Among his many accomplishments during his tenure as President, most significant was Mr. Allison’s initiation and responsibility for the construction of the Mount Macdonald tunnel project. Mr. Allison put forth the business case for the tunnel to CP’s Board of Directors, outlining the overwhelming financial and operational benefits of the tunnel. Famously, after the completion of Mr. Allison’s presentation, one board member said with a raised voice: “Where do we sign?” If Mr. Allison had not been President it is unlikely the Mount Macdonald tunnel would have been realized.
Mr. Allison has continued to be an active member of the railroad community. He acts on the Board of Advisors for the Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society (SOLRS), a not for profit volunteer railway preservation society. Mr. Allison has been a valuable mentor to many, and he continues to mentor and provide career advice to new railroaders.
Mr. Allison currently resides in London, Ontario.
*Allison was a railroader’s railroader. Representing the third-generation of his family to be employed by CPR, he signed on with the company as a transit man in 1945, a year before completing a degree in civil engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
*During his early years of service in southwestern Ontario and Montreal, Russ worked his way up from assistant roadmaster to division engineer. In 1957, he became assistant superintendent of the Montreal Terminals Division – and he never looked back.
*In 1966, Russ moved to Vancouver for a three-year stint as general manager, operations and maintenance, Pacific Region. By 1969, he was vice- president of CPR’s Prairie Region. Five years later, he was appointed vice-president Eastern Region, based in Toronto.
*In 1981, the company brought him back to head office as executive vice-president for the entire CPR network; and on June 11, 1984, Russell Allison became president of Canada’s oldest, continuously- running, Class-1 railway.
*During his 44-year climb through the ranks, Russ was instrumental in bringing Canadian Pacific through a number of challenges and significant milestones, leading the charge to upgrade the infrastructure of the core railway, rehabilitating grain-dependent branch lines, and rebuilding and modernizing the entire locomotive fleet.
*The greatest thrill of his career, however, came on October 24, 1986, when he pushed a plunger to set off a charge that blasted out the last chunk of rock separating the east and west sections of the 14- kilometre Mount Macdonald railway tunnel at Rogers Pass.
The eventual completion – in 1989 – of the tunnel and the entire $600-million Cdn Rogers Pass Project in British Columbia’s mighty Selkirk mountain range marked the railway’s largest expansion of capacity since the railway was built in the early 1880s.
*Known as a stickler for detail throughout his entire career, Russ felt the three things a good railway employee should do were to get things done, strive to produce quality work, and show commitment to co-workers and company.