Hudson Bay Railway
|Hudson Bay Railway|
HBRY in black and KR in grey
|Dates of operation||1997–|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
|Headquarters||The Pas, Manitoba|
|Website||Hudson Bay Railway|
HBRY was formed in July 1997 to purchase former Canadian National Railway (CN) trackage running north from CN trackage at The Pas, MB on two branches, one to Flin Flon, MB and on to Lynn Lake, MB, the other to Thompson, MB and on to the port of Churchill, MB on Hudson Bay. Operations began on August 20, 1997, and the company is owned by railroad holding company OmniTRAX.
At the same time, OmniTRAX also took over the operation and marketing of the Port of Churchill from the federal government's Department of Transport. Previous owner CN had limited tonnage on these lines as a result of the light rail and poor track base; however OmniTrax has been able to successfully operate heavier rail cars and longer trains in recent years without difficulty, resulting in increased business to the Port of Churchill and from various mines and pulp mills.
HBRY is a vital transportation link in northern Manitoba, hauling ores and concentrates, copper, zinc, logs, kraft paper, lumber, and petroleum products. Via Rail also operates remote services on HBRY using its Hudson Bay passenger train between Winnipeg, MB and Churchill.
The original Hudson Bay Railway line was built in stages north from The Pas after a railway bridge was constructed over the Saskatchewan River in 1910-1911 by the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR). It was meant to go to a major new shipping harbour on Hudson Bay. Although initial surveys were done to both ports of Churchill and Port Nelson, it was decided to proceed to Port Nelson in 1912. But when the harbour project in Port Nelson was abandoned, construction on the railway came to an end, having reached Kettle Rapids.
Following the CNoR bankruptcy in 1918 and creation of Canadian National Railways (CNR), the federal government undertook in '27 to complete the Hudson Bay Railway; this time to Churchill. Political interference, financing difficulties, and engineering challenges by the large amount of muskeg and frequent rock outcrops on the Canadian Shield led to inevitable delays. The line to Churchill was completed March 29, 1929.
CNR subsequently built resource railways from The Pas to Flin Flon, opening in 1928, followed by an extension on this line from Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, to Lynn Lake, opening November 9, 1953.
On July 27, 2005, heavy rains washed out part of the railroad between The Pas and Pukatawagan; all service over the line, including Via Rail trains 290 and 291, was suspended while repairs took place. Service was restored on August 2, 2005, two days ahead of initial expectations.
On April 1, 2006, the Hudson Bay Railway sold the former CN Sherridon Subdivision, between Sheritt Junction and Lynn Lake, to the three native tribes in the area, who now own and operate the railway, running twice-weekly mixed (passenger plus freight) trains.
References in Popular Culture
The American novelist Courtney Ryley Cooper's 1931 adventure novel End of Steel is a fictionalized recounting of the line's original construction.
Calgary performer John Leeder wrote and recorded a song titled "Hudson Bay Line" about the rigours of bygone train travel on this route. According to Leeder, "it's been recorded six times that I know of."
- Via Rail Canada (July 27, 2005), Hudson Bay Railway closes line - Via service form The Pas to Pukatawagan temporarily cancelled. Retrieved August 1, 2005.
- Via Rail Canada (August 2, 2005), Via resumes service between Churchill and Winnipeg. Retrieved November 20, 2005.