For more than 150 years, at least one member of the Hamel family has worked for one of Canada’s railways—from the Grand Trunk to CN to CP to Ontario Northland. In fact, over four generations, the Hamels have contributed 570 years of cumulative service to Canada’s railways.
It all began with J.W. Hamel senior, who worked with the Grand Trunk Railway back in 1891. He spent 48 years as a railway worker before passing the calling on to his sons, George, Albert, Sylvio, J.W. Jr., Walter, Ernest, Alfred and William. All eight of Hamel’s sons spent their careers working for either CN or CP.
During the 1940s and 1950s, a new generation of Hamel men (Hamel Sr.’s grandsons) began working on the railways: George, Guy, Raymond and Peter. Today, three of his great grandsons are still active. James Hamel started with CN in 1976, Steve in 1977 and Perry in 1978 .
Third-generation railroader Peter Hamel shares this story about his older brother: “In the early fifties, my bother J.G. Hamel was a telegrapher in Coteau Junction, situated between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. One day when he was off duty and on his way home—a few miles west of Coteau—he noticed a passenger train that was stopped on the main line with troubles. He knew that the freight train had already left Coteau station and would hit the passenger train. He stopped his car and ran across the field to flag and stop the freight train, saving about 150 lives on the passenger train. CN gave him a wristwatch for his effort.”
John Armstrong made a great contribution to Canada’s rail industry through his years as a union leader and negotiator with the United Transportation Union (UTU).
Mr. Armstrong was a conductor with CN and went on to become the general chairman of CN Lines West before concluding his career as vice-president of the United Transportation Union.
His former colleagues recognize him as an insightful leader who saw the pros and cons of every employer–employee issue. As a union negotiator, he always sought to find a win-win scenario within every agreement.
Mackenzie “Mac” Norris’ career spanned 20 years with Canadian Pacific (CP) and another 20 with Pacific Great Eastern (PGE)/British Columbia Railway (BC Rail). He is a man who truly made his mark on Canada’s rail industry through decades of involvement in the rail sector.
Mr. Norris was head of the BC Rail Group of Companies from 1978 to 1990, a tenure that included a lead role in PGE’s expansion into the north and its upgrade from branch line standards to a major mainline railway. As a member of the board of Rocky Mountaineer—Canada’s premiere tourist rail service—he also played a key role in ensuring the success of the railway.
Mr. Norris was known as a patient and honest railroader who always demonstrated integrity and was a leader in the industry throughout his long and successful career.
Paul Côté is the former president of Canada’s national passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada. Mr. Côté got his start in the rail industry with Canadian National (CN) in 1972 before starting with VIA Rail six years later. During his years with VIA, he managed a range of different departments, including marketing, human resources and government affairs, eventually taking on the role of the company’s chief operating officer.
Throughout his 38-year career in Canada’s rail industry, Mr. Côté was devoted to the passenger rail sector. At VIA, he became known for a management philosophy that put a clear emphasis on customer service and employee equality. In fact, he was the driving force behind VIA’s renaissance in the 1990s, which was founded on improved customer satisfaction.
A year before retiring in March 2010, Mr. Côté secured $900 million from the federal government to invest in Canadian rail infrastructure and equipment. The improvement and modernization of passenger trains in Canada is a testament to his fundamental belief in the importance of customer service.
Since its inception in 1961, Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, has ranked as one of the most important railway museums in the world. Located on Montreal’s south shore, near the very first railroad in Canada (the Champlain & St. Lawrence Rail Road), the museum showcases Canada’s largest railway collection and is among the largest of its kind in the world.
Owned and operated by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA), Exporail’s mission is to purchase vehicles, artifacts and archival documents that retrace the history of Canada’s railways and their development.
Its collection includes more than 160 railway vehicles and many unique artifacts representing the events, organizations or people that have played a pivotal role in the history of Canadian railway technology since 1836.
Every year, more than 60,000 visitors view the museum’s collection and its archives of over 400,000 documents that detail significant events since the founding of Canada’s first railways. The museum also shines a light on technological innovations in the rail industry and the industry’s economic contributions to the building of modern-day Canada.
He continues to give generously of his time to promote rail as a backbone of economic activity. His passionate commitment to promoting rail and unwavering support for the industry have contributed greatly to the rail industry in Quebec.
Le Groupe TRAQ publishes the only French bimonthly magazine dedicated to all things rail, and organizes an annual rail symposium in Quebec. Exhibitors use this event to display their rail hardware, equipment and other products or services. The event also plays an important role in Quebec’s rail industry by bringing together different levels of government, short lines (local or regional railways), industrial railways and Class 1 railways (CN, CP, VIA Rail).
Major J.L. Charles’ first railway job was as a rod man on a location survey in the Canadian Rockies for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. He ended his career as chief engineer of the Western Region for the Canadian National Railway, retiring in 1965 after a 55-year railway career. But Major Charles left the railway better than it was when he began his career.
Over the years, he helped build the railway lines that pushed back Canada’s northern frontier. He played a key role in the construction of the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill as well as other CN development lines to Lynn Lake in northern Manitoba and in British Columbia.
Major Charles also assisted with the construction of CN’s Neebing Yard at Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and the rail lines that served the iron ore mines near Atikokan, Ontario. He was appointed regional chief engineer of CN in Winnipeg in 1945, and named consulting engineer for the CN system in 1957.
As a locating engineer, Major Charles (and others like him) bequeathed to Canada a railway system that would provide a solid foundation for the CN of today. He received numerous awards for his work over the years, including being named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
A pilot overseas during World War II, Mr. Hunt learned to maintain CNR’s new diesel locomotives when he returned to his hometown of London after the war. Over the years, he held positions ranging VP of system rail operations to VP of the CNR Great Lakes region.
During his career, Mr. Hunt influenced railroaders from Montreal to Battle Creek to Belleville. He is also known for playing a pivotal role in the construction of the world-famous CN Tower, and was the first man to walk down the tower’s stairs.
One of his lasting legacies was the iconic CN steam locomotive 6060, which he helped protect from being turned into scrap. Built in 1944, the locomotive had been taken out of service in 1959 and put on display in Jasper National Park soon after. A decade later, Mr. Hunt helped have the engine restored to working order. Today, it continues to operate as the Alberta Prairie Railway’s “Polar Express,” which runs out of Stettler, Alberta.
John R. Booth
Lord Strathcona (Donald A. Smith)
Incorporated in 1906, the Toronto Terminals Railway Company (TTR) is a unique federally-regulated rail operator that provides services essential to the movement of some 61 million passengers annually.
Throughout its 113-year history, TTR has demonstrated resilience and innovation to construct, maintain and develop Toronto’s famous Union Station and the rail infrastructure required to safely and efficiently move thousands of passenger and freight trains annually. Today, TTR is a key partner of GO Transit/Metrolinx, and VIA Rail Canada as it manages the movement of over 700 trains per day in and out of Union Station, Canada’s busiest rail passenger terminal, with a 99% on time performance record. In its recent history, TTR has served its shareholders (Canadian Pacific and CN) very well by providing switching operations on British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, specifically the container terminals at the world-class Delta Port Terminal, Centerm and Vanterm. In addition, the company has emerged as a provider of contract construction and signalling services.
Leading TTR’s industry achievements has been George Huggins, Director of Operations who began his career at the company in 1983. Under George’s leadership, TTR and its employees have successfully transformed the railway into the service-driven company that exists today.
In recognition of TTR’s 113 years of service, its ability to adapt to changing times and conditions in the industry, and the leadership of George Huggins and the entire TTR team, the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame is honoured to recognize the Toronto Terminals Railway Company as an “Industry Trailblazer” in 2019.
Milton Deno started his career as an electrical apprentice with Canadian Pacific Railway(CPR) on March13 1950 at Regina Saskatchewan he was later placed on special duties as District Diesel inspector at Revelstoke British Columbia, road testing a leased set of LOCOTROL equipment from early 1967 until mid 1968. In mid 1969 he was made Master Mechanic(Revelstoke) where he was given the task of getting a Locotrol operation up and running after CPR purchased its first 5 systems.
Locotrol is a technology that permits railway locomotives to be distributed throughout a train’s length. It allows railways to optimize the distribution of motive power and braking control. This provides faster and smoother starting and stopping distances and times, leading to safer train handling and more efficient operations. In 1967, CPR became one of the first railway companies in the world to use Locotrol—thanks to Mr. Deno.
Mr. Deno paved the way for the widespread distributed power (DP) operations that exist in Canada today. Throughout his almost 51-year career, Mr. Deno also worked effortlessly to introduce Locotrol DP technology to global markets, helping railways around the world move longer and heavier trains.
Cliff Mackay is the former president and chief executive officer of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), the voice of Canada’s railway industry. While at the helm of the RAC, he worked with various government and regulatory agencies to improve rail safety.
As a member of the Railway Safety Act Review Panel, Mr. Mackay played a pivotal role in reviewing the Railway Safety Act, and in publishing the panel’s report. As head of the RAC, he also worked with Transport Canada to implement more than 30 safety recommendations contained in the report, including those dealing with safety management systems, safety data collection, and research and innovation.
Before being appointed head of the RAC in 2006, Mr. Mackay was president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) for nine years. He also spent 20 years in the federal government, including serving as senior assistant deputy minister for Industry and Regional Operations at Industry Canada.
A staunch advocate of freight and passenger rail, Mr. Mackay spent the twilight of his career ensuring that Canadian regulatory agencies, as well as elected and non-elected officials, gained a better understanding of the strategic role railways play in Canada’s economy. His decades of experience and service improved the rail sector and Canada’s transportation industry as a whole.
Susan Anholt is a community leader and volunteer in Kenaston, the location of an important Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) feeder line in central Saskatchewan. The tower was built by the CNR and provided an important supply of water to the railway. Ms. Anholt’s unwavering commitment led to the restoration of Kenaston’s unique water tower in 2009. Her single-handed achievement demonstrates her dedication to preserving Canada’s rail history and to her community.
Ms. Anholt researched, applied for and obtained the funding necessary to preserve the tower. She also sourced all building materials and arranged for their transport to the site. In addition, she found and hired work crews, oversaw the work and personally mounted the scaffolding involved in the restoration work.
The Kenaston water tower, with a 40,000-gallon capacity, was built in 1910 just south of what was then Bonnington, Assiniboia, NWT. Built to replace the original 1889 tank, it is the oldest and the only remaining “tapered” tower. It is also one of only five water towers remaining in Saskatchewan, which at one time had some 400 dotting the province.
Paul Roy started his railroading career in 1955 working on the tracks for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Over the next 35 years, he worked as a telegraph operator, station agent, train dispatcher and railway officer before going on to serve the Northern Alberta Railway, CN, and the Pacific Great Eastern (later BC Rail). He ended his career as a train supervisor at Roberts Bank, south of Vancouver.
But railroading wasn’t just a job for Mr. Roy—it was his passion. He is known for his considerable contribution to the preservation of Canadian railway history and related artifacts. Mr. Roy started collecting railway artifacts in 1955 when he was issued a switch key by a CPR roadmaster—a collection that has since grown to exceed 1,200 different switch keys.
Over the years, he has contributed his talents and countless hours to various railway preservation projects in British Columbia. He believes in promoting rail history to younger generations of British Columbians by collecting, volunteering and donating time to preserving rail history.
Mr. Roy is also constantly donating artifacts to various rail museums and even arranged for the donation of a former BC Rail electric locomotive (used in coal service in northwestern B.C.) to the Prince George Railway Museum. At the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, Mr. Roy also created the ever-popular mini-rail to introduce railways and rail history to a younger generation.
Joseph Birse joined the Grand Trunk Railway in 1858 and became a locomotive engineer in 1864. In 1890, he sacrificed his own life to save the lives of hundreds of passengers.
On December 4, 1980, Mr. Birse left Montreal’s Bonaventure Station in the early morning as the engineer of an express train to Toronto. A derailment west of the station during a raging blizzard had delayed his departure by almost six hours. When the train neared Lachine on its way out of Montreal, the local switchman mistook Mr. Birse’s train for the Lachine local, and threw the switch, diverting it to a local line that led directly to the village’s wharf.
Because of the blizzard conditions, neither Mr. Birse nor his fireman noticed the error until they had passed the station lights near the end of the Lachine wharf. Mr. Birse braked and stayed at his post, succeeding in slowing the train enough so that only the locomotive and front end of the baggage car plunged into the St. Lawrence River. Although Mr. Birse lost his own life, his courage and commitment to his duty saved the train’s 100 passengers.
Mr. Birse is buried in Montreal’s Mont Royal Cemetery beneath a headstone that reads: “Accidentally killed at Lachine while in the discharge of his duty as engineer on the GTR December 4th, 1890. Aged 52 years.”
Mr. Munsey’s contribution to Canada’s railway industry took many forms, including re-vamping operating timetables for consistency, which directly benefited train crews, who were the primary users. Over the years, Mr. Munsey was promoted and worked in various operational management positions, including that of regional safety manager for the CN mountain region during the 1980s.
His work with the Morse Telegraphers Club, and his in-depth knowledge of railway rules and operating practice, made Mr. Munsey an excellent system resource and educator. His years of experience helped him develop new and improved operating rules and instructions that enhanced both rail safety and efficiency. Many of these rules are still in use today.
As recently as 2008, Mr. Munsey continued to take an interest in the rail industry and could be found many weekends at the Alberta Railway Museum in Edmonton “working the key” in the museum’s St. Albert station telegraph office and demonstrating the art of Morse telegraphy.
The community of Saint-Lambert, Quebec was born more than 150 years ago as the direct result of the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad.
The area retained its rural character until the beginning of the 1850s, when the managers of the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad saw an opportunity to develop Saint-Lambert because of its proximity to Montreal. In 1852, they built a new line stemming from the main La Prairie and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu line. A branch extending to Île Moffat (where Île Notre-Dame is today) was then added to allow trains to unload their cargo before it was transported by boat across the river to Montreal.
With the growth of both the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway in the mid-nineteenth century, the town was transformed from a rural community to an urban centre. Today, it continues to be a busy suburb that dozens of trains pass each day carrying goods and people to and from Montreal.
For almost five decades, Ralph Grant helped preserve Manitoba’s rail history through his work with The Vintage Locomotive Society Inc. As one of the Society’s nine founding members, Mr. Grant cemented himself as a key player in the Manitoba rail community.
The society operates the Prairie Dog Central (PDC) vintage steam train, Locomotive No. 3. It is the longest surviving vintage tourist train still in operation in Canada and a heritage icon. From 1918 to 1961, Locomotive No. 3 worked out of Pointe du Bois for Winnipeg Hydro.
Mr. Grant and the other eight founding members of The Vintage Locomotive Society Inc. were responsible for raising the money and securing the necessary support to get No. 3 running again in June 1970. For almost 45 years, Mr. Grant dedicated his time and effort to maintaining and sharing this important piece of Manitoban railway history.
Mr. Grant worked tirelessly for an estimated 20,000 volunteer hours to keep Locomotive No. 3 operating. He has served many roles with the railway, including president, and continues to pass along his locomotive knowledge and skills to new members of the society.
When the Grand Trunk Railway decided to run its Montreal-Toronto main line along the St. Lawrence river, it made Brockville its first division point west of Montreal. As the Brockville & Ottawa Railway already passed through the town, Brockville was transformed into one of eastern Canada’s busiest rail hubs by midway through the 19th century.
The community is also home to the first railway tunnel built in Canada. The 1,700-foot tunnel was completed in 1860; the first train passed through it on December 31 of that year. When first conceived in 1853, the tunnel was expected to cost 900,000 British pounds. The tunnel allowed the fledging Brockville & Ottawa Railway to connect the Brockville industrial waterfront area to the areas lying between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.
Although the tunnel has not been used since 1970, the City of Brockville has since upgraded the north and south portals. Today, an 80-foot section of the southern end has been renovated so visitors can view the tunnel’s interior during the summer months—and glimpse a piece of Canada’s railway history.
La Prairie and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu were the sites of the first and last stops on Canada’s first railway line: the Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad.
Funded by Montreal brewer John Molson and other city merchants, the Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad became Canada’s first real railway on July 21, 1836. Running between La Prairie (on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river) and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (on Montreal’s south shore), it served as a portage over the most troublesome part of the journey from Montreal to New York.
Its rails consisted of six-foot-wide pine timbers joined by iron plates and bolts. Iron straps were spiked to the upper surface. It used the wood-burning Dorchester locomotive, which could reach speeds of up to 48 km/h.
In 1851, the railway was extended to Rouses Point, New York, and then to St. Lambert, Quebec the following year. In 1857, it amalgamated with the Montreal and New York Railroad (formerly Montreal and Lachine Railroad) under the name Montreal and Champlain Railroad Company. In 1864, it was leased to the Grand Trunk Railway, and eventually acquired by it in 1872.
Winnipeg would have remained a small Prairie village except for the pluck of its citizens—and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).
Originally, the CPR was to cross the Red River at Selkirk, where the river was narrower and the ground less prone to flooding. But in 1879, Winnipeggers voted to spend $300,000 to build a bridge over the Red River and provide station grounds for the CPR. This persuaded the government to shift the crossing and place Winnipeg on the transcontinental line. Winnipeg also became the terminus for the CPR branch being built from Emerson on the U.S. border.
Two years later, the citizens voted to provide the railway with grounds for freight yards and a perpetual exemption from taxation if it made their community a divisional point and site for their railway shops. These actions led to Winnipeg becoming the distribution centre for the Prairies and a major target for railway builders. By 1915, Winnipeg was on three transcontinental railways, all of which had their major shops and yards in or near the city.
Today, Winnipeg remains an important centre for CN, CP, VIA Rail and short-line railways such as the Central Manitoba Railway.
In 2008, volunteers in Capreol organized a massive restoration and repainting of steam locomotive 6077 as part of the community’s 90th birthday party.
The history of Capreol is deeply interwoven with the history of the railway. The township itself is named after Frederick Chase Capreol, a civil engineer from England responsible for building railways throughout Ontario. Frank Dennie, considered the community’s founder, built the first log house and provided land to the Canadian Northern Railway for its divisional point facilities. In the early 1900s, Capreol became an important point on the Canadian Northern’s mainline as train and engine crews operated east to Brent, Ontario through North Bay and west to Foleyet.
Today, Capreol is still a railroad town, with transcontinental intermodal and merchandise trains changing crews at the station each day as they work their way from Toronto to the west and back. Capreol is also the home of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
With the onset of heavier axle loads, unit trains, and increased levels of rail traffic being experienced by North American railways in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, railway engineers recognized the need for a more robust track structure that would be capable of handling the heavier loads and traffic with reduced maintenance and longer cycles between major work programs. To this end, CN initiated a test of concrete railway ties at Lucerne, west of Jasper Alberta on their Albreda Subdivision in 1972. In 1975, based largely on the results of this test, CN made “a concrete decision” to adopt the use of concrete railway ties on curves of 4 degrees or more on rail lines handling in excess of 20 million gross tons annually. An initial contract for the supply of 1.5 million concrete ties was awarded to Conforce Costain in 1975 with ties to be delivered at a rate of 300,000 per year over five years from a new plant in Edmonton, Alberta. The first installations were made on the Albreda Subdivision in 1976 using a system of European gantry cranes which ran on rails placed on each side of the track. Sections of existing track would be lifted out of place by the gantry cranes and replaced with concrete ties. The gantry cranes ran back and forth to flatcars that were used to feed concrete ties to the site and transport the used track panels away from the site. The new rail was then placed on the ties in a secondary operation. The gantry system and dual rail positioner continued to be used in 1977 on both the Albreda and Ashcroft Subdivisions, but production rates were not at the levels desired. During this period, CN engineering personnel had been searching for a more productive machine and found an operation in Italy using a machine built by Matissa that installed both concrete ties and laid new rail at the same time. Using this concept, CN worked with Canron to design and build a complete track renewal machine suitable for the installation of concrete ties and new rail on heavily curved track. The machine was delivered to CN in the fall of 1977 and became known as the P-811.
The P-811 initially worked on the Ruel Subdivision in the fall of 1977. During this shakedown period, many issues were identified that Canron and CN jointly rectified through the winter of 1977/78. In the spring of 1978, the machine commenced full scale operations on the Ashcroft Subdivision. It was a remarkable machine that threaded out the old rail, picked up the old ties, plowed the ballast, laid the new concrete ties, and threaded the new 136# continuous welded rail into place all in one continuous operation. In conjunction with this operation, the track was then undercut and flooded with crushed rock granite ballast providing a ballast section with more depth and width than previously specified. The P-811 was capable of renewing track at a rate of 1,320 feet per hour, producing two miles of new track in an 8 hour work block. It was an innovative and cutting edge machine that transformed CN’s heavy haul main lines into some of the most technologically advanced railway track in North America. In all, the P-811 would install over 3 million concrete ties on the CN system, renewing over 1,100 miles of track. Other railways such as Burlington Northern soon followed CN’s lead and commenced concrete tie programs. Today the concrete tie is widely accepted for use in both light rail and heavy rail applications throughout the world. CN’s P-811 was the machine that made large scale installation of these ties in active main lines possible.
Ultimately, when CN’s upgrade programs were complete, the P-811 was sold and went on to install ties on the Long Island Railroad and the Metro North Commuter Railroad of New York City. It is apparently still available for service today, more than 40 years after its original debut.
When it comes to individuals who were instrumental in developing railway technologies, Glen Fisher’s impact in the field of railway electrification cannot be overstated.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Fisher led the design and commissioning of the BC Rail 50kV electrification of the Tumbler Ridge subdivision. It was Canada’s first and only 50kV mainline electrification, and only one of four in the world at that voltage.
Mr. Fisher later became the president of Canadian Pacific Consulting Services, where he carried out line capacity analysis for the World Bank on the densest traffic railway in the world, China’s Beijing–Shanghai line.
Mr. Fisher’s reputation as an expert in railway line capacity and electrification has taken him all over the world, and his technological contributions to Canadian railways have made a lasting imprint of the nation’s rail industry.
The 40,000-gallon Kenaston water tower was built by the Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1910 near the town’s train station just south of what was then Bonnington, Assiniboia, NWT. It was owned by the CNR and provided an important supply of water to the railway.
Today, it is the oldest and the only remaining “tapered” tower in the province, a technology that has all but vanished because the banding necessary for a tapered building became unavailable. It is also one of only five remaining water towers in Saskatchewan. At one time, there were some 400 dotting the province.
The restored Kenaston water tower is a testament to the province’s pioneers and the early rail lines and steam engines that brought them to Saskatchewan. It remains a significant heritage site along the Highway 11 Louis Riel Trail tourism corridor. It is also one of only a few heritage buildings that offers education for future generations about the history and settlement of the Canadian Plains.
Light-emitting diode (LED) technology that was approved by Transport Canada for use at railway crossings in Canada in 2003 has gone a long way toward improving energy efficiency and safety at crossings.
Although traffic stoplights and railway-grade crossing signals both serve the same function, their lighting needs are somewhat different. Unlike traffic stoplights, crossing signals need to conserve power to be able to run from a battery backup for a long time in the case of a power outage. LED technology solved this issue.
LED lights are about three times as efficient as incandescent bulbs in producing light from electricity, and offer substantial advantages in both energy efficiency and light intensity. The lights are also visible from a greater distance than their predecessors.
LEDs also last considerably longer than their incandescent counterparts—at least one million hours, compared with an average of 5,000 hours for incandescent lights—and are impervious to shocks. As a result, the introduction of LED technology at railway crossing has enhanced safety for both motorists and railroaders.
The Mount Macdonald Tunnel
The Ocean Limited
The Quebec Railway Bridge