Canadian Northern Railway, 1915
The Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) began life as the Lake Manitoba Railway & Canal Company, for which entrepreneurs William Mackenzie and Donald Mann had purchased the charter in 1895. The original intention was for a relatively short track to provide a line, mainly for colonization and grain transport, to go north of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) into north-west Manitoba and on to Hudson Bay.
Canadian Northern Railway, n.d.
Mackenzie and Mann's enterprise soon extended much farther than that. Over the years they built and acquired so many lines that, eventually, their operations stretched from coast to coast and competed fiercely with the CPR and the Grand Trunk. But over-expansion with a heavy debt load, along with an unstable economy, diminishing immigrant traffic and the advent of the First World War, brought them to a halt. A new board, under government ownership, had taken over by 1918 and the next year the CNoR became part of the Canadian National Railways.
The act incorporating the Nelson Valley Railway & Transportation Company in 1880 authorized a line from Lake Winnipeg, north to Hudson Bay. The idea behind the venture was that goods from the west could be shipped from Hudson Bay to Liverpool faster and cheaper than by going overland and shipping from an eastern port.
Doubts about the geography of the region and the amount of ice in the bay had to first be addressed. One promoter blamed the Hudson's Bay Company for creating such doubts because, for centuries, they had spread false rumours about the inaccessibility of the country in an attempt to dissuade competitors. The line was built and in 1884, it absorbed the Winnipeg & Hudson's Bay Railway & Steamship Company. Ten years later, the Mackenzie and Mann machine was dominating the region and their Winnipeg Great Northern Railway absorbed the Nelson Valley Railway & Transportation Company.
Nelson Valley Railway, 1881, cover and title page
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