Onderdonk Section

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This project is very much a work-in-progress. The section on Surveying is the most complete. This section has been started but there is still lots to do.

Onderdonk Section
CPR Section

The Onderdonk Section of the Canadian Pacific Railway is the section of the transcontinental railway built by Andrew Onderdonk under contract from the Canadian government. He built from Port Moody near Vancouver to Savona near Kamloops. After completing that section, under contract with the CPR, he built the section from Savona to Craigellachie in Eagle Pass where his crews met the CPR crews working from the east. This later section I refer to as the CPR Section.

The section of railroad up the Fraser and Canyons was some of the most difficult construction on the entire line. In the first 30 miles upstream from Yale, there were 20 tunnels through solid rock. There were numerous rock cuts and bridges.

The project was divided up into four subcontracts by the government. Onderdonk was the contractor for all four contracts (See Contracting Controversy). Construction started at Emory's Bar near Yale since that was the head of navigation on the Fraser River. The section between the ocean at Port Moody and Emory's Bar was not started until several years later. The four contracts were:

Contract Location Date Signed
60 Emory's Bar to Boston Bar December 23, 1879
61 Boston Bar to Lytton February 10, 1880
62 Lytton to Junction Flat December 23, 1879
63 Junction Flat to Savona December 15, 1879
92 Port Moody to Emory's Bar 1882

The construction project was multifaceted with work being done simultaneously at multiple sections of the work. The following document attempts to provide a structure to the information without losing sight of the overall project.


  • Onderdonk's Organization - Discussion of his organization including the departments, his deputies and assistants.
  • Construction - The bulk of the information on the actual construction project.
  • Operation - As construction was completed, Onderdonk operated schedule trains over the new railroad up until it was handed over to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • In Depth - Links to topics that while mentioned in the main text require more

Onderdonk's Organization



In Depth

  • The Contract Controversy relates to the letting of Contract 92 and the unusual circumstances of how Onderdonk won the contract even though he was not the lowest bidder. There is also some uncertainty on how Onderdonk won Contract 61 as some of the early documents list Ryan, Goodwin & Co as the contractor.
  • The role of Chinese Workers on the construction was a controversial aspect of the work and deserves more than is mentioned above.