Railway History - Canada

The Railway History - Canada menu and content has been developed in response to reader requests and contributions with respect to summary railway history information, either as an adjunct to research, or to provide overview segments of Canada's rich railway history.

Glossary of Terms
A compendium of common railway and bridge structure terms. 

Quick Railway Histories
These began originally as a series of handouts at local shows and heritage railway exhibitions in the Lindsay, Ontario area. The range of these was expanded to cover railways, major and minor, throughout Canada. This is still a work in progress, as gradually more and more contributions are added. These include articles from past railway history magazines, with their authors credited. 

This page was suggested by Art Clowes, who has made some significant contributions to it. Again, it is another tool for researchers and provides a great view of the Railway Age. Clearly, what is available is a mere snapshot in time of what existed, but it endeavours to cover a century when going by rail was the only real practicable way to get from point A to point B. The employee timetables offer additional information to railway researchers. Additional contributions from readers would be welcomed.

Carl Riff's Railway History Diaries
 Carl Riff is a railway history researcher, specializing in newspaper research (a most valuable primary information source). He has an abiding belief of the importance of railways to Canada's development long before the CPR was a gleam in Sir John A. Macdonald's eye. In particular he has an interest in the early railways of Quebec, and over the years he has been of invaluable assistance to numerous railway historians, researchers, and authors.
Carl would like his research to become available to a wider readership. It is for that wish that I am pleased to offer to provide a forum. All that Carl asks that his work be credited as the source for anything that is published.

Rod Clarke's  TG&B and T&N Diaries
Rod assembled this newspaper research for his book Narrow Gauge through the Bush (now out-of-print), and it has been reproduced here with his kind permission.

GTR Locomotives - R&LHS Bulletin #147 
The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Inc. has granted me permission to scan and publish this seminal history and inventory of the Grand Trunk Railway's and family companies' locomotives. It has stood the test of time as the definitive research on this somewhat complicated history.

The GTR Building & Bridges inventories: 1903 (Western Division) and 1907 (all other divisions) .
These were saved and scanned by self-proclaimed "ferro-nut" railway history researcher Art Clowes, a former CNR engineering department employee now living in retirement in New Brunswick, and contributing there to railway history initiatives. In the interest of making these inventories available as a research tool to a wider audience, he undertook the arduous task of scanning every page into PDF and making them available on this website. They are priceless reference to every GTR facility of its day in providing details as to date, dimensions and condition at a pivotal time in the GTR's infrastructure renewal program following its 19th century digestion of many pioneer railways.

CRHA - Canadian Rail
Canadian Rail is the long-running magazine of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA), covering many aspects of Canadian railway history over the years. Back issues are available in PDF format on CRHA's website, and also appear on this page with summaries of the feature articles and a Subject Index.

Branchline (Bytown Railway Society) - Index to Past Issues
The Bytown Railway Society, like the Upper Canada Railway Society (below) split away from the CRHA (above) to make its contribution to Canadian railway history on its own terms. Its monthly magazine Branchline has been indexed, and past copies are available on-line by selecting the appropriate year and issue.  

Upper Canada Railway Society (UCRS) and its publications
The Toronto-based UCRS made an enormous contribution to railfan trips and railway history during the 20th century, but unfortunately did not endure (except for an informal Hamilton chapter). As a result, its informative publications languish on individual bookshelves, somewhat forgotten except by those who remember the UCRS in its heyday. This project is to round up as much as possible for posterity. It is a big project, and will likely take all of 2020 to complete. 

The CPR and CNR Station Designating Numbers books 1924
These were contributed by Ralph Beaumont, a founding partner of the Boston Mills Press, author of Steam Trains to the Bruce, co-author of Running Late on the Bruce, and more recently author of Heckman's Canadian Pacific, an abridged CPR pictorial equivalent of the GTR Inventories at the time of the consolidation and expansion of the CPR system at the turn of the 20th century.  The station designating numbers books are catalogues of all stations on the respective railways' systems at that time.

Railway and interurban station lists and distances, compiled by Jim Fergusson:
These lists of stations and distances have been excerpted for Canada from Jim Fergusson's (worldwide) Railway and Tramway Station Lists:

CNR Synoptic History by Hopper and Kearney, contributed by Art Clowes
This synoptic (summary) history of the CNR was compiled by the Canadian National Railways (Accounting Department) by the late A. B. Hopper and T. Kearney, B. Sc., B. Eng., as of December 31, 1960, and published in 1962.It is valuable to railway history researchers by providing basic information about all of the constituent and predecessor companies of the CNR, including related industries such as telegraph, ferry, shipping, hotel, real estate and financial companies. It is particularly helpful in providing dates of incorporation and openings, directors, mergers, mileages, abandonments and so forth. Please note that there are some formatting irregularities on some pages. 

Intercolonial Railway 1876 Report by Sandford Fleming, CE, contributed by Art Clowes
This is the final report to the Honourable Alexander Mackenzie, Minister of Public Works and Premier of Canada "as the Intercolonial Railway is now in a position to be opened for traffic", on its condition. "I have endeavoured, in the following pages, to give the early history of Railway, and to trace the causes which prevented the adoption of a direct route, and in this connection I have been led to review the negotiations which ended in the establishment of the Maine Boundary. I have endeavoured to describe the frequent fruitless attempts which were subsequently made to obtain the means of constructing the line, and the considerations which led to the adoption of the present route. In cases where the location is open to criticism, I have given a narrative of the events which enforced its determination, I have stated, the principles which governed the construction of the Railway, and I have described several of the most important structures; at the same time I have briefly set forth the character of the country through which the Railway passes."

Post Cards - Stations, Railway Scenes and Wrecks - a primary research source - by Ralph Beaumont is a seminal contribution to railway research, as post cards provide a comprehensive pictorial record of railways near and at the height of their devdelopment and influence. Courtesy of the Bytown Railway Society, where this article was first published in its Jan-Feb 2016 Issue of Branchline magazine.

Searching for Antecedents on the Railways

Research and Writing a Book
This page is offered as a pointer to anyone who would like to publish something on a railway history topic. Since my own experience pre-dates the developments in on-line publishing,, I am indebted to Thomas Blampied, railway researcher and author, who has kindly updated that portion of the article. His own offerings appear under "What's New in Publications"