Canadian Pacific Railway, transcontinental transportation system in Canada and extending into the United States, privately owned and operated. The construction of a railroad crossing the continent in Canadian territory was one of the conditions on which British Columbia entered the confederation in 1871. After many difficulties and a political scandal, intensive work began in 1880, and the company was incorporated the following year. The main line from Montreal to the Pacific coast was completed in 1885. The company subsequently developed into a conglomerate, Canadian Pacific Ltd., with holdings encompassing shipping, petroleum, coal, and hotels and real estate in addition to rail lines; the other businesses became four separate companies in 2001.