Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ad Mare Usque Ad Mare

Canada is 150 years of today, or rather should we say the Confederation - a political body - is now celebrating its 150th anniversary. As with everything happening in our peaceful and monotonous country, the celebration are low key for the most and quite cheesy. Don't expect fanfare, military parade or anything else... business as usual.

CPR No. 374. 23 May 1887 (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN No. 3191726)

Most Canadians (I hope!) knows the country as we knows it it far older than that in a similar fashion than United States were officially proclaimed in 1776 but their real foundation goes back 400 hundred years ago, just like Canada.

I generally try to keep myself away from politics when blogging, but that political anniversary can't be understood outside the realm of railways. Without trains, which were a condition for many provinces to join the Confederation or to be created, the creation of a unified federal administration would have been almost impossible. In 1867, most of the population centers and activities took place along the St. Lawrence River and Gulf and the Great Lakes, exactly the same areas explored and envisioned a future prosperous country by Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century. By the First World War, the geographical expansion of the country was achieved. Imagine, in about 40 years, more territories were developed than before in three centuries. The same happened in the USA at a similar rate and often, by the same companies, railway tycoons and engineers. Sure, a lot of odious acts occurred during that era of transformation and I certainly won't gloss over it.

The funny thing is that Canada is now completely forgetting the force that gave it a coherent shape. Talk to anybody under 30 years and they are oblivious to trains. As if it never existed. However, they travel a lot in foreign country, discovering the advantages of railways and when you tell them we had it all less than 50 years ago, they ask what happened to reach such a pitiful state.

As far as I can recall, I've heard about fast trains linking Quebec City to Windsor via Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. How many fruitless studies were made? It took more decades to write these useless shenanigans than to link British Columbia through wilderness with the rest of the country. Can you believe they built several thousands of track using man power and early industrial machine on hostile terrain while just putting a passenger train on existing rail seems to be an impossible task. This is fascinating and at the same time, the most horrific truth about Canada: nothing ever gets done... and unfortunately, not by lack of talent or resources, but by some psychological blocage. I can't help but think about the Arrow plane which was cancelled and almost completely erased from the records, the same happened with the Turbo train and many other breakthroughs.

If I could only wish something for our country before the 200th anniversary would be that citizens rediscover the railway's fascinating history shaping the landscape and lives of millions... in the past and in the future.

With that said, Happy Canada Day from Coast to Coast!!!!

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