Human gestation, oft called a miracle, takes nine months. Begetting a railroad is a less predictable if no less miraculous event. Particularly if the mother is a young nation named Canada. Particularly if her birth track is vast and isolated and covered with snow. Particularly if the infant will measure 2500 miles in length and have ribs of steel. Particularly if the time is the late 19th century. Particularly if the midwives include a hard-drinking Conservative Prime Minister bent on producing a mighty engine to pull his country together, outspoken detractors who called the conception an ""act of insane recklessness"" and attempted to abort the unwanted iron monstrosity up to the very end, prairie blizzards which threatened to cut the lifeline, and speculators and track-layers and whores and journalists and caustic parliamentary debaters and engineers and financiers and Chinese coolies and the Mounties, all of whom had a hand in this impossible creation. This then is the biography of the birthing (1871-1885) of the great Canadian Pacific Railroad, perhaps the single most important child of Canada. Pierre Berton, one of that country's most productive writers (The Klondike Fever, 1958; The Big Sell, 1963; My War With the 20th Century, 1965; The Smug Minority, 1969; and others), is at his storytelling best here, whether it's describing Prime Minister Macdonald's long ordeal to bring the railroad into being or the transcontinental consequences of that act or the sociology of railway construction. Truly a labor of love -- Berton's research encompasses much unpublished material as well as public documents and secondary sources -- which we hope many American readers will find as riveting as Canadians doubtless will.