Originally Posted by G-Man
A northern crossing at Campbell River is the only logical spot for the crossing. It would be:
- comparatively cost effective.
- Could provide for cheap freight access from the mainland
- Is far enough away from pop centres on both sides that it would discourage suburbanization.
That all said a northern crossing could allow high speed rail from Victoria - Naniamo to Vancouver in a couple of hours.
Actually John MacDonald wanted to have the transcontinental railway continue to Vancouver Island there, & link up with the E&N which would have gone all they way to Campbell River. The Liberal Party under Alexander Mackenzie considered the E&N to be a local project, not part of the transcontinental railway, leading people in BC to talk about secession. MacDonald & the Conservatives did think the E&N was part of the national railway, and Macdonald said there WOULD be a crossing at Campbell River. However, the CPR engineers that built the E&N said the crossing would require a total of 7 spans, 6 that were 1100-1350ft and the seventh, 640ft. According the them, it would have cost $20,000,000 more than the line to Burrard Inlet, which of course in the 1870s was a ridiculous amount.
here's what the CPR's Marcus Smith had to say about it at the time:
From the head of Bute Inlet, the line follows its western shore 50 miles down to the Arran Rapids, which separate Stewart Island from the mainland. The whole of this on the rocky slopes of high mountains, very irregular and broken... With undulating grades, and curves as sharp as 900 feet radius, the work on this portion will be excessively heavy; there will be a great quantity of rock excavation... and a great number of tunnels from 100 to 3000 feet in length, amounting in the aggregate to eight miles.... From this point on the mainland to the west shore of the Seymour Narrows the line crosses by Stewart, Valdes (now called Quadra) and Maude Islands, in a rather circuitous course, to avoid high rocky hills. The distance is about 29 miles and there are six intervening channels of great depth, through which the tide flows at the rate of four to nine knots. The rock excavation in crossing these islands will be heavy, with a few short tunnels; altogether the works on this section will be of a most formidable character.
edit: here's a map of the area from discoveryislands.ca
edit again: In case anyone wonders where the railroad would go from Bute Inlet (as I did), there was originally a plan to build a wagon road from Bute Inlet to Alexandria, and then to Quesnel & Barkerville. The road was never built but CPR considered the same route at point & opted to build the railroad to Burrard Inlet instead. So is it any wonder that the ambitious people in the capital & elsewhere on Vancouver Island agitated for secession when it sounded like the federal government wasn't going to build the national railroad there?! Compare what happened when Vancouver got hooked up to the continental rail system, and Victoria didn't!