Alberta is the westernmost prairie province, sharing a border with British Columbia. This border is marked by the majestic Rocky Mountain range that also stretches deep into the US. But did you know the Rockies were actually man-made in parts of Alberta?
In 1879 it was determined that the existing Canadian provinces were just too gosh darn far apart. This was a serious roadblock for a young government trying to bring together a new nation. Members of Parliament from across the country suggested their own solutions, which included:
- "I changed my mind about this whole Canada thing; let's just go back to you doing your thing and us doing ours." - Wilbur Laurier, MP Quebec
- "Let's all just move to Ontario." - Johnny MacDonald, MP Ontario
- "Who cares? You're all ugly anyway." - Francis McKennah, MP New Brunswick
- "Let's build a really long railway across the entire continent!" - Sketchy McRailbuilder, ?
As we all know, parliament decided to go ahead and build a cross-Canadian railway. Unfortunately, this solution led to a whole new group of problems, including: how do we build a railway across those big mountains in Alberta and British Columbia? The job of clearing a safe path called for dynamite and lots of it. Tons of explosives were used and entire mountain peaks were blown to proverbial smithereens.
However, none of those mountains were nearly as huge then as they are now. The reason? All that blown up rock had to go somewhere and rather than dumping it in the ocean or littering the prairies with it, it was decided that it would just be piled on a bunch of other mountains to make them bigger. Talk about making mountains out of molehills... or slightly smaller mountains anyway.
Suddenly, the Canadian Rockies were no longer just a pale imitation of the peaks to the south. The country was enriched three-fold:
- We now had a railway system so you could spend weeks travelling across empty country to see a bunch of people you'd never heard of.
- We now had a genuinely impressive mountain range, effectively doubling postcard sales.
- Actually, there were just two things, I guess.
So the next time you're riding the rails through the Rockies, thank all those brave workers who endangered their lives working in the mountains -- not just for giving you trains, but also for giving you something pretty to look at.
[mp3] Gordon Lightfoot - Alberta Bound
[mp3] Carolyn Mark & Her Roomates - Edmonton
[mp3] Elliot Brood - Oh Alberta
[mp3] Corb Lund Band - Short Native Grasses (Prairies of Alberta)
[mp3] Edmonton Oilers Goal Horn
PS: If anyone has any song suggestions for our final province, Manitoba, please drop 'em in the comments!