There were delays in the building of a railroad into the Peace Rive country as railroad construction efforts were focused on the southern regions of the prairies. After Rupert’s Land was sold to the Dominion of Canada in 1870 there was a concerted effort to populate the empty land as a means to block the Americans from making a claim to the territory. The effort on the part of the federal government included the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR), the signing of Treaty 7, and the settlement of the land.
During the first years of the 20th century, the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) and the Canadian Northern Railroads (CNoR) focused their resources on building railroads from the east to the west coast through Edmonton. These plans included railroads into the north. There were several plans made by the CPR, GTP, and CNoR to build railroads into the Peace River country by 1910.
John Duncan McArthur had both the practical experience and the political connections to build a railroad when he arrived in Edmonton in 1905. In 1907, the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (EDBC) was incorporated. He began buying land, town sites, and right-of-ways needed to build the EDBC in 1912.
Construction began on the EDBC reached Athabasca Landing by November 1913 and continued on to the east end of Lesser Slave Lake in the winter of 1913. The rail lines were built 12 miles south of Grouard. McLennan was where the railroad divided with one line traveling north to Peace River Crossing and the other to what became Grande Prairie. The railroad made it to Peace River Crossing in October 1915. By December 1916, the western branch of the railroad reached Spirit River.
The demands created by the First World War caused the construction of the EDBC to suffer from a lack of labour as many homesteaders in the Peace River country joined the military services. Added to this there was much less freight as many farms were left abandoned. Finally, steel rails were needed in Europe and construction had to end.