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Alexandria

Alexandria, ON, population centre, population 2,845 (2016 census), 2,924 (2011 census). Incorporated as a town in 1903, Alexandria lost this status in 1998 as the result of municipal restructuring in Ontario. It is now part of the new township of North Glengarry (population 10,109). Alexandria is located midway on the Canadian National Railway line between Montreal and Ottawa.

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Railway History in Canada

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 construction of transcontinental railways such as the Canadian Pacific Railway opened up settlement in the West, and played an important role in the expansion of Confederation. However, railways had a divisive effect as well, as the public alternately praised and criticized the involvement of governments in railway construction and the extent of government subsidies to railway companies.

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Hunter Harrison

Ewing Hunter Harrison III, president and CEO of Canadian National Railway Company 2003–09, CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited 2012–17 (born 7 November 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee; died 16 December 2017 in Wellington, Florida). Best known as the leading proponent of Precision Scheduled Railroading, Hunter Harrison ran four publicly traded, Class 1 railroads during his more than half century in the industry. His leadership of Canada’s two largest railway companies greatly improved the efficiency and profitability of both businesses.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

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CPR Crew Dies in BC Train Derailment

Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer were killed when their 112-car freight train derailed at around 1:00 a.m. east of Field, BC, falling about 60 m into the Kicking Horse River. The train was reportedly travelling at more than twice the speed limit. It’s believed that cold weather or a mechanical failure may have been a factor. The accident followed a 16-car derailment in the same area on 3 January 2019 (see also: Railway Disasters; Railway Safety).

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Canadian Pacific Railway

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.

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Bill Miner

Ezra Allen (Bill) Miner, outlaw (born circa 1847 in Bowling Green, KY; died 2 September 1913 in Covington, GA). Bill Miner was reputed to be the first train robber in Canada, although bandits had robbed a train of the Great Western Railway in Ontario on 13 November 1874, 30 years before Miner arrived in Canada. Miner was the first to rob the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and thus became an outlaw hero in Canadian folklore. Miner was known as “The Grey Fox” and the “Gentleman Bandit” because of his polite manners during holdups. Miner was also credited with being the outlaw who coined the phrase “Hands up!”

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Abbotsford

Abbotsford, British Columbia, incorporated as a city in 1995, population 141,397 (2016 census), 133,497 (2011 census). The amalgamation of the district municipalities of Matsqui and Abbotsford formed the city of Abbotsford. Abbotsford is located on the south bank of the Fraser River, 76 km east of Vancouver. The city is named after Harry Braithwaite Abbott, the general superintendent for the British Columbia division of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Abbotsford is BC's fifth most populous municipality.

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The Last Spike

The Last Spike was the final and ceremonial railway spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track by company director Donald Smith on the morning of 7 November 1885. The ceremony marked the completion of the transcontinental CPR and was a muted affair at which a group of company officials and labourers gathered at Craigellachie near Eagle Pass in the interior of British Columbia. One of about 30 million iron spikes used in the construction of the line, the Last Spike came to symbolize more than the completion of a railway. Contemporaries and historians have viewed the Last Spike — as well as the iconic photographs of the event — as a moment when national unity was realized.

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Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. In the 2016 census, 1.8 million people reported being of Chinese origin. Despite their importance to the Canadian economy, including the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), many European Canadians were historically hostile to Chinese immigration. A prohibitive head tax restricted Chinese immigration to Canada from 1885 to 1923. From 1923 to 1947, the Chinese were excluded altogether from immigrating to Canada.

Since 1900, Chinese Canadians have settled primarily in urban areas, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto. They have contributed to every aspect of Canadian society, from literature to sports, politics to civil rights, film to music, business to philanthropy, and education to religion.

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Sir John Abbott

John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, PC, QC, KCMG, lawyer, professor, businessman, politician and prime minister (born 12 March 1821 in St. Andrews East, Lower Canada [now Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, QC]; died 30 October 1893 in Montreal). Abbott was a leading authority on commercial law, a strong advocate of English Quebec’s business elite and an influential figure in many corporate and social organizations. He was the first Canadian-born prime minister, as well as the first to hold the position from the Senate rather than the House of Commons. He served as prime minister from 16 June 1891 to 24 November 1892.

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Ice Hockey in Canada

Hockey is Canada's official national winter sport and perhaps its greatest contribution to world sport. Canada is considered the birthplace of ice hockey, and Canadians generally regard the sport as their own.

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British Columbia and Confederation

The colony of British Columbia was founded in 1858 in response to the Fraser River Gold Rush. (See also The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia.) The colony established representative government in 1864 and merged with the colony of Vancouver Island in 1866. In May 1868, Amor De Cosmos formed the Confederation League to bring responsible government to BC and to join Confederation. In September 1868, the Confederation League passed 37 resolutions outlining the terms for a union with the Dominion of Canada. The terms were passed by both the BC assembly and the federal Parliament in 1871. The colony joined Canada as the country’s sixth province on 20 July 1871. The threat of American annexation, embodied by the Alaska purchase of 1867, and the promise of a railway linking BC to the rest of Canada, were decisive factors.