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The Philosophy of Railways

The Philosophy of Railways: The Transcontinental Railway Idea in British North America

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 300
  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of Railways
    Book Description:

    Examines the ideological motivations for building the Canadian railway, the contemporary understandings of nationalism, and the evolving notion of a transcontinental union.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7846-0
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. 1 Technological Nationalism: The Backdrop
    (pp. 3-31)

    Thus E.J. Pratt, the Newfoundland-born poet, introduced his epic, ‘Towards the Last Spike,’ thereby adding his voice to the mythology that envelops the Canadian Pacific Railway, the backbone of the Canadian nation. In a similar vein, singer Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting ‘Canadian Railroad Trilogy’ reinforced the popular concept of the CPR as an integral part of Canada’s identity. Meanwhile, across the country, newscasters, editors, and commentators regularly invoke the nation-building mantra and vigilantly protest the smallest change in the company’s logo or denounce any branch-line abandonment as a betrayal of the railway’s national mandate.

    Historians too have contributed to the CPR...

  7. 2 The Guarantee Act: Signpost for an Era
    (pp. 32-64)

    Early in the spring of 1849, tne Legislative Assembly of the United Canadas passed the Guarantee Act by which the province secured for investors a return of 6 per cent interest per year on the bonds of any railway at least 120 kilometres long and half completed. Even though the act promised virtually unlimited financial support for most qualified railway ventures, all political factions supported the resolutions and the legislature approved the measure sixty-two to four.³ This extraordinary consensus, obtained in one of the most rancorous sessions in Canadian parliamentary history, represented a political understanding that dominated mid-nineteenth-century Canada; it...

  8. 3 Nova Scotia: Railways and the New Economy
    (pp. 65-96)

    Beginning in the late 1840s, Nova Scotians commenced a decades-long debate on the profound changes in their economic environment. The industrialization of the North Atlantic world, the growth of the United States economy, imperial free trade, and especially the transportation revolution forced many Nova Scotians to examine their political economy. Predictably, as they debated their future, a spectrum of positions emerged but opinions coalesced around two relatively opposite courses of action. While many favoured radical changes in policies, including adoption of new steam technologies, a continentalist orientation, and the federation of British North America, others preferred traditional approaches, appreciating the...

  9. 4 The Grand Trunk Railway: The New Imperialism
    (pp. 97-125)

    During the 1850s, British investors financed the construction of a 2200-km railway across Canada at the cost of £12 million.² Considered at the time to be the longest international railway in the world, the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada appears to be an example of British imperialist expansion. Prominent London bankers, like Sir Thomas Baring and George Glyn, invested heavily in the project, while the large British railway construction firm of Peto, Brassey, Jackson & Betts built much of the railway. In addition, the British investors, who held the vast majority of the company’s shares and bonds, assumed virtual control over...

  10. 5 Saint John: Fulcrum Metropôl
    (pp. 126-157)

    Like her sister Maritime province, New Brunswick debated the confederation issue decades before its implementation and, similarly, its attitudes were intricately intermeshed with the philosophy of railways.³ Unlike Nova Scotia’s stance, however, New Brunswick’s position on the proposed intercolonial railway was ambivalent. Inspired primarily by metropolitan concepts, the latter’s doctrine of railways was informed first by economic rather than nationalistic or imperialistic considerations. From a commercial perspective, New Brunswick appeared to gain the most from a Halifax-Québec connection. The line would bisect the province and thus add to its commercial potential. On the other hand, it would derive maximum benefit...

  11. 6 The Pacific Scandal: Nationalism and Business
    (pp. 158-184)

    The philosophy of railways played a prominent role in the confederation of mainland British North America in 1867. Its idealistic rhetoric of cooperation and social progress, mutual understanding, and economic advancement, its faith in steam technology and its evangelical civilizing mission had provided common ground for the discussion of the specific political, economic, and diplomatic concerns addressed in the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences. Unrealistically optimistic, even Utopian, the railway creed was expressed nevertheless specifically in clause 141 of the British North America Act, providing for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway.³ Despite arguments about local routing and technical standards, contracts...

  12. 7 The National Policy: Defining a Nation
    (pp. 185-207)

    Late in 1878, Sir John A. Macdonald’s Conservatives returned to office with a solid majority. The party had won the election on a platform of aggressive, nationalistic measures that included a high protective tariff, vigorous work on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the colonization of western Canada. The Liberals lost on a record consisting, ironically, of a more conservative position of incidental protection and cautious progress on the railway but a similar settlement policy.³ Considering the fact that both parties concurred on the need to settle the North-West and that they disagreed only on the speed of railway construction, their...

  13. 8 The Philosophy of Railways: Conclusions and Conjectures
    (pp. 208-238)

    On 7 November 1885 at Craigellachie, British Columbia, Donald A. Smith, one of the Canadian Pacific Railway directors, hammered in the transcontinental’s last spike. The scene symbolized the realization of the national dream, that is, the creation and consolidation of a northern transcontinental nation.³ That vision, dominated by a desire for economic progress, always stressed the notion that the transcontinental railway was needed to build the nation of Canada. As the TorontoMailnoted succinctly: ‘We desired to preserve our autonomy and national integrity; we desired, following the example of our bustling cousins to the south of us, to give...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 239-279)
  15. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 280-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-292)