Canadian Pacific Railway
Like the United States, Canada completed building a transcontinental railroad in the late 19th century. Read the passage below about how the Canadian Pacific Railway affected Calgary. Think about the role of the federal government in developing the West.
In 1881, two pieces of Canadian federal government legislation quickly accelerated Calgary’s development. The first was the Canadian Pacific Railway Act and the railway’s selection of the Bow River corridor and Kicking Horse Pass as the route west through the Rocky Mountains. This placed Calgary right on the main line and the employment and economic advantages of being connected to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The second piece of advantageous legislation was new ranch legislation which enabled ranchland to be leased from the government for “a penny an acre a year." . . .
Main Street, Calgary, Alberta, 1886
Source: Main Street Library and Archives Canada/Norman Denley collection/PA-066540
The first Canadian Pacific Railway train arrived in Calgary on August 11, 1883. At the time, archival photos show Calgary’s urban form consisting of little more than a cluster of tents along the east side of the Elbow River. But the Railway changed all that when it decided to build its main station and repair sheds across the river to the west – and Calgary’s tent town moved with it. . . .
By 1894, Calgary’s population slowly grew beyond 2,500 based on its functions as a railway divisional point and ranching supply centre and it became the only incorporated city in the Alberta Territory. A fortuitous change in the Government of Canada’s Western settlement and homesteading policy (Dominion Lands Policy) shortly thereafter, resulted in a migration rush which gave Calgary its first real population boom. By 1905, thirty eight years after Canadian Confederation, the Alberta Territory finally became a Province of Canada.
Source: Tyler, Dr. Mary-Ellen. “‘Nice City: Wonder What It Will Look Like When It’s Finished:’ A Case Study of Calgary, Alberta – Past, Present and Future.” The University of Calgary. March 1, 2004.
1. Explain how federal legislation played a significant role in Calgary’s growth.
2. Does the federal contribution support or challenge the image of Calgary as a “cowboy” town? Explain.
3. What impact do you think the transcontinental railroad had on the native people in the region?