Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dubious History:Kuitenbrower on railroads

Next stop Scarborough Town Centre 

The National Post's Peter Kuitenbrower, trying save Toronto mayor Rob Ford from his own personal train-wreck, argues that politicians in Toronto and Ontario need to act with the kind of speed and dispatch that the Pacific railway builders displayed in the 1870s.

Workers and planners and engineers raced against a deadline set by British Columbia (the province of my birth), which had made the railway a condition of remaining in Confederation.
Punching a railway through the Rockies has proven faster and easier compared with bringing rapid transit past the Science Centre to Scarborough. Based on our progress, I encourage Scarborough to secede from Toronto. Back in the 1870s visionaries such as William Cornelius Van Horne came forward to build a railway. Where are our visionaries today?
Right, speed, dispatch, vision.  Except ... There was no lack of self-proclaimed visionaries, then as now, but Canada spent the whole of the 1870s in railway wrangles that make Toronto's look trivial. BC got its deadline confirmed in 1871, and when it expired there was hardly a foot of transcontinental railroad in the province. William Van Horne was not even hired until 1881. Fast?  Easy?  Maybe in the Imax movie Kuitenbrower saw.
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