Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

A Road for Canada

The Illustrated Story of the Trans-Canada Highway

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Road is Open

1. The Race for Gold

2. The Road Begins

3. Miles to Go

4. The Road Today

A Road for Canada traces the history of the Trans-Canada Highway, from its origins, conceived more than a century ago as a wagon road, to its present-day status as a crucial artery linking Canada from ocean to ocean. Lavishly illustrated, the book recounts the first attempts to cross Canada by car and tells the stories of the dreamers who persevered with their vision of a national road.

Most Canadians live within a few minutes drive of the Trans-Canada and most of our commerce travels along it. It is where we spend our holidays, how we visit friends and relatives, the means by which we see our country. The highway connects the dots of our national existence; it is our "Main Street"; it reveals us to ourselves.


A Road for Canada is as much a story about the automobile as it is about the politics and the building of the Trans-Canada Highway. With a wealth of photographs, posters and illustrations, author Daniel Francis uses journals and letters from intrepid motorists in the thirties to build on the stories of their cross-Canada adventures.” - The Globe and Mail

“The highway is the focus, but A Road for Canada covers a lot of extra ground too, including road maps, licence plates and the enduringly moving tale of Terry Fox hop-running the Trans-Canada Highway from St. John’s to Thunder Bay, Ont.” - Canadian Geographic

“Francis is a storyteller, and his talent is bringing alive the many characters and interesting events that are inextricably linked to the highway; juicy details add depth and are reminiscent of Pierre Berton’s writing style.”
     “Although there have been plenty of books written about the Trans-Canada Highway, the thoughtful juxtaposition of storytelling, historical context, maps, photos, and illustrations helps this work stand out. It is recommended to anyone wanting to learn about — or relive — one of the most daunting projects Canada has undertaken.” - Canada's History

“Lavishly illustrated with all manner of road-related photographs - everything from vintage cars and licence plates to historical townscapes and spectacular scenery - the book succeeds in making highway-building an interesting topic . . . Francis says he sees the Trans-Canada as a metaphor for the country: the early federal-provincial bickering over the project sounds all-too familiar to Canadians today. And the highway is constantly changing, constantly being rebuilt - much like Canada, he says.” - Canadian Press

A Road for Canada contains striking photographs of the country, along with pictures of bogged-down cars and massive snowdrifts that even today can make travel along the Trans-Canada Highway in winter a perilous pursuit. But despite the hazards and the soaring price of gas, Francis would like more Canadians to drive the highway, if only to see what’s at the other end.” - Calgary Herald


Honourable Mention, 2006 Alcuin Award for Excellence in Book Design