OTD: Last spike completes trans-continental railway

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

This became the last leg of the NTR, which 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.

According to a 1938 report by the newly formed Department of Transport, the cost of construction exceeded the original estimates, and because the GTPR company was in financial difficulties, it was unable to implement the lease agreement.

In fact, 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.

In 1915, the Borden government 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.


In 1981, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a silver dollar to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the approval by the Canadian government to build the trans-Canada railway.

This 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 piece was also issued with a mintage of 148,647 pieces.

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