Manitoba Historical Society
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MHS Historical Features: A Short History of Brandon Railways

by Les Kozma and Lawrence Stuckey




By the end of 1880, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached the western boundary of Manitoba at that time, just west of what was to become Austin.


On 1 May, the government turned over 231 completed miles of railway to the new Canadian Pacific Syndicate. According to the Brandon Daily Sun of 13 January 1887, page 1:

“the first locomotive that crossed the Assinboine was in charge of Engineer Robinson, since killed on the engine near Winnipeg, and entered Brandon 14 September; the first train crossed 3 October. The first telegram was sent from Brandon to the Winnipeg Free Press by Thomas Wastie on the evening of 9 October. Brandon was the headquarters for the CPR construction and supply staff, the chief [was] Mr. Perkins of Minneapolis. Mr. Telford, now CPR Cashier at Winnipeg was in charge of supplies, and Mr. D. Matheson contracted for the grading of seven miles of the line on either side of Brandon. Mr. Thos. Killet was Brandon’s first Station Agent. The end of steel reached Flat Creek (later renamed Oak Lake) by the end of the 1881 season.”


The CPR track reached Colley, just west of Maple Creek [North West Territories, now Saskatchewan], on 31 December. The Brandon railway yards were constructed. River steamboats were still running between Winnipeg and Fort Ellice.


Track reached Calgary in August. By the end of the year, the track had attained the eastern flank of the summit, future Lake Louise.


Passenger train service to Calgary ran three times per week.


Construction on the Manitoba & Northwestern (originally called Portage Westbourne & Northwestern) was started from Portage la Prairie in July 1881. Grading reached Gladstone on 30 June 1882. (The track was completed in September 1882 and the first train ran on 1 October 1882.) The railway was in poor financial shape. It was acquired by Sir Hugh Allen and Associates of Montreal and renamed the Manitoba & North Western (M&NW). Regular train service between Portage and Minnedosa were inaugurated in September 1883. Extensions of the M&NW to the west, to Solsgirth (August 1885), Langenburg (December 1886), Saltcoats (1888), and Yorkton (1889). Branches to Russell and Rapid City were built in 1886.


In July 1886, the CPR Pacific Express arrived in Brandon, with through service from Montreal to Port Moody (British Columbia).


Construction of the Souris Branch commenced from Kemnay. The first train ran to Souris on 13 January 1890.


The Great North-West Central line (GNWCR), from Chater to Hamiota, was constructed in spurts between 1889 and 1890, opened for sporadic service, went into bankruptcy, was re-organized and opened under new management on 15 December 1891. The GNWCR was acquired by the CPR in 1900 on a long-term lease. The line was extended to Miniota in 1900.

On 5 May, the Northern Pacific and Manitoba arrived in Brandon. On 16 May, passenger service began from Brandon to Belmont, Roland, Morris, and Emerson Junction. The Northern Pacific station was located at the intersection of Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue.


Brandon’s first permanent station, erected in 1882, was replaced by a new stone and brick station, which opened at the intersection of Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue in February 1894.


The Lake Manitoba Railway and Canal Company built a line from Winnipeg to Dauphin.


The Northern Pacific built a railway line from Brandon to Hartney.

The Lake Manitoba and Canal Company, Winnipeg Great Northern Manitoba & South Eastern - all Mackenzie and Mann enterprises - were consolidated to form a single company, the Canadian Northern Railway.


The Northern Pacific built a spur line to the Brandon Fairgrounds. The CPR built a railway line to Minnedosa from the Great Northwest Central.

The M&NW was acquired by the CPR on a long-term lease.


The CPR railway line to Lenore opened.


The first CNR train from Winnipeg to Brandon ran on 4 June 1904. The CPR moved its shops from Eighteenth Street to four blocks east of First Street. The CPR gave the Eighth Street bridge to the City of Brandon. The CPR doubled its tracks to Kemnay.


The first sod was turned for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, near Carberry, on 29 August 1905, marking the start of construction to Prince Rupert (British Columbia)


The Great Northern Railway ran its first train from Devils Lake (North Dakota) to Brandon.


The Grand Trunk Pacific steel reached Edmonton on 27 July 1909, with the first train into town on 13 August 1909. Tri-weekly passenger service was inaugurated in November.

The CNR started the Prince Albert Express, from Winnipeg to Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) through Brandon. The CNR freight sheds opened on Ninth Street between Lorne and Louise Avenues.


Brandon’s third permanent station (the present one) opened 1 May 1912.


The Northern Pacific stopped running trains to the Brandon Fairgrounds because Brandon streetcars ran there.


The federal government assumed control of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1917. It and the Canadian Government Railways were combined into the Canadian National Railways in December 1918.


The federal government was appointed Receiver of the Grand Trunk Pacific in March 1919. It was put under the management of the CNR in 1920. It and its parent company, the Grand Trunk Railway, were formally integrated into the CNR in 1923.

The partly-built Grand Trunk Pacific spur line from Justice to Brandon was scrapped after 22 miles of roadbed had been completed. (Two large concrete bridge abutments remain today along the route.)


The Great Northern ran its last train to Brandon, on 7 July 1936. The Great Northern properties at Brandon were sold to the CPR. The Great Northern station remained into the late 1960s and its freight sheds lasted to the late 1970s.


On 12 January 1977, the Ministry of Transport announced creation of VIA Rail Canada as a Crown Corporation to run passenger services across the country. CP passenger operations were integrated into VIA on 28 October 1978.

Subsequently, the CPR and CNR closed or removed most of their facilities and buildings in Brandon.

1980s to 1990s

Most of the rail line abandonment and regionalization on the prairies took place after the 1970s. Railways were heavily regulated making abandonment prior to the 1980s very difficult, nearly impossible.

Page revised: 24 Februay 2014

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