Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt and Elliott Torrance Galt built
355 miles (571 km) of narrow gauge railway and 150 miles (241
km) of irrigation canals throughout southern Alberta and
developed coal mines with a daily capacity of 2,000 tons (1815
tonnes). In all, the Galts formed eight companies in connection
with their southern Alberta enterprises. It would have been easy
to secure legislation to extend the life of any of them but
shareholders would not take on additional responsibilities.
The companies were: North Western Coal & Navigation Company,
Limited, formed in 1882, absorbed by the Alberta Railway & Coal
Company in 1889; Alberta Railway & Coal Company, formed in 1884,
absorbed by the Alberta Railway & Irrigation Company in 1904;
Lethbridge Land Company Limited, formed in 1888, absorbed by the
AR&ICo in 1904; Alberta Irrigation (company, formed 1893
reorganized as the Canadian North-West Irrigation Company in
1899, absorbed by the AR&ICo in 1904; Great Falls and Canada
Railway Company, formed in 1889 to build the Sweetgrass-Great
Falls portion of a narrow gauge railway, sold to J. J. Hill of
the Great Northern Railway in 1901; St. Mary's River Railway
Company, formed in 1898, absorbed by the AR&ICo in 1904; and the
Alberta Railway & Irrigation Company, formed by amalgamation of
all previous Galt companies on I October 1904. It was known for
a time as "The Group" but became best known by its initials.
The AR&I company was purchased outright, partly by conveyance
and partly by 999-year lease by the Canadian Pacific Railway on
1 January 1912. (The CPR retained the corporate name, Alberta
Railway & Irrigation Company, which is still listed on land
titles as owning mineral rights to a large area of southern
The Montana and Canadian Railway Company was mentioned
frequently around 1888 when a line from Lethbridge to Fort
Benton was proposed. The company was never incorporated.
[According to a 12 December 1888 Lethbridge News report, Elliott
Galt had raised money in England to transform the Dunmore narrow
gauge road to a broad or standard gauge road and, at the same
time, to extend the railway to Fort Benton, Montana, to connect
with the Northern Pacific, which had reached Benton in 1887.
This was the source of the rumors about the establishing of a
new company. The railway to Benton was never built although a
narrow gauge line was extended to Great Falls in 1890. It was
all part of an effort to open new markets for Lethbridge coal.]
The Montana section of the 1890 narrow gauge had cost the
Galts about $2.0 million to build. It was purchased by J. J.
Hill for $750,000.
This article is extracted from Alex
Johnston, Keith G. Gladwyn and L. Gregory Ellis. Lethbridge:
Its Coal Industry (Lethbridge, Lethbridge: City of Lethbridge,
1989), Occasional Paper No. 20, The Lethbridge Historical
Society. The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year
of the Coal Miner Consortium (of which the City of Lethbridge is
the lead partner) would like to thank the authors for permission
to reprint this material.