High Peaks Engineering
Rocky Mountain Marvels
About the Book
Building transportation routes through the Rockies is dangerous. It always has been. It is also expensive, labour-intensive, and highly political. But railway and highway construction through the western cordillera succeeded thanks to scientific innovation and sheer human grit.
In the nineteenth century, steam locomotives, railways, tunnels, trestles, and telegraphy represented the hi-tech advances of the day. A vast country with a small population raised money (and more and more money) and overcame mountain summits, foul weather, and scandal to build the longest railway of its time that would unify the young nation of Canada from east to west.
To offset operating costs and increase passenger traffic, the three architectural wonders of the Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise Resorts were created amid snowy heights, glaciers, and the headwaters of four river systems—Athabasca, Columbia, Fraser, and the North Saskatchewan. Natural marvels like Cave and Basin, Radium, Miette, and other mineral hot springs were also developed. In the twentieth century, the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway accelerated the appeal of the peaks.
Today, oil and gas pipelines are pushing new routes through the Rocky Mountains. The physical challenges are similar to earlier eras, but high peaks engineering must also address the ecological impacts of pipeline corridors moving oil and gas through Rocky Mountain passages. It will be another test of Canadian resourcefulness.