The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885

Paperback | August 14, 2001

byPierre Berton

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In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years — exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventures that were part of this vast undertaking: the railway on the brink of bankruptcy, with one hour between it and ruin; the extraordinary land boom of Winnipeg in 1881–1882; and the epic tale of how William Van Horne rushed 3,000 soldiers over a half-finished railway to quell the Riel Rebellion.

Dominating the whole saga are the men who made it all possible — a host of astonishing characters: Van Horne, the powerhouse behind the vision of a transcontinental railroad; Rogers, the eccentric surveyor; Onderdonk, the cool New Yorker; Stephen, the most emotional of businessmen; Father Lacombe, the black-robed voyageur; Sam Steele, of the North West Mounted Police; Gabriel Dumont, the Prince of the Prairies; more than 7,000 Chinese workers, toiling and dying in the canyons of the Fraser Valley; and many more — land sharks, construction geniuses, politicians, and entrepreneurs — all of whom played a role in the founding of the new Canada west of Ontario.

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From the Publisher

In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years — exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventures...

From the Jacket

In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. "The Last Spike reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years -- exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventur...

Pierre Berton, Canada's most widely read historian, was born in the Yukon and educated at UBC. Author of forty-seven books, he has received three Governor General's awards for nonfiction, two Nellies for broadcasting, two National Newspaper awards, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and the National History Society's first award for...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:496 pages, 8.99 × 6.03 × 1.27 inPublished:August 14, 2001Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385658419

ISBN - 13:9780385658416

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A historical account of the construction of the CPR I bought this book after taking a Canadian History Course at the local university. I wanted to see if the book included an account of the abominable treatment of the aboriginal people by Sir John A MacDonald in order to complete his railway. While there are brief references to the native people, the book concentrates on the characters involved in the building of the railroad and the financial and technical difficulties they encountered along the way. The amount of research that went into this book is phenomenal. Sadly the truth about the treatment of the native people has been omitted.
Date published: 2015-07-12

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Editorial Reviews

"No novel could surpass The Last Spike for plot; no western for wildness... This is a great book."
Vancouver Sun

"Lively, human and utterly absorbing."
The Financial Post