Romance of Transportation in Canada

W. S. FISHER July 1 1909

Romance of Transportation in Canada

W. S. FISHER July 1 1909

Romance of Transportation in Canada




THE forty-two years that have elapsed since Confederation have been the most eventful in the history of Canada. During that period, what were formerly a series of disjointed provinces or colonies have been consolidated into one Dominion, which has leaped in-to world-wide prominence with almost lightning-like rapidity. Distance has been annihilated. High speed and reduced cost for transit have brought widely-separated communities closer together, have created a bond of union and have solidified and strengthened that bond into one of mutual interest. The remote has become near, so that in point of time and convenience, our friends a thousand miles distant are now more accessible than were those a hundred miles away fifty years ago.

No more romantic story could be written than that of the development of transportation in Canada, and if any one had had imagination enough forty years ago to predict what has since come to pass, he would have been looked upon as a greater romancer than the author of the Arabian Nights.

Looking back over the past hundred years, what changes have been

brought about on this continent, the greater portion of which was then a “terra incognita,” and looked upon as impossible for cultivation or development ! At that time, even in the United States, the most prominent statesmen of that country considered union of the people on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as utterly out of the question. In 1812 President Jefferson, writing to John J. xYstor, saw in the great American desert an impassable barrier. Ten years later, Tracy, of New Y"ork, in the United States House of Representatives, said “Nature has fixed limits for our nation. She has kindly provided”—mark the words—“as our western barrier, mountains almost inaccessible, whose base she has skirted with irreclaimable deserts.”

These two opinions reflect the general feeling then existing in the minds of the people of the United States, and are useful in leading us to estimate more truly the wonderful changes that have since been brought about mainly through improved methods of transportation.

In view of what has come to pass, who among us is bold enough to predict what the next hundred years,

yea, even the next ten or twenty, may develop, that will bring about even greater changes than those witnessed within the lives of those present !

No man who has read even a few pages of human history will dare to make pessimistic prophecies as to the future accomplishments of the human race. It is much safer to be optimistic.

A modern writer has defined transportation as the key with which wise statesmen open the door of national prosperity. Over three hundred years ago the philosopher Bacon said : “There be three things which make a nation great and prosperous—a fertile soil, busy workshops and easy conveyance for man and goods from place to place.”

Of this we may be sure, that there is ño other question of equal importance to the citizens of this Dominion, formed as it is of a narrow stretch of country extending a distance of several thousand miles and skirting the boundary of the great nation to the south.

The importance of the subject to Canadians is two-fold: First, to

make possible an interchange of commodities within the country itself, enabling the producers of the East and West to ship quicklv and at reasonable rates the commodities they produce, such as coal. iron, lumber, fish, fruit, manufactured goods, etc., to the interior : and to permit the farmer, the wheat grower and the cattle raiser of the interior to deliver his products at the lowest cost at the seaboard and to those centres of population within the country itself which require them, and to do all this through Canadian channels.;

Second, to provide the quickest and safest route for the great and increasing traffic in both freight and passengers between Europe and the Orient, an all-British or Imperial route, that is rapidly becoming the most important link in the chain of communication between the different sections of the Empire.

How do we stand with respect to these at the present time? What has been done? What remains to be done? As a matter of fact, while very much has been accomplished, only a beginning has been made in

the vast network of communication on land and sea required to take care of the huge commerce that is looming up before us.

Let us rapidly glance over the record of the past :

The first steamer to ply on Canadian waters was on the St. Lawrence in I809.

The first steamer to cross the Atlantic was the Royal William from Quebec in 1833.

The first canal opened was the Lachine in 1825.

The first railway in Canada was built in 1836 and ran from La Prairie to St. Johns, P.Q.

The first C.P.R. train to cross the continent was in July, 1886.

The first Atlantic cable to Canada was completed in 1868.

The first telegraph line in Canada was built in 1846, connecting Toronto with Niagara.

To-day we have in round numbers 24.000 miles of railway in actual

operation in Canada, with 4,300 miles estimated as under construction. We expect soon to have three transcontinental roads in operation, each running over its own rails from ocean to ocean, which, when viewed by comparison with our neighbors to the south, is little less than amazing.

Their first transcontinental road was opened about 1865. when they had a population of about thirty-five millions; ours in 1886, when we had a population of four and one-half millions. They now have several roads crossing the continent but not one of these has a complete system of its own. Instead, each one is made up of parts of various roads joined together in a series of links requiring several to form a complete chain.

Perhaps if there is one thing more than another that every Canadian at home or abroad feels proud of, it is our own Canadian Pacific Rail-

way, easily the greatest and most successful transportation corporation in existence. Owning and controlling over 10,000 miles of railway in Canada and 4,000 in the United States ; building its own freight, passenger and even sleeping cars ; running its own hotels along the entire system, carrying on its own express and telegraph service, with a large fleet of passenger and freight steamers on both the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as on the Great Lakes, it has done yeoman service for the country as well as proving a bonanza to those who are fortunate enough to hold stock purchased when the road was in its early stages of struggle or before its value was fully understood.

This corporation, through its vigorous management and aggressive methods, has done more to advance Canada abroad than almost all other efforts combined. Those who have visited Great Britain and the continent know how true this is. Nor is its influence at home less potent. One is reminded of the story told of Mike Flanagan out of a job and railing at fortune. He had walked the ties from one railroad

town to another, passing the Canadian Pacific freight sheds, grain elevators and palatial hotels. This big corportion insists upon the twenty-four-hour system of time reckoning: mid-night is twenty-four o’clock, and tea-time seventeen-thirty. Flanagan was held up at the edge of the freight-yards by a fellow-countryman. “Have ye Canadian Pacific Railroad toime on ye?” And Flanagan explodes: “Canadian Pacific Railroad toime, is it? They own the railroads, an' the, towns, an' every fut of land, an' all the jobs; if they own the toime of day, by the sowl of blessed Peter it’s me for Ould Ireland." But here, as elsewhere, the railways and the newspapers have been the precursors of pu ogress.

While on this topic one can hardly help referring to another great Canadian railway firm, rather than corporation, that of Mackenzie &: Mann, who are quietly building, section by section, an entire transcontinental railway system of their own. We look with interest at such work when carried on by great combinations of capital, but when two men, single-handed, undertake

and successfully carry out such a task, we stand aghast and admire their pluck and ability.'

This country has produced and is to-day producing, many such men, full of faith in the future and determined to secure their share of it, whose names will go down to posterity as men of clear vision, industry and determination. When, by and by, the history of the past century is written, such names as Allan, Cunard, Donald Smith, Fleming, Van Horne, Mount Stephen, Shaughnessy, Hays, and many others, will be written big among the pioneers in providing means of transportation on land and sea.

In 1809 the United States had a population of six million, (equal to ours of to-day) grouped along the shore of the Atlantic, with not a single mile of canals or a single mile of railway, and no highways worth mentioning—nothing but a vigorous, forceful people, chiefly of the AngloSaxon race.

Now, one hundred years later, they number ninety millions, with 217,000 miles of railway and a canal system, being one of the most high-

ly developed and prosperous countries under the sun.

By contrast, Canada in this year of 1909, has the same population it had a hundred years ago scattered, however, throughout our entire area, stretching from sea to sea, with a complete system of waterways and railways equal to the best in the world and being developed and added to rapidlv.

Each government in turn since Confederation has recognized the importance of improving the transportation facilities of the country as rapidly and thoroughlv as possible, with the result that we stand to-day, as already stated, with 24,000 miles of railway in operation and 4,300 miles under construction —a wonderful record for so young a country.

A better comparison of our position can be given bv the following statement : Canada has one mile of railway to each 260 oeople ; the United States to each 400; France to each 1,600; the United Kingdom to each 1,800. Canada stands eighth in the world in actual railway mileage.

With these facts before us, who can justly estimate the changes and possibilities likely during the next twenty-five years? History is being made so rapidly in this country that it would require a man of broad vision to attempt to foretell it.

But why all this rapid growth of facilities, past, present and prospective ?

In order to successfully answer the pressing question of the grain grower of the prairie : Iiow cheaply can a bushel of wheat or other grain be carried to tide water and from thence to its destination abroad?

If, as frequently stated, our Great West is destined to become the granary of the Empire, then a satisfactory solution of this question in a way that will result in diverting all this traffic over Canadian territory and through Canadian ports is one of the utmost importance to everyone in this countrv, whether in the East or West. All other questions are secondary to this.

-We all know that the quantities now grown are but a fraction of what will be grown in a few years, if settlers from all over the world continue to flock in upon us as they

are now doing at an average rate of over 300,000 each year, and when larger areas of the vast fertile but unoccupied lands are put under cultivation. We also know that the present facilities have been taxed to their utmost and have at times been unable to cope with the situation.

The past few years have witnessed a marked change in the sentiment of the whole country. The importance from every point of view of securing and retaining within our own borders the entire traffic originating here, has taken a great hold upon the minds of the people. This feeling is reflected in the efforts of the government of the day who are grappling vigorously with it in order to keep pace with the demand and to assist in providing those facilities which are required to prevent the continued diversion of any large portion of Canadian traffic to American channels.

There has been a good deal of discussion concerning the rivalry of the Mississippi route via Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico, for the grain trade of Canada, and the American Government and people have for some years been debating the question of deepening the Mis-

sissippi and connecting' it with Chicago and Lake Erie by canal. In fact, a drainage canal now connects part of the distance named, from Chicago to Joliet.

Just where the basis for this fear rests is somewhat puzzling, as it would seem impossible to maintain a proper depth of water throughout this river, which is subject to many fluctuations and is full of sand-bars for much of its course, with its bottom ever shifting in depth. Even if it were possible to navigate barges of sufficient draft and carrying capacity during the season of open navigation, the time consumed in reaching the sea, with the much longer voyage on the ocean to destination, in addition to the heat to which the wheat cargoes would be subjected, would of itself prove too great a drawback for the trade ever to develop into serious proportions. If this view is correct, we must look in other directions for danger.

This brings us to a consideration of the Erie Canal, opened in 1825 and enlarged in 1862, running from Buffalo to Albany, a distance of 306 miles, with a maximum depth of seven feet and a cargo capacity of 8,000 bushels to each barge.

Contrast this with our own route through the lakes via the Welland Canal, a distance through the canal

of only 64 miles, with a draft of 14 feet and a carrying capacity per barge of 80,000 bushels ; or ten times the capacity, with a much shorter and quicker route, and with the time of open navigation practically the same.

The American Government is now at work improving the Erie Canal at an estimated cost of $110,000,000, increasing its depth to 12 feet to take i,ooo-ton barges, four times the present size. It is calculated that it will take at least twenty years to complete this work.

I11 the meantime, the Canadian Government is planning to increase the depth of the Weiland from 14 to 20 feet, thus placing it so far ahead of any competition as to secure the major portion of the Canadian traffic, and it is hoped a share of the American as well. As naturally as water runs down hill, so trade finds its own level and business develops along the line of least resistance. In this case, the St. Lawrence River, piercing its way into the heart of the continent and connecting with the Great Lakes through such an admirable canal system, affords an outlet that has no equal. This is now being fully recognized, even by our neighbors to the south, who are seriously discussing what can be done to prevent

the diversion of a large part of the freight originating in their own West, through Canadian channels.

If, as now seems sure, the export trade via the St. Lawrence continues to grow, it is felt that the increased facilities outlined will not b( sufficient, and another canal, the Georgian Bay, with a minimum depth of 2i feet, commencing in the bay of that name and connecting with the Ottawa River, has been projected and is being pushed by those who believe it will be required to handle the increased tonnage which in a few years will seek an outlet from the Great West to the sea.

The advocates of this waterway claim many advantages for this route, among others, that it is distant from the American border, hence safer in the event of friction between the two countries. The cost is estimated at over one hundred millions and while opinions differ as to its feasibility, there seems tv» be a growing sentiment in favor of it as providing the surest means of nlacing the country in an impregnable position to handle the business without fear of successful rivalry.

Other projects have been put for26

ward, all looking towards increasing the outlets from the prairies, the latest being a canal from Winnipeg to Hudson Bay, which, however, is not looked upon very seriously.

Already a section of railway connecting with Hudson Bay has been opened, but the possibilities even of this route are looked upon with doubt, owing to the extremely short as well as uncertain time of open navigation in that inland northern sea,

Another alternative route that is sometimes mentioned is via British Columbia ports and the Panama Canal when completed. It is yet early to discuss this intelligently, but lines of steamers are now running from Vancouver to the United Kingdom, transhipping their cargoes at Puerto on the Pacific side of the Mexican Isthmus, and reloading on ships at Salina Cruz on the Gulf side. The rates of freight on goods to the United Kingdom and return via this route have been made much less than it is possible to make by rail across the continent, and thence across the Atlantic.

The length of time given for this route is 42 days, and whether it will ever be a factor, even when the Panama Canal is completed, time

alone will tell ; but the facts are worth recording as showing the efforts being made in various directions to capture and divert to other routes the growing traffic originating in the Great West.

Dr. J. W. Robertson, well known as one of our foremost Canadians, in a recent address to manufacturers in Montreal, stated that the products of Canadian farms in 1908 amounted to 432 millions, all having to be transported greater or less distances. He estimated the value of live stock in Canada at 530 millions. Add to this the enormous quantities of coal, lumber, fish, iron, manufactured goods, etc., produced in the country, as well as the millions of dollars’ worth of imported goods, in addition to the through goods to and from China, Japan and Europe; and the total gives a more complete idea of the immensity of the present traffic and that which will follow in the near future.

Addressing the manufacturers at Quebec on May 19th, 1906, Sir

Thomas G. Shaughnessey, speaking about the importance to the country of imoroving the St. Lawrence route, said : “I shall be much disappointed if it be not quickly demon-

strated that the oossibilities of the St. Lawrence route are infinitely greater than anybody was inclined to believe ; but if we are to accomplish all that is anticipated, there are many things to be done. We must have the waterway from the ocean so lighted and buoyed and so free from obstruction as to practically remove the last element of danger. We must have wharves and facilities that will enable the traffic to and from ships to be handled with economy and despatch. We have done much to improve the St. Lawrence route, but much remains to be done. The United States Government spends many millions in deepening the harbors of New York, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, etc., and millions more on its harbors on the Great Lakes. If we are not to be rendered dependent on American ports, we must do our utmost, regardless of expense, I might also say, to improve the St. Lawrence route. The well-being of the whole Canadian people is involved. It is the political future of the country. It is by all odds the most important question of the day. Unless we complete a thorough svstem of improve-

ments based on scientific principles, we cannot hope to retain the rapidly growing traffic of the Northwest within Canadian channels. Much of it now finds its way to American ports; much more will go that way unless we bestir ourselves.”

That was three years ago. Since then the work of improving the St. Lawrence River and in providing terminal facilities at Montreal have been pushed rapidlv forward, and it seems safe to assume that this effort will not slacken until this greatest of waterways and our great national summer port will be equipped and ready to meet any possible increase in the traffic for many years to come.

The Lower Provinces as factors in the welfare and development of Canada are becoming more fully appreciated. Their position geographically is unique. Like a great wharf projecting into the sea stands Nova Scotia, a province rich in such natural resources as coal, iron, lumber, orchards and farm land, and waters teeming with fish.

Back of it on the edge of the mainland, lies New Brunswick, also with a great coast line ; rich in the wealth of the sea, with undeveloped mineral resources and great forests of hard and soft wood, the value of which is becoming more full realized each season.

Then Prince Edward Island, well called the Garden of the Gulf, one of the most fertile sections of this whole Dominion; all peopled by a race whose phvsical and mental qualities are not surpassed anywhere and who have made their mark wherever they have gone.

The Maritime Provinces possess the only Canadian ports on the Atlantic seaboard that are open all the year round. Therefore the position of the Lower Provinces is strategic and they practically hold the key of the situation, in having the only open doorwavs during the winter season over Canadian soil through which to carnr on the rapidly expanding commerce of the whole Dominion.