Very Short History of Canadian Railways
In the early 1900s, there were four dominant independent railway companies in Canada: the Canadian Pacifc Railway (CPR), the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) and the Grand Trunk Pacifc (GTP). By 1923, the CNR, the GTP and GTR were amalgamated into the recently created Canadian National Railways (CNR)
With the popularity of automobiles and buses in the 1930s, railway passenger travel declined. In 1978, the CPR and the CNR combined their passenger services to form VIA Rail.
Crossing Canada by Train: The Legend Continues
From their beginning, train travel was more than just the practical moving of passengers and freight from place to place. Te Canadian Pacifc Railway, in particularly, saw 19th Century tourists an important source of revenue for the new railway. In addition to offering a "wild west" adventure, a train trip across the country would be a way to attract newcomers to Canada by showing them the incredible scenery of the mountains.
Cross-Canada travel by train was advertised widely, and the railway designed special sightseeing observation cars used only in the Rockies. At frst these cars had open roofs and later, closed in with a glass dome. One of the well–known transcontinental passenger trains operated by the CPR between Toronto and Vancouver in the early 1930s was named "Te Dominion."
CPR also built beautiful hotels across the country, such as the Royal York in Toronto and the Chateaux Frontenac in Quebec City. Te CPR eventually became one of the largest and most powerful companies in Canada, a position it held until 1975.
Passenger service ended in 1986 but the idea of a luxury railway trip from Toronto to Vancouver was revived in 1990, when a private company set up an independent railway company, Te Rocky Mountaineer. Today, you can once again experience the luxury and excitement of train travel; the frst is a VIA train, "Te Canadian", that travels from Toronto to Jasper; the second is the Rocky Mountaineer, that takes you through the Rockies to Vancouver
Tere were also railways that headed to the Canadian far north. Te most successful of these ventures was the Ontario Northland Railway, which reached James Bay in 1932. Te train transported logs from vast areas of forest, which resulted in the emergence of a huge pulp and paper industry in Northern Ontario. Te ONR also was directed to a mining boom in the Timmins-Porcupine area, and a continued link for those living and working in more remote areas of the province.
Today, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (Ontario Northland) continues to be a vital connection to the far north, delivering equipment, goods and services as well as providing a passenger service still needed in areas where travel by road is not possible, or hazardous at certain times of the year.
In 1962, the ON introduced the "Polar Bear Express". Although it is a passenger train, it also continues to deliver needed resources to the north. Te train travels the same route north from Cochrane to Moosonee, 12 miles south of James Bay. Passengers on a "polar bear" adventure can begin their journey in Toronto, travelling through the night and connecting with the train in Cochrane at 9 in the morning.
Te assortment of passengers is worth the trip alone: local travellers, trappers, biologists, geologists, tourists, anglers and paddlers.