The Stage is Set for Canada’s First Public Railroad

February 25, 1832

The first railroad charter in Canada came into existence when the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad (C&SL) was incorporated. The C&SL was not only Canada’s first public railroad but also one of the earliest railroads to be built in all of North America. 

Construction on the C&SL began in 1835. This railroad was financed by Montreal brewery owner John Molson, whose beer has achieved a long-lasting fame similar to that of the railroad. The 16-mile (26-kilometer) line completed the following year, and – as part of an effort to facilitate travel over a rough portion of territory between the Montreal region and Lake Champlain on the Quebec/New York border – this C&SL connected what is now the Montreal suburb of La Prairie on the St. Lawrence River with the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on the Richelieu River (the northernmost navigable point of Lake Champlain).

The debut of the C&SL marked the start of a broad Canadian railroad network that would ultimately stretch from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans and open up vast areas to settlement. In 1851, the C&SL was extended further south to the New York village of Rouses Point to link up directly with Lake Champlain vessels using the Empire State’s canal system. 

Six years later, the C&SL merged with the Montreal and New York Railroad to form the Montreal and Champlain Railroad. That railroad was purchased in 1872 by the Grand Trunk Railway, which is now part of the Canadian National Railway system.

For more information on the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad, please check out Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad – Wikipedia

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