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 Branch, 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 was completed in late December 1901 and opened to traffic in mid-1902.

Part of this line was re-routed in 1912. The grade between Stanley and Kakabeka was particularly bad, so in 1909, CNoR decided to build a new section of line from Rosslyn to Kakabeka. The new route was shorter and the grades much easier. The new junction point became Twin City (MP 11.8) and the 3.7 miles of track from Stanley to Kakebeka was abandoned. Because of its incline, the old route was known as “High Track.”

One of the final pieces in CNoR’s transcontinental line was built between Capreol, Ontario and Port Arthur starting in 1911. Construction progressed rapidly on the over 400 mile section, 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 though, in 1917, CNoR began to have financial trouble. The company was taken over by the Canadian Government and in December 1918 was ordered to merge with the Canadian Government Railways (CGR) to form Canadian National Railways (CNR-CN). The formal merger did not take place until 1923.

Only one of these lines, from Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) to Winnipeg still operates. The portion from Thunder Bay to Atikokan, ON is known as the CN-Kashabowie subdivision. The eastern line from Port Arthur to Longlac, known as the CN-Kinghorn/Dorion Subdivision, last saw rail traffic in 2005 and was abandoned 2007. 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 Spikes on the Canadian Northern Railway in New Ontario by John Todd (Canadian Rail Magazine, October 1979)

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

Link to 1925, 1928, 1929 & 1931 maps.

There are numerous videos of the remains of the Kinghorn/Dorion SD in the YouTube playlist below, as well as several of High Track.


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