Canadian Geographic
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Tracking rail


Railways have played a role in the location and building of nearly every Canadian community west of Lake Superior. From urban Vancouver to the tiniest prairie farm town, literally hundreds of Canadian communities owe their existence to the transcontinental railways.

Transcona, for example, was born in 1908 when the Grand Trunk Pacific and National Transcontinental railways were building a second line across Canada. The site, just east of Winnipeg, was chosen for a major repair and maintenance shop. During construction, workers bought up the surrounding land for homes. Businesses followed, and by 1916, Transcona had become the second largest town in Manitoba. The name Transcona is an amalgamation of “transcontinental” and “Strathcona,” in recognition of Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, a former Manitoban who was instrumental in building Canada’s first railway.

Other communities remain dependent on Canada’s railways for their survival. Moosonee, Ont., located near the southern tip of James Bay, is accessible only by rail and air. When the railway arrived in 1932, the former fur-trading post became a transportation hub for the Hudson Bay Lowlands.

The Ontario Northland Railway is a lifeline for the residents of Moosonee, Moose Factory and the James Bay coast, carrying about 60,000 commuters, business travellers and tourists to and from Moosonee each year and providing goods deliveries twice a week. One of Canada’s few remaining “flag stop” trains, it still picks up passengers and supplies in the wilderness between stations on demand.


This piece details the story of Transcona, a historical town that originated as a key centre point of a cross-Canada railroad built by the Grand Trunk Railroad and the National Transcontinental railway. A scroll bar of photographs with corresponding narration supports this piece.


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Quiz :

What percentage of all Canadian surface freight is transported by rail?