Here is the story of a railroad and a transportation that was unique in North America. The east—west railroad building of the late 19th century has been described in some detail for both Canada and the United States. But Steam into Wilderness tells of a different kind of Railway, one that went northward, plunging through the hard rock and muskeg country of the Laurentian Shield toward the lower reaches of Hudson Bay.
The Ontario Northland Railway was conceived originally to encourage settlement in the wilderness more than three hundred miles north from Toronto, in country where canoes and flat boats, horses and oxen, snow shoes and cutters were the only modes of transportation. Private enterprise could not see profitable possibilities in the transport of goods and immigrants on a one—way journey. So, in 1902, the Ontario Government undertook to build the line, beginning at North Bay and extending northward into the thick forest on the western side of Lake Timiskaming.
Lumbering and settlers soon followed. Then, suddenly, railway construction crews discovered silver, and the new wealth of the North was inked to Toronto by trains such as the "Cobalt Special."
Albert Tucker was a Professor of History, and a former Principal of Glendon College at York University in Toronto. He was the author of A History of English Civilization, in addition to publishing widely in numerous American and Canadian journals. Steam into Wilderness was originally published in 1978.