Selkirk vs Winnipeg

I live in the city of Winnipeg and Shirley lives in Selkirk.  Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba and is MUCH bigger than Selkirk.  But, it could have been much different if it weren’t for some enterprising business men and politicians.

You see, the Winnipeg area is known to flood on a fairly regular basis so engineers looking to build a railway bridge across the Red River thought Selkirk would be a better spot.  When Winnipeg was under water, Selkirk was high and dry.  Also, Winnipeg had a second river, the Assiniboine, that was advantageous when furs and goods were being transported by canoe, but was another hurdle (bridge) to get over with a train.

There was much humming and hawing and debating over the matter.  The condensed version of the story is that some Winnipeg business men donated $300,000 (which was no small potatoes in the late 1870s) to build the bridge if the rail would come through Winnipeg.  This would save the Canadian  government some money.  Also, a representative from the Hudson’s Bay Company came to say that the Red River was behaving well the last few years so it would be safe to build a rail there.  HBC owned 1,750 acres of land in the city so its advice was likely not too generous of spirit.  (There has been major flooding in the years 1826, 1897, 1950, 1997, 2009 and 2011 and several significant episodes in between.  Because of the flooding, a flood protection project was started in 1962 to protect the city.)

The government seems to have felt that not having to pay for the bridge over the river out weighed paying for a bridge in a safer location.  Meanwhile, the planned railway route, which would have come through Selkirk was changed.  The CPR was convinced to run the line further south as there was more virgin acres to be had that could be sold to potential settlers.  The folks in Selkirk were told that the rail would still go through their town if they came up with $125,000 for a bridge.  If they could not, they would straighten out the route and by-pass Selkirk.  They could not come up with the money.

Seems appropriate that some 140 years later, a Winnipeg girl and a Selkirk girl, rode on a train together in Victorian garb.  Almost, poetic.SAM_1770

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