The Canadian Pacific Railway was now built, with the exception of a few breaks of about seventy-two miles in all, as far as Qu'Appelle, which is sixteen hundred and twenty miles from Ottawa and about two hundred and thirty-five miles to the south of Batoche. -- Canada under British Rule 1760-1900, by John
The men behind the Canadian Pacific proved themselves possessed of courage and determination such as will always win them honour. At more than one critical stage they staked their all to keep the work going. But the fact remains that the bulk of the resources utilized in the original building of the road were provided or advanced by the people of Canada. The Canadian Pacific is as truly a monument of public as of private faith. ...
it was not until 1884 that the wilderness north of Lake Superior was attacked in strong force. Nine thousand men were employed here alone. Rock and muskeg, hill and hollow, made this section more difficult to face than even the Fraser Canyon. In one muskeg area to-day seven layers of Canadian Pacific rails are buried, one below the other. The stretch along the shore of the lake was particularly difficult. The Laurentian rocks were the oldest known to geologists, and, what was more to the purpose, the toughest known to engineers. A dynamite factory was built on the spot and a road blasted through. One mile cost $700,000 to build and several cost half a million. The time required and the total expenditure would have been prohibitive had not the management decided to make extensive use of trestle-work. It would have cost over two dollars a cubic yard to cut through the hills and fill up the hollows by team-haul; it cost only one-tenth of that to build timber trestles, carrying the line high, and to fill up later by train-haul.
An unexpected test of the need of this section came before it was completed. Early in 1885 the government realized too late that serious trouble was brewing among the half-breeds and Indians of the North-West. Unless troops could be sent in before the grass grew, Riel would have thousands of Indians on the war-path, and a long and bloody contest and a serious setback to the West would be inevitable. The railway was far from complete, with a hundred and twenty miles of gaps unfilled, and the government considered it impossible to get the troops in in time. But Van Horne, who had had much experience in handling troops in the Civil War, did not have that word in his vocabulary, and astonished the authorities by offering to take men from Kingston or Quebec to Qu'Appelle in ten days. Part of the gaps were bridged by temporary rails laid on ice and snow, only ninety miles being uncompleted by spring. In one stretch the men were marched across the ice to save a long detour. Through the rest they were carried, covered with furs and straw, in contractors' sleighs along the tote-roads from one camp to the next. In four days from leaving Kingston the first troops landed at Winnipeg; and though the revolt was not prevented, it was speedily crushed. There was no longer any question about the value of the north shore link, and the opposition to the Canadian Pacific fell from that hour. It was even suggested that the company should build a statue to Louis Riel. As for the government, it could well claim that its persistence in pushing through this part of the road nearly offset its red-tape carelessness in permitting the rebellion to come to a head.
--The Railway Builders, by Oscar D. Skelton (Primary source documents / Timeline)