The history of the Grand Trunk Railway

Elizabeth Hall
A Walk Through History

The Grand Trunk Railway was the most important rail service of pre-confederation Canada. It ran from Levi, Quebec to Sarnia, Ontario. In 1852, the rail company wanted to build a railway line that went from Montreal to Toronto, and much of the financing for this railway was raised in Great Britain. In 1853, the Grand Trunk merged with five other railways in eastern North America, a few of which included the The Great Western, and the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railways.

Napanee was one of the villages selected to be on the GTR line. Local man David Roblin was awarded a subcontract to build the viaduct at Napanee, which was built with local limestone. John Stevenson entered into a contract with Roblin to build the stone piers of the viaduct, and the Railway Stations along the line were designed by British railway architect, Francis Thompson. The Napanee station was similar to many built along the GTR route, and the first train of the Grand Trunk Company ran through the town in 1856.

The Grand Trunk railway was Canada’s first look at “big business”, but did not seem to be as profitable as everyone thought it was going to be, it was said to be the country’s biggest economic failure. Until Britain hired the American Charles M. Hays in 1896 to be general manager of the company. Grand Trunk, for the first time since it had been built, became profitable. But Hays died in the Titanic disaster of 1912, and while his methods of managing the company had persisted, the Grand Trunk Railway Company, along with a few other railway companies, met its demise in 1923, and merged with the newly built Canadian National Railway, which also consisted of a few of the other former railways of Canada:the Grand Trunk Pacific, and the National Transcontinental lines. The Canadian National Railway was government-owned, having been a Canadian Crown corporation from its founding in 1919. Some of its old routes were abandoned and the rails were pulled up, including the route through Algonquin Provincial park, as it was privatized in 1995.

Random History Fact: People used to use quilts to discreetly give directions and send messages to slaves during the time of the Underground Railroad.

error: Content is protected !!