Trains of Fame
CANADA’S RAILWAYS HAVE BEEN TRAVERSED BY SOME NOTEWORTHY TRAINS. SOME WERE FAMOUS, WHILE OTHERS TOILED IN ANONYMITY AND EVEN SECRECY.
Canada’s railways have been traversed by some noteworthy trains. Some were famous, others toiled in anonymity, even secrecy.
CANADA’S RAILWAYS CAN BE VIEWED AS THE CATALYST that made Confederation possible. The rail lines expanded with the Dominion to eventually link Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic tidewater. Built on a foundation of local and regional companies, by 1915 three transcontinental routes connected the nation — physically, economically, and socially.
Foremost among the rail companies was the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). The promise of its completion to the Pacific coast secured British Columbia’s 1871 entry into Confederation. While it took another fifteen years for the first cross-country CP train to reach the Pacific, its arrival at Port Moody, British Columbia, almost immediately opened up a lucrative source of revenue — silk. Bales of raw silk imported from Japan aboard CP steamships were conveyed from their Vancouver landfall to eastern textile markets. Speed and security were imperative for this valuable cargo (as examined in the December 2005 -January 2006 issue of The Beaver).
The silk trains operated by CP and, after 1925, by Canadian National Railways (CN) are remembered for their speed and specialization. Until the 1930s, they were the fastest things on Canadian rails and were given priority over other traffic. While demand for silk dropped with the rise of synthetics, the operation of the silk trains as single-commodity “unit trains” created a traffic-management legacy that persists today in the efficient movement of coal, ore, grain, and other commodities.