Canadian Northern Railway
The Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway
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The Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway

Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway
Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway
he Edmonton and Slave Lake Railway (E&SLR) was incorporated on July 10, 1899.1 The applicants for the charter were a group of businessmen from eastern Canada, who wished to construct a railway from a point on the Edmonton District Railway in Edmonton to the Peace River via Athabasca Landing and Lesser Slave Lake.2 Their probable immediate goal was to exploit the supposedly rich mineral deposits in the vicinity of the Lake.3

By December 1901, Railway and Shipping World reported that a preliminary location survey had been made as far as Athabasca Landing by F. Deggendorfer, C.E. and that the objective of the line was now Port Simpson, British Columbia, the westerly terminus of the Canadian Northern Railway, which now appeared to possess the charter of the E&SLR.4 An act to revive the charter was passed in May, 1902, stipulating that construction had to be completed to the Landing by 1907.5 A further extension to 1909 was granted in June, 1904.6 Plans for the first fifty miles had been filed in Edmonton.7 Construction was slow and the line only reached Morinville in 1907.8 Another extension of time was requested, and granted, but with the strict provision that the railway had to be completed and in operation by April, 1914.9 Amalgamation of the E&SLR with the Canadian Northern System was approved by Order-in-Council, on February 8, 1911.10

The last rail was laid in mid-May, 1912 with the first train arriving on the 25th,11 but the line was not officially opened for traffic until August 8, 1912.12 In the meantime MacKenzie and Mann had decided to reach the Peace River District via a more direct route to Grande Prairie under the charter of the Canadian Northern Western Railway.13 The building of the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway and the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway by J.D. McArthur, a well-established contractor, outflanked the Canadian Northern strategies for the north.14 The E&SLR thus became, albeit briefly, a portage railway and subsequently a minor branch line. The people of Athabasca Landing, which officially became the town of Athabasca in 1911, had been seduced by boosterism into thinking that their town would become a major railway and service centre for the north.15 Their enthusiasm was killed by the realization that they had been by-passed, and by the reality of economic recession and war.

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Notes | Bibliography | Abbreviations
1. Dominion, 62–63 Victoria, Chapter 66, 10 July 1899.
2. Ibid.
3. T. Regehr, The Canadian Northern Railway: Pioneer Road of the Northern Prairies, 1895–1918 (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1976).
4. Railway and Shipping World, December 1901, p. 354.
5. Dominion, 2 Edward VII, Chapter 61, 15 May 1902.
6. Dominion, 2 Edward VII, Chapter 74, 6 June 1904.
7. Railway and Shipping World, July 1904, p. 231.
8. C. Price-Green, ed., “Canadian Northern Railway” Encyclopaedea (Toronto: n.p., 1918), p. 5.
9. Dominion, 2 Edward VII, Ch. 80, 7 April 1909.
10. P.C. 244, 8 February 1911.
11. Athabasca Historical Society. Athabasca Landing: An Illustrated History (Athabasca: Athabasca Historical Society, 1986), p. 139.
12. Board of Railway Comissioners, Order No. 17192, 8 August 1912.
13. Alberta, 1 George V, Ch. 48.
14. See “Northern Alberta Railways.”
15. Athabasca Historical Society, Athabasca Landing, p. 120.