Canada was built by the railway. So far as I know, there was no Canadian version of the Oregon Trail, no pioneer wagons creaking their way across the Prairies toward new lives and new opportunities; outside the Red River Valley in Manitoba, the Canadian West was not settled in earnest by anyone except the First Nations until the transcontinental railway was completed.
That was one hundred and twenty-five years ago today - on November 7, 1885, the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in Craigellachie, British Columbia, and those iron tracks bound us together from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was by the transcontinental railway, though the northern CPR route, that I first went east from Vancouver in 1991. This year, the government of Canada has recognized November 7 as National Railway Day, commemorating the role that the railway has played and continues to play in Canada's growth and development. Does this mean that the Conservatives will invest in the national rail infrastructure? Maybe, maybe not; gestures like this are cheap. Still, it's good to see the government acknowledge it.
Railways have come a long way since the days of Craigellachie. Last week I captured a SkyTrain Millennium Line train maneuvering through the Expo Line junction with my Hanimex 35SE, and that fourth roll of film developed without a hitch. The SkyTrain may look smoother than those first trains that rumbled to the Pacific, but the principle's the same. Whether it's a country or a metropolis, I still feel that it's the railway that really binds us together.
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