A Canadian Regional Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
Northern Alberta Railways


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N A  Logo Northern Alberta Railways ( NAR) was a Canadian railway which served northern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia. Railway construction in northern Alberta during the early 20th century was dominated by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway, both of which were building westward from Edmonton, Alberta to the Yellowhead Pass of the Rocky Mountains. The provincial government of Alberta began to charter railroads that would serve the neglected northern portion of Alberta, hence the growth of several railroads that formed the NAR 52
Northern Alberta
April 27, 1952
NAR in 1929. From the 20's through the 60's and early 70's the NAR served the passenger and freight needs of this sparsely populated area. It experienced further growth due to the wars, the Alaskan Highway development and the oil and gas booms. In was jointly owned by the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, operating as a separate company from 1929 until 1981, when it was bought by the CN and lost it's identity. It now is partially abandoned and partially split up into short lines.
History of the Northern Alberta Railways
Several lines were chartered to serve both the Peace River and Waterways regions of the province of Alberta.
Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (ED&BC)
1907 - Athabaska Railway chartered in 1907. It was to build northeast from Edmonton
to Dunvegan, AB, then to Fort George, BC.
1911 - The AR company was rechartered in 1911 under the ownership of J.D. McArthur as the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (ED&BC).
1912 - Construction of the ED&BC started in 1912 heading toward Westlock, AB.
1914 - ED&BC reaches High Prairie.
1915 - Spirit River reached.
1916 - Deciding not to proceed to Dunvegan, a branch was built south from Rycroft, AB to Grande Prairie, AB (400 miles northwest from Edmonton).
1924 - The line was extended to Wembley, AB.
1928 - Line reached Hythe, AB.
1930 - ED&BC was extended westward across the provincial boundary to its western terminus at Dawson Creek, BC.
Alberta and Great Waterways Railway (A&GW)
1909 - A charter was granted to the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway (A&GW) to build from Edmonton to Waterways, AB on the Athabasca River.
1909-13 - Construction faltered and a political scandal ensued,.
1913 - A&GW was rechartered in 1913 under the ownership of J.D. McArthur.
1914 - Construction of the A&GW began from Carbondale, AB
1916 - A&GW reached Lac La Biche, AB
1922 - It reached Draper, AB.
1925 - A&GW reached its terminus at Waterways, AB.
Central Canada Railway (CCR)<
1913 - A charter was granted to the Central Canada Railway (CCR) under the ownership of J.D. McArthur to build from Winagami Junction, AB on the ED&BC to Peace River Crossing, AB in order to access barge traffic on the Peace River.
1914 - Construction of the CCR began in 1914
1916 - Construction was complete.
1921 - CCR extended to Berwyn, AB.
1924 - CCR extended to Whitelaw, AB.
1928 - Fairview, AB reached.
1930 - Hines Creek, AB reached.
Pembina Valley Railway (PVR)
1926 - The provincial government passed a statute authorizing the government to construct the Pembina Valley Railway (PVR) from Busby, AB, where it connected to the ED&BC line, to Barrhead, AB.
Provincial Control
19220 - Financial difficulties plague Canadian Railways starting government control era.
1920 - The provincial government leased the ED&BC and CCR in 1920 for five years.
1921 - The government entered into a five year agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to operate the ED&BC and CCR.
1921 - The provincial government purchased the A&GW outright and chose to operate it separately
1920-25 - CPR charges farmers high rates.
1925 - The provincial government purchased the ED&BC and CCR from McArthur.
1926 - ED&BC and CCR operations taken over by the new provincial Department of Railways and Telecommunications which was also tasked to operate the AG&W and the newly-built PVR.
1928 - The provincial government began to solicit proposals from both the CPR and the Canadian National Railways (CNR) for purchasing the provincial railways
Northern Alberta Railways (NAR)
1928 - The provincial government grouped the ED&BC, CCR, AG&W, and PVR under the collective name Northern Alberta Railways (NAR).
1929 - NAR received a federal charter in March 1929.
c 1930 -The NAR was sold to both the CNR and CPR in equal portions with both companies agreeing to maintain the NAR as a joint subsidiary. At that time, the NAR was the third-largest railway in Canada.
1930-60's - NAR provides limited passenger service on all its lines. Edmonton to Dawson Creek, Hine Creek and Waterways, often not daily due to limited passenger traffic.
1937 - The NAR began to show a profit for the first time.
1942 - Following the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the Alaska Highway civil defense project resulted in tremendous growth for the NAR, as the system was the only railway to service Alaska Highway mile 0 at Dawson Creek.
c 1940-50's - NAR also saw increased traffic from defense spending in both the Peace River and Fort McMurray regions as Royal Canadian Air Force training bases for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan were established.
1958 - the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE), owned by the province of British Columbia, built east to Dawson Creek, BC and then north to Fort St. John, BC. Traffic from Dawson Creek which used to run on NAR now mostly ran on PGE
1960 - NAR completely dieselized with EMD GP9"s, followed by SD38's..
c 1960's - Alberta's nascent oil and gas industry began to have an impact on the NAR as traffic began to increase on both the Dawson Creek and Fort McMurray branches.
1964 - ,The federal government built the Great Slave Railway north from the NAR at Grimshaw, AB to Hay River, NWT to carry passengers and cargo which could then be transferred to barges and continue down the Mackenzie River.
1966 - The passenger train to Waterways was replaced by Budd Rail Diesel Cars, but the experiment was unsuccessful.
1967 - Budd cats replaced by a mixed train
1974 - The passenger train to Dawson Creek was discontinued.
c 1970's Significant investments also began in the Fort McMurray region as the Athabasca Oil Sands deposits began to be exploited.
Canadian National Railway
1981 - CN bought out CPR's share in the NAR system and incorporated these lines into the CN network, allowing CN to operate unhindered north from Edmonton to Hay River, NWT and west to Dawson Creek, BC. NAR disappeared as a corporate entity.
1996 - CN identified parts of its former NAR trackage for divestiture, either through sale or abandonment. Several lines were subsequently sold to short line operators.

NAR Map
Northern Alberta - 1931


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Copyright Richard Parks, April 30, 2009, revised Sept. 21, 2011