Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Top-down eh!

I'm reading Pierre Burton's The Last Spike - his history of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The construction camps for the road were 'dry'. In a chapter on the effect of prohibition on the construction of the railway, Burton writes:

Lively they were, and never entirely dry, but the prairie railway camps, in contrast to those south of the border, were relatively tame. The contractors, American and Canadian, were grateful. "When a man breaks the law here", one American boss told George Grant, "justice is dealt to him a heap quicker and in larger chunks than he has been accustomed to in the States. I tell you there is a way to do it, and they are doing it here, right from scratch". What he was praising, of course, was the Canadian passion for order imposed from above - a British colonial heritage - as against the American concept of localized grass-roots democracy. There were no gun-toting town marshalls keeping the peace in the Canadian West; instead there was a federally appointed, quasi-military constabulary. The Mounties did not have to stand for election, they were relatively incorruptible, and they were fair; that was one of the reasons why the Canadian West lacked some of the so-called colour of its American counterpart.

I'm just glad Liberty receptions aren't dry. Train engines need to be kept lubricated.

p.s. Extra credit exercise - write a 5-page essay on "Railway gauges and their competitive application". Avoid the use of 'de facto' for bonus marks.

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