Canadian Northern Railway was incorporated (1899) as a result of the amalgamation of 2 small Manitoba branch lines. It was built up over the next 20 years by its principal promoters, William MACKENZIE
and Donald MANN
, to become a 16 093 km transcontinental railway system. The promoters depended heavily on land grants and on the sale of government guaranteed bonds of their company. They built a strong Prairie system, but came to face stiff competition from their transcontinental rivals, the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY
, the GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY
and the GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC RAILWAY
. To meet that competition, a transcontinental expansion program was undertaken. The last spike was driven in Jan 1915 and in Oct of that year an excursion train carried parliamentarians and journalists to Vancouver and on to Victoria. That expansion, however, proved crippling, and severe financial exigencies during WWI repeatedly forced the promoters to seek government assistance. In return for aid given, the federal government ultimately demanded all the shares of the company. Mackenzie and Mann were forced out of the company, which then became one of the first major components of what would soon become the publicly owned CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
. The corporate identity of the Canadian Northern Ry was retained until 1956, but its existence as an independent company ended with nationalization in 1918.
Canadian Northern Pioneer
A "pioneer" was a track-laying machine which fed a steady current of ties and rails (courtesy PAS).
Canadian Northern Railway
Men leaving for work on the Canadian Northern Railway, Dryden area of Northern Ontario, c. 1880s (Archives of Ontario/S16160).
T.D. Regehr, The Canadian Northern Railway (1976).
Links to Other Sites
Collection Profile: Rail
An extensive overview of Canada's railway history from the Canada Science and
Canadian Northern Society
The Canadian Northern Society is preserving prairie heritage through its collection of heritage railway station sties at Big Valley, Meeting Creek and Camrose, the Meeting Creek grain elevator site, and unique interpretive activities and events.
Atlas of Alberta Railways
Climb aboard the "Atlas of Alberta Railways" website for a fascinating multimedia tour of Alberta history. This site will take you to a great collection of fascinating maps, old newspaper articles, scenic photographs, charts, graphs, and much more. From the University of Alberta Press.
Canadian Railway Hall of Fame
The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame honours Canadian achievement in the railway business. It fulfills a need to recognize various technology, communities and individuals that have been instrumental in the development of this vital Canadian transportation system.