The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885

The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885
Pierre Berton
Anchor Canada (2010)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: History, Canada, General
Historyttt Canadattt Generalttt

In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Last Spike
reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years — exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventures that were part of this vast undertaking: the railway on the brink of bankruptcy, with one hour between it and ruin; the extraordinary land boom of Winnipeg in 1881–1882; and the epic tale of how William Van Horne rushed 3,000 soldiers over a half-finished railway to quell the Riel Rebellion.

Dominating the whole saga are the men who made it all possible — a host of astonishing characters: Van Horne, the powerhouse behind the vision of a transcontinental railroad; Rogers, the eccentric surveyor; Onderdonk, the cool New Yorker; Stephen, the most emotional of businessmen; Father Lacombe, the black-robed voyageur; Sam Steele, of the North West Mounted Police; Gabriel Dumont, the Prince of the Prairies; more than 7,000 Chinese workers, toiling and dying in the canyons of the Fraser Valley; and many more — land sharks, construction geniuses, politicians, and entrepreneurs — all of whom played a role in the founding of the new Canada west of Ontario.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Review

"No novel could surpass
The Last Spike
for plot; no western for wildness... This is a great book."

Vancouver Sun

"Lively, human and utterly absorbing."

The Financial Post

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Last Spike
reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years ? exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventures that were part of this vast undertaking: the railway on the brink of bankruptcy, with one hour between it and ruin; the extraordinary land boom of Winnipeg in 1881?1882; and the epic tale of how William Van Horne rushed 3,000 soldiers over a half-finished railway to quell the Riel Rebellion.

Dominating the whole saga are the men who made it all possible ? a host of astonishing characters: Van Horne, the powerhouse behind the vision of a transcontinental railroad; Rogers, the eccentric surveyor; Onderdonk, the cool New Yorker; Stephen, the most emotional of businessmen; Father Lacombe, the black-robed voyageur; Sam Steele, of the North West Mounted Police; Gabriel Dumont, the Prince of the Prairies; more than 7,000 Chinese workers, toiling and dying in the canyons of the Fraser Valley; and many more ? land sharks, construction geniuses, politicans, and entrepreneurs ? all of whom played a role in the founding of the new Canada west of Ontario.

 

 

“Late events have shown us that we are made one people by that road, that that iron link has bound us together in such a way that we stand superior to most of the shafts of ill-fortune …”

Sir John A. Macdonald, June, 1885

 

“All I can say is that the work has been done well in every way.”

W. C. Van Horne, at Craigellachie

Copyright © 1971 by Pierre Berton Enterprises Ltd.
Anchor Canada paperback edition 2001

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher — or, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency — is an infringement of the copyright law.

Anchor Canada and colophon are trademarks.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data

Berton, Pierre, 1920-
    The last spike : the great railway 1881–1885

eISBN: 978-0-385-67354-9

1. Canadian Pacific Railway Company – History – 19th century. 2. Canada – History – 1867-1914. 3. Railroads and state – Canada – History – 19th century. 4. Railroads – Canada – History – 19th century. I. Title.

HE2810.C2B482 2001         385’.0971         C2001-930605-9

Published in Canada by
Anchor Canada, a division of
Random House of Canada Limited

Visit Random House of Canada Limited’s website:

www.randomhouse.ca

v3.1

Books by Pierre Berton
The Royal Family
The Mysterious North
Klondike
Just Add Water and Stir
Adventures of a Columnist
Fast Fast Fast Relief
The Big Sell
The Comfortable Pew
The Cool, Crazy, Committed World of the Sixties
The Smug Minority
The National Dream
The Last Spike
Drifting Home
Hollywood’s Canada
My Country
The Dionne Years
The Wild Frontier
The Invasion of Canada
Flames Across the Border
Why We Act Like Canadians
The Promised Land
Vimy
Starting Out
The Arctic Grail
The Great Depression
Niagara: A History of the Falls
My Times: Living with History
1967, The Last Good Year
Picture Books
The New City (with Henri Rossier)
Remember Yesterday
The Great Railway
The Klondike Quest
Pierre Berton’s Picture Book of Niagara Falls
Winter
The Great Lakes
Seacoasts
Pierre Berton’s Canada
Anthologies
Great Canadians
Pierre and Janet Berton’s Canadian Food Guide
Historic Headlines
Farewell to the Twentieth Century
Worth Repeating
Welcome to the Twenty-first Century
Fiction
Masquerade (pseudonym Lisa Kroniuk)
Books for Young Readers
The Golden Trail
The Secret World of Og
Adventures in Canadian History (22 volumes)
Contents
Cover
Title Page
Copyright
Other Books by This Author
Maps
Cast of Major Characters
The Great Canadian Photograph
ONE
1. The end and the beginning
2. How John Macoun altered the map
3. The first of the CPR towns
4. The “paid ink-slingers”
5. Enter Van Horne
TWO
1. The great Winnipeg boom
2. Fool’s paradise
3. “Towns cannot live of themselves”
4. The bubble bursts
THREE
1. The new broom
2. Five hundred miles of steel
3. End of Track
4. Edgar Dewdney’s new capital
5. The Grand Trunk declares war
FOUR
1. “Hell’s Bells Rogers”

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