Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sir John A Macdonald on Railways, 1881-84

Here is some Macdonald correspondence. I've included all railway-related letters for this period. Of all the sadly-mistreated books I have purchased, this one (published, I think, in 1921) had extra punishment - but it scans OK. It is also available at 

As these letters were selected by his chosen literary executor, you can assume that some interesting (potentially scandalous) materials have not been published. 

I have included a few images from other books (as noted) to add a little to the story ...

from: The Life of Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal; Beckles Wilson; 1915; Cassell & Co.

A few names you'll recognize ...

from: The Imperial Highway; circa 1910-1913; Canadian Pacific Railway.

tesselated pavement ...

from: Commercial Canada; circa 1912; Fred Cook; Tapp & Toothill.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The 1939 Royal Tour - Part 1

At a local used book store, I was surprised to find a railway-produced, presentation-style book for use by participants and the press during the tour of Canada, the US and Newfoundland made by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. 

... If you aren't a huge fan of history - he was 'the king' in the movie The King's Speech. Queen Elizabeth (his spouse, later known as the 'Queen Mother') was the mother of the currently reigning Queen Elizabeth II. The two princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) stayed in Britain during the 1939 tour.

My father was 12 years old when the tour went through Montreal on its way west. Given his mother's earlier tour of Britain, and the role of the railways in the 1939 tour, my father was always keenly interested in this event. 

An excellent book on the social, political and operational aspects of this visit is: Daylight Upon Magic; Tom MacDonnell; 1989; Macmillan. I apparently found a copy of this book somewhere and gave it to my father. He left marginal notes in it to document his family's experience with the tour.

Many Canadians had a strong patriotic affinity for Britain during this period in history. Many 'new Canadians' had come from Britain and some had returned to fight for the 'mother country' in the Great War. The King and Queen visited hospitals for disabled Great War veterans across Canada and many of the active volunteers for the tour were Great War veterans.

In case you want to better imagine this era, here are a couple of pages about 
my grandmother's free schoolteachers' tour to the 'Centre of the British Empire' in 1922.

... and here are some images from the reference book for 1939 Royal Tour participants.

There have 'always' been tours of Canada by members of the British royal family. However, this was the first time that a reigning sovereign of the British Empire/Commonwealth had visited Canada. 

It is possible that the Governor General at the time - Lord Tweedsmuir - came up with the idea for the tour or perhaps he was 'inspired' to come up with the idea by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. 

However, democratic institutions and national governments in continental Europe were being undermined by fascists Mussolini and Hitler. When the concept of the tour was presented, the first impulse of the British government and the King himself was to remain in Britain in preparation for a national emergency or for war. It was eventually understood that improving ties with Canada, the US (and Newfoundland!) would be a good thing and in the long term interest of Britain if war did break out.

Mackenzie King was Canada's prime minister for the following periods: 1921–1926, 1926–1930 and 1935–1948. He changed Canadian institutions after the Great War to better reflect Canada's independent status as a self-governing Dominion within the British Empire/Commonwealth.

... Using a common example ...

Canada had 'automatically' been at war in 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. 
Canada declared war on Germany and Japan independently from Britain in 1939 and 1941.

It was Mackenzie King who was behind the re-styling of the king as the 'King of Canada' when he was on Canadian soil. And George VI was the first monarch to give royal assent in person to Canadian laws in 1939.

After cropping off the areas for marginal notes, here is a two-page image which shows the 'comb binding' used for the tour book. This was probably an early use of this plastic-based technology.

Canadian Geographical Journal; July 1939; Canadian Geographical Society.

Canadian Geographical Journal; July 1939; Canadian Geographical Society.

The Canadian Pacific liner, the RMS Empress of Australia was hastily converted into a royal yacht for the westbound crossing of the Atlantic. It had formerly been the Hamburg America Lines' SS Tirpitz - which had been among the ships confiscated as war reparations from Germany.

While a battleship escort had been left behind in Britain in case it was needed for war, the Empress of Australia was escorted by the cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Southampton. Secretly loaded in their holds and magazines were special steel boxes containing 3550 gold bars - worth about $2.4 billion in 2019 Canadian dollars (based on the 1939 exchange rate and accounting for inflation). Fifty tons of gold would help fund the early stages of a world war.

Consequently, this was not a normal Canadian Pacific crossing of the Atlantic.Vice-Admiral Sir Dudley North was effectively in charge of the royal yacht and its escorts. He bullied the Canadian Pacific captain, Archibald Meikle, into taking the 'fastest' northern route - which delayed the arrival at Quebec to May 17 (see above, May 15). Queen Elizabeth wrote to her mother-in-law Queen Mary:
For three and a half days we only moved a few miles. The fog was so thick that it was like a white cloud round the ship, and the foghorn blew incessantly. Its melancholy blasts were echoed back by the icebergs like the twang of a piece of wire. Incredibly eerie, and really very alarming, knowing that we were surrounded by ice and unable to see a foot either way. We very nearly hit a berg the day before yesterday, and the poor Captain was nearly demented because some kind, cheerful people kept on reminding him that it was just about here that Titanic was struck, and just about the same date!
Captain Meikle was also 'nearly demented' because he was effectively on the bridge non-stop for a period of three or four days. After fighting their way through storms with 60mph winds, Vice-Admiral Dudley's 'fastest' course had taken them into the southward migration of icebergs and fog during a particularly bad year for icebergs - something Meikle knew he wanted to avoid. This lost time had to be made up ...

Among other cuts, the day at Kingston was reduced to 90 minutes. The abbreviated visit included a 7 mile motorcade and a stop for the Queen to present new colours to Royal Military College. 

The royal train arrived on time at Toronto on May 22 at 1030hr. The Canadian railways made year-round use of Standard Time - leaving people to convert if they used Daylight Saving locally.

Canadian Geographical Journal; July 1939; Canadian Geographical Society.

Notice that the map above does not specify places and dates for the American part of the tour.

Canadian Geographical Journal; July 1939; Canadian Geographical Society.

Canadian Geographical Journal; July 1939; Canadian Geographical Society.

As a generalization, the royal train operated on CPR rails going west and on the CNR to return. And the CPR's traditional claim is that engine 2850 operated without replacement during the entire trip.

While the CPR's use of the 2850 was exceptional, also consider this bit of home movie film ...

Royal Tour at Brockville