Episode Guide - National Dream: Building the Impossible Railway, The (Miniseries) (1974)

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National Dream: Building the Impossible Railway, The
Episode One: The Great Lone Land - Sets the scene geographically and politically for the cavalcade of tumultuous events that are to occur from 1871 through 1885 in the heroic struggle to build Canada's "impossible railway".

Episode Two: The Pacific Scandal - Charges of corruption and intrigue ring out against the Macdonald government as the Pacific Scandal comes to a head.

Episode Three: The Horrid B.C. Business - Traces the staggering progress of the railway, with conflicts between B.C. and the Canadian government and among the surveyors planning the route, through the years of the Mackenzie government. Returned to power in 1878, Macdonald continues to argue the railway in the House.

Episode Four: The Great Debate - Canada reels in the throes of a depression as MacKenzie vainly tries to cope with inherited Pacific Railway frustrations. As surveyors squabble among themselves, contractors milk the public purse and B.C. clamours for the promised railway. MacKenzie's health wanes. Back in power in 1878. Sir John A. MacDonald reluctantly agrees on Donald Smith. Jim Hill and George Stephen to head a syndicate that will build the railway. After an exhausting marathon debate, a punch-drunk House passes the government's railway bill.

Episode Five: The Railway General - Concentrates on the rapid progress of construction on the prairies in 1882 and 1883 and the development of western Canada under the influence of the CPR's general manager, William Cornelius Van Horne.

Episode Six: The Sea Of Mountains - Construction is rapid in 1882 and 1883 and new cities spring up as the railway snakes across the prairies. Dynamic William Cornelius Van Home, an American known as "the ablest railway general in the world", is appointed CPR general manager and he profoundly influences the future of Western Canada by his placement of railway stations — new population centres. However, construction of B.C. is painstakingly slower than on the prairies but suave constructor Andrew Onderdonk and crusty engineer Major A.B. Rogers shatter new Liberal leader Edward Blake's prediction that no railway is practical through the sea of mountains. Onderdonk lures thousands of coolies from China to help hack and tunnel the forbidding Rockies and Rogers finds a pass in the Selkirks where experts say no pass exists. But, as the CPR creeps over the continental spine, trouble looms on the horizon.

Episode Seven: The Desperate Days - In the latter days of construction in the mountains and north of Lake Superior, Macdonald is faced with bloody rebellion by the farmers, natives and Metis in the west.

Episode Eight: The Last Spike - Slow, arduous construction in the mountains and north of Superior sends costs soaring as the CPR faces a financial calamity. 'Old Tomorrow' is slow to react — Sir John is distracted by mounting troubles in the West as farmers, Indians and Metis cry for redress. With Louis Riel back in Saskatchewan, shots ring out at Duck Lake and 10 Mounties lie dead. In a desperate gamble, Van Home offers to transport 9,000 troops from the East in 11 days to quell the rebellion in the West. Eastern militiamen begin the cruelest journey in Canadian military history, but Van Home again achieves the impossible, they arrive West ahead of schedule. The national crisis is averted but the CPR faces riots, strikes and bankruptcy before the eleventh-hour government loan saves the day. In November of 1885 Donald Smith drives the last spike in the CPR and Canada is vertebrate from sea to sea.

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For an in-depth look at CBC programs (1952-82),
Blaine Allan's directory