The driving of the last spike may have been the great symbolic act of Canada’s first century, but it was actually a gloomy spectacle. The cash-starved Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) couldn’t afford a splashy celebration, and so only a handful of dignitaries and company men convened on the dull, grey morning of 7 November 1885 to celebrate the completion of the transcontinental railway.
Canadian National Railway Company, incorporated 6 June 1919, is the longest railway system in North America, controlling more than 31,000 km of track in Canada and the United States. It is the only transcontinental rail network in North America, connecting to three coasts: Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. Known as Canadian National (CN), the former Crown corporation expanded its holdings to include marine operations, hotels, telecommunications and resource industries. However, the core of CN was still its railway system, which had its origins in the amalgamation of five financially troubled railways during the years 1917–23: the Grand Trunk and its subsidiary, the Grand Trunk Pacific; the Intercolonial; the Canadian Northern; and the National Transcontinental. In 1995, CN was sold to private investors. CN is primarily a rail freight company and transports approximately $250 billion worth of goods annually. In 2016, it earned over $12 billion in revenue and employed over 22,000 people in Canada and the US.
The Intercolonial Railway was a rail line that operated from 1872 to 1918, connecting Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec and Ontario. The line was Canada’s first national infrastructure project. Plans for its construction date to the 1830s, but the project only gained momentum during the Confederation conferences of 1864 in Charlottetown and Québec City, where construction of the Intercolonial Railway was negotiated for the Maritime colonies’ entry to British North American union. Construction began shortly after Canada became a country in 1867, with most lines completed by the mid-1870s.
As the schooners arrived home from the Grand Banks in 1920, word spread among the fishermen that the Americas Cup race off Sandy Hook, NY, had been postponed because of a mere "breeze." The fishermen had contempt for those effete "yachts," which huddled by the docks when the seas ran high.
On 15 July 1940, an unusual vessel docked at the Port of Québec, and a crowd gathered to greet the new arrival. The small craft used for patrolling and transportation on the St. Lawrence River at Québec City, the Jeffy Jan II — rechristened HMC Harbour Craft 54 by the young Canadian Navy during the war — was sent to surveil the ship and its sensitive cargo and passengers. The vessel in question was the prison ship MS Sobieski.
More remarkable was the use of an ice bridge across the St Lawrence River in the winters of 1880-81 and 1881-82, from Hochelaga to Longueuil [Montréal], to carry a standard-gauge railway; from January to March in each of those winters a small train, weighing 60 tons, safely used this unique bridge.
The Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice-covered water. The toll bridge spans a 12.9 km stretch of the Northumberland Strait connecting Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, to Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick. Although the bridge would provide a faster and more reliable link to the mainland, the decision to proceed sparked heated debate on the Island. The $840-million bridge opened on 31 May 1997.