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No other mode of transport conveys such an acute sense of Canada’s vastness, of its beautiful, desolate, wide-open spaces. Endless stretches of track take you through a wilderness scarcely touched by man. You can travel for hours without seeing a road or a house, or indeed any sign of habitation – it’s an incredible, almost haunting, experience.
The railway is also the reason why this massive country exists at all. When the Dominion of Canada was created in 1867 it was no more than a set of loosely-connected colonies with no sense of unity or nationhood. It was, moreover, under a very real threat of being swallowed up by its powerful southern neighbour. The railroad was the single most important reason why this never happened: it gave the new country its life-blood and bound the provinces together into a transcontinental nation. When the last spike was driven in on 7 November 1885 it paved the way for rapid expansion, mass immigration and economic boom. Urban development ran parallel to the tracks and the stops along the line became the backbone of a new nation – which makes a rail trip today a fascinating journey into this young country’s history.
What you’ll probably remember about the trip more than anything, though, is the dazzling scenery you travel through.
On top of all this, a rail ride across Canada is a supremely relaxing experience, a rare joy in today’s climate of rapid communications and jet-travel. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘the train disturbs so little the scenery through which it takes us, that our heart becomes full of the placidity and stillness of the country.’ Nowhere is this more true than in Canada.
Excerpted from Trans-Canada Rail Guide, 5th by Graham, Melissa Copyright © 2010 by Graham, Melissa. Excerpted by permission.
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