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The Canadian Northern Railway Company was founded in 1899 by William Mackenzie and Donald Mann. These two businessmen had acquired experience in the railway business by taking part in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
In 1896, William Mackenzie and Donald Mann bought the charter of the Manitoba Lake Railway and Canal Co., which offered rail service in northern Manitoba. From there, they built links that tied Winnipeg to Pembina, North Dakota. In the following years, the Canadian Northern Railway Company extended further and further eastwards. By 1902, rail links were in place between Edmonton and Port Arthur (present-day Thunder Bay, on the north-west shore of Lake Superior). By 1903, the Company was also operating in Quebec and Nova Scotia. In 1908, Toronto was joined to Port Arthur via Sudbury. Between 1908 and 1915, Edmonton was linked to Vancouver. As of that date, the Canadian Northern Railway Company became a transcontinental line linking the port of Quebec and the port of Vancouver.
After the First World War, when financial difficulties became too great, the company was sold to the Canadian National Railways, and became one of its primary components.
Regehr, T.D. -- "Canadian Northern Railway". -- The 1999 Canadian Encyclopedia : World Edition [CD-ROM]. -- Version 5. -- [S.l.] : McClelland & Stewart, 1998.
Legget, Robert F. -- Railways of Canada. -- Revised edition. -- Vancouver : Douglas and McIntyre, 1987. -- 255 p.