Creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway was a task originally undertaken by the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald as an incentive for British Columbia to join the Confederation of Canada. The successful construction of such a massive project, although troubled by delays and scandal, was considered an impressive feat of engineering and political will for a country with a small population and difficult terrain.
In 1872 Sir John A. Macdonald and other high-ranking politicians, swayed by bribes in the so-called Pacific scandal, granted federal contracts to the CPR Company (Hugh Allan) and the Inter-Ocean Railway Company. As a result of this scandal, Sir John's party was removed from office with Alexander Mackenzie reigning as Prime Minister until October 16, 1878 when Sir John was returned to power. In 1880 a new Canadian Pacific Railway Company (unrelated to Hugh Allan's) began construction with $25,000,000 (approximately $625,000,000 in modern Canadian money) in credit from the Canadian government and a grant of 25,000,000 acres (101 000 km²) of land. The renowned railway executive, Cornelius Van Horne was recruited to oversee construction with the inducement of a generous salary and the intriguing challenge of handling such a difficult railway project. The railway was foundering until March of 1884 when the Railway Relief Bill was passed, providing a further $22,500,000 in loans to the CPR Company. On November 7, 1885 the last spike was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia, making good on the original promise, albeit four years late.
The story of the railway's construction was most famously told in popular history books by Pierre Berton, The National Dream and The Last Spike which were adapted into a popular CBC television series called The National Dream.
As a logical and physical connection to its trains, the CPR gradually got involved in shipping fron the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. It also built up, in that same time period, a series of impressive "Chateau" hotels from one end of the country to the other. Two of the most famous ones are the Château Frontenac in Quebec and the Chateau Lake Louise, on the shore of Lake Louise in Alberta.