Privately owned railway company that operates one of the two transcontinental systems in Canada. The Canadian Pacific (CP) pioneered rail travel in Canada and played a major role in the unification of the country. By building a line that linked the eastern seaboard to the western province of British Columbia in the 1870s–80s, it fulfilled a vital condition for the entry of the province into Confederation, which took place in 1871.
A transcontinental link across Canada was achieved on 11 November 1885, when a ceremonial last spike was driven on the Canadian Pacific line at Craigellachie, in the Eagle Pass through the Monashee Mountains, west of Revelstoke. Henceforth, passengers could travel from Montréal, Québec, to Port Moody, on Burrard Inlet, British Columbia (the western terminus was moved the following year into the heart of the new city of Vancouver). Trains on this route offered the only no-change service across the North American continent for over 100 years, until the Southern Pacific Railroad extended its Sunset Limited service to Florida in 1993. In the 20th century, CP developed into a major transportation concern, known for its shipping line and resort hotels as well as for its rail service. Since 1971, the company has been known as Canadian Pacific Ltd. Its diverse modern commercial portfolio, managed by a holding company, includes mining, financial services, and telecommunications, though it sold the airline it once owned in 1987.
The first stage of CP's transcontinental line (1875–80) connected Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay), Ontario, on the western end of Lake Superior, with Winnipeg, in the new province of Manitoba. After a period of financial uncertainty, work resumed in 1881, simultaneously pushing west from Winnipeg and east from Burrard Inlet. The route chosen passed through Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan), Calgary (Alberta), and Kicking Horse Pass (on the Continental Divide in the Rockies), after the more northerly Edmonton–Yellowhead Pass route had been rejected. (When the Trans-Canada Highway was built in the 1950s, it followed the CP route much of the way, including through the Rockies.) Eastbound construction in British Columbia proceeded via part of the Cariboo Trail and Kamloops. Engineers working on the westbound section had to overcome problems posed by the rugged Canadian Shield north of the Great Lakes. The most famous obstacles to completion, though, occurred in the Northern Rocky Mountain ranges. Just west of Kicking Horse Pass, the line ran for some 6.4 km/4 mi at a precipitous 4.5° gradient. The two Spiral Tunnels (1909) under the Cathedral Mountains reduced this to an easier 2.2°, taking trains through a 992 m/3,255 ft, 291° turn and a second of 912 m/2,992 ft at 217°. To the west, at Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains, another steep gradient, sharp curves, and the need for miles of snowsheds (wooden roofing to keep the track clear in winter) were eliminated by the 1916 Connaught Tunnel, which was driven for 6.8 km/4.25 mi through Mount Macdonald. In the 1890s, the Canadian Pacific built another, more southerly route through Crowsnest Pass; the approach to this from the east entailed constructing Alberta's Lethbridge Viaduct, at 1,624 m/5,328 ft and 96 m/314 ft the longest and highest in Canada. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Canadian Pacific played a major role in settling the Canadian West. It also developed a steamship system, connecting Vancouver with East Asia, and built a chain of luxurious hotels – these include Québec City's Château Frontenac, as well as others in Lake Louise (Alberta), Ottawa, and Saint Andrews (New Brunswick). Its Soo Line subsidiary owns US trackage in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. By the 1930s, the CP was cooperating on routes with its government-owned competitor, the Canadian National Railway.
Canadian Pacific Railway