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Similarly, north of the forty-ninth parallel the decade of the s saw the completion of the Canadian Pacific, Canada's first transcontinental railway. The result in the Great Plains was a land boom and rapid population growth.

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The particular location of the rail lines was often a matter of political bargaining. Land speculators, town builders, and municipal officials vied to have railroads come to their favored location because of the economic vitality that rail service promised. Fully three-quarters of the towns incorporated in Alberta were established by railway companies.

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Towns that did not enjoy direct access to the railroad network either stagnated or died. Locations favored with railroad junctions, railroad yards sidetracks for the storage and sorting of equipment , terminal facilities, and maintenance shops were especially likely to boom economically in the late nineteenth century in the Plains. Calgary actually bribed the Canadian Pacific to obtain its maintenance shops and freight yards.

Railroad companies built too many lines in the Great Plains for all to be profitable, and by the depression years of the s several major carriers were bankrupt but still operating. Competition for the most profitable long-haul freight and passenger traffic was intense.

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Although improvements in operating efficiencies had led to lower rates, farmers and merchants dependent on railroad service often complained that charges were too high. Some in the Plains argued for public ownership of the railroads to ensure their operation in "the public interest," a policy advocated by the populist movement.

Shippers who complained about unjust freight rates also turned to state and federal regulation. With a return to prosperity in the first years of the twentieth century, railroads and shippers continued to bargain for advantage, especially through a system of federal regulation strengthened by the Hepburn Act of and the Mann-Elkins Act of Railroads sought permission from regulators to increase rates so as to improve facilities and operating efficiencies.

Employees seeking higher wages and investors seeking better returns supported the carriers, while shippers viewed rate increase requests suspiciously. The political bargaining among those groups was typically intense, with elected officials in the Great Plains voicing support for local merchants and farmers and expressing hostility toward the carriers.

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