Engineering Week


Whether in the 1800s or 1900s, Canadian Pacific Railway=s team of engineers has faced many

Rogers Pass is a good example of one of those challenges.  Discovered by Major Albert Rogers in 1881, it is a narrow, heavily forested pathway that rises to more than 1300 metres above sea level and averages more than 1000 cm (400 inches) of snow annually.  It also passes through one of Canada=s most environmentally sensitive areas, Glacier National Park.  When the first rail line was laid through the pass in 1885, it looped back and forth along the mountain slopes, crossing creeks and ravines on massive wooden trestles and often fell victim to avalanches.  One of the problem areas was the tough climb along the Beaver River Valley to Connaught Tunnel.  In just 13 kilometres, the line rose 275 metres, a steep climb for freight trains.  To reduce the climb meant finding a longer and more gradual route. 

The project, completed in 1989, featured a number of unique engineering accomplishments.  The route finally chosen by CPR engineers was largely under the mountains and required the constuction of two tunnels.  One of these, The Mount Macdonald Tunnel, is the longest in the Western Hemisphere and features a unique ventilation system that required construction of a 350 metre vertical ventilation shaft to the surface.  Its construction featured the first time in North America that the technique of  Atunnel lining@ had been used, the first time in North America that a concrete roadbed had had been used and the first time in the world that satellites were used for surveying.

In many respects, the 17.6 km surface route leading to the tunnels was even more of an engineering challenge than the tunnels.  Constructed along steep slopes cut by mountain streams, it required four major bridges, three concrete-box culverts, many different types of retaining walls and a 1229 metre viaduct supported by 44 concrete piers, all of which are different heights. 

The completed Rogers Pass is another chapter in Canadian engineering while the railway itself is an important symbol of Confederation, linking the east and west coasts of this vast nation.

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