Throughout the colonial period, Canada's vast and far-reaching territory was largely uninhabited. Living conditions were difficult. Harsh winters made travelling almost impossible and many villages were left isolated for months at a time. Automobiles were not yet invented, bicycles still decades away. To allow this country to thrive (as opposed to merely survive), to ensure that travel, commerce and development would flourish, a railway had to be built, one that would alter the course of Canadian and North American history.