The Canadian Pacific Railway company was incorporated in 1881. Its original purpose was the construction of a transcontinental railway, a promise to British Columbia upon its entry into Confederation. The railway — completed in 1885 — connected Eastern Canada to BC and played an important role in the development of the nation. Built in dangerous conditions by thousands of labourers (including 15,000 Chinese temporary workers), the railway facilitated communications and transportation across the country. Over its long history, CPR diversified, establishing hotels, shipping lines and airlines, and developed mining and telecommunications industries. In 2001, Canadian Pacific separated into five separate and independent companies, with Canadian Pacific Railway returning to its origins as a railway company. CP, as it is branded today, has over 22,500 km of track across Canada and the United States. It is a public company and trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CP. In 2016, CP had $6.2 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion in profit and held assets valued at $19.2 billion.6
The Toronto subway is part of a larger public transportation network, including streetcars, buses and light rapid transit, run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It opened on 30 March 1954, making it Canada’s first subway. Since then, it has grown from a single, 12-station line running 7.4 km beneath Yonge Street to a four-line system encompassing 75 stations over 76.9 km. In 2016, more than 221 million people rode the Toronto subway.
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 development of steam-powered railways in the 19th century revolutionized transportation in Canada and was integral to the very act of nation building. Railways played an integral role in the process of industrialization, opening up new markets and tying regions together, while at the same time creating a demand for resources and technology.
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.
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.
One of the 2 earliest railway charters granted in Canada, the Cobourg Rail Road Co was incorporated in 1834 to build a railway from Cobourg northward to Peterborough across Rice Lake. The project was shelved until 1846, when it was revived as the Cobourg and Rice Lake Plank Road and Ferry Co. Samuel Gore built his plank road the 17 km to the lake, but it barely survived the first 2 winters.
The London and Gore Railroad Co, incorporated 6 May 1834, changed its name to the Great Western Rail Road Co in 1845 and to the Great Western Railway in 1853. Promoted by lawyer-politician Allan Napier MACNAB and more significantly by Hamilton merchants Isaac and Peter Buchanan, R.W.
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In 1981 VIA cancelled or reduced numerous routes in an attempt to make passenger service more efficient. Services in parts of the country were seriously affected and the Liberal government was widely criticized. A nonconfidence vote over the issue in October 1981 was won by the government.