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Field Division of Education
History of Glacier National Park
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As in the area south of the border, the steamboat played its part in developing the region north of Glacier Park, although it began at a much later date. The first steamboat on the Saskatchewan ran to Edmonton in 1871. It was used by the Hudson's Bay Company exclusively, for its own transport but in 1880 was opened to general transport business. In 1881 the Winnepeg Transport Company took over this business and ran boats up the south branch of the Saskatchewan to Blackfoot Crossing. An attempt made in 1884 to operate steamers on the Bow river was a failure.

As in the United States, there was early interest in a transcontinental railroad. Visualized primarily as a military necessity, it later became a means of developing the vast Plains area, which before had been considered uninhabitable. In 1851 the first bill for the chartering of a railroad company was introduced in the Canadian parliament, and in 1858 the first charter was granted to the North-West Transportation, Navigation, and Railway Company. It proposed a combined water-way, wagon road, and railway, the latter to be extended as business warranted. Nothing was done by this company.

Palliser reported against the construction of a road even as far as from Lake Superior to the Red River, but the interest of the British Government was still involved in view of the military desirability of overland communication with the Pacific. When British Columbia entered the Dominion in 1871, it was with the express understanding that construction of a railroad begin within two years and be completed in ten. Nevertheless, the quarrel over a northern versus a southern route, the inability to find private interests able to finance the undertaking, and the political situation of the times, led to nothing more than surveys being made for ten years.

In 1881 a contract was finally made between the Canadian Government and a group first known only as the "Syndicate" for the construction of the road later to be the Canadian Pacific. Twenty-five million acres of land between Winnepeg and the Rocky Mountains were given to the Syndicate, and the Government was to build part of the western section of the line.

Work began less than six months after the granting of the charter. The speed of construction was remarkable. Across Alberta an average of over three miles of track a day was laid. By 1885 the line was in operation to Calgary and the last spike was driven, although regular operations were not under way over the whole line until a short time later.

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