Canadian Northern Railway

The story of this railway is tightly intertwined with that of the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western.

William Mackenzie and Donald Mann, who would go on to form the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), purchased the PAD&W in 1899. Known initially as the Duluth Extension and later the North Lake Subdivision, the PAD&W was one of the first pieces in the construction of their transcontinental line. Starting at Stanley (MP 19), construction had begun on a link to Winnipeg and beyond even before the purchase was finalized. They would use the charter of the recent acquired Ontario and Rainy River Railway, which would eventually take the line to Rainy River, into the United States at Baudette, Minnesota and back into Canada at Buffalo Point FN, Manitoba. The line was completed in late December 1901 and opened to traffic in mid-1902.

One of the final pieces in CNoR’s transcontinental line was built between Ruel, Ontario and Port Arthur under the name Canadian Northern Ontario Railway.  The contractors, Foley, Welch and Stewart (using the name Foley Brothers and Northern Construction Company), began construction in 1911. Work progressed rapidly on the over 400 mile section, with the last spike driven on January 1, 1914. This allowed passenger and freight traffic to flow from Toronto to Winnipeg via Port Arthur.

Not long after their entire transcontinental line was completed in 1915, CNoR began to have financial troubles. The bankrupt company was taken over by the Canadian Government, and in December 1918 was nominally amalgamated with the Canadian Government Railways (CGR) to create Canadian National Railways (CNR-CN). The formation of the CNR was formally completed in 1923 following the absorption of the Grand Trunk Railway.

For more information on the lines east and west of Thunder Bay, please click on the following links:

West   Port Arthur Subdivision (Port Arthur-Atikokan)

East    Nipigon Subdivision (Jellicoe-Port Arthur)    Long Lake Subdivision (Hornepayne-Jellicoe)

For more information about the history of the Canadian Northern Railway, please read T.D. Regehr’s Canadian Northern Railway: Pioneer Road of the Northern Prairies 1895-1918


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