The Effect Was Magical!

09 Jun

English: Canadian Northern Railway train stati...

There have been a number of exciting booms in Canada: gold, real estate, miniature golf and hula hoops.  In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was railways.

In an effort to stimulate railway building, the government guaranteed interest of not over six per cent on any issue of bonds for half the cost of any railway of 75 miles or more.  The effect was magical.  Railways sprang up everywhere, starting at one spot and ending nowhere — perhaps in a bush!  One of them was the Cobourg-Rice Lake, Plank Road and Ferry Company, which was incorporated on June 9, 1846.

The way to make money was to form a company to build a railway and then borrow from the government.  The directors would keep enough shares for control of the company and sell the rest to the public.  Contracts for the building of the railway would more than be awarded to companies in which the railway directors held shares.

It was easy to sell shares to the public because most people believed the railways would make great profits.  Instead, most of them went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by various governments.

Even so, the boom continued well into World War I.  Two of the most spectacular railway barons were William Mackenzie and Donald Mann, both of whom received knighthoods.  Mackenzie was a small town teacher who also kept a store.  Mann was supposed to enter the ministry, but instead became a lumber camp foreman and construction boss.  He could beat most lumberjacks with one hand tied behind his back.

In 1896, Mackenzie and Mann had a railway about 130 miles long, running between Gladstone, Manitoba, and Lake Winnipegosis.   They built the Canadian Northern Railway from Quebec to the Pacific coast.  By 1914, they owned 10,000 miles of track, hotels, telegraph companies, a transatlantic steamship service, iron and coal mines, sawmills and fisheries.  They did this without investing a cent of their own money, except for their original 130-mile railway costs!

The Canadian Northern eventually went bankrupt and was merged with the Grand Trunk, to form the present Canadian National Railways, the largest in the world.  Mackenzie and Mann did not go bankrupt.  They made fortunes.

Amazing times!  To read more about today’s post, I suggest Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages. Next, there’s a 34-page document at Canadian Railway Observations, but I assure you, it is far from being dry – I enjoyed it.


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19 responses to “The Effect Was Magical!

  1. Shelli@howsitgoingeh?

    June 13, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    The Canadian National Railways is the largest in the world?! Wow!

    • tkmorin

      June 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Big country, big company … Seriously, it is cool, eh? 🙂

  2. seeker

    June 11, 2013 at 12:30 am

    That’s unfortunate that they went bankrupt. I might again because it’s way too expensive ride the train all the way to the Rockies. Good read, Tk. 😛

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Thanks, Perpetua! 🙂

  3. Greg Ward

    June 10, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I am almost afraid to ask…but an exciting miniature golf boom? Great post as always thank you!

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Yes, mini golf, or mini putt, was quite popular at one point. Mini golf was created so long ago when women wanted to play, but it was unbecoming of a woman to swing the golf club as hard as possible.
      For more info about mini golf in Canada, just follow this link. 🙂

  4. Michelle Bennetts Heumann

    June 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Do you watch Downton Abbey? Unwise investing in Canadian railroads almost ruined the Grantham family. 🙂

    • tkmorin

      June 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      Yes, I saw that … I felt “proud” that CPR was mentioned, and in context, too. I miss the show .. 🙂

  5. prayingforoneday

    June 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Getting on a train will NEVER be the same again… lol

    • tkmorin

      June 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Hahaha. 🙂

      • prayingforoneday

        June 10, 2013 at 9:33 am

        lol!! 🙂

  6. Gypsy Bev

    June 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Are any of those early railroads being used for tourist tours these days? I have taken several special train trips while in Canada. Your posts are always interesting!

    • tkmorin

      June 10, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Thank you! Let me see if I can find info about that for you. … 🙂

  7. L. Marie

    June 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I always wondered how railways were built. What a time! Seems a bit haphazard though.

    • tkmorin

      June 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Yeah, I thought it was put together better than this too! 🙂

  8. jameswhoddinott

    June 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I really enjoy all your Canadian content and information. This is a fantasitc site. Hope you check out my friends book called the Secret March from the Winnipeg General Strike. Actually my book When Eagles Dare to Fly although fiction is based on the real life expereinces of life of adolescents growing up on and off a Reserve.

    • tkmorin

      June 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      What is your friend’s name that wrote Secret March? And is When Eagles Dare to Fly listed as James Whoddinott as the author?

      Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

      • jameswhoddinott

        June 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        The author is James W Hoddinott which is me. William is my middle name. I used James W Hoddinott as my author’s name so to speak. Most people call me Jim. My friends name is Merle Klyne we taught together in Ashern He was the High School English Teacher and I was the Resource/Special Education Teacher.

        • tkmorin

          June 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

          Thanks, I will check it out! 🙂


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