OTD: Last spike completes transcontinental railway

On today’s date in 1913, the last spike was driven to complete the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR).

This leg of the NTR ran from Prince Rupert, B.C., to Moncton, N.B., via Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout, Kapuskasing, Cochrane and Québec city. This final stage of the project began in 1903 and only the $40-million Québec Bridge – the largest cantilever span in the world – remained unfinished.

Canada now had three transcontinental railways, including the Canadian Pacific Railway; the Canadian Northern Railway from British Columbia to Nova Scotia; and the NTR/Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) system.

In 1938, the newly formed Department of Transport reported the cost of construction exceeded the original estimates. Because the GTPR company was in financial difficulties, it was unable to implement the lease agreement.

The major cost overruns of the NTR/GTPR led to the downfall of Wilfrid Laurier’s federal Liberal party in 1911, when Conservative leader Robert Borden became prime minister.

The Borden government then amalgamated the lines into the Canadian Government Railways, which along with the bankrupt Canadian Northern Railway merged into the Canadian National Railway in December 1918.

1981 SILVER DOLLAR

In 1981, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a silver dollar to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the federal government’s plan to build the transcontinental railway.

The Proof silver dollar has a weight of 23.3 grams, a diameter of 36.07 millimetres and a mintage of 353,742 pieces.

A Brilliant Uncirculated version was also issued with a mintage of 148,647 pieces.

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