"A FRAIL LITTLE CITY': PRINCE RUPERT
The development of a terminus on the Pacific coast frequently played a crucial role in the fortunes of the transcontinental railway system in North America. Since the location of the port in large part determined the railway's route from the Rockies to the coast, the company's selection and development of its terminus shaped not only the pattern of trade but also the growth of settlement over large portions of the Pacific slope. But before obtaining any return from traffic at the terminus, the company had to make a heavy initial expenditure to clear space and erect structures for the transfer of goods between railway car and ship. While immediate returns from traffic were less attractive than those generated from long-settled Atlantic ports, the company could extract substantial real estate revenue from the blocks of land that it usually acquired in exchange for designating a site as its terminus. 1
Though studies of transcontinentals consider at some length the company's selection of and construction to a Pacific terminus, few devote space to the nature and extent of company activities at the terminus after selection. 2 Urban historians and geographers have attempted to fill this lacuna, but their works eschew a sustained analysis of the actions of the company throughout the city. Historian Norbert MacDonald's recent studies of the impact of the CPR on Vancouver, for example, offer a careful account of the company's astute manipulation of its property but largely ignore its concerns in the evolution of the port. 3 Studies elsewhere suggest that complex and sometimes contradictory motives drove railway companies in terminus development, but do not systematically examine sources that might elucidate this behaviour. 4
A comparison of GTP activity in Prince Rupert with these urban studies of railway impact is difficult because of the latter's focus on the
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Publication information: Book title: A Thousand Blunders:The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Northern British Columbia. Contributors: Frank Leonard - Author. Publisher: University of British Columbia Press. Place of publication: Vancouver, B.C.. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 127.
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