Canadian Northern Railway Nipigon Subdivision

While the Canadian Northern Railway between Ruel, Ontario and Port Arthur, Ontario was completed in 1914, it should be noted though that Mackenzie and Mann were very hesitant about constructing the line altogether. They estimated, quite correctly in the end, that it would not generate enough revenue to cover its operating costs. As early as 1904, they attempted to negotiate a running rights agreement with Canadian Pacific between Port Arthur and the east. When they failed to secure an agreement, their hand was forced, as it would be quite impossible to operate the company just based on western traffic. Canadian Northern needed a complete transcontinental line.

While no period numbers are available at the moment, a Royal Commission report prepared in 1916 gives some insight into the cost of construction. It was estimated that the cost to replace the line would range from $25,204,052 to $28,102,045, or $46,245 to $51,563 per mile. Adjusted for inflation, this equates to between $488,816,614 to $545,021,351, or $896,911 to $1,000,039 per mile.

As the line was nearing completion, five sites were selected to become divisional points, creating four subdivisions:

CapreolRuel SubdivisionFoley (Foleyet) Oba Subdivision  – Fitzbach (Hornepayne)Long Lake SubdivisionHector (Jellicoe)Nipigon SubdivisionPort Arthur

The Nipigon Subdivision, the western most of the four sections, began in Jellicoe, Ontario and wound its way 148 miles to the Lakehead. It was opened for passenger traffic on October 15, 1915. In 1923, the line became the Canadian National Railways Dorion Subdivision. In 1960, the Dorion and more eastern Kinghorn Subdivision were merged, and became the Kinghorn Subdivision, running from Longlac, Ontario to Port Arthur. The stations and some of the notable locations on the line are listed below (mileage shown is per the original line):

Milepost Station, Siding or Point Elevation (ft.)
0 Hector/Jellicoe* 1086
5.8 Nezah 1067
13.6 Jackpine 1031
19.6 Empire 1015
20.6 Hanning/Beardmore* 1007
25.6 Black Water/Warneford* 975
33.6 Sand Point/Fairloch* 926
34.9 Farlinger 927
36.6 Macdiarmid 920
37.1 Macdiarmid Tunnel 910
37.6 Postagoni River Bridge 903
41.3 Orient Bay 863
42.8 Cove Inlet 860
44.6 Crowther** 856
49.7 East McKirdy 902
50.1 McKirdy 902
52.3 McKirdy Pit 870
56 Paju 820
58.4 Cash Creek Trestle 775
60 Ledger/Hogarth* 792
64.8 Conmee/Cronyn/MacAskill* 744
66.1 Cameron Falls 720
70.9 Nipigon River Bridge 642
71.9 Booth/Parmacheene* 633
77.9 Nipigon 616
82.4 Crawford/Red Rock* 625
84.7 Robford 652
88.4 Everard 661
88.5 Black Sturgeon River Bridge 661
89.5 Dalziel/Coughlin* 676
95 Hurkett 605
97.5 Wolf** 627
99.9 Dorion 672
106.6 Enterprise/Ancliff* 738
114.6 Pearl 854
120.6 The Pass/Pass Lake 834
123.4 Blende River Viaduct 792
129.2 Sibley/Amethyst* 688
134.5 Silver Harbour 654
140.4 Wild Goose 622
143.3 Kohut*** 613
145.5 Current 639
147.9 Port Arthur 615

*Name changed **Planned but never constructed ***Added after 1996

In many ways, the fate of this line was sealed in 1923. That year, Canadian National completed a 30 mile section of line between Longlac, Ontario and Nakina, Ontario, known as the Nakina Cut-off. This connected the former Canadian Northern line to the former National Transcontinental Railway, which was built by the Canadian Government but operated by Grand Trunk. This construction created a route between Toronto and Winnipeg that was 100 miles shorter than the one via Port Arthur, and the grades were much better. Thus, CN’s main transcontinental line between Toronto and Winnipeg was the former Canadian Northern to Longlac, then the Nakina Cut-off and finally the former NTR line from Nakina to Winnipeg. All other lines in the area we relegated to secondary status.

The Kinghorn Subdivision managed to sustain traffic until 1990s when it decreased considerably, and the route became unprofitable. The acquisition of a US route south of the Great Lakes in the early 2000s by CN, coupled with the need for massive infrastructure upgrades, was the death blow for the line. The Kinghorn last saw traffic in May 2005 and the rails were removed from the entire line by 2010. While the right-of-way is still owned by CN, efforts have been underway for a number of years to transform parts of it into a rail trail.

For more information and photos, please read the following great articles:

The Driving of the Last Spike on the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway by John Todd (Canadian Rail Magazine, November 1979)

The Nipigon Tramway by John Todd (Canadian Rail Magazine, October 1977)

Link to 1921 & 1931 maps. Link to some of the timetables at Railway Pages and Traingeek. Link to the 1982 timetable. Link to the 1952, 1965 and 1990 systems maps. Other timetables courtesy of J. Smith and Ingenium.


Timetables and Stations

There are numerous videos of the remains of the CNoR-Nipigon Subdivision in the YouTube playlist below.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: