God damn the CPR ?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Biased turkey, Sep 24, 2007.

  1. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I'm not a Canadian citizen, I'm living in Québec but I've heard that sentence once.
    Could someone please explain why that sentence was coined.
    ( My guess is that it was related to the farmers in the Prairies ).
    Tia for any info.

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Are you talking about the title of your post?

    If yes, and you've heard it more than once or twice, I am sure there is a different reason for every time you have heard it...! Depends on who is saying it, is my guess.

    Let's see -

    CPR was a monopoly for a long time, and acted like it.
    CPR took/used government money and grants of land.
    CPR was funded out of Montreal by some important wealthy Scots, among others (when not using gov't money), so profits returned there.
    CPR was used to move troops to crush Riel and his supporters.
    CPR was often the only choice for employment in any given town, and I am sure not everyone was grateful or willing to work.

    There's a long history to the CPR - plenty of time to annoy at least a few people...! ;)

  3. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Thanks Andrew for taking some of your time to explain to a non-Canadian why the CPR was disliked in some parts of the country.

    The title of the post came back to my mind when a few weeks ago I visited Exporail in St. Constant ( Dilson ) and saw the private car of Cornelius Van Horne.
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The full extent of the "joke" is:
    The farmer had lost his cow to an illness.
    His Horse had gone lame.
    His wife had run off with a travelling salesman.
    And finally his wheat field had been flattened by a hailstorm.
    The farmer looked up at the shy, shook his fist, and cried "God damn the CPR!"

    To balance it, a poem by a (probably Easten) member of parliament:
    The little birdies on the wing go Tweet, tweet, tweet.
    The little flowers in the spring smell sweet, sweet, sweet.
    But the damnedest words I ever heard
    Were Wheat, Wheat, Wheat.
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Thanks for adding that! I didn't realize that the CPR was that powerful... ;) :D

    BT - you should also know that most, if not all, the scenarios I described date from the 1880s to the 1950s.

  6. galt904

    galt904 Member

    There's a whole poem/song under that title. I think the whole lyrics were posted a while back somewhere. Let me see if I can find them....

    Can't find them right now.... Were they printed in one of Pierre Berton's books????
  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Back in 1886 the CPR was completed from Eastern Canada to Western Canada. This allowed the expansion of farming into the prairie provinces. Farmers could now export their wheat to Europe. However, the only way to get their wheat to market was through the CPR. The CPR had a monopoly on transportation. Freight rates were higher for goods being shipped to Western Canada than they were in Eastern Canada. And farmers had to pay higher freight rates to ship their grain. There was no competition.

    A major political issue for the prairie farmers in every election was the freight rates. From this griping came the phrase "God damn the CPR" expounded in many forms and in many forums.

    It didn't really go away until the CPR got some competition from the Canadian Northern (and later on the Grand Trunk Pacific) in the late 1890s. The Canadian and provincial governments encouraged the building of competing railway lines in the prairies to the extent that there was an over-building of railway lines.

    Many of these lines, built primarily by the CNoR and the GTP went bankrupt and were brought into the fold of the government-owned Canadian National Railways.

    This is a very long story and there are lots of books which chronicle the building of railway lines in the prairies and in Canada. It makes for some very interesting reading!

    Bob M.
  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Very interesting! We US americans are a bit deprived in terms of Canadian history, aside from our forceful attempts to convince you to join our revolt ;-)

    I'm curious...I was under the impression that the CN and CP lost very large amounts of money in shipping wheat per gov't law for many years. Was this sort of like the plight of branchlines down here? The Pensy had always had double the revenue of any other railroads and tons of branchlines...with 3000 2-8-0s to work them...by the 1960s...it doomed the pensy and helped precipitate the PennCentral merger. The branchlines bled many roads to death as the FCC wouldn't allow them to abandon routes fast enough.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'm not sure of the dates, but at the time CPR built a second line, through Crows Nest Pass, they managed to get a fixed rate for hauling grain to the Pacific coast. This was high for the time and resented by the farmers. As time went on, the Crows Nest rates moved from high to reasonable to a real bargain, and the farmers became powerful enough to have them continued. This was claimed by the railways to be a major financial burden and they went looking for government subsidies (having already sold all the land they'd been granted).
  10. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Ah, that makes sense. Thanks 60103.
  11. Relic

    Relic Member

    when rway bob says "easternCanada",don't forger that Canada stops at about Montreal.
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Ouch! ;) :D

    When was the intercolonial built? I think that railways in eastern Quebec and the Maritimes pre-date the CPR?

  13. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Grand Trunk Railway opened Quebec, Montreal, Toronto Windsor around 1856 - 1858 (opened in sections) (a condition of the union of Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec). Intercolonial Railway (a condition of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joining the confederation of Canada) opened around 1873 - 1876.

    Western wheat was ultimately hauled by train/ shipped by boat to Montreal and Quebec City with trains going on to Halifax where it was offloaded into ocean-going freighters. You can still see the large grain elevators at these 3 ports.

    For building railway lines through southern British Columbia, the Government of Canada provided grants to the CPR in the late 1800's in return for fixed rates for shipping grain from the prairies through Thunder Bay (then called Fort William and Port Arthur). This rate would be controlled by the Government. These fixed rates were called the Crow's Nest rates, or simply "the Crow". They lasted right into the 1980s when the rates were finally "deregulated" in return for the railways investing in equipment (facilities, locomotives, etc) to move the grain more efficiently. (Sorry if I don't have exact dates as I'm recalling this stuff off the top of my head.)

    The Crow was a politically sensitive issue with Westerners and therefore was political dynamite which was why the governments of the day didn't interfere with any rate adjustments. In the early days, the railways made money. However, in latter days, they claimed they were losing money. Hence, grain trains came to receive a low priority - or so the farmers claimed (with good reason).

    The negotiations to eliminate the Crow were very heated and caused a lot of uproar. The Crow was finally eliminated and shipping rates were deregulated.

    In the 1970's, in response to the complaints of Western farmers about the railways' inefficiencies in transporting grain (it was still being shipped in boxcars), and the railways' complaints that there was no money in shipping grain to invest in newer equipment, the Government of Canada invested in 12,000 specialized Canadian-designed hopper cars - the ubiquitous "grain cars". These were high capacity (100 ton loads), fast-unloading, very efficient cars that we still see today on Canadian railroads. Both the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan invested in their fleets of grain cars.

    Most of the grain traffic today has shifted from Eastern Canada (Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax) to Western Canada (Vancouver) because our markets have shifted from Europe to Asia. It is very typical today and quite the sight to see 100-car trains being hauled over the Rockies and the Selkirks - two ES44ACs or AS4400s on the front and an ES44AC or AS4400 on the back (in the case of CP Rail) as they crawl up the Kicking Horse Pass, over the Continental Divide, and down into Field BC - over 1,200' up and over 1,200' down in less than 20 miles.

    On the prairies, things have really changed. The typical wooden prairie grain elevator has all but disappeared, replaced by a few number of huge concrete silos that gather the grain for miles around. It is now to the point where, unless the elevator can provide 50 loaded cars of grain at a time to the railways, they aren't interested in servicing the elevator. Which has led to lots of uproar between the farmers and the railways with the provincial and federal governments in the middle.

    Recently, the federal government reached agreement with CN and CP to rebuild/ refurbish the federal grain car fleet. The cars are still in decent shape in spite of the neglect over the last 30/35 years. A small portion of the fleet is aluminum but most of the fleet is steel. The steel cars developed cracks along the sills but, unlike the regular grain car, the cracks didn't impact their ability to transport grain. A lot of the rebuild simply involves re-welding the sills, re-coating the interior, installing newer more efficient doors on the discharge chutes, and repainting them.

    Anyhoo.... We're getting off topic a bit here. But that's the story in a nutshell.

    Bob M.
  14. Relic

    Relic Member

    How many times have you watched "great Train Stories"?
    Top of your head eh'? holy
  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    They don't call him "Railway Bob" for nothin'! ;) :D

  16. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Cool. Thanks!
  17. Isambard

    Isambard Member

    Your guess is correct Jacques. In the late 19th century and the first part of the 20th century the Canadian Pacific Railway was a dominant part of economic life on the Canadian prairies (southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). Farmers were heavily dependent on the CPR for bringing them manufactured goods and supplies and for transporting away their wheat, grains and livestock, at freight rates that favoured the eastern manufactured goods and supplies and not grain crops such as wheat. In the 1920's and 1930's a combination of the economic depression and drought ("the Dirty Thirties") made life very hard for the prairie farmers, even though the CPR continued to prosper (albeit at a reduced level). As a result the embittered farmers took to blaming the CPR for pretty much everything bad that happened, even, so the story goes, shaking their fists at the cloudless skies during the lengthy drought period with a shout of "God damn the CPR!".
    My Saskatchewan farming relatives lived through that period.
  18. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    Thanks for the history lesson Railway Bob. I was somewhat familiar with the 'crow-rate' but never figured out why it was called that (a little slow on that one)
    The Canadian Grain cars can be seen almost everywhere, not just in the large unit trains heading for the coast. we get a couple in and out of kelowna each week.
  19. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Jacques, it just occurred to me when I saw Mr. Kingdom Brunel quoting you how funny it is to see: I'm not a Canadian...I'm living in Quebec...


    I'm sure we could say the same thing about California (la la land) and Texas. All are fine places, just some people in those places have succession inclinations.
  20. Isambard

    Isambard Member

    Many Quebec sovereigntists are like the proverbial western farmer, but blame the federal government, and not the CPR, for anything that goes wrong - "C'est la faut fédéral!

    I'm Canadian and living in Québec (Canada)!
    Isambard :wave:

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