Technology

Mass Communications

Water Waves to Air Waves

Mass Entertainment

Literacy & Education

Mass Media

Technical Advances

Literature & Song

Technical

Power Sources

Construction

Industrialization of Work (Factories)

Electricity & Oil

War

Larger & Deadlier Wars

 


Mass Communication

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Communications were revolutionized by railways. People could travel for work and pleasure more quickly and more cheaply. Goods such as letters, parcels, and newspapers became cheaper to send. Indirectly, railways improved literacy, and led to the mass media we know today The newspapers received information via the telegraph, and used the railway to distribute their product to the population. Consequently, ordinary people were linked to events very quickly.

Water Waves To Air Waves

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Generalizations showing the evolution of major transport changes in Canada:

  • 18th century Canada ran over water using wind and muscle power.
  • 19th century Canada ran on iron wheels using steam.
  • 20th century Canada ran on iron wheels and rubber wheels.
  • 21st century Canada ran on iron wheels, rubber wheels, and in the air, electronically and physically.

Mass Entertainment

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Hockey greats Richard, Lach and Blake at the end of the era of NHL team travel on rail.

Mass travel created mass entertainment.

  • From the 1860’s local, national, and international “stars” entertained Canadians
  • Circus & travelling troupes became important
  • Theatres, opera houses and cinemas after 1900 became important social organizations.

Literacy & Education

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An increased demand for literate workers led to new job openings for women even before WW1, the traditional time seen as a watershed for working women.

Railways unintentionally promoted education.

  • The modern urban industrialized Canada demanded literacy and numeracy to operate the economy (had to read rail tickets, timetables, and count money).
  • The Mechanics Institutes of the 1820’s-1840’s evolved into universities after the 1850’s and the rise of mammoth railroads.

Mass Media

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Crowds travelled by rail to Toronto’s agricultural fair which grew into the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

Railways transformed the mass media into a powerful economic, political, and cultural force.

  • The relationship of sport and politics to the media becomes critical.  Canada became a media-driven democracy, and professional sports depended on the mass media
  • The media influenced gender roles, jobs, aspirations, & public opinion
  • The media generated fear of railway accidents in 19thc (aeroplane accidents in 21stc).

Technical Advances

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Technical change becomes the normal pattern.

  • Innovation becomes the norm.
  • Electronic media (radio, TV, computer) started to replace the older media which was identified with railways (“Steam radio” replaced by television).

Literature & Song

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Railways  became an important theme in Canadian music, art, and literature. The early 19thc enthusiasm for railways evolved into bitter criticism by the 20thc. Now, in the early 21stc public support for rail travel seems to be growing.

Opening lines of the most famous song about railways.(The Railroad Trilogy, by Gordon Lightfoot)

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real


Technical

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The railway created technologies that had a massive impact on Canadian life. As a central part of the industrial revolution, railways caused change and were also affected by further changes. For example coal fired steam boilers powered the first railways but then diesel and electricity powered engines replaced the steam powered ones. Technology kept changing in the new railway world.

Power Sources

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Chronology of energy sources that had a major technical impact on Canada.

Human muscle power was the most important source of power in early Canada. Muscle power is still important but not nearly as much as in the days of the canoe for instance. Dogs and later horses were a shift away from relying on humans.

Steam power replaced water, wind, and muscle power as the major source of Canada’s energy. Steamboats were extremely important on our lakes and rivers even after the coming of the railroads.

Electric power gradually replaced steam power after 1890. Canada’s vast hydro-electric resources began to be tapped.

Diesel power joined electric power after 1890.

Construction

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Keefer a Canadian engineer designed new arrowhead shaped piers to break up the ice.

The sheer scale of railway construction changed the ways Canadians built infrastructure.

Railroads were the largest building projects in Canada from 1850-1920’s. There were skilled navvies (navigators) from the canal-building era( 1820’s-1840’s) but the number of construction workers soared in the late 19thc.

Innovative metal bridges (Victoria Bridge), buildings (Crystal Palaces of steel & glass bringing the outside in) generated change. For example, new steam-driven cranes and pier footings were designed to build the Victoria Bridge.

The building of other infrastructure (waterworks, sewage, harbours) was facilitated by   experience gained from building railways. Engineers, surveyors, and navvies transferred from railroad work to other projects.

By WW1 (1914-18), Canadian railroad engineers operated and built rail lines for the British and other Empire troops on the Western Front.

Industrialization of Work (Factories)

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Factories along the Lachine Canal, Montreal, the cradle of Canadian industry.

Industrialization, urbanization, and population growth worked in tandem.

  • The beginning of factory work in the 1850’s led to the urbanization of Canada.
  • Factory discipline (time clocks) was a major and difficult change from rural ways.

In the 1850’s child labour in factories was seen as a solution to the problem of paying for orphan children. Children had to earn their own keep outside a family unit from an early age. It was only in the 1880’s that child labour was treated by the law as a social evil.

Electricity & Oil

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Electric streetcars are used in cities such as Toronto and are making a comeback.

Technical change within the railway system.

New power sources at first reinforced the railways. For example, electricity improved the system in many ways by making it more efficient and cheaper.

The electric streetcars of the 1890’s were cheaper and faster than horse-drawn tramcars. The feeding and care of horses constituted a major expense of city streetcars.  Private streetcar systems paid money to the city for the use of the streets (today, city transport is subsidized form public funds).

The electric streetcars allowed the growth of suburbs, and fed “downtown” department stores with customers.

Eventually oil powered automobiles, trucks and aeroplanes replaced trains for passenger and freight travel. This brought railways into decline.

War

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Angus Rail yards peparing to ship tanks by rail for use in WW 2

Mass transit made it easier to raise and supply mass armies.

  • Troops on trains put down the second Riel Rebellion & Fenian Raids.
  • The building of the GTR & Crimean War railway involved the same engineers and navvies from Britain.
  • By WWI, Canadian RR engineers and navvies built and operated rail lines for all British Empire forces.
  • Recruitment and Conscription for WWI became Canada-wide because of railways.

The departure of the Montreal Garrison by train to Winipeg to put down the Riel Rebellion of 1885.

 

“Copyright Statement”

Unless otherwise stated, all the photographs in the Introductory sections of the website are from The Gazette (Montreal) Archives. Coloured drawings by Michel Hellman are the copyright of the Jeanie Johnston Educational Foundation.

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