Canadian Government Railways

Canadian Government Railways

Canadian Government Railways was the descriptive name of all federally owned railways in Canada from about the 1880s until 1918, when its operations were combined with the recently nationalized CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY; in the following year the CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS were incorporated to operate both companies. The Canadian Government Railways, entrusted to the CN for operation in 1923, still exists as a component of the CN and has 4 principal constituents: the Intercolonial, National Transcontinental, Prince Edward Island, and Hudson Bay railways.

In 1867 the Government of Canada organized the INTERCOLONIAL RAILWAY to fulfil a Confederation promise of linking the Maritime provinces by rail to Ontario and Québec and assuming ownership of provincially owned railways in NS and NB. In 1879 the Intercolonial purchased the GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY line from Rivière-du-Loup to Point Lévis, opposite Québec City. In 1873, when PEI joined Canada, one condition of union was that the Dominion government assume operation of the expensive island railway system. This network was operated separately from the Intercolonial Railway. Gradually the titles Intercolonial Railway and Prince Edward Island Railway were dropped in favour of the term Canadian Government Railways.

At the turn of the century, the government constructed a new transcontinental railway in conjunction with the Grand Trunk Railway. A Grand Trunk subsidiary, the GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC, completed the western section while the government built the section from Moncton to Winnipeg under the name National Transcontinental Railway. Operation of the National Transcontinental was assumed by Canadian Government Railways in 1915. The final component of Canadian Government Railways was the HUDSON BAY RAILWAY from The Pas to Churchill, Manitoba. This line had been championed by western farmers as an alternative way of exporting grain from western Canada. However, the limited traffic prospects of a Hudson Bay railway deterred private ownership. Consequently, the Canadian Government Railways completed the line in 1929.

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