The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, which was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1903, has undertaken the construction and operation of a line across Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, of an estimated mileage of main line of 3,600 miles, in addition to several branch lines. A subsidiary company, having for its object the construction of branch lines, in addition to and including those provided for in the charter of 1903, was incorporated in 1906. This Company’s charter authorises the construction of twenty branch lines of railway, of a total mileage of about 5,000 miles.
The road is being constructed in two portions, known as the Eastern Division and the Western Division, the former reaching from Moncton to Winnipeg, a distance of 1,800 miles, and the latter from Winnipeg to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of 1,756 miles. The main line of the Eastern Division is being built at the cost of the Canadian Government, and to be leased to the Company, on completion, for a period of fifty years, and the branch lines are to be built by the Company. The rental pay-able by the Company to the Government for the use of the Eastern Division is a percentage on the cost of construction, it being provided that, for the first seven years of the term of the lease, the Company shall operate the road, subject only to payment of working expenditure ; and that, for the next succeeding forty-three years, the Company shall pay annually to the Government, by way of rental, a sum equal to three per centum per annum upon the cost of construction of the division ; excepting that, if, during the first three years of the period of forty-three years, the net earnings, over and above expenditure, shall not amount to three per centum of the cost of construction, the difference between the net earnings and the rental shall not be payable by the Company, but shall be capitalised and form part of the cost of construction, upon the whole amount of which rental shall be required to be paid, after the first ten years of the lease. By the terms of the lease it will be seen that the Company will practically have the free use of the railway for a period of seven years. In all probability, therefore, looking to the fact that no rental will have to be paid to the Government until the expiration of this period, the Company will probably have reaped a rich harvest from the traffic of the road before such payment falls due.
The Western division is being built at the cost of the Company, the Government, however, guaranteeing First Mortgage Bonds, to the extent of 13,000 dollars per mile on the prairie section, and for three-quarters of whatever the cost may be on the mountain section. The country through which the prairie section will pass contains land known to be well adapted for the growing of wheat, which, in extent, is four times the wheat-growing area of the United States. This land, which is now being rapidly taken up by settlers, will furnish a large traffic for the Company as rapidly as it can be constructed, while the mineral traffic from the mountain section will undoubtedly prove a source of much revenue for the Company. A feature much in favour of the economical working of the road, is the low gradients over the mountain section.
The point selected for the Pacific terminus of the rail way, namely, Prince Rupert, is situated within fifty miles of the southern extremity of Alaska, and is reached from the Pacific Ocean via Dixon Entrance and Brown Passage. Prince Rupert Harbour possesses some of the greatest advantages to ocean shipping that can be found along the entire Pacific coast. It has a direct channel passage leading into it of more than half a mile in width, and is sufficient in extent to accommodate a great quantity of shipping. The site of Prince Rupert is a picturesque one. The land slopes back gently for distances ranging from half a mile to two or three miles. Here and there the ground rises abruptly, while a shore line, five or six miles in extent, sweeps around the front of the city. It is situated about 550 miles north of Vancouver, and the new transcontinental railway will possess the shortest route from Liverpool to Asiatic ports. Prince Rupert lies in the centre of the salmon fishing industry of British Columbia, being in the immediate vicinity of a large number of canneries which ship their product throughout the world.
Of great advantage and benefit to this new enterprise is its relation to the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada, with its 4,800 miles of railway, on which is situated all the cities and the principal towns in Eastern Canada, among the former being London, Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec, Halifax and St. John, the principal cities in the Maritime Provinces, with their growing population, and constituting the Canadian sea-ports on the Atlantic, which will be reached by the new railway, will be large and important contributors to its traffic. Not alone are these advantages confined to Canada, but situated on this great railway system are also the large cities of Chicago, Detroit, Toledo, Buffalo, and Portland in the United States. With this unrivalled position, the new transcontinental railway will at once become an exclusive partner, and from the beginning will be placed in possession of an enormous general traffic, already created and originating on the Grand Trunk Railway system, but hitherto being carried into the North-West over other lines.
An important feature in connection with the new rail way is the fact that it will form the shortest route between Europe and Asia ; and, when completed, there can be but little doubt that lines of steamships will be established on the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The distance between the countries named will be shortened by two days’ sail, this being made possible by the location of the Pacific terminus so much northerly of an existing port, thereby reducing the Pacific Ocean mileage.
The Grand Trunk Pacific Town and Development Company, a majority of the capital stock of which is held by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, has acquired land for eighty-six town sites, between Winnipeg and Edmonton, which have been sub-divided into lots and placed on the market for sale, and thousands of lots have already been sold. Thriving towns are springing up where a short time ago was but the bare prairie. The growth is especially noticeable at the division points or terminals, of which there are five between Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Train services are already established between West fort, near Port Arthur, to Graham, a distance of 195 miles, and from Winnipeg to Edmonton (792 miles), while branches are operated irregularly for freight traffic by construction trains. Of the 1909 crop of the Canadian North-West grain, six millions of bushels were handled by the Grand Trunk Pacific to Portage la Prairie or Winnipeg for furtherance to the Lake ports. The Chairman of the Company (Mr. Alfred Smithers), at its half-yearly meeting in October, 1910, spoke in the most optimistic terms of the progress and prospects of the road. He said that they had at Fort William an elevator capable of holding 3,500,000 bushels of wheat, and capable of enlargement to take 10,000,000 bushels. At Winnipeg, the new station, which they were to share with the Canadian Northern Railway, was well advanced in construction, and he thought that it would be ready for traffic in the spring of this year. He had inspected the line between Winnipeg and Edmonton, and found the country through which it passed nearly all high class wheat land. Several towns had already grown up on the route, containing from 1,000 to 2,000 inhabitants, as well as many smaller places. Mr. Alfred Smithers remarked, speaking of his visit to Prince Rupert, that when he was there, in 1907, it contained only 200 people, a wharf, and about a dozen houses. There were now 3,000 residents, banks, shops, stores, and several hundreds of houses. Another wharf had been built, and the shipping business had increased to a very large extent.
The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company unquestionably has a great future before it. Evidence is abundant that the wealth and prosperity of Canada is increasing year by year. The products of her boundless agricultural lands are in great and ever-growing demand in the ” Old World.” Her natural resources are vast and varied. Settlers are flocking in in large numbers, both from Great Britain and the Continent of Europe, bringing with them not only their strong right arms, but, in many cases, considerable amounts of capital. The watchword of the country is ” forward.” In all this prosperity the Company will doubtless share, and there seems to be no reason why it should not, in the future, occupy as prominent a position in the Dominion as its great competitors.