Re: “Under the railway’s influence” (April 1, page 12-13)

In response to Under the railway’s influence, published March, 31, 2010.

Overall, your whole transportation/urban issues paper successfully carried out the trick of being educational while being entertaining. Well done.

However, you did propagate the myth that the Panama Canal killed off Winnipeg’s last boom, almost 100 years ago. No, it was the First World War: it cut off both British investment and European immigration. They made the boom happen. Once that capital was cut off and white people stopped coming here in droves, Winnipeg stagnated.

So why does the Panama Canal get the blame? Because when it opened in August 1914, the war was breaking out across Europe. Because of the coincidence, the Canal gets fingered.

And your writers were correct in saying that the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) planned to go through Selkirk instead of Winnipeg, and the latter’s politicians changed the railroad executives’ minds by promising money and a free bridge over the Red River. But the writers erred in saying that main line came in from the east. No, it came in from the north. The CPR’s tracks had almost reached the Red River when the CPR changed its mind. So the track construction was turned south at East Selkirk. The tracks ran over that gifted bridge where the present-day Louise Bridge now stands (then swung west near Higgins). CPR trains from the east did not come in from the east for 20 years. (The second main line did start at Molson Street).

The original main line is almost gone. A stub remains between Molson and Beausejour. Its tracks in Winnipeg ran between Raleigh and Gateway streets, and were recently replaced by the new Pioneer bike trail. Winnipeg was the “Gateway to the West.” Gateway Street. No coincidence there.

– John R. Jackson

Published in Volume 64, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 27, 2010)

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