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On Track: St. Paul's Battle for the Railway

Canadian National Railway train

Linking communities in the west with the rest of the nation, the Canadian Northern Railway (incorporated as the Canadian National Railway after it was nationalized in 1918) would play an important role in the settlement of St. Paul and other prairie communities. Previously, long distance travel between villages and towns was restricted to those who could find their way to the nearest railway line in Vegreville, nearly 105 kilometres away.

Constructing the railroad east of St. Paul in 1921.

When construction on a new railroad line had finally begun north of Edmonton in 1914, it seemed the community's dream of rail access would be fulfilled. However, railroad officials claimed there was a shortage of labour, and construction stopped at Spedden in 1919, 48 kilometres short of St. Paul. As did many communities on the Canadian Prairies, they banded together, and recognizing the importance of the railway to the town’s economic prosperity, the citizens of St. Paul volunteered to complete the last stretch of track that would join their town with North Edmonton. In 1920, the first regular service train arrived in St. Paul. J.A. Fortier was the first Station Master and lived with his family in the station building, which was to become an important economic and service centre. Trains not only allowed passenger travel, they also brought mail, equipment, and merchandise. The railway also meant farmers could transport cattle and crops to larger urban centres more easily.

The C.N.R Station, well used in the old days.

For more information about the development of Canada's Railway, visit the Canadian Science and Technology Museum.

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