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Sunny Way | Settling the West  | The Klondike | New Railways | Industry | Workers & Farmers | Empire | Boer War | Canadian navy | 1911

It was the age of the railway and the CPR had brought prosperity, immigrants, business and progress on it's tracks. The spur lines were shooting off from he main line and spreading the bounty with their expansion. Laurier and his government had benefited from the railway as the world wide economic recession of the early 1890's ended and the settlers from eastern Canada, the US, Britain, and Europe arrived in the west, establishing farms, building cities and producing prosperity.

When Laurier was approached by Charles Hay of the Grand Trunk Railway about building a second line across the country, he was not opposed to the idea and in fact was willing to support this enterprise. Railways seemed to be the key to development and the Canadian public was ready for another national project by 1903 expected that it would re-ignite the excitement and growth of the 1880-1885 period when the CPR pushed it's way to the Pacific Ocean. Laurier felt that the building of the railway could be used as a key plank in an election and instructed his administration to get a deal done.

The Grand Trunk was expected to build the western section of the railway with the backing by the Government of the bonds issued to pay for the construction. The line would go from Moncton New Brunswick to Prince Rupert British Columbia and would follow a more northern route on the Prairies. The cost of the western section was estimated to be about $60 million. The eastern section would be built by the Canadian Government and then leased to the Gran Trunk for free for 7 years. They could then lease the line for an additional 43 years at the cost of 3% of the initial cost to build it per year.

Laurier took the deal and the project and went to the electorate in 1904. He won a resounding victory picking up 139 seats to the Conservatives 55 and the construction began. When the line was finished the western section had gone from $60 million to $160 million and the eastern section had cost $140 million instead of the expected $85 million. Northern Ontario was opened up and the settlers began to fill the northern farmlands of the Prairies. Over 1200 miles of spur lines flooded into the newly occupied lands.

In 1914 the line reached Prince Rupert and the mining, forestry and fishery riches of Northern British Columbia began to flow out to the world. Like the CP the Grand Trunk built hotels, ships, mining operations, support industries and spawned business all along the line. In 1915, hoping to get a better deal, the Grand Trunk decided not to renew their lease for the eastern section of the railway and the government took over the lines. This gamble did not pay off for the Grand Trunk and the greed of the directors drove it quickly into bankruptcy with the government taking over the rest of the operation.

The third railway enterprise, the Canadian Northern Transcontinental, started in a modest fashion in 1896 as a short line in Manitoba which Mackenzie and Mann slowly built into another railway empire through the use of government backed bonds and subsidies. They managed to secure over $66 million in subsidies from the Canadian Government for the line they built along the Yellowhead route from Edmonton to Vancouver.  They also built hotels and shipping lines and exploited every business opportunity they could in connection to the railway business and they boomed for years.

One the war started in 1914 and business tightened fro all three railways, the Canadian Northern Transcontinental, like the Grand Trunk faced hard times and once the cards of their house of cards began to fall they also ended up in bankruptcy and out of the process the Canadian government took the two defunked railways and formed the Canadian National Railway, a government run operation.

Although the war marked the end off the golden age of railways in Canada, they were still the main transportation mode for another 35 years and still play an important role in the freight industry in Canada today.