| A Short History of
Trunk Pacific Railway
The busy Canadian National Railway line, which passes through the
Municipality of Daly carries both freight and passengers from coast to
coast. The re-introduction / or relocation of the passenger depot from
Brandon North to the Town of Rivers has put that town back on the map
of important railway towns. The line has its origins with the
Grand Trunk Pacific, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Grand Trunk
Railway, which established the Town of Rivers as a divisional point on
its new line in 1908.
At that point The Grand Trunk Railway was a well-established successful
company, it had completed a line between Montréal and Toronto in 1856,
then expanded rapidly through takeovers and new construction. It built
the Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Montréal, a bridge
over the Niagara River and a tunnel under the St. Clair River at
Sarnia. By the 1880s it had lines from Chicago to the Atlantic coast,
and ranked among the largest railway systems in the world.
As the twentieth century approached railway operations in western
Canada were under the control of the Canadian Pacific, which in 1885
had completed its cross-country line, and by the Canadian Northern
which had begun the start of a second transcontinental. The Grand Trunk
had missed an opportunity to expand westward in the 1880's when the
Canadian Government was actively seeking bid for the construction of a
The R.M. of Daly was without any rail connection until, 1902 when the
Great Northwest Central Railway built a line from Forrest to Lenore.
The new villages of Bradwardine, Wheatland, Pendennis and Carnegie were
established on that line. All of these names except Carnegie were
already on the map as Post Offices but locations were changed.
In 1903 the Grand Trunk established a subsidiary, the Grand Trunk
Pacific Railway, to build a line from Winnipeg to the Pacific. This
Canadian company was incorporated by act of the Dominion Parliament, 24
Oct. 1903 (The National Transcontinental Railway Act). It was a
time of seemingly endless prosperity and growth, and its creation was
encouraged by the newly-elected Liberal government of Sir Wilfred
Laurier at the urging of Sir Charles Rivers-Wilson, Chairman of the
Grand Trunk Railway.
The line was constructed using loans provided by the Government of
Canada. The company had a mandate to build west from Winnipeg, Manitoba
to the Pacific coast at Prince Rupert, British Columbia. East of
Winnipeg, the federal government would build the National
Transcontinental Railway (NTR) across Northern Ontario and Quebec,
Times, Dec. 7, 1902
crossing the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City and ending at Moncton,
New Brunswick. The conceptual plan was to have GTR operate both GTPR
and NTR as a single transcontinental railway, competing with the
Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).
This second Canadian transcontinental rail route would feature a
terminal on the Pacific that would actually be nearer to Asia than was
the existing terminus of the C.P.R. at Vancouver. It was to follow one
of the routes surveyed by Sandford Fleming much earlier for the first
transcontinental line and rejected. The original survey ran from
Winnipeg to Port Simpson at the end of the Portland Canal, which formed
part of the boundary between British Columbia and Alaska.
Under Charles M. Hays, the Grand Trunk's energetic general manager who
also became Grand Trunk Pacific's president, the new company pushed its
Construction began on the Canadian Prairies in 1905, the year that the
provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were established with the first
sod turned near Carberry, Manitoba on August 29. Construction proceeded
west to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1907, Edmonton, Alberta in 1909, and
through Jasper, Alberta into Yellowhead Pass crossing the Continental
Divide in 1910-1911. The last spike ceremony heralding completion of
the rail line across the prairies, and through the Rocky Mountains to
the newly constructed seaport at Prince Rupert, British Columbia was
held one mile east of Fort Fraser, British Columbia on April 7, 1914.
Rivers/Daly area in 1915
In 1907 the Grand Trunk Pacific entered the municipality from the east
with stations at Levine and Myra, and most importantly, a divisional
point and major town at Rivers.
The above map, from 1915, shows the two lines crossed the municipality
at the height of railway development.
In 1910, the company also built a dock in Seattle, the Grand Trunk
Pacific dock, which was the largest dock on the west coast at the time
it was built. On July 30, 1914, the dock was destroyed by fire.
Passenger service was inaugurated in 1910.
In Manitoba villages with either sidings or stations were created in
alphabetical order, starting just west of Portage la Prairie with the
siding known as Arona and continues with Bloom, Caye, Deer, Exira,
Firdale, Gregg, Harte, Ingelow, Justice, Knox, Levine, Myra, Norman,
Oakner, Pope, Quadra, Rea and Stenberg. The next two letters are
reversed, so Uno comes before Treat, while Victor concludes the
sequence in Manitoba.
The Grand Trunk Pacific was a widely anticipated and vigorously debated
attempt to create a new trans-continental rail line. It was
optimistically pursued and for a relatively short time a very
influential factor in the development of Western Canada. This vital
connection to the rest of the country forever changed life in Rivers
Rivers was just the right distance from Winnipeg to be designated as a
divisional point. It would require a large station, a roundhouse and a
host of storage, maintenance and house facilities.
Roundhouse and Yards
proved to be controversial for Hays as he was criticized for
various decisions, such as choosing Prince Rupert as the Pacific
terminus, underestimating Mackenzie and Mann's competing CNR system,
and committing the entire Grand Trunk company to the GTP project.
Hays's zeal to pursue construction of a well-engineered mainline in
lieu of developing a network of branch lines for feeding local traffic
proved to be a considerable hurdle as well.
The railway, although located in a more northerly latitude than any of
the existing transcontinental lines, passes through elevated territory
in a lower altitude, considerably lessening the cost of operation, The
line crosses the extensive region of the Canadian northwest, which is
enormously rich in agricultural and mineral products.
As president of the Grand Trunk, Hays committed to competing with the
CPR in a number of other areas, namely shipping and hotels. In fact
Hays died while returning from a visit to England to Canada where he
was scheduled to attend the 26 April 1912, grand opening of the Château
Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. Hays had chosen to return from
England on the maiden voyage of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, which
struck an iceberg south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland the night of
14 April and sank.
Not long after Hays' death, the Grand Trunk reneged on its agreement to
operate the federally owned National Transcontinental system east of
Winnipeg, and the Grand Trunk soon faced financial ruin over its
decision to build and operate the GTP west of Winnipeg, particularly
after the First World War caused traffic on the prairies to decline
Despite some advantages the GTPR had not immediately realized the
traffic potential they had predicted. The CPR occupied the more
populous southern route in the prairies through Regina, Saskatchewan
and Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia and was using land
grants provided by the federal government as well as government
incentives to draw immigrants and businesses to settle along its route.
GTR did not have a coordinated marketing plan, and efforts at further
settlement were disrupted by the First World War.
By 1919 it was obvious that the GTPR was not paying its way. The
financial strain broke on March 7 when GTR defaulted on repayment of
construction loans to the federal government, whereby the GTPR was
nationalized and taken over by a Board of Management operating under
the Department of Railways and Canals while legalities were resolved.
On July 12, 1920 the GTPR was placed under the management of Crown
corporation Canadian National Railways (CNR) and in 1923 was completely
absorbed into the CNR.
While the Grand Trunk Pacific may not have been successful as a
National enterprise, locally it was an important stimulus to the
economy, a convenience to the citizens, and an influential factor in
the lifestyle of the region. The Town of Rivers owes not only its very
existence to the railway, but as great deal it character and success
came directly down those rails.