It took the government three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars just to conduct the prospection of the railway alone. Railway explorers had to walk along the valley, after a while they found themselves surrounded by cliffs with no roads on which to advance. To build a railway in such a hostile environment would be a difficult, complex and dangerous enterprise. Finally, in 1880, having overcome financial and political obstacles, the federal government and the Canadian Pacific Railway signed a contract allowing the construction to begin.
The CPR would run 4667 km from Montreal in the east to Vancouver in the west with a major part of it passing through the granite walls of the Rockies. As the BC part of the project started, the contractor, Andrew Onderdonk, realized that the construction of the railway would much be more complicated than he initially envisaged. First of all, hiring White workers for the whole project would be far too expensive. Moreover, there was a shortage of labor. Since Onderdonk needed at least 10 000 workers and people from BC did not want to build it by themselves, the contractor managed to employ some White laborers from the US and Eastern Canada. However, most of them were not hardworking and unwilling to carry out the task at hand. Because of the unfavorable working conditions, only those capable of enduring hardships would stay productive. The first few months’ labor had yielded only two miles of laid track, which was far behind schedule.
Instead, he turned to the Chinese labor force that he knew was hardworking, resilient, reliable and cheap. After obtaining permission to hire the Chinese from the MacDonald government, the recruitment process of Chinese workers started. The Gold Rush was over, and the Chinese who remained in North America were eager to find work and were willing to work in railway construction. At the same time, Chinese workers were also directly recruited from China. They basically made up the labor force of two “one-hundred-mile” sections, considered the most dangerous parts of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.