Coast to Coast
After 1878, the Canadian government began to push settlement in the West. It was decided by the government that a railroad would be built to join the eastern provinces with British Columbia in the West. The railroad could be used to bring settlers to the West. It could also be used to ship farm products to Eastern Canada. Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway began in 1872, but it was not completed until 1885.
The railway from Eastern Canada made it easier for people to move to the Prairies. Without the train, the only option was to use a horse and wagon for the entire trip. There were very few roads for wagons to travel on so the trip was bumpy, long, and had many challenges.
Riding the train to Western Canada was much easier than making the long journey on a bumpy wagon.
Railways and Grain Elevators
Getting crops to grow in harsh Canadian conditions was difficult enough, but the farmers’ troubles didn’t end there. The farmers needed to get their product to people who wanted to buy it. In the beginning, grain elevators popped up all over the Prairies along the railway tracks. They were built close enough together so that farmers could make the trip to the elevator and back home in a day. This is why the Prairies have so many small towns so close together.
Photo Credit: Western Development Museum
Grain elevators were built next to the railway so grain could be shipped in railcars.
With an elevator came a train stop, and with a train stop came the opportunity for business. People would bring their wheat to town and pick up supplies for the farm. Often cream and other produce was delivered to the train so it could be moved on to the bigger markets in the cities. This meant there was a need for a hardware store, a grocery store, a post office, a church, and of course, a school. It did not take long before a town was born.
Farmers hauled their grain to elevators to sell and would pick up other supplies for their farms in town.