OTD: Last spike of Grand Trunk Pacific Railway driven down in B.C.

On today’s date in 1914, Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) President Edson J. Chamberlain drove the final spike of the 4,800-kilometre railway near Fort Fraser, B.C.

The construction of the GTPR was divided into two fronts: the Prairie Crew laid track from Winnipeg, Man. to Wolf Creek, Alta., and the Mountain Division built the most difficult section of track in North America by pushing the railway through the mountains to Prince Rupert, B.C.

It would be 12 years from groundbreaking to completion of the railway, but on April 7, 1914, Chamberlain hammered the final spike in British Columbia. The last spike ceremony was held 1.5 kilometres east of Fort Fraser, B.C. The railway’s board chair and other executives joined Chamberlain in arriving by train from Winnipeg and Montreal, while other dignitaries came for the ceremony from Prince Rupert.

Much of the railway is still in operation by Canadian National.

2014 GTPR COINS

In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint issued gold and silver coins to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the completion of the GTPR. These coins—a $250 two-ounce gold coin and a $30 two-ounce Fine silver coin—share a reverse design that symbolizes the transcontinental railway’s importance to the foundation of the country.

The Mint also issued this $250 gold coin with a weight of 62.34 grams and a 42-mm diameter.

Designed by Joel Kimmel, the reverse features a 1914-era steam train as it crosses the Grand Trunk Bridge in Saskatoon. Pulled behind are elegant wooden passenger cars against a backdrop of foliage. Inscriptions include “CANADA,” the year-date and the artist’s initials. Also shown is the coin’s face value of “250 DOLLARS” for the gold issue and “30 DOLLARS” for the silver issue. An effigy of Queen Elizabeth II graces the obverse of both coins.

The silver coin has a weight of 56 grams and a 54-mm diameter. The gold coin has a weight of 62.34 grams and a 42-mm diameter.

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