Saturday, July 1, 2017

Oh Canada!

In honor of Washington State's neighbor nation's 150th Anniversary of Confederation, Spike is pleased to highlight a little-known object in the Northwest Railway Museum's large object collection: former Canadian Pacific Railway officials car 25 (1918 - 1964), nee "Saskatchewan" (1918 - 1928), nee "Earnscliffe" (1881 - 1890), nee "Chapleau" (1881 - 1890).

The 25 was purportedly built as a coach in 1879 by the Gilbert, Bush and Company of Troy, New York for the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway ("QMO&O").  It had an eventful history in the fast-expanding railway empires of the new Canadian Nation, and is an excellent example of late 19th Century wooden car construction. It experienced several ownership changes, and at least two reconstructions before May 1890 when it entered service as private car Earnscliffe.  

Earnscliffe was assigned for the use of dignitaries including Canada's first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, who would have used this car whenever traveling by rail, up until his death in June 1891. Macdonald would almost certainly have traveled in this car during the spirited election of 1891 when the wedge issue was reciprocity (free trade) with the United States. By the way, he handily won using a rather remarkable slogan: "The Old Flag, The Old Policy, The Old Leader."  So free trade would have to wait for another 100 years.

Railroad cars usually have a much longer shelf life than elected officials, so Earnscliffe continued as a private car.  Which brings us to the famous photo accompanying today's post: On May 17, 1894 dignitaries including Canadian Pacific Railway President William Cornelius Van Horne (in the center gazing to his left) posed with private car Earnscliffe on the occasion of the dedication of Stoney Creek Bridge in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. 

Mr. Van Horne was an American railroad man from Illinois who on the recommendation of James Jerome Hill (himself a successful railway man born near Toronto) was hired to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he succeeded beyond nearly all expectations. Meanwhile, James J. Hill went on to complete construction of the Great Northern Railway with its terminus at Puget Sound here in Washington State, and a less than cordial relationship developed between the two men. And the resulting legacy of economic aggression unleashed along the Washington - British Columbia border is an important interpretive theme the Northwest Railway Museum looks forward to sharing with future visitors.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

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