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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Not just Canadian Rockies, “The Big Hill”

This week we are going to Canada. The title on the post card says, “C.P.R. Passenger Train, Canadian Rockies”.
Well, my experience tells me that this is not just the Canadian Rockies; this is a picture taken on “The Big Hill” just west of Calgary, Alberta on the CPR main line. This is part of the Canadian transcontinental railway. If you look in the bottom left corner of the post card you can see a rail that goes up hill to nowhere. This was one of several that the Canadian Pacific Railway built to stop runaway trains on “The Big Hill”.

In order to convince British Columbia that being a part of the newly formed Canada was a great idea, the politicians promised the citizens of British Columbia that a railroad would be built across the continent to connect them to the rest of Canada within 10 years if they joined. They voted to become the 6th province of Canada on July 20, 1871. On November 7, 1885, the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia. It was a little late, but the promise was fulfilled.

Part of the reason the train tracks were finished by 1881 is to be found in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Kicking Horse Pass was the best the surveyors could find in which to lay tracks through the Rockies at a latitude close enough to the American border that they could send a message to the Americans that Canada is not for annexation.

The following paragraph is from the website:
http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/yoho/natcul/spirale-spiral.aspx

The steep grade in Kicking Horse Pass posed a serious challenge. Under government pressure to complete the railway, and given the engineering challenges that came along with the geography, Canadian Pacific was not in a position to carve a gradual descent. A solution was reached, which temporarily allowed a grade of 4.5%. The first train to attempt the hill in 1884 derailed, tragically killing three workers. In an effort to improve safety, three spur lines were created to divert such runaway trains on what became known as the “Big Hill”. Switches were left set for the spurs and were not reset to the main line until switchmen knew the oncoming train was in control. Descending the Big Hill was challenging, but uphill trains had their problems too. Extra locomotives were needed to push the trains up the hill, causing delays and requiring extra workers. Although the mountains were a complication for CP, they were an inspiration to the many tourists who started to arrive by train. In an effort to preserve the landscape and encourage tourism, CP prompted the creation of Mount Stephen Dominion Reserve in 1886. The park was renamed Yoho in 1901.
The post card is from the Divided Back Era (1907 – 1915).

It was printed and published by The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co. Ltd. This particular company was the Canadian office for Valentine’s of Dundee, Scotland. They published souvenir books, greeting cards and view-cards of Canadian scenery in sets numbered with a three digit prefix and a three digit suffix. This particular post card is numbered 107239; it is in the bottom right hand corner of the post card. These tinted halftone and collotype cards were printed in Great Britain. Valentine sold their Canadian branch in 1923.

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If you know anything about the history of the cards, the trains or the locations, please add them.