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Major J.L. Charles (2009)
Major J.L. Charles - c. 1955Major J.L. Charles was associated with the building of railway lines that pushed back the northern frontier of Canada. He began an ended his service breaking virgin soils for the construction of development lines.

His first railway job was on a location survey for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in the Canadian Rockies, and his last was the direction of the reconnaisance and location for the Great Slave Lake Railway - the first to be built into the North West Territories.

Between these two projects he was actively engaged in the construction of the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill, and other CN development lines to Lynn Lake in Northern Manitoba and in British Columbia.

Major J.L. Charles - c. 1965 Major Charles also assisted with the construction of the CN's Neebing Yard at Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and the rail lines that served for many years the iron ore mines near Atikokan, Ontario. He was appointed Regional Chief Engineer of the CN in Winnipeg in 1945, and in 1957 named consulting engineer for the CN system. Clearly it was the Major's extensive experience as a practioner of location engineering in remote muskeg and rock-cropped territory that would prove invaluable as new lines to tap the resource potential of western Canada were laid in extremely challenging conditions and in many cases, at below minus forty celcius temperature ranges.

A veteran of two world wars, Major Charles served overseas with the Canadian Railway Troops in World War One. He attained the rank of Major and during the Second War, he recruited the 20th field comapny of the Royal Canadian Engineers at Winnipeg and commanded that unit on the Pacific Coast before being seconded for special duty with US Army.

Retiring after a 55-year railway career in 1965, CN System Vice President Mr. S.F. Dingle summed up Major Charles' contribution by stating "Major Charles has made himself an acknowledged master in his field over a distinguished career. His sincerity, integrity, and humility has won the respect of all who knew him..."

The First CN train arrives at the end of Steel at Lynn Lake, Manitoba in 1953, signalling the completion of the construction of the 120 mile Lynn Lake branch, located by Major J.L. Charles Major Charles left the railway better than it was when he began his career. As a locating engineer, he and others like him bequeathed Canada with a railway system in the CN that would become a solid foundation for the progressive development that has become the CN of today. In 1980, CN recognized the significant contribution of Major Charles by naming the junction of its new "Robson Subdivision" with the existing Albreda Subdivision mainline near Valemount, British Columbia after the Major. This was truly a fitting location to honour Major Charles given the Robson Subdivision would connect the former Canadian Northern mainline from Vancouver with the old Grand Trunk Pacific route from Prince Rupert - adding capacity and directional running capability through the Rocky Mountains in the Robson Valley.


Photos: 1. Canadian Northern Society collection   2. CN   3. CN
 
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