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When the Steel Went Through
By P. Turner Bone

As the author tells in his book... "They were worthy pioneers, whose names I have endevoured to preserve, so that, though they pass out of sight they will not be forgotten.

I am well aware that the Canadian Pacific Railway was an amazing engineering feat and that at the very top it was a Scots Prime Minister and a Scots Chief Engineer who pulled this vast project together. Equally, while there were many Scots involved in its construction, there were people of all nations who built it. And in building it the railway can truly be said to have brought Canada together as a nation. I feel this story needs to be told on our site and who better to tell the story than the author, a Scot, who had much to do with its building and through whose eyes we can get an insight into all the work that had to be done to build it.

Picture of Author provided by Al Norman

Here is what it says on the flyleaf:

In Turner Bone's delightful volume of reminiscences the reader will find the first narrative which has given a day-to-day picture of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the prairies and over the mountains.

Mr. Bone came to Canada from Scotland as a young man in 1882, having served his engineering apprenticeship in Glasgow. He joined the construction forces which laid lines of steel through the then unknown west and across the Rockies to Vancouver. He writes vividly and gaily of his life and incidentally gives the reader a remarkably fresh and very human picture of early days on the prairies and in the Rockies.

When The Steel Went Through is actually an extract of the history of Canadian railway building, as Mr. Bone was connected with many such projects, including the laying of the Ontario and Quebec line, the short line through Maine, and the north and south C.P. lines out of Calgary to Edmonton and Lethbridge. The book is studded with informal and very good character sketches of men with whom he worked and who became famous, Sir Herbert Holt, Sir William Mackenzie, Sir Donald Mann, and many others.

Railroad men and all who lived through that exciting period will enjoy this engrossing story which is illustrated with many rare and excellent photographs.

Mr. D. C. Coleman, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, has contributed an introduction.


In the literary world, there are writers who have done noteworthy work in their declining years. It is on record that Longfellow, for the fiftieth anniversary of his class at college, wrote:

"Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oepidus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers
Who each had numbered more than fourscore years;
And Theophrastus at fourscore and ten
Had but begun his Characters of men."

With such notable examples of successful defiance of age to stimulate me, I have, at "more than fourscore years", made my first literary venture. This appears in form as my reminiscences which many of my friends have expressed the hope I would write.

A considerable part of this work covers my early days on the Prairies, and in the Rocky Mountains, when I was one of the engineers employed on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. That was sixty years ago. There are few of us now left to tell a first-hand story of that work. So I have felt I should do my part in preserving some record of those days, by relating my own experiences.

In my presentation of these I have naturally mentioned quite frequently those with whom I was most closely associated. However modest the positions which some of them held, they played a necessary part in the construction of the railway; and, later, were prominent in the development of the West. They were worthy pioneers, whose names I have endeavoured to preserve, so that, though they pass out of sight they will not be forgotten.

P. Turner Bone.

340 Fourth Avenue West,
Calgary, Alberta,
May, 1945.


The writer of these reminiscences, who to the sorrow of his many friends departed this life while the manuscript was in the hands of the printer, was one of the last of the sadly dwindling band of pioneers who assisted in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and who in later years helped to create in Calgary one of the most interesting and colourful communities in the Western world. Canadians are notoriously careless about preserving records bearing on the early development and expansion of their own country. It is well, therefore, that one so well qualified as was Mr. Turner Bone should have told a great story to thrill and inspire the generations to come. In plain unvarnished prose he relates how the Canadian Pacific, having been hurled across the prairies at reckless speed, stormed the ramparts of the Rockies and the Selkirks and found its way to the peaceful Western sea. There is much information in this book which until now has never found its way into print, and which probably never would have done so had it not been for the acuteness of observation, and the remarkably retentive memory of Turner Bone. While there is no attempt at eloquence or fine writing, the narrative is illuminated from time to time by touches of sentiment which throw a light on the character of a singularly kindly and lovable man. He has left as his memorial a real contribution to Canadian history.

D'Alton C. Coleman


Building of Rogers Pass CP Rail line
Documentary film by CP Rail. The building of the new line through Rogers Pass between 1982 and 1988. Found this old tape on Beta format. Has significant historical value. Any railway buff will find this interesting. Enjoy.

Pierre Berton

Speech by Sir Alex. Campbell
On the second reading of a bill to incorporate the Pacific Railway Company in the Senate, Ottawa. Thursday, Feb. 3, 1881 (pdf)

A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway
By Harold A. Innis, Ph.D. (1923) (pdf)

The Canadian Pacific Railway
By General Hewson, C.E., Toronto (pdf)

Temporary Work on the Canadian Pacific Railway
By Mr. J. Grant MacGregor (1900) (pdf)

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