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  Read The Grain System Evolution Story
Prairie Networks Past & Present - Grain Transportation in Western Canada Prairie Networks Past & Present - Grain Transportation in Western Canada
1825 1850 to 1914 Exhibit 1900 1914 to 1945 Exhibit 1975 1945 to Present Exhibit 2003


A View of the St Lawrence from Quebec in 1872
A View of the St Lawrence from Quebec in 1872
Alexander Henderson, National Archives of Canada, PA149742

Leading up to WW1, visionaries conceived and established a marine transportation system that allowed the movement of Canadian grain to overseas markets.

In the mid 1800s shipping was inefficient and infrastructure development was piecemeal. Shipping was offered by regional operators and several carriers were needed to move cargo through the Great Lakes to tidewater where tall-masted wooden ships still plied the oceans.

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Steamships waiting to load at CNR Elevator in Port Arthur on December 4, 1909
Steamships waiting to load at CNR Elevator in Port Arthur on December 4, 1909
J.R. Cooke, National Archives of Canada, PA29729


To accommodate the movement of large volumes of grain, the marine system required the development of elevator capacity at ports, and both technical and organizational advances in shipping.

In 1871, Canada’s first Royal Commission after confederation was “respecting the improvement of inland navigation.”

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