- Grand Trunk Railway
Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Grand Trunk Railway
logo_filename=Grand Trunk Railway System herald.jpg
map_size = 250
Ontario, Quebec, New England
old_gauge=, built to RailGauge|66
broad gaugebut converted by 1873
marks=GTRThe Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) was a railway system which operated in the Canadian provinces of
Quebecand Ontario, as well as the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec; however, corporate headquarters were in London, England. The Grand Trunk and its subsidiaries, along with the Canadian Government Railways, was a primary precursor of today's Canadian National Railways.
The GTR had three important subsidiaries during its lifetime:
Central Vermont Railwaywhich operated in Quebec, Vermont, Massachusettsand Connecticut.
Grand Trunk Pacific Railwaywhich operated in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Grand Trunk Western Railroadwhich operated in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.
A fourth subsidiary was the never-completed
Southern New England Railway, chartered in 1910, which would have run from a connection with the Central Vermontat Palmer, Massachusettsto the deep-water, all-weather port of Providence, Rhode Island.A new line to Providence would have allowed for more extensive port facilities than were possible for the Central Vermont at New London, Connecticut. Construction began in 1910 and continued in fits and starts for more than 20 years until finally abandoned in the early 1930s because of the Great Depression. The loss of the SNER's strongest proponent, Grand Trunk Railwaypresident, Charles Melville Hayeson the Titanic in 1912 may have been the major reason that this new route to the sea was never completed. Another important factor was the unrelenting opposition of the New Haven Railroadwhich fiercely protected its virtual monopoly control of rail traffic in Southern New England.
Charter, construction, and expansion
The company was incorporated on
November 10, 1852as the "Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada" to build a railway line between Montreal and Toronto.
The charter was soon extended east to
Portland, Maineand west to Sarnia. In 1853 the GTR purchased the St. Lawrence & Atlantic from Montreal to the Quebec—Vermont border, and the partner company Atlantic & St. Lawrence through to the harbour facilities at Portland. A line was also built to Lévis, via Richmond from Montreal in 1855, part of the much-talked about "Maritime connection" in British North America. In the same year it purchased the Toronto & Guelph Railroad Company, the latter's railway was already under construction. But the Grand Trunk Railway Company changed the original route of the T&G and extended the line to Sarnia, a hub for Chicago-bound traffic. By July, 1856 the section from Sarnia to Toronto opened, and the section from Montreal to Toronto opened in October of that year. By 1859 a ferry service was established across the St. Clair River to Fort Gratiot (now Port Huron, Michigan).
The Grand Trunk was one of the main factors that pushed British North America towards Confederation. The original colonial economy structured along the water route from the Maritimes up the St. Lawrence River and the lower Great Lakes was greatly expanded by the duplicate route of the Grand Trunk. The explosive growth in trade during the 1850s within the
United Province of Canadaand further east by water to the Maritimes demanded that a railway link the entire geopolitical region together. During this time the GTR extended its line to Lévis further east to Rivière-du-Loup.
By 1860, the Grand Trunk was on the verge of bankruptcy and in no position to expand further east to Halifax. On the eve of the
American Civil War, it stretched from Sarnia in the west to Rivière-du-Loup in the east and Portland in the southeast. Colonists in the United Province of Canada, some who experienced their territory being attacked by the United Statesonly 40 years earlier (in the War of 1812), were uncomfortably close to the giant Union Armyand faced terrorist attacks during the mid-1800s in the form of Fenian raids.
Such security concerns led to demands for a year-round transportation system that British reinforcements could use should their territory be attacked during winter when the
St. Lawrence Riverwas frozen and the only railway for British reinforcements to use would be the Grand Trunk connection at Portland, in the United States. Many citizens thought that the only way to finish the Grand Trunk - and protect the country - would be to unite all the colonies into a federation so that they could share the costs of an expanded railway system. Thus the British North America Act, 1867 included the provision for an Intercolonial Railwayto link with the Grand Trunk at Rivière-du-Loup.
The end of the American Civil War saw British North America on the verge of uniting in a single federation and the GTR's financial prospects improved as the railway was well-positioned to take advantage of increased population and economic growth. By 1867, it had become the largest railroad system in the world by accumulating more than 2,055 km of track that connected locations between its ocean port at Portland, Maine, its river port at Rivière-du-Loup, the three northern New England states, and much of the southern areas of Lower and Upper Canada (Quebec and Ontario). By 1880, the Grand Trunk Railway system stretched all the way from Portland in the east to Chicago, Illinois in the west (by means of the
Grand Trunk Western Railroadbetween Port Huron-Chicago).
Several impressive construction feats were associated with the GTR: the first successful bridging of the
St. Lawrence Riveron August 25, 1860with the opening of the first Victoria Bridge at Montreal (replaced by the present structure in 1898); the bridging of the Niagara Riverbetween Fort Erie, Ontarioand Buffalo, New York; and the construction of a tunnel beneath the St. Clair River, connecting Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. The latter work opened in August, 1890 and replaced the railcar ferry at the same location.
Common during 19th century railway construction in British colonies, GTR built to a broad gauge ("
Provincial Gauge") of RailGauge|66; however, this was changed to the standard gauge of 4 ft 8.5 in (1435 mm) by 1873 to facilitate interchange with U.S. railroads. To overcome the gauge difference, the GTR experimented with a form of Variable gauge axlescall adjustable gauge trucks, but these proved unreliable. [ http://home.cogeco.ca/~trains/rrall.htm ]
The GTR system expanded throughout
Southern Ontario, Western Quebec, and the state of Michigan over the years by purchasing and absorbing numerous smaller railway companies, as well as building new lines. GTR's largest purchase came on August 12, 1882when it bought the 1371 kilometre Great Western Railway, running from Niagara Falls—Toronto, and connecting to London, Windsor, and communities in the Bruce Peninsula.
By 1880, the GTR stretched from the Atlantic port of
Portland, Maineto Chicago, Illinoiswith its line west of the St. Clair Riverbeing operated as the GTWR. The company also sold the line along the St. Lawrence Riverbetween Rivière-du-Loup and Levis in 1879 to the federal government-owned Intercolonial Railway of Canada (IRC), and granted running rights in 1889 to the IRC on trackage between Levis and Montreal (via Richmond); however, the IRC's construction of a more direct line from Levis to St. Hyacinthe in 1899 saw most of this traffic transferred to that line.
Canada's worst railway accident based on loss of life happened on the GTR, occurring on
June 28, 1864when a passenger train operating between Levis and Montreal missed a signal for an open drawbridge on the Richelieu River, plunging onto a passing barge and killing 99 German immigrants.
Bankruptcy and nationalization
As the dominant railway in
British North America, GTR was reportedly asked by the federal government soon after Confederation to consider building a rail line to the Pacific coast at British Columbia(B.C.) but refused, forcing the government to enact legislation creating the Canadian Pacific Railway(CPR) to meet B.C.'s conditions for joining Confederation. By the early 1900s, GTR desired to operate in Western Canada, particularly given the virtual monopolyof service that CPR maintained and the lucrative increasing flows of immigrantswest of Ontario. The federal government encouraged GTR to co-operate with a local railway company operating on the Prairies, the Canadian Northern Railway(CNoR), but an agreement was never reached.
CNoR decided to build its own transcontinental system at this time, forcing GTR in 1903 to enter into an agreement with
Wilfrid Laurier's government to build a third railway system from the Atlantic to the Pacific. GTR would build (with federal assistance) and operate the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) from Winnipeg, Manitobato Prince Rupert, British Columbia, while the government would build and own the National Transcontinental Railway(NTR) from Winnipeg to Moncton, New Brunswick via Quebec City, which the GTR would also operate.
(As part of this program, the federal government encouraged the GTR to purchase the
Canada Atlantic Railway(CAR) with lines southeast from Ottawa to Vermont, and west from Ottawa to Georgian Bay. The GTR took effective control of the CAR in 1905, although the purchase was not ratified by parliament until 1914.)
The routing of these systems was extremely speculative, as GTPR's main line was located farther north than the profitable CPR main line in the Prairies, and NTR was located even farther north of populous centres in
Ontarioand Quebec. Construction costs on the GTPR escalated, despite having the most favourable crossing of the Continental Dividein North America at Yellowhead Pass. GTR's cost-conscious president Charles Melville Hayeswas one of the victims on board RMS "Titanic" on April 15, 1912. His death is speculated to have contributed to poor management of GTR over the ensuing decade, and also contributed to the abandonment of the uncompleted Southern New England Railwayto Providence, Rhode Island, begun in 1910.
Construction started on the GTPR/NTR in 1905 and the GTPR opened to traffic in 1914, followed by the NTR in 1915. It was a transcontinental system, with the only exception being the NTR's ill-fated
Quebec Bridgewhich would not be completed for several more years.
The first indication the arrangement with the government was faltering came when GTR refused to operate the NTR, citing economic reasons. With the enormous cost of building the GTPR and the limited financial returns being realized, GTR defaulted on loan payments to the federal government in 1919. GTPR was
nationalizedon March 7of that year, being operated under a federal government "Board of Management" until finally being placed under the control of the Crown corporation Canadian National Railways (CNR) on July 20, 1920.
GTR underwent serious financial difficulties as a result of the GTPR, and its shareholders, primarily in the
United Kingdom, were determined to prevent the company from being nationalized as well. Eventually on July 12, 1920, GTR was placed under control of another federal government "Board of Management" while legal battles continued for several more years. Finally, on January 20, 1923, GTR was fully absorbed into the CNR on a date when all constituent companies were merged into the Crown corporation.
At the time that the GTR was fully merged into CNR, approximately 125 smaller railway companies comprised the Grand Trunk system, totalling 12,800 kilometres in Canada, and 1,873 kilometres in the U.S.
The Grand Trunk today
GTR was built fully a century before major property and highway development took place in the various jurisdictions it crossed and as such had the choice of geography in selecting the most direct routes. As a result, significant sections of GTR/GTWR mainlines in Canada and the U.S. are still in active use by
Canadian National(CN) today, particularly the Quebec City—Chicago corridor by way of Drummondville, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, London, Sarnia/Port Huron, and Battle Creek. Following deregulation of the railway industry in Canada and the United States, CN has abandoned or sold many former GTR/GTWR branch lines in recent decades, including the former Portland-Montreal main line which had instigated the development of the system to a large degree. As well, nearly the entire original Toronto—Sarnia routing via Kitchener, Stratford and Forest, Ontario was sold or abandoned, using the Great Western Railway routing instead.
The corporate name "Grand Trunk" remains in use by CNR (CN after 1960) to this day. CN operated the GTW as its primary U.S. subsidiary until privatization of CN in 1995. The GTW has been transformed into the modern-day holding company "Grand Trunk Corporation" under which CN has placed the assets of its U.S. railway
subsidiaries Grand Trunk Western, Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, and post-privatization purchases, namely Illinois Central, Wisconsin Central, and Great Lakes Transportation. Until 1995 the former Central Vermont Railwaywas also a part of the Grand Trunk corporation.
The Portland-Sarnia main line of the Grand Trunk is or was known by the following names:
Berlin Subdivision, Portland to Island Pond
Sherbrooke Subdivision, Island Pond to St-Hyacinthe
Saint-Hyacinthe Subdivision, St-Hyacinthe to Montreal
*CN Montreal Subdivision, Montreal to Dorval
Kingston Subdivision, Dorval to Toronto
Weston Subdivision, Toronto to Brampton
Halton Subdivision, Brampton to Georgetown
Guelph Subdivision, Georgetown to St. Marys
Forest Subdivision, St. Marys to Sarnia
The Montreal-Toronto segment was previously known by the following names:
Cornwall Subdivision, Dorval to Brockville
Gananoque Subdivision, Brockville to Belleville
Oshawa Subdivision, Belleville to Toronto
Locomotives of the Berlin Subdivision
Guelph Junction Railway
Canada Atlantic Railway
* [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/confederation/023001-2997-e.html Collections Canada: History of the Grand Trunk Railroad]
* [http://www.modeltrainsmuseum.ca/trains/collection/static_history_cnd.cfm History of the Grand Trunk RR]
* [http://www.trentu.ca/library/archives/76-1008.htm Trent University: GTR Notes]
* [http://www.geocities.com/sharut/gt_rail.html GTR History]
* [http://collections.ic.gc.ca/cnphoto/english/gt_ang.html The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada]
* [http://www.sullboat.com/GT.htm The Grand Trunk in New England]
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