Click here for the Canadian Pacific Railway web site
A Timeline History of
Canadian Pacific

Click here for Colin Churcher's Significant Dates in Canadian Railway History

NOTE: If you are not a fan of National history, skip down to here.

Leif Ericson reaches North American shores from Scandinavia.
John Cabot, English explorer searching for passage to China, reaches Labrador or Cape Breton Island.
Jacques Cartier, French explorer, reaches what is now Montreal at the head of navigation on the St. Lawrence river. By the end of the century, the fur trade is well established.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain leads fur trading expedition to the St. Lawrence area.
Frances first settlement established at Port Royal in western Nova Scotia.
Champlain explores the upper Ottawa river.
Scottish colonization begins in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
France reoccupies the area, now called Acadia.
French government re-established at Quebec.
Under Cromwell, Britain again occupies the area, again calling it Nova Scotia.
French occupation ...
English occupation ...
The area is awarded to France by the Treaty of Ryswick.
Taken by the British.
The Treaty of Utrecht awards Nova Scotia to Britain, with the gulf islands, including Cape Breton Island and Prince edward Island, to France. Status of the New Brunswick area was left undetermined. The Hudson's Bay area was also awarded to Britain.
War between Britain and France.
Acadians dispersed to other British colonies, notably to Louisiana (home of the 'Cajuns'). New Englanders moved into their abandoned settlements.
British control of the entire Maritime region was confirmed by the Peace of Paris, which ended the French and Indian War.
The Quebec Act passed by British Parliament, providing for the retention of Canadian civil law and the establishment of English criminal law.
April 1775
The American Revolution begins, leading to invasion of Canada. The last Americans left Canada by 1776.
Tory migrations from New England to the Maritime Provinces, numbering in excess of 35,000.
Upper Canada (Ontario) is split from Lower Canada (Quebec)
The British / U.S. boundary is fixed by treaty, from Lake of the Woods to the Rockies, at 49 degrees North Latitude.
Union of Upper and Lower Canada, to be known respectively as Canada West and Canada East.
There are 66 miles of railways in all of British North America.
The North West Transportation, Navigation and Railway Company is established, proposed to connect points in the interior with the rest of Canada.
There are more than 2,000 miles of railways in British North America. Further railway construction is delayed by the depression of 1857.
The Grand Trunk Railway, built to channel the American western trade into the St. Lawrence, goes bankrupt with debts of $13,000,000.
1 July, 1867
The Canadian federation is established, with four provinces
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick

British Columbia remained a colonial province, and between it and Canada were two large chunks of territory - Rupert's Land, the domain of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the North-Western Territory, a British possession.
There are 2,278 miles of railway in the whole of Canada.

Prime Ministers of Canada during the construction years of the Canadian Pacific:
Sir John Macdonald July 1, 1867 to November 5, 1873
Alexander Mackenzie November 7, 1873 to October 16, 1878
Sir John Macdonald October 17, 1878 to June 6, 1891

Canada acquires Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory.
15 July, 1870
Manitoba becomes a province of Canada
20 July, 1871
British Columbia becomes a province of Canada, on the conditon that Canada would assume the colonial debt and that a railway would be built within ten years that would link the Pacific area with the Eastern provinces.
On that same day, a survey party set out from Victoria to locate a route for the railway line. The first railway surveyers from the east had left Ottowa five weeks earlier.
The Washington Treaty is negotiated to settle claims and disputes between Canada and the U.S.
Prime Minister Macdonald grants federal charters to two private companies:
  • The Canadian Pacific Railway Company, headed by Sir Hugh Allan, consisting mainly of Montreal interests but with some American participation.
  • The Inter-Ocean Railway Company, headed by D. L. MacPherson and associated with the Grand Trunk Railway.
This led to the Pacific Scandal which resulted in Macdonald being ousted from office.
John Macoun joins Sanford Fleming's survey party, becoming one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Pacific railway enterprise. Fleming had overall control of the survey for the Pacific line, and had located the line to the north of Lake Superior, across the northern prairies and through the Yellowhead Pass down to tidewater on the Pacific.
Prince Edward Island becomes a province of Canada
Intercolonial Railway, connecting the rail networks of Ontario and Quebec with those of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, completed from Halifax to Quebec, having cost almost twice the estimated amount.
The Canadian Pacific Railway is formed, with $25,000,000 in credit, and 25,000,000 acres in land from the government of Canada.
14 May, 1880
Andrew Onderdonk begins construction eastward from Yale, BC.
15 February, 1881
The Railway Bill becomes law, providing for the construction of a line to the Pacific.
16 February, 1881
The Canadian Pacific Railway is chartered, a $1,000,000 check being provided by a Syndicate of Montreal entrepreneurs as security for the completion of the line.
George Stephen President, Bank of Montreal
R. B. Angus former General Manager, Bank of Montreal
Donald Smith Chief Commissioner of Hudson's Bay Company
James J. Hill railway builder
Duncan McIntyre Canada Central Railway
17 February, 1881
First meeting of The Syndicate. The Canadian Pacific Railway also took over 710 miles of existing railway:
  • from Port Arthur to Selkirk, near Winnipeg
  • from Selkirk to Emerson, on the U.S. border
  • from Kamloops to Port Moody, in British Columbia
James J. Hill took charge of construction, and appointed the following people:
  • Alpheus Stickney of the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Ry., Superintendent of Construction
  • Thomas Rosser, Chief Engineer
  • Major A. B. Rogers, to find a better route through the Rockies. Major Rogers was promised that the route would be named for him if he was successful
June 1881
George Stephen resigns from the Bank of Montreal to work full-time for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and to avoid a conflict of interest.
2 January 1882
Stickney and Rosser are replaced by William Cornelius Van Horne (General Manager), formerly General superintendant of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Van Horne would prove to be the catylist to completion of the line.
February 1882
Andrew Onderdonk begins construction westward from Yale, BC, heading for Kamloops. The last spike on this section will be driven on 22 January, 1884.
17 June, 1882
The line from Winnipeg to Port Arthur is completed under government contract.
Early October 1882
Trains are running to Regina from Winnipeg.
November 1882
Van Horne hires Thomas Shaughnessy, formerly of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, as General Purchasing Agent.
Year-end 1882
419.86 miles of main line have been laid, along with 28 miles of siding and a 100-mile branch line in Manitoba.
May 1883
James J. Hill left the Syndicate in dispute over the route to be taken. He wanted to go through the U.S., connecting with railroads controlled by himself, while the others preferred an all-Canadian route. He later built the Great Northern Railway, completed on 3 January 1893, after which he became a thorn in the side of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
May 1883
The line from Winnipeg to Port Arthur is taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and they are given $1,000,000 to bring it up to standard.
13 August 1883
Canadian Pacific rails reach Calgary.
Year-end 1883
End of track on the eastern section is ten miles west of Sudbury.
6 March, 1884
The Railway Relief Bill becomes law, provides $22,500,000 in loans to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
25 May, 1884
The line from Winnipeg reaches the British Columbia border, at Kicking Horse Pass.
Year-end 1884
The Western segment of the line stretches from Port Moody to Savona, heading for Kamloops.
Mid-March 1885
Only five gaps, of 98 total miles, remain between Sudbury and Port Arthur.
7 November, 1885
The symbolic last spike in the transcontinental line is driven at Craigellachie, BC.
There are at this time 16,270 miles of railway in Canada.
Saskatchewan becomes a province of Canada.
Alberta becomes a province of Canada.
Newfoundland becomes a province of Canada.

Click here for the Canadian Pacific Railway web site This timeline was adapted for the internet from the text in the book, "Canadian Pacific", © 1985, by Jim Lotz. Additional information, including historical details, were taken from Collier's Encyclopedia, © 1968. All credit should go to Mr. Lotz, his sources, and the Collier's staff; any inaccuracies or omissions are strictly my own. Click here for my Soo Line Index Page

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