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Americans in Britain's Backyard: The Railway Era in Upper Canada, 1850-1880

Peter Baskerville
The Business History Review
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 314-336
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3114127
Page Count: 23
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Americans in Britain's Backyard: The Railway Era in Upper Canada, 1850-1880
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Abstract

Canadian lines that were spreading out over what would become the Province of Ontario looked forward, in the years before the American Civil War, to becoming important east-west carriers between the rapidly growing American cities of the eastern seaboard and the still-new cities of the American Midwest. Canada's small population and undeveloped industry would force her railroads to rely heavily on traffic going from one American city to another. Lines like the Grand Trunk and the Great Western struggled desperately therefore, to avoid American financial control. With the help of British capital, they succeeded. But America's contribution to Canadian railroading ran much deeper than money. Dominating the skilled engineers and experienced construction contractors who came from south of the border was more difficult for Canadian directors to manage. In the end, however, it was the early failure of top Canadian management to bury their rivalries, ignore their English creditors, emulate Americans like Vanderbilt, Thomson, and Garrett, and consolidate into an integrated line between New England, the Middle Atlantic seaboard, and the Midwest that doomed their railroads to becoming, as one Canadian put it, "side streets to the trade thoroughfare."

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