat and winter cold keep the road-bed in amazingly perfect order. I have seen them fighting blizzards on the prairie and watching washouts or slides in the mountains, and all with such astonishing success that there is no more safe roadway in the world than the Canadian Pacific. I look back in another direction and see old Gideon Swain, a big, powerful man, who, despite his “rheumatics,” was general custodian and guard at the old Winnipeg station. He looked after everybody. He was as gentle as a woman in looking after children and their travel-weary parents, but woe betide the tough or loafer who tried to impose on the kindly old gentleman in whose big-hearted organism there slumbered a volcanic energy against wrong. Once I was there when the old board platform was cracking in a forty-below-zero morning. Swain was assisting some ladies and children on a train when two “smart” men came into the circle and began to swear about something. Turning round the old station-guard, who looked like a mountain in his coonskin coat, raised the big stick he always carried and told them in a thunderous voice to “shut up with talk like that before children.” The men tried to explain, but Swain would have none of it, and they simply had to subside and move away with the best grace possible, to escape the wrath of the guardian of the children. Possibly, like old Constable Richards of the Windsor Street Station in Montreal, of whom George Ham writes so fondly, he too has found congenial work beyond the Great Divide where they have both gone. Incidentally, that is a fine human story of old Constable Richards telling Lord Shaughnessy at the station gate in Montreal, when the President was returning from a trip, that he, the old keeper, had been overlooked when others had got an increase of pay, which apparently under regulations could not go to Richards, who was being kept on over the age-limit. The President, keeping some big people waiting, listened to the old gate-keeper’s story attentively. The next day Richards was delighted to get an envelope with notice of increase, and the back pay, but he never knew that Lord Shaughnessy was paying it out of his own pocket.
I have singled out these few men from the rank and file, but they are representative of the loyalty and devotion of thousands in the various departments.
Like them also in this do we find the locomotive engineers and trainmen—steady, careful, cool-nerved men, who know their duty and do it. Gentlemanly conductors are there, also porters, waiters and the rest, who all take pride in the road over which they have their runs. And back of it all are the men in the great workshops, like the “Angus,” in Montreal, and “Ogden,” in Calgary, and others all across the continent, the roundhouses, divisional quarters and similar establishments, where engines and cars are builded and repairs of all kinds made. Then we have the “live-wire” people in the telegraph department, and so on through all the ramifications of a vast organization; but all enter into the life of the system and make it a marvel of co-operative efficiency. Doubtless there are many here and there amongst these employees who growl in regard to some of the conditions of their employment. So have we found men in a military regiment here and there who exercised their privilege of complaining against the conditions of their service. But in both cases let an outsider attack their organization and the esprit de corps and regimental pride will assert itself so that the man who ventures on criticism does well if he escapes without some injury.
We have thus taken a hurried survey of this great host of people in the employ of the Canadian Pacific. But we must not forget that they have been, through these years, marshalled and led by remarkable men all over the system. It is a well-organized army with its parts all closely linked up and related, so that there is a place for every one and every one has to fill that place according to the measure of his ability.
We have written in some fullness already about Sir William Van Horne, because as General Manager he was the guiding hand in the great days when the construction of the main line was carried to completion, and because, both as Manager and President, he began the big task of creating conditions for the support and extension of the road. Branch line feeders in the West, and Eastern Canadian, as well as American, connections, were established and the Pacific shipping service well inaugurated in his day. Notable lines, such as the Crow’s Nest through the Kootenay Valley, and the “Soo” Line, from near Moose Jaw on the prairies to the United States, had been established. Van Horne had said that he would never leave the Canadian Pacific until “it was out of the woods.” By 1897 or so things were looking well for the Road. Stock had run up to par and the land sales for the first time had begun to be worth while as a source of revenue for the Company.
It was evident that Van Horne was beginning about that time to consider modifying his relation to the Railway, and that was so for two or three apparent reasons. The first was that the Company was never the same to him after Mount Stephen had withdrawn from the Directorate. Van Horne missed him terribly on personal grounds. The second was that Van Horne’s powers were more creative than administrative and he knew it. He delighted in making a new thing go, but once it was going well he had a sort of distaste for the detail of keeping it going. He was more interested in putting a road across the country than in running it. He loved the Canadian Pacific and knew quite well that his lieutenant, Shaughnessy, could do the intensive development work and the detailed administration work better than he himself could. Shaughnessy was ten years younger and much more active. In fact Van Horne wished, for the good of the Company, to hand the leadership of it to Mr. Shaughnessy as early as 1895, but Shaughnessy persuaded him to stay on till the Company was more firmly established. And besides, Mr. Van Horne, who said he had wealth enough, wished not only to devote more time to the fine art of painting and other artistic tastes, but to follow up his farm and similar hobbies. Moreover, he saw in such places as the island of Cuba and in other industries than railroading in Canada, opportunities for exercising his restless creative habit of mind.
Accordingly we find this Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, who had started in railroad work at the age of fourteen in another country, and had made such a world-record in constructive enterprises that he received the special recognition of knighthood from the British Crown, voluntarily resigning in June, 1899, from the Presidency of the vast transportation system he had done so much to create and develop. He remained as chairman of the Board and a member of the Executive, retaining his office in the Company headquarters at Montreal and saying to his friends, “I shall still hang around the old stand.” I recall reading a statement made by Edward Gibbon when, after years of work, he finished his world-famous book on the Roman Empire. He said that when he had written the last page he took a turn in his garden. His first sensation was a feeling of relief over the completion of the great task, and then a feeling of something like exultation over what he knew to be an important contribution to the historical literature of the world. And then, he says, he realized a sense of loneliness because he would no longer have his wonderfully congenial daily work, and a sense of loss because something had gone out of his life as a finished chapter in his career.
I think that Van Horne felt all that, when he gave up the Presidency of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and to say so is much to his credit. He missed something out of his life. He began to plan trips to fill up the blank, but not very successfully, as we judge from the following account of a visit he paid to Monterey in his private car after having seen California. He says, “I went out on the verandah of the hotel and smoked a big cigar. Then I got up, walked about the verandah and looked at the scenery. It was very fine. Then I sat down and smoked another cigar. Then up again; another walk about the verandah, and more scenery. It was still very fine. I sat down again and smoked another cigar. Then I jumped up and telephoned for my car to be coupled to the next train; and, by George, I was never so happy in my life as when I struck the C. P. R. again.” There is humour in this, but there is pathos also. Van Horne was too keen-minded a man not to have foreseen this situation. And we repeat, as a lasting proof of his devotion to the Canadian Pacific, that when there came the hour when he felt it was in the interests of the Railway to transfer the growingly intensive and complex detail of its administration to the sinewy business hands of Shaughnessy, whose amazing powers as a financial administrator and master of detail had been amply tested through seventeen eventful years of the railway’s history, Van Horne resigned from the Presidency. And thus it was that Shaughnessy became President in June, 1899. From this date, although Van Horne remained on the Executive, he in large measure passed out of the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He retained all his financial interests in the Road, and was always ready to assist as Chairman at Board meetings by counsel; but to all intents and purposes he felt he had done his share and was now, by his own choice, handing the work over to his successor.
But to a man of Van Horne’s initiative and creative talent, idleness was unthinkable, and so, when he had unloaded the heavier burden, he took up some others less weighty, for exercise to keep himself fit. Accordingly we find him going into such concerns as the Laurentide Pulp Company and the Windsor Salt Company, and with his usual energy he made them successful. Then he went to Cuba as a free lance, and by building railways and other industries he did more for Cuba, as has been said, than Spain had done in centuries. He continued to reside in Montreal, busy with many projects, and when the end of life was at hand he said in effect what Cecil Rhodes, whom he somewhat resembled in driving power, had said: “So little done; so much to do.” What Van Horne actually did say was, “I see so much to do that I wish I could keep active for five hundred years.” But this strong scion of Netherland stock had done a great day’s work, and his high place in the temple of railway fame is secure for all time. Though of Dutch descent and American birth, he had become a British Empire builder under the Red Cross flag; but his dust reposes in the old graveyard of his people in Joliet. On the day of his funeral every wheel on the vast Canadian Pacific system came to a stop in silent tribute to the memory of a Napoleonic fighter in the fields of peaceful industry. His legal advisor and friend through many years, George Tate Blackstock, of Toronto, himself a man of most unusual ability, bore testimony to “the stupendous virility of his conceptions and exertions.” “He had his faults,” said Blackstock, and he indicates an approach to egotism in many of Van Horne’s sweeping statements, but it was not the “egotism of impotence, but of power.” And there is a place in the battle of life for self-assertion of the right kind.
We have already met in these pages his successor, Mr. Thomas G. Shaughnessy. In most ways he was unlike Van Horne. Born in Milwaukee, of Irish descent, he was tall and athletic in appearance, and altogether different in that respect from the stocky and heavily-built descendant of Holland. A newspaper friend of mine, Mr. Hope Ross, of Winnipeg, in a reminiscent article on Lord Shaughnessy, has the following interesting note on his appearance and manner, which carries out the impression made by the same Shaughnessy as a young man on Mr. E. A. James and noted in an earlier chapter. Mr. Ross says:
“Many years ago Sir Thomas, as he was then, arrived in Winnipeg depot with a party, and an inexperienced reporter at once picked him out as the leader. His dress, his quick manner, his general appearance, his commanding demeanour, his attitude, all indicated and revealed his position. As to his dress, President Shaughnessy seemed on every occasion that I ever saw him as though he had just stepped from the band box. Everything he wore looked as though put on that moment for the first time. No one would, however, suggest that he was overdressed, but just perfectly, as the successful head of a great corporation should be.
“In his general appearance Sir Thomas was the incarnation of prosperous big business. In nearly twenty years’ reporting around the Canadian Pacific depot, and later about the Royal Alexandra Hotel, I met no Eastern banker, railway executive, manufacturer, statesman, or other who seemed to personify and embody what is known as the business power of the East as he did.”
It was this appearance and type of the President that gave Punch the opportunity to make the famous cartoon, “The Canadian Pacific.” The cartoon was just a fine upstanding photograph of Lord Shaughnessy. He was an embodiment of the vast system of transportation, and Punch had caught the right idea, as usual.
Generally speaking, the opinion of many—perhaps of most people, about Lord Shaughnessy—was that he was a keen, swift and rather hard man. He could be all that on occasion, and he was usually dignified in his manner, as became the head of a great enterprise. But those who knew him well say he was one of the kindest of men. Temperamentally he was generous, and was always ready to give assistance to those in need, or, as George Ham put it, Shaughnessy helped many “a lame dog over the stile,” and said nothing about it. But the fact remains that the popular impression, as we have indicated, was that he was keen and rather hard and that impression was a quite wrong deduction, due to his distinguished manner and detached attitude. It is well to remember that he was head of an immense army, and that discipline requires a certain amount of dignity in the officer commanding.
To have that and also to possess the warm human heart is to have an ideal officer, like “The Beloved Captain,” as painted for us in Donald Hankey’s famous book of war experiences. Here again I quote from the article written by Mr. Ross as it illustrates well the many-sidedness of the dignified railway President. Mr. Ross says:
“A little incident of which I was apparently the sole Winnipeg witness, in connection with Sir Thomas, occurred on a perfect May morning. The President was to arrive and did arrive on a special train from Montreal, shortly before eight o’clock, and I caught him just as he stepped from his car. As usual he was courteous and ready to talk to the press and said that if I would wait until after breakfast he would answer any questions I could ask. His car, the Killarney, was left standing on the track closest to the depot. The rear was all glass, and all the members of his party, seated at the breakfast table—there were not more than four or five—were in full view. Taking no chances I remained in close proximity, waiting for the end of the meal when the interview would be obtainable. There was at that time no train shed at the Canadian Pacific depot and there was a wide expanse of board walk. At the moment of the little incident to which I refer this sidewalk was absolutely clear. Strange to say, there was not a red cap nor a Canadian Pacific police or official of any kind in sight. A local train was standing on one track, well loaded, and ready to pull out in a few moments.
“Suddenly I saw Sir Thomas arise and come quickly out of the car. Believing that he was coming to meet his appointment with me, I went forward. He passed me by saying ‘Not yet.’ I then noticed that a slight, small, foreign woman, in a worn, discoloured cotton dress, carrying her possessions in a white sheet, a big package about three feet high and three feet wide at the widest, and with four small children, was making her way across the expanse of sidewalk. The conductor had just given the signal for departure. Sir Thomas hurried to the side of the woman, gave a signal to the trainmen, took the huge bundle in the white sheet in one hand and one of the children by the other, helped the woman to the train, handed the white bundle to the brakeman, lifted the four children up the steps, aided the foreign woman up, and returned to his breakfast. A little later he was telling me in his private car of the plans of the Company for immigration work that year, about the new lines that were to be built, betterments which were to be made, and the prospects for the future in the prairie country, then humming with prosperity and brimming over with optimism.”
I can quite imagine this scene at the old station I knew well in the early days. It was not then so ornate or so much protected by fences and gates, but it afforded opportunities for deeds of the kind recorded above. It was a fine, but perfectly spontaneous act, on the part of the famous President, who saw from his private car the plight of the immigrant mother.
Mr. Ross adds another story which reveals a depth of feeling in this great President, which even the reporter who had been in touch with him for years had not discovered. Sir William Whyte, that princely man who had been such a tower of strength to the Canadian Pacific in its most difficult days, and who had not long before retired when two years over the age limit, had passed away somewhat suddenly during a visit to California. The funeral was, of course, in Winnipeg, where he had been the foremost citizen. Incidentally those of us who knew Sir William Whyte say a hearty amen to the allusion made to him by Mr. Ross in the following paragraph:
“Sir Thomas Shaughnessy had none of the official manner when I met him in his private office here on the day of the funeral of Sir William Whyte. Sir William had been a father to me, as he was to a good many younger men, and his death and burial concerned me much more than as a matter of news. Sir Thomas was obviously profoundly moved and I had a different feeling with reference to him always afterwards. He was never again the military dictatorial head and President of the corporation in my feeling with reference to him.”
This mention of Lord Shaughnessy and Sir William Whyte leads me to recall an incident of which both these railway men were part. Both held very strongly that the use of intoxicating drink should be pared down to the minimum if it was used at all. Once I recall that certain saloons in the North End of Winnipeg were enticing the employees of the railway to their premises by putting out notices that pay cheques would be cashed after bank hours. And one bitter winter night a railway employee who had used the proceeds of his cheque too freely for liquor was found frozen to death in the back-yard of the saloon. I saw Mr. Whyte about it the next day and he was furious over the action of the saloon keepers. He said, “We will change our method of payment, if necessary, for the welfare of the men and their families, and perhaps make drinking a dismissable offence whether on or off duty. Trainmen and others off duty may be called up for duty any time and they ought to be fit in order to avoid danger to themselves and others.” One day when both Shaughnessy and Whyte were on a train which stopped at Moose Jaw, where the Company had a hotel at the station, Shaughnessy saw some trainmen entering the bar-room. He called to the General Manager of Western Lines (that was part of Mr. Whyte’s title) and said, “Whyte, close up that bar.” Whyte asked, “Now or at the closing hour of the day?” And Shaughnessy said, “Close it now, and do not allow it ever to open again.” It is quite well known that Lord Shaughnessy would not tolerate the practice of drink or any habits usually associated with it.
Lord Shaughnessy’s power as an executive officer lay partly in the characteristics indicated already, but mainly in his tremendous prestige as a man of business whose ability as such was acknowledged the world over. When he was General Purchasing Agent for the Company he introduced a system of accounting which is said to have been adopted by the Corporation of the City of New York. There was no movement in the world of finance that he did not know about, and his mastery of the complex problem of international credits, led to his being called into the councils of the Empire both in peace and war. During the nineteen years of his Presidency, the Canadian Pacific was brought into a system of operation which was the last word in efficiency, so that, as already mentioned, he was called “King of Railway Presidents” on this continent, where the biggest railway interests of the world are in operation. His services in the years of the Great War are spoken of more fully in a chapter on that special subject. Little wonder then, that this famous chief executive officer of the Canadian Pacific was honoured by the King, first by knighthood and later by a peerage under the title Baron Shaughnessy, K.C.V.O., of Montreal, Canada, and of Ashford, County Limerick, Ireland.
When the Great War, which left him with a proud, but wounded, heart because of the death of his gallant son, Fred, at the Front was well over and things became more normal, Lord Shaughnessy felt that he should relinquish the Presidency. His age and strength admonished him that he should take things easier and call a younger man to the office to deal with the tremendous problems of the reconstruction period. So, after forty-one years of service with the road, he retired in 1918 from the Presidency, which he had occupied since 1899, but he retained to the end the office of Chairman of the Executive Board. Mr. E. W. Beatty was called to the place in succession to the “King of Presidents” and is proving that the choice was a wise one. Later on we shall write more particularly of Mr. Beatty, this youngest President of such an immense organization.
It was characteristic of Lord Shaughnessy to insist, despite Mr. Beatty’s protest, on the young President taking the large and ornate office room which Presidents had always occupied. Lord Shaughnessy kept busy at his office in the Board room every day in Montreal, till a sudden weakness of the heart carried him away after a few hours illness, on December 10th, 1923. Few incidents in the thrilling history of this pioneer transcontinental Canadian railway are so wonderfully touching and, in a true sense, dramatic, as the incident connected with Lord Shaughnessy’s death. Mr. Beatty was in to see him shortly before the end came, and to Mr. Beatty Lord Shaughnessy said: “Take good care of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is a great Canadian property and a great Canadian enterprise.” There is nobility and solemnity in the incident. It was a long way from the entrance of young Shaughnessy to the Milwaukee Railway, at the age of fifteen, to that scene in the sick-room in his Montreal mansion. But he had been put in charge of a great trust in the Canadian Pacific, and to that trust he was “true till death.”
The passing of Lord Shaughnessy was deeply mourned by the employees of the road, who were proud of their great “Chief.” And that mourning was practically world-wide. Perhaps no better summing up of his career was written than in the London Times editorial, where, after speaking of his coming from abroad, the writer goes on to say:
“Here lies half the romance of Lord Shaughnessy’s career. Born in Milwaukee, a citizen of the United States, he lived to become not only a citizen of the Dominion of Canada across the border, but most essentially, a citizen of the British Empire. Under his administration the double track branched and extended so as to carry new settlers every year into the farm-lands of Ontario, through the gateways of the West, into the wheatfields of the prairies and beyond the Rockies into the valleys of British Columbia. In building the greatness of the country he served, he helped to build the greatness of his adopted country and of the Empire as well. Himself an immigrant, he realized to the full the vital importance to Canada of a vigorous system of immigration, and his characteristically outspoken comment on the possibilities that might be achieved under the Empire Settlement Act were in marked distinction to the hesitation of some of the political leaders of the Dominion.
“Of Lord Shaughnessy it may be said that he was a living instance of the manner in which the Britons overseas assimilate the many elements of which they are composed. He came to Canada from a foreign country as a servant; he remained to be honoured by the king to whom he gave such loyal allegiance, and to be recognized universally among his fellow-countryman as the first citizen of the Dominion.”
The mantle of Lord Shaughnessy fell upon Edward Wentworth Beatty who, on Lord Shaughnessy’s passing, became President and also Chairman of the Board. A young man not far over the forties in years was Mr. Beatty when he took up the mantle and assumed the high office of the Canadian Pacific Presidency. First of the Canadian-born to occupy this responsible position, he bids fair to measure up fully to all its imperious demands.
There are unthinking people in the world who have a sort of compassionate way of wondering whether a man can fill the place of a great predecessor. But in reality each man fills his own place, and by the full play of his own individuality makes his own contribution to history. Each may do work his predecessor could not have done, and, while keeping up a continuity, each brings a new force into the march of human progress. It may be interesting in this connection to recall and summarize the work of these men who, up to this date, have headed the Canadian Pacific. Hence an extract from an article by the present writer on the subject, in the press recently, may be introduced in line with the statement just made:
“These four presidents were of different types in many ways, and of quite distinctive talents, but they seemed to be specially suited for the work which each was called upon to do in the given period in which he exercised the duties of his high office.
“Stephen was a master of finance, whose authority in that realm was recognized by every one, and whose integrity was beyond question. In executive boldness he was not the equal of some others on the road, but the questions he had to face were largely financial.
“It was the period when the great railway, owing to the terrific cost of construction and practical impossibility of selling land was, financially speaking, gasping for breath. Stephen’s mastery of financial problems and his high repute in the world of business made him the man for the hour.
“So consummate a master of finance was he that before he relinquished the office of President, every dollar loaned by the Dominion Government to tide the Canadian Pacific Railway over the sandbars of construction time was repaid.
“Mr. Van Horne, who succeeded Stephen in the Presidency, was particularly gifted in the powers required for the period when, although the main line was completed from coast to coast, an enormous amount of work was required in creating traffic, constructing branch-line feeders, as well as a large amount of inspection of all lines, the replacement of temporary by more permanent track and bridge equipment and such like. In such work Mr. Van Horne had no equal.
“Mr. Shaughnessy, who came next, brought to the Presidency his brilliant business gifts, the experience through which he had passed as Purchasing Agent in the critical days, as well as extraordinary foresight and withal a determination to maintain the financial stability of the road.
“Once, when a Winnipeg newspaper man asked him why the Canadian Pacific had not launched out into certain projects of railway building in a new direction, he said: ‘The future is always uncertain, and an executive must always be prepared to meet contingencies that may arise and circumstances that may emerge. The Canadian Pacific is a very large enterprise, and its success is so vital to Canada that we must exercise due caution. The surplus assets and the liquid assets must be kept in a condition to meet all emergencies.’
“Mr. Beatty had come to the Presidency in a new day, when legal as well as financial problems are numerous. Mr. Beatty is an experienced railway lawyer, as well as a keen man of business. He is cool rather than impetuous. He has a personality as suggestive of reserve power as an engine with steam up ready to go when the time comes. But he will make no hasty and premature rushes at anything. He speaks well in private and in public and he is thinking all the time. He has become a leading figure, but he will never become diffuse or aimless in his thinking or speaking. He has his powers harnessed and so under his control that he will not be thrown off the track by outside forces. He will go far in the railway world.”
New occasions teach new duties, and the present railway situation in Canada is unprecedented. President Beatty is evidently treading firmly, but cautiously, along a new trail and his self-control and keen study of the situation indicate a remarkable insight and foresight which will make for a great tenure of a tremendously potent position.
Biographically it may be noted that Mr. Beatty is the son of a noted steamship operator on the inland seas of Ontario. The future President had good opportunity for education in Thorold and Toronto University, before he entered on the study of law in the office of Adam Creelman, who was counsel in Toronto for the Canadian Pacific. When Mr. Creelman moved to headquarters at Montreal, he took Mr. Beatty with him. Mr. Beatty’s ability and devotion to work made his promotion to the position of Chief Counsel and a Vice-Presidency rapid. He so studied every phase of the Company’s great system that his succession to the Presidency came in natural sequence.
It goes without saying that all the Presidents were aided and advised by an exceedingly able staff of wise and experienced men. Where there is such a host, it is manifestly impossible to even mention many without seeming “to make invidious distinctions,” as a student once answered when he declined to name the major and the minor prophets on an examination paper. But, in addition to those whose names appear elsewhere in these chapters, a high place amongst the early men who helped to really build up the Canadian Pacific is given by general consent to David McNicoll. Once when a friend in Ontario referred to him as “Dave” he followed it up by saying that they went to school together in Arbroath, Scotland, and that “Dave” always had great ability. After some experience on a railway in the Old Land, McNicoll joined the Canadian Pacific in 1883, when times were hard. He rose steadily to be a Vice-President and General Manager. He was an encyclopedia on all matters pertaining to the road, studied maps till the whole country was an open book to him, and he became known as an incessant worker with all the grim determination and reliance of his race. He met difficult situations without flinching, and was a tower of strength to the road till he practically broke his health through excessive toil. His work is commemorated by Port McNicoll, as Mr. R. B. Angus and Mr. I. G. Ogden are commemorated in the great shops bearing their names.
Then we have such men as Vice-Presidents W. R. McInnes, with the Company since 1885; George M. Bosworth, head of the Pacific Ocean services; Grant Hall, with the railway since 1886, a mechanical genius; A. D. McTier, who began clerking in the baggage department in 1887, and is now Vice-President, a man of vision; Mr. D. C. Coleman, who started as clerk in the engineering department at Fort William and who is now Vice-President at Winnipeg, a man with much literary taste and a hobby for collecting books; Charles R. Hosmer, who organized the telegraph service at the beginning; and others whose names will emerge in the closing chapter, with some account of a few special features in the life of the road. One does not forget the press service embodied in Col. George H. Ham, who has popularized the Railway in many lands, nor George Murray Gibbon, a writer of ability, who now presides over the publicity department at Montreal. All over the immense system I can see the faces of men in all departments who were and are contributing to the success and boundless efficiency of this world-wide organization. They do not tolerate carelessness, in themselves or others, and, to an extraordinary degree, they are imbued with the spirit of the great leaders of the Company who sought to make the whole system a builder of Empire and a contributing factor to the well-being of the world.
The world’s literature in all the ages has much to say about the mystery and the wonder and the power of the sea. In ancient days Homer made frequent use of the expression, “the loud resounding sea,” and, in modern times, Byron apostrophizes the unconquerable ocean and seems glad to think that while
“Man marks the earth with ruin;
His control stops with the shore.”
But here, as elsewhere, the language of writers who have the Theistic view of things strongly developed is supreme for its vividness and power. Thus we find the Psalmist saying, “They that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters, these behold the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep.” No finer reflection of that saying has been seen in our day than the verses,
“There’s a schooner in the offing
And her topsail’s shot with fire
And my soul has gone aboard her
For the Isle of my desire.
“I must forth again at midnight,
And to-morrow I shall be
Hull down on the trail of rapture
Mid the wonders of the sea.”
“The Western Sea” beyond the sunset shore of British North America always had a romantic and fascinating attraction for explorers and navigators. As indicated in a previous chapter, the hope of discovering a north-west passage by a sea channel from the Atlantic to the Pacific had lured some of the most dauntless navigators to hardship and death a few centuries ago. There is a picture somewhere of an old sea-rover in uniform and decorations, studying a map of British North America on which his clenched, determined hand rests, and underneath he is represented as saying, in this regard, to his eager little grandson, “This must be done, and Britain must do it.” Well, Britain’s seamen discovered, after endless persistence, that there was no north-west passage by sea. But gallant British explorers who remembered the motto on a famous battle-axe, “I either find a way or make one,” rested not till they forced a pathway by land to the ocean of their dreams.
For nearly a century after Alexander Mackenzie, the indomitable Stornaway Scot, made the pioneer trail to the West Coast, “from Canada by land in 1793,” a limited trade was carried on laboriously, by trail and canoe and packhorse, in the mountain region. But when Canada was brought into a Confederation by linking together the old Provinces in the East, men of vision saw the vast possibilities of the Western seaboard. In 1851, as already noted, Joseph Howe, in Nova Scotia, had outlined the future in a vivid word-painting and caused others to see the ever expanding destiny of British America. He pictured the day when not only would “the whistle of the locomotive be heard in the heart of the Rocky Mountains,” but when Canadian enterprise would reach out to trade with the teeming millions of the Orient that lay facing the Pacific shore. Nor should we forget that Sir Hugh Allan, the master-trader on the Atlantic out of Montreal, long ago coveted for Canada a business not only trans-Atlantic and trans-continental, but trans-Pacific as well.
These visions of trans-Pacific trade and passenger traffic came to swift realization soon after the Canadian Pacific Railway reached tide-water at Port Moody, on the West Coast, on July 4th, 1886. Port Moody, as we have seen, was the legal terminus of the steel trail across Canada. The Company sent a live-wire agent to Port Moody to look after the freight and passenger traffic. This agent was a young man named David E. Brown, who now lives retired in a beautiful home in Vancouver, appropriately named “The Bunkers,” and appropriately situated in the locality called Shaughnessy Heights. Brown was born of Scottish parents in the County of Grey, in Ontario, and still retains, on occasion, the distinctive accent of his people. He learned the way of Western railroading under that soldierly man, Mr. Robert Kerr, a great handler of freight traffic at Winnipeg, and Brown made such a place for himself in the esteem of his chief that he was assigned to the farthest strategic point where the rails struck tide-water at Port Moody. It was a great chance for a young man, and Brown had the will and the ability to make the most of it. Accustomed to handling freight inland, he was now to tackle coast traffic all along British Columbia and up to Alaska, for his line. And, to add to his responsibilities, he was only three weeks at Port Moody when a sailing brig, the W. B. Flint, an 800-ton clipper with a “Blue-nose skipper,” tied up at the wharf with a cargo of tea from Yokohama, to be shipped over the new Canadian Pacific Railway to the East. In some places and at some periods in our day the arrival of a brig with 800 tons of cargo would seem a quite insignificant event, but the prow of that particular brig clove open a new doorway to world commerce. She did not belong to the Canadian Pacific Railway, but led the way from the Orient for the Company’s steel-clad coursers which now bridge the oceans and link four continents under the ensign of the greatest transportation system in the world. But all that was not done in one day.
Following the pathfinding W. B. Flint to Port Moody in that July of 1886, came two other sailing vessels with similar cargo, only that the Oroyo, the last of the three, had its cargo so badly damaged by water, through imperfect hatches, that it was not worth much. Brown, the young agent, had some things to learn as to what constituted delivery and acceptance of cargo in such a case, but he met the situation so well that the Railway came out safely in the end. It was perhaps this resourceful handling of a new kind of business that so attracted the attention of headquarters at Montreal to the young agent at Port Moody that they sent Brown to the Antipodes and the Orient to work up business for the Railway from those regions.
This was an eventful commission, but before we follow Mr. Brown on the trip let us go back and see how the traffic from the Orient began with the three sailing vessels that came to Port Moody in 1886. It was through the New York firm of Everett, Frazar & Co., who had some connection in Yokohama, that Montreal headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought this about. It looks like the work of the persistent, courageous and far-seeing Van Horne. He used to say that he was “going to make it possible to send a traveller around the world on one ticket over one system.” And, no doubt, he also determined that as much as they could secure of the world’s freight traffic would be routed over the same far-flung lines of travel. He must have planned with his usual daring, because the tea clipper reached Port Moody on July 20th, 1886, and the first through train from Montreal had only arrived there on July 4th. It would have been awkward if the cargo of tea from Japan had to be dumped on the primitive wharf with no train in sight to carry that cargo to its destination in Eastern Canada. Perhaps, too, it was Mr. Van Horne who, through Mr. George Olds, of the traffic department, sent Brown to the Orient. Anyway, I have had the privilege of seeing a sheaf of personal, intimate autograph letters from Van Horne to Brown, extending over many years and discussing in the most delightful and self-revealing way, such artistic subjects as Chinese vases, pottery, antiques and curios, in which both were interested. Mr. Van Horne did not throw money away by any means, but here and there in the letters he asks Brown to purchase some special rarity at what looks to most of us very generous figures.
Mr. Brown established connection for the Canadian Pacific Railway with New Zealand and Australia also. Australia was rather hesitant, though interested, but Brown appealed to them on grounds of Empire loyalty—“hands across the sea and let the kangaroo shake hands with the beaver.” Brown waited in Australia and took part in a celebration that gave a hearty send-off to the first steamer on the way to Vancouver.
Mr. Brown made his headquarters at Hong-Kong for fourteen years, and in that time combed the Orient for traffic for his line. He made successful visits as far as Bombay and Calcutta, to establish connections, and called at the Island of Ceylon in the same connection.
A typical case was that of his call at Ceylon. He ascertained that the authorities were contemplating sending a large exhibit to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1894. They did not know just how best to ship to points beyond New York. But Mr. Brown went to the Commissioner in charge and said “I represent the Canadian Pacific Railway, and I can give you transportation right into the exhibition grounds at Chicago.” They thought this was daring for so young a man, but they talked it over and finally Brown got the business, shipping over a P. & O. steamer to Hong-Kong, thence on his own line to Vancouver and on to Chicago by rail. It looks simple now, but it was a bold venture at the time. It was beginning to fulfil Mr. Van Horne’s expectations of sending people around the world on one ticket.
One great thing which makes travel desirable is the opportunity of meeting with interesting and famous people. During one of his trips in the South Seas Mr. Brown met and travelled with Robert Louis Stevenson, his wife and daughter. And what could be more interesting than to meet and talk with “R. L. S., of Scotland and Samoa,” and visit him in his own island home under the hill, where the dust of the great writer now reposes on the summit?
Incidentally, I might add, “R. L. S.” made special reference to Mr. Brown, as appears in one of his books, saying characteristically, “I am the general provider for my household (wife and daughter). I have just supplied them on deck with the company of the Canadian Pacific Railway agent, and so left them in good hands.”
Mr. Brown, as mentioned above, remained fourteen years in the Orient with headquarters in Hong-Kong, but after having had three serious illnesses there he was ordered by doctors to leave that climate. So he returned to Vancouver, where the Company gave him the position of General Superintendent of Trans-Pacific Steamships, a position he retained till his retirement on pension in 1906.
Mr. Allan Cameron, who has had very wide experience in several departments of railway service in different parts of the world, is now in charge of the Oriental end of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Service, with headquarters at Hong-Kong, and is making special study of inter-trade relations between Canada and the Far East. At the Vancouver end of the business no one of the old-timers is better known and better liked than the highly competent ships-husband, Mr. James A. Fullerton. He is now retired, but still haunts the waterfront and takes great interest in the fleet that he has seen grow from very small beginnings. Captain Beetham, a practical sea-faring man himself, is in control of the Pacific shipping, with headquarters at Vancouver, while Captain Troup, who knows the coast-wise and inland lake and river business like a book, is in general charge of that important department. With efficient help in the offices and special agents at home and abroad, the business in a generation has kept constantly expanding, as the next paragraph specially notes.
In the meanwhile, as the years passed from the arrival at Port Moody of the first “tea clipper” from Japan, the Company’s trans-Pacific business had grown by leaps and bounds. Following the “tea clippers” from the Orient to Port Moody, the Company in 1887 chartered three steamships, the Batavia, Parthia and Abyssinia, from Glasgow ship-builders, to go on a regular trans-Pacific run from Vancouver; and the latter’s first outbound cargo was only forty tons of freight. In 1890 the British Government contracted to give the Company a subsidy annually, on condition that three twin-screw steamers were put on the route between Vancouver, Japan and China. It was to fulfil this contract that the famous Empresses first made their appearance from the Glasgow shipyards, specially built for the Canadian Pacific, namely the Empress of India, the Empress of China, the Empress of Japan, and they began their work in 1891.
It was not until 1903, under direction of Lord Shaughnessy, that the Canadian Pacific went into the shipping business on the Atlantic. The business on the Atlantic did not have to be created by the C. P. R. in the same sense as the Pacific trade, and I dwell less upon it for that reason. The Company purchased fifteen ships from a going concern, the Elder Dempster Line. This was a good beginning, but more ships soon became necessary, and the Empress of Britain and the Empress of Ireland were added in 1906, when the Monteagle joined the Pacific fleet. Then, in 1914, the Metagama and Missanabie were added on the Atlantic, the latter being later torpedoed in war time. The Melita and Minnedosa came on in 1917 and 1918. More recently the largest ship of all in the Canadian Pacific service, the Empress of Scotland, has been added on the Atlantic, and the Empress of Canada and the Empress of Australia began the run on the Pacific. These last-named three are, literally and without exaggeration, floating palaces. There are single, double and family rooms, suites and special rooms with every possible convenience, reception rooms, gymnasium, nursery, swimming pool, concert and motion picture halls, and practically everything necessary to the comfort of travel. At the date of this writing the Empress of Canada, the Empress of Scotland and the Empress of Britain are just returning from trips around the world with special parties who have been six months visiting the chief places of interest under special guidance. The Empress of Australia, built in Germany and coming to the Canadian Pacific as a result of the War, is most ornately and beautifully finished and furnished throughout. The directions on the taps and such like appear in German and English, representing the before and the after period of the War. This superb vessel, under command of Captain S. Robinson and a gallant crew, in 1923 was just casting off from the wharf at Yokohama when the terrific earthquake upheaved that city and overwhelmed it with tidal waves and fire. The Australia became voluntarily a refugee vessel, saved many hundreds of lives and, cancelling her trip to Vancouver, took the refugees to Kobe, besides giving practically all her stores of food and clothing to the destitute. For this gallant act, which involved the Company in very heavy financial loss, I heard the Captain and crew specially thanked by President Beatty and other officials of the organization. In so doing these officials showed not only their pride in their men, but their desire to magnify the human side of business. More recently Captain Robinson has been decorated by His Majesty King George V with the Order of the Commandership of the British Empire, and has been lionized and decorated at many points on the world tour of the Empress of Canada, to which he was transferred. The Captain has said little to the public about the fearful incident of the earthquake and the sea blazing with burning oil around his vessel. But he had to make his official report to the Department of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and despite his efforts to minimize the greatness of the exploit of himself and his gallant crew, the incident is fully abreast of the noblest traditions of British seamanship.
In order to indicate in a brief way the wide ramifications of the Canadian Pacific Steamship service, we add that a few years ago this Company took over the old-established Allan Line, out of Montreal, and thus added eighteen more ships to her fleet. There is a score of vessels exclusively for freight on the high seas in all parts of the world, and there are many vessels, some of them palatial, doing business on the coasts and inland lakes of Canada, in some cases as links to the rail services, in others as extensions or feeders of the same. On the Great Lakes of Canada are five splendid steamships; on the coasts of British Columbia, and from Seattle to Alaska, there are twenty-five more staunch vessels, while on the lakes and rivers of British Columbia there is nearly another score. There is steamship service also between St. John, New Brunswick, and Digby, Nova Scotia, while the Canadian-Australasian Line, one result of Mr. Brown’s pioneer efforts, operates between Vancouver, Victoria and the Antipodes.
All this sounds like a formal list of facts, but it is an amazing record of achievement in the course of less than two score years. From the tea-laden clipper of eight hundred tons that tied up to the wharf at Port Moody in 1886, the tonnage has rolled up to the vast total of considerably over half-a-million. The Railway Company which in 1886 chartered three tramp steamers for the Pacific Ocean trade, now has an immense fleet of its own on the great oceans, on the Mediterranean, Carribbean, Adriatic and South China Seas, as well as upon the wide coasts and inland waters of this broad Dominion of Canada. From the small beginning the Canadian Pacific has become the world’s greatest transportation system under one management by sea as well as by land.
Back of all that material and visible result is the astonishing story of the thought and action of strong men which is difficult to put down on paper. There have been master minds as well as courageous hearts and willing hands at work during all these years, thinking, planning and executing daring things for the expansion and extension of this vast enterprise. It has been my privilege to know many of these men in almost all branches of the service. My judgment is that, on the whole, these men were singularly free from any desire for personal gain. They had the far mightier stimulus of being engaged in a world business for the development of hitherto unrealized natural resources in many lands, and, subconsciously perhaps, they felt that the main object of their endeavours was the ultimate advantage of all mankind. In that frame of mind giants toiled in the early days, and there is no reason to think that their type is not reproduced in the men of to-day.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was and is a triumph of constructive endeavour in the days of peace. We have spoken of the army of men at work, from the turning of the first sod, all through the grading, the tracklaying and the operation of the road, as a peaceful mobile army which moved with tireless tread in the march of civilization. It was the business of these men to build and not to destroy, to gather together and not to scatter abroad, to conserve and not to dissipate the natural assets of Canada. In doing this work the Railway would be performing a great task in relation to the stability of human society and would send coursing through the arteries of commerce that national and international trade which has so much to do with the calm health of the world. But, alas! there are times when the peace of the earth is rudely interrupted by some megalomaniac who kicks the anthill of the world’s population and sends the inhabitants into wild confusion. In such times it becomes necessary to resist and subdue the disturber, if need be, by force. Pacifism is a high ideal if all would seek to work it out together; but, changing to another figure of speech, we all know that it is useless to reason with a mad dog running amuck on the world’s thoroughfare. Hence there are occasions, unhappily, when the peaceful have not only to stand on the defensive but to carry war into the enemy’s country, so as to compel the inciter to war to remember that other people have a right to life and liberty and happiness on this round globe. On such occasions the machinery of traffic has to be temporarily diverted, in some degree, from its accustomed employment and swung into the conflict for ultimate peace.
In this regard the great railway of which we are writing has done its startlingly large share at home and abroad. It will be remembered that the road was not finished over the North Shore of Lake Superior when Mr. Van Horne, who had, months before, offered help in such a possible emergency case, transported troops to the scene of the Riel outbreak on the North and South Saskatchewan. We spoke specially of the North Shore in relation to bringing troops from the Eastern Provinces, but we must also bear in mind that troops were rushed from Winnipeg westward with pronounced effect. Those were my student days in Winnipeg, but it was my privilege to be one of the Winnipeg Light Infantry which was specially raised and rushed on the new road by troop train to Calgary. This was an exceedingly important movement, because the massacre at Frog Lake, down the North Saskatchewan from Edmonton, had taken place and the Indian tribes were very restless all over the vast area from the boundary line away to the north. We left some companies at points in what is now Southern Alberta where the war-like tribes of the Blackfeet, Piegans, Bloods and others had their habitat. Their great chief, Crowfoot, befriended in the early days by the Mounted Police, was loyal, but young braves under the prevailing excitement might break away and were none the worse of seeing a few red-coats in the locality. From Calgary the rest of our regiment, along with the 65th of Montreal, and a few splendid Mounted Police and Scouts, marched north to Edmonton. We passed through some tribes that were very much agitated by Riel’s runners, and on to Edmonton, which, but for the timely arrival of our column, would have shared the fate of Forts Pitt and Victoria, not far away, which had already been looted and burned by the Frog Lake and other Indians under Big Bear and Wandering Spirit. Similarly, were troops rushed westward from Winnipeg to Swift Current, whence they marched for the relief of Battleford, which was beleaguered by Indians, and farther east others went on the railway till they came to the point nearest Batoche, where Riel and Gabriel Dumont were at the centre of revolt. Riel had sent his runners out in all directions, saying to the Indians that there were only a few Mounted Police in the country and that the Queen’s soldiers could not reach the Far West. My own recollection is that the Indians amongst whom we came were positively amazed at the suddenness of our appearance in their remote districts. Prevention is better than cure, and there is no doubt at all but that the effect of the inflammatory appeal of Riel was headed off by the swift arrival of soldiers. But for this the whole prairie might have been overrun by maddened Indians, who would have made many massacres like that of the nine unfortunate white men whose mangled bodies we buried on the Frog Lake Indian Reserve. After the rebellion was crushed, the Government at Ottawa took many Indian Chiefs to the Eastern Provinces in order that these Indians might see the strength of “the Queen’s people.” This trip was an effective deterrent on any more uprisings and not the least of the influences for peace were the “fire wagons” that drew trains along steel trails with such swiftness that the Indian ponies were left hopelessly behind. The Riel outbreak was not a great war, but it might have led to massacre, pillage and ruin only for the demonstration of power made possible by the railway transport before the flame of revolt got fairly started. For that service, of enormous value to Canada and the Empire, we who knew the situation will always be grateful for the work of the Canadian Pacific in a critical hour. The swift suppression of the Riel revolt put the all-Canadian railway conspicuously on the map of the Empire as a new element of power in her far-flung battle-line.
When the Great War broke over the world so suddenly in 1914, the Canadian Pacific had, in the interval since Riel’s outbreak and the primitive line of that day, grown into the world’s greatest transportation system by land and sea. It is remembered now of course that the War took most people unawares, so that they acted in the emergency according to the attitude their manner of thinking had developed. It is a striking comment on the thinking of President Shaughnessy, of the Canadian Pacific Railway, that while others in various places hesitated he at once put the resources of the Company, with its world-wide system on land and sea, at the disposal of the Empire. This was all the more remarkable when we recall that he was foreign born and had only come to Canada when he had grown to man’s estate. The fact was that he had become intensely Canadian. It seems a law of human life that people come to love the cause for which they make sacrifices. Shaughnessy had sacrificed much for Canada and its progress. He had left his own country and his home at an age when these mean much and when for him certain promotion on well-established roads was within reach. He had come to a new enterprise in a comparatively new country with an uncertain future and he had passed through circumstances that imposed upon him, for some years, a mental strain which amounted to positive suffering. I do not suppose that either he or Van Horne ever became less attached to their native land to the south of the line, but the stupendous undertaking of Canada’s pioneer transcontinental railway so absorbed the intense devotion of all their energies that they became profoundly Canadian. They did not love the United States less, but the immense enterprise to which they gave the best years of their lives in Canada bound them with unmistakable loyalty to their adopted country. When the War broke out, Mr. Van Horne had retired from active service in the Canadian Pacific and was in poor health, but his heart was in sympathy with Canada and he exerted himself to do what he could. Shaughnessy, as we have said, wheeled the whole system into line to help win the War. The transcontinental trains had to be kept moving with precision, to transport troops and to rush to the front stores of food from the granary of the Empire on the Western plains. But the huge workshops were turned into shell factories and became hives of industry for the manufacture of the destructive enginery of war. Shaughnessy, at the request of the Home Government, loaned to the work of war transportation some of the ablest officials of the Company in that department. In an effort to reorganize the broken-down transportation of Russia, Shaughnessy sent to that strange land one of the keenest minded officials of the Canadian Pacific in the person of George Bury, who was knighted for the efforts he made there in a period seething with discontent and revolution.
Although it would not do to cripple the system at the home base, every facility was given to employees to enlist for military service abroad. I have seen with Mr. F. W. Peters, the popular and efficient General Superintendent of the Railway in British Columbia, a copy of the instructions issued by Shaughnessy and sent out to leading officials all over the system. It was intimated therein that to all employees who enlisted, their full pay would be continued for six months (many thought the war would be brief) and that places equivalent to those they had occupied when they enlisted would be given to those who returned. There were over eleven thousand enlistments and of these about eleven hundred were killed in action. So well was the promise as to re-employment kept that former employees to the number of nearly eight thousand were taken on again, and in addition some fourteen thousand other returned soldiers were given situations—a most remarkable showing. It is quite well known that the Company also did all it could for the dependants of those who did not return.
In tribute to the unreturning brave the Canadian Pacific erected permanent memorials in bronze and tablets all over the system in order that succeeding generations might not forget. Upon each bronze monument and each tablet are these fine words:
“To commemorate those in the service of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, who, at the call of king and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardship, faced danger and finally passed out of sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten. 1914-1918.”
We have been thus far studying the war service of the Canadian Pacific with our minds principally upon the forces drawn from the land portion of the system. But there is in some respects a more wonderful record on the sea. Not that the men on the sea were more valorous than those on the land; but the men on the sea, being located in ships, were more easily followed than the men who in the land or the air forces were scattered in various localities on many battle fronts.
Almost every ship of the Canadian Pacific fleet went on war duty, and fifteen of these were lost by torpedoes or mines or other similar causes on the high seas. These lost vessels represented over a third of the tonnage engaged. Behind this simple statement are many tales of heroism of which there is no permanent record, and there are achievements of thrilling importance done in practically all parts of the world. It is possible for us to give only an outline which can be filled in with deeds of gallantry and valour by the imagination of any reader who knows the traditions of our British men on the high seas of the world.
“If blood be the price of Admiralty,
Lord God, we have paid it full:
We have strawed our best to the world’s unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.”
By following the log of some of the Canadian Pacific vessels we get at least some of the bare facts.
The Empress of France had barely reached the dock at Liverpool, two days after war was declared, when she was requisitioned for special service by royal proclamation. Within a few days after her cargo was unloaded, all passenger accommodation and other wood work was removed. Armed with eight six-inch guns, she was sent out, manned by a naval crew, to patrol in the North Sea between Shetland and Iceland, and became, a few months later, the flagship of the patrol squadron, in which service she intercepted 15,000 ships. Later, she was transferred to convoy service in the North Atlantic route. In that service she escorted nine convoys of twenty vessels each, carrying per convoy about 30,000 troops, mostly Americans on their way to the front. Some indication of the extent of the war service of the Empress of France may be gathered from the fact that while in commission she steamed 267,000 knots and consumed 170,000 tons of coal. These figures as to only one vessel out of many, tell little of the services and the hardships of a gallant crew, but they shed some light on the frightful monetary cost of war.
The Empress of Britain, one of the new and large vessels, was fitted out as a transport, carrying troops to the Dardanelles, Egypt and India; also from Canada to the Western Front. Besides her own crew she accommodated 5,000 officers and men. During one of her trips across the Atlantic with a full complement of crew and soldiers, a German submarine launched two torpedoes, one of which missed the bow by three feet and the other passed some ten feet astern. It was all in the day’s work; but that was a close shave “between the devil and the deep sea!”
The splendid new steamer, the Calgarian, of the Atlantic service, was one of the many Canadian ships sunk by the enemy during the War, but not before doing some notable work. Along with the famous Vindictive, the Calgarian blocked Lisbon to prevent German ships sheltering there from coming out on raids into the Atlantic; and later, for nearly a year of continuous service, was stationed outside New York to prevent the escape of German ships interned there. Then, when she was convoying thirty vessels across the Atlantic, she was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of forty-nine men.
Our old Pacific Coast friend, the Empress of Russia, had a thrilling experience as an Admiralty cruiser. She left Vancouver for Hong-Kong on her usual run in August, 1914, but she was already designated for war service. At Hong-Kong her interior fittings were taken out and replaced by coal bunkers, and eight guns were mounted fore and aft. British Naval Reservists and French gun crews were put aboard in place of the Chinese hands, and the Empress started out to work. Shortly afterwards she met the pride of Australia, the cruiser Sydney, after that gallant ship had smashed the wicked German rover, the Emden. The Russia took off the prisoner members of the Emden crew, including the Captain, Von Muller, and put them out of commission by landing them at Ceylon. With the help of some Indian troops, she captured the Turkish fort of Kamaran on the Red Sea. Then, for twenty-three days, she and her sister Canadian Pacific vessel, the Empress of Asia, guarded the British port of Aden until the arrival of British warships. After some more dangerous experiences, the Empress of Russia, the Empress of Asia, the Empress of Japan, the cruiser Himalaya, and the destroyer Ribble, kept in blockade the Port of Manilla, where fifteen German ships were hiding in the hope of getting out with supplies to their war vessels. Finally the Russia spent a year cruising in the East, and then, when the War was over, slipped back quietly on to her old peaceful run out of Vancouver to the Orient.
One can only sum up in a wondering way the enormous service done for the Empire by this great railway company, by saying that during the War, Canadian Pacific ships carried over a million troops and passengers on war business. They carried over four millions of tons of cargo and munitions of war, and many thousands of horses and mules for transport service on the field. And perhaps one of the most amazing and least-known feats of the Canadian Pacific was the carrying to and from Flanders and France, through Vancouver, of what seemed a numberless army of Chinese from the North of China, who went out to do the unskilled labour on the field and thus released thousands of the allied soldiers for the fighting line, who otherwise would have had to do this highly necessary non-combatant work.
Letters from Mr. David Lloyd George, the dynamic war-time Premier of Britain, and others, to the Company and to officials, conveyed the appreciation of the Old Land to the Canadian Pacific for its unique assistance in a crisis hour. Many decorations worn by Canadian Pacific men who served on land and sea, and the scars of battle on many of her ships, attest the unique way in which President Shaughnessy (one of whose sons fell in action) and his wide-reaching organization came to the assistance of the Motherland when vital things were in danger. Let this great service not be lost sight of when petty matters and little controversies in commercial life have their innings.
A peculiarly striking sidelight is thrown on the general subject of war by the changing attitude to the subject of Sir William Van Horne, who lived only a year into the war period, but who studied it all with the thoroughness so characteristic of the man. Some years before the Great War he had written to Mr. S. S. McClure, in New York, almost in praise of war as a creator of heroisms and an inspiration to valiant endeavour. But as he studied the Great War, with its horrible engines of destruction, high explosives and silent, stealthy weapons of death on land and sea and in the air, he began to see the monstrous side of such a method for settling international differences. He saw the frightful annihilation of some of the brightest young men whose record he knew in his own organization, and whose services to the country, had they been spared, would have been beyond price. One would like to have had his changed attitude put into words by himself in his own vivid and vigorous way. Perhaps he would have left us an expression of assured hope that the day would come
“When the war-drums throb no longer
And the battle-flags are furled
In the Parliament of man,
The Federation of the world.”
But, despite all its horrors, war has, for human society, some compensation in the fact that it reveals suddenly certain elements of good in the world whose existence we had only dimly realized before. I remember how, as a boy, riding on horseback over the prairie in dark nights, I used to conjecture in a vague way as to the character of the trail ahead and as to what life of man or animal might be shrouded in the blackness. And I recall how fascinating it was to have flashes of lightning break recurrently now and then from the clouds, each flash burning its way into the darkness, revealing the trail, showing cattle and horses and the humble homesteads of pioneers who were beginning to settle on the plain. It has sometimes seemed to me that war is a flash of lightning which reveals much hitherto only dimly imagined as existing in society. That it reveals many mean and disquieting features and qualities in human life goes without saying. But that it also reveals many noble characteristics, is amply demonstrated. The recent Great War, for instance, revealed the greatness of the common man who, from some unspectacular occupation, where these qualities were present but unnoticed by the community, went out where the lightning flash of war disclosed to the world marvels of heroism and self-sacrifice. Similarly, we often discovered in the common business world and amidst business organizations at home, a readiness to serve and sacrifice which before had only been dimly understood as existing at all. The War revealed it.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, which had overcome early difficulties on the road to success, was probably regarded by the average Canadian with some patriotic pride as a prosperous organization, but possibly he thought it was not much concerned about things beyond its own welfare. Yet it is not too much to say that the War suddenly revealed in it vital qualities of loyalty to the Empire and showed the Company personified as a good citizen of Canada. As a citizen it threw itself into the business of helping to defend the country and to assist in making conditions as good as possible in war times.
The recent incident in the earthquake in Japan will illustrate my point as being in keeping with the traditions of the Company. There at Yokohama the Canadian Pacific steamship, the Empress of Australia, as related elsewhere, was just casting off, when the earthquake took place. Taking interest in the safety of themselves and their ship mainly as a means of helping others, Captain Robinson and his gallant crew became a band devoted to heroic rescue. We need not detail the story here, but, the captain and men, knowing the traditions of the Company, did not consider for a moment the immense expense and loss they were incurring in cancelling a voyage and placing the ship and all their stores at the disposal of the suffering and destitute.
The War gave the Canadian Pacific many opportunities of living up to these traditions, and the Company did not fail. While its ships were being sunk in service on the high seas and its general business on land was being dislocated, the Company did its part as a citizen in the enlistments, as already recorded. But, in addition, every good cause which aimed at alleviating human suffering and administering to human comfort found what to some must have seemed a surprisingly large support from the Company. Hospitals at home and field hospitals abroad, Red Cross movements, nurses’ homes, returned soldiers, disabled men and their dependants, Y. M. C. A’s, Salvation Army efforts, and all such persons or organizations were on the list for assistance in a big way. The War brought this out more distinctly, but it was part of the Company’s tradition. It is trustee for the funds of its shareholders, and cannot throw these funds away to improvident people or undeserving causes; but it uniformly seeks to help the community in the interests of the general weal. The Canadian Pacific Railway, owning and maintaining in Canada an enormous amount of property and employing over one hundred thousand people, who receive eight millions monthly in salaries and wages, is manifestly an extraordinary contributor to the upkeep of the Dominion in the ordinary business way. When we add to this the fact of the Railway’s support of all worthy causes, we are able to estimate in some degree the value to Canada of its citizenship.
But for the fact that it is verified by actual tabulation, the statement that the Canadian Pacific Railway during the autumn of the year of grace 1923 carried two hundred and fifteen million bushels of grain over the steel trail, en route to feed the hungry in all parts of the world, would seem, to some of us, incredible. This huge scale of grain transportation means that about one hundred and thirty thousand cars were charged with the duty of taking to the world’s markets the magnificent product and offering of the vast prairie country of Canada. In the above sentences we personify both the cars and the prairies, because it does not require much imagination to speak of such prolific soil and such burden-bearing rolling stock as if they were instinct with life. The fact that behind them both is the splendidly strong endeavour and the passionately devoted skill of faithful men and women, seems only to add force to the personification of the elements of production and distribution, which, under Providence, they use for the good of the world. To some of us who look back to earlier days in the West, there is vivid romance in this development, and there is a sort of Alladin-lamp wonder in the transformation which the above statements indicate.
Agriculture is the oldest and the most distinctively fundamental industry in human society. It is by no means the easiest. It knows scarcely any limitation in the hours of toil, and its most strenuous and imperative duties come at a time of the year when city dwellers seek the cool shades of the holiday season. But it has some strong compensations. There is the consciousness of being in an occupation absolutely essential to the existence of humanity, and one that involves dwelling near to Nature’s heart, unafraid of privation and want. Rural life has opportunities and spaces for meditation, which is in danger of becoming a lost art in some other spheres. Farms are feeders of cities in more ways than one. They give leaders to the public life and learned professions of the nation, and but for the fresh blood that farms pour into cities every year, these centres would die of pernicious anemia. Those of us who were born on farms and recall our boyhood days can understand how, in the nerve-wracking anxieties elsewhere, men can enter into Whittier’s fine picture of the country lad who knows nothing about insomnia and indigestion:
“Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy with cheek of tan,
With thy turned up pantaloons
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lips, redder still,
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy—
I was once a barefoot boy.”
As suggested above, some of us have seen much development since the railway came. I recall the small fields of grain in the original colony along the Red River and the somewhat larger ones that began to open out on the prairie. When reaping was done with the sickle and cradle, and threshing with the flail and the two horse treadmill, the acreage under cultivation could not be large. And though, in my time, our people began to bring in reapers from St. Paul by cart-train, even to that wonder which we called the “self-raker,” there was little inducement to grow much, because there was only a small local market and no way of exporting. Things were in that condition when the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin, and Lady Dufferin, visited Manitoba and drove the first spikes in the Pembina Branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway on September 29th, 1877. That branch was on the east of the Red River and some years went by before the steel crossed at Winnipeg and reached the prairies. But even in 1877 there was more grain being grown than could be marketed at home. And the eloquent Dufferin referred to the situation in his own sympathetic way when he said, near the conclusion of his famous address in Winnipeg, “You have been blessed with an abundant harvest, and soon, I trust, will a railway come to carry to those who need it, the surplus of your produce, now, as my own eyes have witnessed, imprisoned in your storehouses for want of the means of transport. May the expanding finances of the country soon place the Government in a position to gratify your just and natural expectations.”
Meanwhile, as they waited for the longed-for and greatly needed railway to come, some of the early settlers were experimenting in growing grain that would be adapted to the soil and the climate. There were some who thought that wheat could not be grown to perfection very far west and north of the Red River. But there were others who felt differently.
I recall that excellent man, eloquent of speech and graceful in manner, J. W. Taylor, the United States Consul at Winnipeg, often called “Saskatchewan” Taylor, by reason of his personal knowledge of our North-West country. Despite the fact that some of his countrymen to the south might not like it, Consul Taylor persisted in saying that north of the international boundary was “the very home of the wheat plant.” And had he lived to see it, his kindly heart would have rejoiced when wheat grown at Fort Vermillion on the Peace River, a thousand miles north-west of Winnipeg, took the first prize at a World’s Fair in his own country.
In any case the good consul did much to bring about this present day by helping the settlers to select suitable grain. Many a time, for instance, did he bring, in envelopes, to my father on the old Red River homestead, samples of wheat he had received from different parts of the States. And he and my father, who were great friends, would plant these in garden plots and wait through the summer to see which would come to perfection during the season before the frost arrived. Some of this same wheat was given to others till the original contents of the selected envelope produced a harvest in many fields.
Later on came benefactors like the painstaking Professor Saunders and Seager Whealler, and others who, through careful seed selection, transformed the face of the country by making it possible for harvests to ripen where nothing of that type ripened before. Thus it became possible in the year 1915, when our Empire was at war, for the great prairies to pour out their millions in wheat and flour to help in the battle for freedom. The soldiers in uniform at the front were supported by the soldiers in overalls at home, or the War could not have been won. And of these at home the soldiers of the soil deserve to be mentioned in despatches for their strenuous work in the greatest feeding industry of the world.
And now, beside the stations along the pioneer Canadian Pacific and its endless gridiron of branch lines on the prairie, we have been seeing in these recent autumn months of 1923 the teams with the drivers, waiting their turn at a thousand elevators. The river of wheat on the main line is being swollen into floodtide from the tributary branches. Back of the railway and headed towards it, we have seen apparently interminable lines of wagons laden with grain. Like a long procession of industrious ants we have seen these wagons coming along the level plain, then up and down the ridges, to empty their loads at the capacious elevators. Thence the grain is poured into the cars which stand by on the steel trails behind panting locomotives—iron horses that chafe and tug with impatience to get way. And they must get away as quickly as possible, for other trains are ready to use the sidings to relieve the pressure caused by the wagons pouring their load into the elevators. A great army of men are at work and thousands of horses. But it is a beneficent, constructive army of men, with their lumbering artillery of horses and wagons engaged in the gigantic task of sending food supplies to the great centres of population all over the world. The elevators are the peaceful headquarters of a great staff employed to transfer foodstuffs from these prairie commissary stores to the railway trains which carry them in rushing torrents of speed to the great lakes, the canals and the open sea. It is in great and wonderfully significant contrast to the scenes from which we take this illustration, when militarism made its way unchecked, and, on a hundred battle-fields, we saw wounded men and tortured horses and derailed trains in the havoc of war—“rider and horse, friend, foe, in one red burial blent.” Canadians have proven their mettle, as a peace-loving people will always do when aroused to resist wrong, but ours is not a militaristic nation. And we should take a noble pride in seeing in these peaceful, industrious hosts on Canadian plains some fulfilment of the promised time, when “men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks and study war no more.”
The scenes in the time of the grain marketing movement to the railway and the elevators suggest massed formation for peaceful ends. But back of this massed formation is the individual home on whose character and success the future of the country depends. Tales, more or less mythical, perhaps, but with some foundation, are told of city-dwelling lads who thought of milk and bread as the product of the milk-wagon and the baker’s cart. But it is probably quite true that there is not enough thought given to the household on the plain where the origin of food products is better understood through the toil of the day. The homesteader on these great wheat areas had no easy task. The breaking of the land, the struggle to make ends meet till the farm became productive, the endurance of summer heat and winter cold, were all part of the daily round and the common task, and no human pen will ever fully portray the heroism of the pioneer women who bore their share of every burden and kept their homes in order without many of the comforts and facilities that are available to city dwellers. Then there came later on the care of stock, the sowing, reaping, threshing and marketing—in all of which there is need for tremendous persistence—these are elements in the industry of the farm; and one is sometimes appalled to think of what would happen if those employed in that industry should go on strike!
A recent and interesting development has taken place in the flowing of the river of wheat for export. It is a far cry from the days when special seed was brought by Consul Taylor in envelopes and sown in garden plots on the Red River to these days when the plains are dotted with vast farms all the way from the scene of those garden plots to the Rocky Mountains and from the international boundary-line to the Sub-Arctic. Now it is becoming evident that other outlets must be found for the floodtide of wheat in addition to the old course eastward to Fort William and beyond. It looks as if there will be somewhere on the prairies, ere long, a new watershed, a sort of “Great-Divide” such as we see in nature along the Canadian Pacific in the Mountains, where the rivers begin to flow both east and west to different outlets on the way to the lakes and the sea. After this manner also the rivers of wheat will run to either ocean.
A few days ago I was talking with that genial and experienced railway man (now retired) Mr. E. A. James, in Vancouver. Mr. James when a lad was the private telegraph operator for that master railroad builder, Van Horne, and went with him on a trip to the West Coast when the end of steel was not to its present terminus. Mr. James relates that one day Mr. Van Horne, Mr. L. A. Hamilton, and himself, were standing on rocks and stumps where Hastings and Granville Streets now intersect at the Post Office, in the business heart of Vancouver. Mr. Van Horne took out a piece of paper and sketched the location. Mr. James, a mere boy, had nothing wherewith to purchase any rocks and stumps and ventured a rather sceptical opinion as to the future of a city in such a locality. Mr. Van Horne said, “My boy, there will be a very great city here. To this place will come steel tracks carrying endless trains of passengers and freight. And from this place, an all-the-year-round port, will sail fleets of vessels engaged in trade all over the world.”
Now, since the Panama Canal has been opened, it is evident that trains of wheat will come to the Pacific in ever-growing number from some economic watershed on the plains. Outlets, both East and West, will be increasingly necessary to carry the produce of the vast prairie section to the food markets of the world. For many years Fort William and Montreal have struggled to handle the immense burden of this growing wheat traffic. Now the Pacific route has come to relieve the abnormal pressure on Eastern ports and lead to further developments in agriculture on the prairies. And from Vancouver and other points on the West Coast this wheat will go by vessels of all kinds to the ends of the earth—to the over-crowded centres of Europe and Asia and Africa, as well as to the islands of the sea. Thus shall the forecast made that day on the site of Vancouver City by Mr. Van Horne, the builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, be justified, even though that forecast was made at the rough-looking outpost of
“A great new land,
Half-wakened by the wonder
And the prophetic thunder
Of triumphs yet untold.”
An alien traveller in this country, looking for an expression in which to indicate the extent and character of the Canadian Pacific Railway, finally settled on “The Dominion of Canada on wheels” as sufficiently descriptive. This, of course, is overdoing it very considerably, but one who passes through the length and breadth of the country and finds this great organization ministering to his comfort and convenience at all points on land and water, can be excused for his exaggeration. So popular and universally known are the letters “C. P. R.” that there has been a general popular tendency to use them without authority for commercial advantage. Behind the letters there has come to be a guarantee of value and efficiency which trades of various kinds have been quick to see. The Company had to put a stop to this monographic proclivity on the part of the public, lest the practice of some should lower their reputation for efficiency. But Colonel George Ham tells us of an attempt to stop the unauthorized use of the letters on a barber-shop on the prairie, which ended in a truce. An Irishman who ran what he called “The C. P. R. Barber Shop” received a note to desist from the use of the famous letters. He replied, “I don’t want no lawsoot with your big company. The letters on my shop don’t stand for your ralerode, but for something better. I left a mother in Ireland. She is dead and gawn, but her memories are dear to me. Her name was Christena Pearson Riordon, and what I want to no is what you are going to do about it.” To prosecute that man under the circumstances would be a sort of sacrilege, and so the Company let it go, secretly doubting the witty story, but rather pleased that the repute of the Company made it worth while to use the letters and write the legend about their origin.
Of course so far-flung a system as the Canadian Pacific must have many places where the traveller shall find rest and refreshment with a stop-over on the way. And so, amongst a few special features to be noted in this closing chapter, are the palatial hotels in the big centres of population, the chalets and bungalow camps in the mountains and by the streams and lakes all across Canada.
The names of some of these big hotels, which are not only stopping places for the traveller, but social centres and community service club meeting places in most localities, have an element of romance about them. Several indicate the devoted loyalty of the Company to the sovereigns of Britain, such as the Hotel Empress, of Victoria, the Royal Alexandra of Winnipeg, in honour of the Queen, and the Queen-Mother, two of the greatly beloved women of the Empire. The Hotel Vancouver, in the city of that name, commemorates Captain George Vancouver, the illustrious British sea-rover who sailed his wooden vessel into the harbour one hundred and thirty-two years ago. In Calgary the Hotel Palliser recalls the famous explorer of that name, who was sent years ago to explore the mountains and report on the possibilities of a railroad being built through to the Coast. He reported that a railway could not be built across the continent on British soil. Years afterward the Canadian Pacific proved that Palliser’s conclusion was incorrect. Nevertheless the big Company recognized the greatness of the man, and named the hotel under the shadow of the mountains after him. In those mountains a chain of hotels and chalets and camps, at Banff, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Glacier and Sicamous, supply accommodation amid the cathedral mountain peaks where the scenery is conceded to surpass anything of that type in the world. At the Atlantic gateway, in the ancient fortress city of Quebec, stands the Chateau Frontenac, on the site of the chateau of a Governor or Intendant in the old French regime. The architecture of this hotel is of the seventeenth century, and so magnificent are its proportions that as high as fourteen hundred guests have sheltered under its roof at one time during the tourist season. Up in Montreal the Place Viger Hotel stands at the heart of the historic site of the ancient Montreal, a city that was old when our Western cities had not been born. The Hotel Algonquin, down at St. Andrews-by-the-sea, in New Brunswick, swings an Indian name into the orbit of the fashionable tourist traffic of Canada and the United States. Bungalow camps all through the mountains furnish for the tourist, resting places at points so amazingly splendid from a scenic standpoint that they summon annually hosts of tourists who wish to get “near to nature’s heart,” and “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.” Thus has the pioneer Canadian transcontinental, built by toilers who slept under the open sky or in the tent by the right of way, erected palatial and romantic resting-places for travellers who desire relief from the rush of modern business, or recreation, in the true sense, after social dissipation of energy in the crowded haunts of fashion. There was a time long ago when only the wealthy and the “leisured” classes could travel and enjoy the quiet by the sea or the majestic scenery of the mountains. But now, by availing themselves of special rates in excursions, touring parties and such like, great crowds of those who best appreciate the opportunity are found on trains making their way to these tonic resorts.
In this chapter on some special features on the Canadian Pacific, we are claiming the liberty of swinging from one subject to another as they come our way. And so we get back to the land and the foundational occupation of tilling the soil. It has always been the policy of the Company to encourage this fundamental industry and to help build up the agricultural side of life on the great Western plains. This, of course, in turn builds up the traffic without which railroads cannot operate anywhere. To this end, apart from the ordinary means of securing settlement and cultivation of land, Mr. Van Horne years ago started a large farm at East Selkirk on the Red River, and the Company, in more recent years, established the famous farm at Strathmore in the irrigated region of Southern Alberta. With means for experiment at their call beyond the reach of the ordinary farmer, the Company has set a higher standard both in grain cultivation and stock, especially the latter. Through sending their stock to exhibitions and in other ways the Company sought to show to farmers the wisdom of eliminating “scrubs” of all kinds, which cost as much to maintain, but produced less in every particular. The other day I saw some beautiful photographs of stock now at the Strathmore farm. They all held fine records and, standing in the pasture beside the irrigation lake, were a joy to behold.
This reference to irrigation leads us to a paragraph or so on the remarkable work done by the Canadian Pacific in order to make the dry spaces of Southern Alberta blossom like the rose. In years when rain is plenteous the need of irrigation is not so apparent, but on the average there are some areas of that southern portion decidedly dry, although fertile if watered. In days far gone by, these areas were the habitat of the buffalo, and in later years ranchers held thousands of acres under rental from the Government for great herds of cattle and droves of horses. From buffalo to the tame species seemed a reasonable transition, and, barring accidents or untimely weather in winter or summer, the ranchers did business of great value to the country, and in most cases, with reasonable management, made money. Then the Government decided that these great spaces should be thrown open for homesteading, and the wide-reaching range has given place to numerous farms over the same area. This was well enough in wet years, but when the dry years came crop failure stared the homesteader in the face. This led Colonel J. S. Dennis, civil engineer and surveyor, who (like his father of the same name and vocation) has been from early times intimately connected with Western Canada in peace and war, to study the whole situation. There had been some limited areas around Lethbridge irrigated by the old Galt Company, and Colonel Dennis advised the Canadian Pacific to go into the business on a large scale. It took a bold man to give that advice and a determined man to carry it through, at a cost to the Company up to date of the huge sum of sixty millions of dollars. Dennis knew that the Bow River, fed by the eternal glaciers of the Rockies, was an inexhaustible source of water supply if it could be properly harnessed for the task of giving sufficient moisture to the dry spaces of the plain. And this was what Colonel Dennis and his assistants proceeded to bring about by turning the waters of the Bow River in directions where it would do most good in making the wilderness rejoice. For centuries in the ancient mythology of Greece and Rome the fable of Hercules, who cleansed the stables of Augeas, the cattle-king, by turning a river through them, was one of the wondrous tales of the world. That was fable and fiction, but the irrigation plan inaugurated by Dennis in Southern Alberta is fact and reality. It is the biggest irrigation movement on the continent, and for pure romantic interest dwarfs the ancient tale of Hercules into insignificance.
The perfection of the engineering arrangements ensure the settler against interruption of the water service and so against worry in regard to his crops. He is sure of the sunshine and in the irrigation area he is sure of the moisture. The Western section of this area has its centre at Calgary, where, through concrete headgates, the water is admitted from the Bow River as desired. A dam is also provided for very dry seasons and at any time water can be sent seventeen miles into an immense reservoir three miles long and two wide. Out of this reservoir are three secondary canals having a total length of 254 miles. These canals supply water to 1,329 miles of distributing ditches, and when the Company brings the water to the highest point on the boundary of a man’s farm, he can then have it run through his ground as he desires.
To irrigate the Eastern section was a greater problem, but near the town of Bassano the immense dam was built which raised the water of the Bow forty feet above its usual level. This Bassano dam is a costly structure with sluice gates operated by electricity. Then there are canals and reservoirs, including the famous artificial Lake Newell, about twenty-five square miles in extent and containing water enough to cover 185,000 acres of land one foot deep. There is in this same locality, near the town of Brooks, the great concrete aqueduct over a depression of the prairie. This huge water carrier is two miles long and, at places, fifty feet above the ground. It is a unique and startlingly modern sight from the train on the great plains where once the lordly buffalo roamed in vast herds with earth-shaking tread.
The results of all this enormous irrigation system are being slowly worked out, and settlers who are intelligently availing themselves of it are finding immensely increased production, especially in grain and root crops, as well as particularly large yields in alfalfa and timothy hay. The irrigated farm affords endless opportunity for cultivating all that goes to make up a prosperous and variegated homestead. It will yet grow to be a new and large factor in Western Canada. It has cost the railway Company much, but will yield its returns to the honour and credit of the men who made waters flow through vast dry areas and proved the truth of the parabolic saying of the Scripture vision, “everything shall live where the river cometh.”
It is rather a far cry from the irrigated areas of Southern Alberta to the more or less aristocratic residential hill at Vancouver city. But both at least are alike in this, namely, that they exemplify special ways of dealing with land. In the one case the land is a great prairie section which we measure by miles, in the other it is a city section which we measure by feet. The residential hill at Vancouver is appropriately called Shaughnessy Heights after Lord Shaughnessy. Properly speaking, Shaughnessy Heights is in the Municipality of Point Grey, where the Canadian Pacific is the heaviest taxpayer. But the residents on the Heights are leading business and professional men of the city, and hence it is popularly, though not correctly, thought to be part of it. The treasurer of Vancouver, with an eye on tax receipts, would not object to its being in the city!
Shaughnessy Heights at one time was intended by the Company to be a separate municipality. But the way was not open, and the next best thing was to make the area a sort of last word in town planning, and so secure a good sale for the lots therein. The district is largely the result of the foresight of Mr. Richard Marpole, who, as executive agent for the Company, felt that unless something was done to clear the land and make the district attractive for residences, the residential area would settle in another direction and the “hill” would be left high and dry on the Company’s hands. Mr. Marpole’s project for clearing and planning a new residential section was not received with enthusiasm by the Board, on account of the large expenditure involved. But he persisted and finally got his way, to have the land cleared by a new process and a town-planning movement inaugurated under the guidance of a specialist from Europe. At present Shaughnessy Heights has an area of about a thousand acres, though not all cleared, and the expenditure by the Company in developing a residential district there has involved the neat sum of two million dollars.
The district was laid out not in rectangular blocks, but by roadways following the contour of the ground, thus providing an easier grade and giving to the maximum number of residents the best view possible of the mountains and the sea. Both the type and the cost of residences and the location as well as the architecture of all buildings, are subject to the Company’s approval. If any intending residents feel restive under these requirements, their feelings are mollified by the knowledge that the Company not only aims at the best results for all who are intending to build, but, in addition, makes liberal terms for the land and loans money to build the houses. The aim of the Company is to prevent uniformity and sameness in style of residences, and, as to street lines, avoid the straightness which means monotony. By Provincial statute the whole district is to be held till 1935 for residential purposes only, except that provision is made for churches, schools, government buildings and recreation grounds. Some seven hundred houses are already erected on Shaughnessy Heights, and the locality is one of Vancouver’s leading attractions to tourists owing to the fine class of buildings, the wonderful flower gardens, and the rather labyrinthine character of the streets. It is a beauty spot above the general level of the city, and a desirable place of residence for those who can afford it. It is presumed that those who cannot afford it will not try the impossible. Mr. Newton Ker, assistant executive agent for the Company at Vancouver, and formerly city engineer in Ottawa, is in charge of the Heights and the further development that will be necessary as the city grows. He has the combined qualities of an expert and an enthusiast in the work.
And now we swing back to take another look at the ever-fascinating and impressive track through the mountains, where we saw the last spike driven at Craigellachie in 1885. It will be remembered that Mr. Van Horne, during all those difficult months when it looked as if the Company, owing to the unexpected and terrific cost of construction, was facing financial disaster, refused to stop or even lessen the work. When times were darkest he put on more men and made a bigger effort to get ahead. As long as Stephen and his associates could raise any money and Shaughnessy handle it to the best advantage, Van Horne turned a deaf ear to all admonitions to slow up in construction operations. He said that to do so would only bring creditors around them like a nest of hornets, and that the road completed from ocean to ocean, or in steady course of completion, would not only make appeal to financial men as something worth investing in, but would soon do a carrying trade which would meet the Company’s obligations. So he drove ahead and rested not till the last spike was driven, as related.
But no one knew better than the big railroader that there remained much to be done. He had seen to it that the work was well done and the track secure and safe for travel. The result of the swift completion was early operation of the road, and justified Van Horne’s view by bringing in revenue at once to meet obligations, and by putting the new railway definitely on the map of the world as a worth while business enterprise.
But the speed in construction made much temporary work necessary. Wooden trestles were not permanent structures, and neither were wooden snowsheds. Grades would require to be reduced in places to meet the demands of growing traffic, and curvatures would have to be modified. Hence engineers and contractors of the highest class have been throughout the years engaged here and there in bringing the whole line to greater perfection, with the result that the Canadian Pacific is wonderfully free from danger or delay. The ordinary passenger through the mountains is conscious that he is travelling amidst splendid scenery on a solid road-bed, but only the practical builder and roadmaster can estimate with what constant skill and care the road has been built up and kept to such a high standard of excellence. But even the ordinary passenger can appreciate things so plainly evident as tunnels, and on the Canadian Pacific through the mountains he will find the most interesting system of spiral tunnels in existence, and he will also enjoy the novelty of speeding in comfort through the longest tunnel on the continent. A word on these famous tunnels may fittingly find a place in this chapter on special features.
Previous to 1908 the grades between Hector and Field, in the mountains, were difficult. For some three miles a grade prevailed which was ten times the maximum grade permitted on heavy prairie work. This involved much difficulty in operating, as it necessitated the use of extra locomotives to pull the train up the grade and prevent it going too fast on the way down. In fact these grades involved the use of spring switches along that portion of the line for safety. Unless the engine-driver of a descending train signalled to the switchman that his train was under control, the setting of a safety-switch would divert the train to a catch siding and so bring it to a stop. This system was operated for twenty-four years without a single accident to a passenger train. To say that is to magnify the trustworthiness of the men who operated on the “Big Hill,” and who evidently lived up to the admonition of the time cards on this division, which read “Obey the rules; be watchful; run no risks.”
But the increase of traffic as the years passed necessitated the construction of the famous spiral tunnels through or under Cathedral Mountain and Mount Ogden and the building of special bridges over the river. Leaving technical points and figures aside, it may be sufficient to say that trains entering these mountains climb or descend in a spiral way with less than half the former engine power and with the utmost degree of safety. In my observation it has been a constant delight to passengers to watch how the train loops inside these mountains and comes out at a different level from that which it entered. It is all so novel and free from danger that travellers, enjoying the sensation, are loud in their praise of the engineers and workmen who thought out and constructed these remarkable spirals through the eternal hills, even though it cost the Company over a million to make this change for the pleasure and safety of their guests over the road.
Still more notable as an engineering feat is the great Connaught Tunnel, five miles long, between Glacier and Stony Creek. It is called after a well-beloved Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, of immortal memory. This tunnel was built to avoid the climb over the top of the famous old Rogers Pass, through a gorge subject in winter and spring to snow-slides, against which the railway was protected by four miles and a half of heavily built snowsheds. These snowsheds were built of wood, and wood is not an everlasting material. Occasionally sections of this long shed would be carried away and all of it would show wear in the process of time. Taking this along with the heavy grade, the Company concluded to tunnel through MacDonald Mountain and solve all the problems at the same time. The construction of this double-track tunnel, the longest on this continent, as noted above, was begun in August, 1913. It took over two years “to make a hole through the mountain,” but another year saw the tunnel open for regular traffic. In addition to eliminating the snowsheds, which are not an infallible protection, the tunnel shortens the distance across the Selkirk range by over four miles, lowers the summit attained by the railway by 552 feet, and reduces track curvatures by an amount corresponding to seven complete circles. Perfect ventilation is attained by powerful fans and I have passed through the Connaught Tunnel again and again with windows open and experienced no inconvenience whatever.
The work was done by contract by a noted builder of big things—railways, canals, wharves, etc.—Mr. J. W. Stewart. Perhaps he is better known to thousands as General “Jack” Stewart, who left his business in Canada and served during the Great War as the builder in France and Flanders of the light railways up to the battle front, which had much to do with the victory of the allies. Stewart had a strenuous time building the Connaught tunnel, Mr. George Bury, then Western Vice-President of the Company, giving active co-operation and being often on the ground.
To recapitulate in some measure the significant things about this tunnel, in which the world’s records for such work were several times exceeded, one can say generally that the building of it is another evidence that the Canadian Pacific Railway will not consider cost in its efforts to eliminate grades, snow troubles or anything else which stands in the way of the efficiency and safe operation of the road. Though the tunnel was opened for traffic about seven years ago, the Company has kept on making such improvements as preclude all danger from loosened rock or such like. With that in view a large number of expert workmen have been kept in the tunnel in regular shifts, and these men are now completing the fine work of lining the whole tunnel, roof, sides and all, with concrete, in such a way that nothing more can be thought of to make the great “bore” through the MacDonald Mountain safe, secure and scientifically sound. The original contract cost has thus been steadily increased for some years, though the tunnel was safe for traffic when it was opened, until it is probably within the limit to say that this great engineering feat has cost the Company close to ten millions. Just what some of the early critics of the cost of the Canadian Pacific, who thought a bonus from the Government of twenty-five millions in addition to a grant of land was excessive, would think of a case like this, must be left to some one with vivid imagination to say. In this single instance we find the Company, after expending an immense sum on crossing through the Rogers Pass in early construction days, building then nearly five miles of expensive snowsheds and having everything in running order, abandoning the whole thing, and at a cost of nearly ten millions more, going on to make their line more useful and more safe. No doubt the early engineers in the 80’s saw that some such tunnel might be possible, but the railway was then battling for life and could not spend nearly half its total cash bonus on a space of five miles in a road that would measure three thousand miles or so across Canada.
There are other special features that might be noticed in connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway, which has now a mileage of twenty thousand miles of road and its house-flag on all the seas. With its one hundred and twenty thousand employees, and a payroll expenditure of nearly one hundred millions a year, it is a large factor in our modern civilization. It has numberless auxiliary organizations, and has the good habit of backing up industries that tend to build up the country. We do not claim that its motives are entirely disinterested in thus assisting other industries and undertakings, but its readiness to do so indicates the truth of Lord Shaughnessy’s statement that what helps to make Canada helps the Canadian Pacific, and vice versa. Present conditions in this vast organization can be studied by actual observation, and therefore do not come within the scope of this work, which was begun mainly to keep alive the facts that should not be left unrecorded in the history of Canada.
And now, therefore, the agreeable task of preserving, in some humble and imperfect way, the record of a great Canadian achievement is coming to an end. It was not our intention to write in any detail of the present-day operations of the world’s greatest transportation system as a prosperous going concern. The Canadian Pacific Railway is an outstanding factor in the life of the modern world. And one is sorry for any one in the employ of this company who does not realize the importance of having a share, however microscopic to one’s self, in the affairs of an enterprise which belts the earth as a contributing element in the onward march of the human family. There is still romance and fascination in the countless activities of an organization with whose continued prosperity is wrapped up the welfare of numberless homes and uncounted legions of human beings. The contemplation of the future of this world-encircling enterprise introduces us to a realm of mystic adventure whose limits are undefined, because beyond the power of finite intelligence to estimate. So we shall not essay what was beyond our purpose from the beginning of this present writing. The purpose we had in view was to prevent the older generation from a calamitous forgetfulness of the things heroic and impressive they have witnessed in connection with the building and operation of the pioneer steel trail across Canada. And, even more specially, was it our purpose to transmit to the coming generation some pen portraits of giant men whom they are not to know in real life. One regrets the impossibility of placing on these pages a full roll of honour on which is emblazoned not only all those more or less conspicuously connected with the enterprise, but the names of the unknown warriors who, in a great host, moved gallantly forward in as brave a fight against obstacles as the world of industry has ever known. Thousands of these men were under the stress and strain of intense endeavour, or engaged in work where their lives were constantly in danger. They not only went forward undismayed, but solemnly handed on to others the task they could not themselves finish. Like Sir Walter Scott’s wounded knight who, when carried dying from the field, still heard the roar of the conflict and cheered his comrades on to victory, these brave men did their part and encouraged others to persevere. The task they accomplished in the making of Canada into a great Confederacy of Provinces, linked indissolubly together as a noble Dominion, must not be allowed to pass into oblivion. The coming generation must not miss the tonic power that comes from a knowledge of great achievement in a nation’s life. In ancient Egypt it was when men arose who knew not what Joseph had done to give a new and great trend to their history, that the land of the Pharaohs began a journey towards decadence. Our hope is that this book and similar records of life in Canada will help to put iron into the blood of the coming generations, in order that this new land by their consecrated labours may shine with ever-growing lustre in the firmament of human life and history.
THIS BOOK IS A
Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.
Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.