John Marlor's Canadian Pacific

        Historical Background Choosing the Route Discovery of Rogers Pass Construction through      Rogers Pass Connaught Tunnel Revelstoke Eagle Pass Arrowhead Branch Continue

Choosing the Route of the Canadian Pacific Railway

through the Mountains of British Columbia

In 1867, with Confederation, Canada became a nation, and the United

States bought Alaska.

Both events contributed to the construction of the

Canadian Pacific Railway through Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains

of British Columbia, Canada.

Confederation included regions in the eastern part of North America,

parts of the present day Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec

along with the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

It was generally agreed that British interests also extended north of

the 49th parallel from Ontario and the Pacific Ocean. However, at the

time there was little to stop the United States from annexing

territories north of the 49th parallel and they had a large standing

army left over from the American Civil War with which to achieve it.

The American doctrine of Manifest Destiny (the belief that the United

States was destined to expand from the Atlantic seaboard to the

Pacific Ocean), had been used to justify in the 1840s the annexation

of much of what is now the western United States (the Oregon

Territory, the Texas Annexation, and the Mexican Cession).

So there was reason for concern that with the American purchase of

Alaska in 1867 the United States would attempt to link its western

territories by annexing the United Colonies of Vancouver Island

(established in 1849) and British Columbia (established in 1858).

In 1870, to forestall the annexation of British Columbia by the

Americans and as part of the terms of British Columbia’s joining the

Canadian Confederation, an agreement was made to link the coastal

settlements of British Columbia with the East by completion of a

railway within ten years.

A Southern Route Favoured

Although a route through the Yellowhead Pass (just west of present-

day Jasper, Alberta) was considered by many to be the preferred

route, it was decided to build the line further south for the following


It was deemed that keeping the line further south would minimize

the risk of U.S. railroads penetrating north of the 49th parallel.

A more southerly route would be cheaper as it would require fewer

bridges to cross the predominantly north-south watercourses in the


Since most of Canada’s existing population centers were located

within 100 miles of the U.S. border, there would also be some

savings in rail mileage, in comparison with a route that swung

north through the Yellowhead Pass.

A southern route was also preferable because of its proximity

to coal and other mineral deposits being discovered in and

near southeastern British Columbia.

But, it was stipulated that the line must be located at least 100 miles

north of the 49th parallel in case of attack by the United States. The

49th parallel was considered at the time to be the international


No Known Pass through the Selkirk Mountains

This latter stipulation ruled out the already discovered South Kootenay

and Crows Nest Passes in favour of the Kicking Horse Pass through the

Rocky Mountains.

Eagle Pass through the Gold Mountains, now know as the Monashee

Mountains, had also already been discovered.

But there was no know pass through the Selkirk Mountains.