Site 21: The 90 Degree Turn

Sandford Fleming – Engineer-in-Chief for the Canadian Pacific Railway, inventor of time zones, designer of Canada’s first postage stamp – said the railway should cross at Selkirk. The city’s situation would make it a great city. Wallets in the City of Winnipeg, however, had other plans.


To the honourable Charles Tupper, Minister of Railways and Canals. Report of the Engineer in Chief on the bridging of Red River. Ottawa, 8th December 1879.


In establishing the railway in this district, the traffic which in future years may come by water from Lake Winnipeg, and the rivers and streams flowing into it, should not be lost sight of.


In order to accommodate this traffic, the railway should be so situated that steamers and sailing craft may easily be brought side by side of the railway cars during the whole season of navigation.


Wherever the railway forms a convenient connection with the deep water of the river, that point will practically become the head of navigation of Lake Winnipeg. In course of time, a busy town will spring up and the land on the town site will assume a value it never before possessed.


Near the river there is a natural deep water inlet, which can easily be reached by a short branch from the main line of the railway; along this inlet, in between it and the river, the land is admirably suited for a capacious piling ground. Vessels lying in the inlet are in no way exposed to damage from floods.


All the craft the Company have in these parts, are moored for the winter in the inlet, which indents the Government block of land.


I am strongly of opinion that the Pacific Railway should be carried across the river somewhere between Sugar Point and St. Peter’s Church. The circumstances which I have briefly described dictate that the crossing should be on the block of Government land at Selkirk.


I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, Sandford Fleming, Engineer in Chief.