When Nova Scotia politician Joseph Howe prophesied in 1851 that ""many in this room will live to hear the whistle of the steam engine in the passes of the Rocky Mountains and make the journey from Halifax [Nova Scotia] to the Pacific in five or six days,"" Canada had only 66 miles of track compared with 9,000 in the US, and this would take a generation. According to Lamb's detailed chronicle, it was a generation of empire-building, rivalry with the Yankees, and dogged growth. Some Canadian magnates sought a ""Northern Colonization Railway"" to supply Montreal with wood fuel and build the port as a rival to New York; more broadly, others wanted a ""British railway on British soil,"" bypassing US rail links and opening up Western resources. Lamb, for many years Canada's official archivist, brings the reader through parliamentary debates and the admiringly outlined careers of Canadian Pacific Railway directors, as well as over every foot of expansion across the thousand-mile marsh of the Laurentian Shield, the prairies, and the formidable mountain ranges. Completed in 1884, the new railway featured grades of such unheard-of steepness that when the Duke and Duchess of York visited in 1901, their train was pulled by five locomotives to ensure that it wouldn't run away; other engineering problems, innovations in equipment and the like are abundantly described. The company and its rivalry with what became the Canadian National Railway are rarely presented in any but the most favorable terms, and its financial history is somewhat slighted. But this study and its new archival sources revive the elan of establishing a Pacific link as well as opening up Canada's grain lands and mineral resources. Substantial and informative.