As the author tells in his
book... "They were worthy pioneers, whose names I have endevoured to
preserve, so that, though they pass out of sight they will not be
I am well aware that the
Canadian Pacific Railway was an amazing engineering feat and that at the
very top it was a Scots Prime Minister and a Scots Chief Engineer who
pulled this vast project together. Equally, while there were many Scots
involved in its construction, there were people of all nations who built
it. And in building it the railway can truly be said to have brought
Canada together as a nation. I feel this story needs to be told on our
site and who better to tell the story than the author, a Scot, who had
much to do with its building and through whose eyes we can get an insight
into all the work that had to be done to build it.
In Turner Bone's delightful
volume of reminiscences the reader will find the first narrative which has
given a day-to-day picture of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway
across the prairies and over the mountains.
Mr. Bone came to Canada
from Scotland as a young man in 1882, having served his engineering
apprenticeship in Glasgow. He joined the construction forces which laid
lines of steel through the then unknown west and across the Rockies to
Vancouver. He writes vividly and gaily of his life and incidentally gives
the reader a remarkably fresh and very human picture of early days on the
prairies and in the Rockies.
When The Steel Went Through
is actually an extract of the history of Canadian railway building, as Mr.
Bone was connected with many such projects, including the laying of the
Ontario and Quebec line, the short line through Maine, and the north and
south C.P. lines out of Calgary to Edmonton and Lethbridge. The book is
studded with informal and very good character sketches of men with whom he
worked and who became famous, Sir Herbert Holt, Sir William Mackenzie, Sir
Donald Mann, and many others.
Railroad men and all who
lived through that exciting period will enjoy this engrossing story which
is illustrated with many rare and excellent photographs.
Mr. D. C. Coleman,
President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, has contributed an
In the literary world,
there are writers who have done noteworthy work in their declining years.
It is on record that Longfellow, for the fiftieth anniversary of his class
at college, wrote:
"Cato learned Greek at
Wrote his grand Oepidus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers
Who each had numbered more than fourscore years;
And Theophrastus at fourscore and ten
Had but begun his Characters of men."
With such notable examples
of successful defiance of age to stimulate me, I have, at "more than
fourscore years", made my first literary venture. This appears in form as
my reminiscences — which many of my friends have expressed the hope I
A considerable part of this
work covers my early days on the Prairies, and in the Rocky Mountains,
when I was one of the engineers employed on the construction of the
Canadian Pacific Railway. That was sixty years ago. There are few of us
now left to tell a first-hand story of that work. So I have felt I should
do my part in preserving some record of those days, by relating my own
In my presentation of these
I have naturally mentioned quite frequently those with whom I was most
closely associated. However modest the positions which some of them held,
they played a necessary part in the construction of the railway; and,
later, were prominent in the development of the West. They were worthy
pioneers, whose names I have endeavoured to preserve, so that, though they
pass out of sight they will not be forgotten.
P. Turner Bone.
340 Fourth Avenue West,
The writer of these
reminiscences, who to the sorrow of his many friends departed this life
while the manuscript was in the hands of the printer, was one of the last
of the sadly dwindling band of pioneers who assisted in the building of
the Canadian Pacific Railway, and who in later years helped to create in
Calgary one of the most interesting and colourful communities in the
Western world. Canadians are notoriously careless about preserving records
bearing on the early development and expansion of their own country. It is
well, therefore, that one so well qualified as was Mr. Turner Bone should
have told a great story to thrill and inspire the generations to come. In
plain unvarnished prose he relates how the Canadian Pacific, having been
hurled across the prairies at reckless speed, stormed the ramparts of the
Rockies and the Selkirks and found its way to the peaceful Western sea.
There is much information in this book which until now has never found its
way into print, and which probably never would have done so had it not
been for the acuteness of observation, and the remarkably retentive memory
of Turner Bone. While there is no attempt at eloquence or fine writing,
the narrative is illuminated from time to time by touches of sentiment
which throw a light on the character of a singularly kindly and lovable
man. He has left as his memorial a real contribution to Canadian history.
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