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On the eve of the Great War, railway services in Canada were nearing the point of saturation. The three transcontinentals had absorbed many small lines but were still expanding; this despite heavy debt, competition for freight and passengers, a poor wheat market, dwindling government monies and fewer immigrants. When war broke out, these issues, as well as the duty to transport soldiers and war products at low rates created a dire situation.
Canadian National Railways, 1925
Mackenzie and Mann's Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) was the first to fall. On recommendation of a royal commission, the federal government combined the CNoR with the Canadian Government Railways, a group of lines owned and operated by Canada. The next year, the new company was named Canadian National Railways (CNR).
In 1920, the Grand Trunk Railway's (GTR) money-losing Pacific subsidiary, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP), was the next to go and they too, joined the CNR. The Canadian government wanted to combine all these railways to make one transcontinental, government-owned railway. The GTR, mainly operating in Quebec and Ontario, was their only obstacle.
The government's hard-nosed negotiations to overtake the GTR were successful and in 1923, the GTR joined the CNR. The CNR operated successfully as Canada's largest railway and in 1978, the railway's passenger services combined with Canadian Pacific's to form VIA Rail. The freight services continued under CN, which privatized in 1995.
Canadian Pacific Railway, 1910, cover and map
Canadian Pacific Railway, 1899, cover and title page
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