Going the Distance

Key moments when technology brought Canadians—and the world—closer.

Written by Danelle Cloutier

July 11, 2016

JULY 21, 1836

Canada’s first public railroad opens in Lower Canada (now Quebec). The Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad connected La Prairie on the St. Lawrence River and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The first train to travel the line was the Dorchester, shown above, which burned wood for fuel and had a top speed of forty-eight kilometres per hour.

AUGUST 10, 1876

Alexander Graham Bell, left, receives the world’s first long-distance call. Bell received the call from Brantford, Ontario, while using a telephone at a telegraph office in Robert White’s Boot and Shoe Store in Paris, Ontario. The distance between the two callers was approximately thirteen kilometres.

NOVEMBER 7, 1885

Donald A. Smith, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, drives the last spike in Canada’s first transcontinental railway. However, due to the need to continue working on sections of the line, it would take six more months before the first cross-Canada train voyage could be completed. That occurred on July 4, 1886, when a Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train arrived at Port Moody, British Columbia, nearly six days after it had departed from Montreal.

FEBRUARY 23, 1909

Five years after a pair of American brothers achieve the world’s first powered flight, a small group gathers at Baddeck, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to make Canadian history. Led by inventor Alexander Graham Bell, the team watches pilot J.A.D. McCurdy fly the Silver Dart a distance of around eight hundred metres, completing the first powered flight in Canada.

OCTOBER 14, 1912

Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney roll into Vancouver after a journey of forty-nine days, completing the first cross-Canada automobile trip. The duo had departed from Halifax in a 1912 REO, bearing a bottle of water from the Atlantic Ocean that was poured into the Pacific as a symbolic ending to their historic road trip.

OCTOBER 5, 1984

Marc Garneau takes a trip that’s literally out of this world, becoming the first Canadian to reach outer space. Garneau serves as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. During his career as an astronaut, Garneau logged a total of 677 hours in space over three shuttle missions.

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