Additional Background: Building a Transcontinental Railway
In 1870, a rail link from sea to sea was needed to make Canada
a viable nation. An American link to the Pacific had just been completed
in 1869, connecting Sacramento, California, with Omaha, Nebraska, and ultimately
the eastern seaboard via multiple railroads. The Canadian venture, hundreds of
miles to the north, would be different, a single sea-to-sea
line traversing over 2,850 miles and a mountain landscape so rugged and
impenetrable few adventurers had ever crossed it on foot.
The future of the railway and of the nation hinged on an improbable and impossibly
steep route. The railway would be built simultaneously from the east and from the west
beginning in 1880, with the converging lines meeting in the mountains. Tens of thousands labored to construct the Canadian Pacific
Railway; it was an effort that engaged British investors, Canadian government
financing, American engineering know-how, and laborers from North America, China, and around the world.
The hammering of the Last Spike on November 7, 1885 deep in the mountains at Craigellachie,
BC, signaled the completion of the railway. The line was a triumph uniting far-flung
communities into a single dominion. While the railway would struggle to keep the route operating
through the high mountain passes, the rail link would endure and with it,
a growing young nation.
More about the Empress (Locomotive CPR 2816)
Locomotive 2816 is a class H1b Hudson-type locomotive built by Montreal
Locomotive Works in December 1930. The 2816 worked with the top passenger
trains of the 1930s between Winnipeg and Calgary and subsequently in the
Quebec-Windsor corridor. After logging more than two million miles in
active service, it made its final revenue run on May 26, 1960.
After a complete three-year rebuild, the resurrected locomotive re-entered active service in 2001 as the Empress, a roving ambassador for
Canadian Pacific Railway. CPR Empress is now the only surviving H1b Hudson
and one of only a handful of preserved and operating CPR steam locomotives
in North America.