Romance of the Railway

Wed, Aug 5th, 2015 9:12:39 am

          For Canada to stretch from sea-to-sea meant building a transcontinental railway, promised to British Columbia when it joined the federation in 1871.
         The romance arose from an earlier period.  Pre-modern settlers fought a wilderness of trees and rock, swamp and insects. On isolated farms, they dreamed of independence but were left to their own resources.
          Then came the Industrial Revolution and steam power. By 1860, America had 50,000 km of railway. In North America, the railway was not only technology, but also an alluring symbol.
          Its tracks, bridges, and tunnels altered the landscape. Tracks that cut through mountains and over muskeg showed humans trouncing Mother Nature.  Trains traveled fast and ran on schedule, bringing order to people spread across a vast land who often felt they were at the mercy of an unpredictable weather.
          The speed and power of railways led people and corporations to view technology as the engine of progress that would benefit everyone.

          From Andy den Otter, The Philosophy of Railways: The Transcontinental Railway Idea in British North America, 1997.

City of Vancouver Archives photo
City of Vancouver Archives photo
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