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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Northern Alberta Railroad

The picture on the front of this post card was taken just over a year before the Northern Alberta Railway was purchased by the Canadian National Railway... ...and one month before the line was completely dieselized.

On June 6, 1919 the federal government of Canada incorporated several bankrupt or near bankrupt railroads into what is today known as the Canadian National Railway (CNR). As time passed more railroads were added to the CNR. One of those (in 1989) was the Northern Alberta Railways.

The Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) came into being in 1929. The NAR was an amalgamation of four railways, the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia (ED&BC). the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway (A&GW), the Canada Central Railway (CCR) and the Pembina Valley Railway (PVR) all having the proverbial financial challenges that faced so many of the early railroads.

In the 1920s, the lines ED&BC, A&GW, and CCR, along with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) and Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) had fallen victim to poor financial health inflicted by the financial strain of costs of World War I and falling traffic levels.

Following the federal example mentioned above, and in an attempt to preserve rail service to northern and northwestern Alberta, the provincial government leased the ED&BC and CCR in 1920 for five years. In 1921 the provincial government purchased the A&GW. It also entered into a five-year agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to operate the ED&BC and CCR.

The provincial government purchased the ED&BC and CCR in 1925, following the expiration of the five-year lease. Dissatisfied with the CPR's operation of the ED&BC and CCR, the provincial government allowed the operating contract for the these railways to expire in 1926, with operations subsequently taken over by the new provincial Department of Railways and Telecommunications, which was also tasked to operate the AG&W and the newly-built Pembina Valley Railway (PVR).

In 1928 the provincial government grouped the ED&BC, CCR, AG&W, and PVR under the collective name Northern Alberta Railways, which received a federal charter in March of 1929. The NAR was subsequently sold to both the CNR and CPR in equal portions with both companies agreeing to maintain the NAR as a joint subsidiary. At that time, the NAR was the third-largest railway in Canada. In 1937 the NAR began to show a profit for the first time.

In summer 1942, following the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the Alaska Highway civil defense project resulted in tremendous growth for the NAR, as the system was the only railway to service Alaska Highway mile 0 at Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

NAR's locomotive fleet was completely dieselized by October 1960 with GP9s, and GMD1s. NAR also purchased two Canadian National GMD1s in January 1962. A final locomotive purchase was made in December 1975 for SD38-2s.
On January 1, 1981, Canadian National Railways bought out CPR's share in the NAR system and incorporated these lines into the CN network, allowing CN to operate unhindered in northern Alberta.

This post card was printed by Dexter Colour Canada and published by JBC Visuals.

Thomas A. Dexter began Dexter Press, a one-man shop in Pearl River, New York, in 1920. With the production of the very first natural color post card in 1932, Tom Dexter established a tradition of innovation and craftsmanship that would be associated with the Dexter name for years to come. While all the photochromes printed by Dexter boor the words Genuine Natural Color they went through a variety of phases. Their early photochromes went under the name Dextone and tended to be flat and somewhat dull in appearance. As years went by their optical blending techniques improved producing richer and more varied colors. I do not know when they entered into business in Canada. I do know that their business contact is as follows: Dexter Colour Canada, 384 Neptune Crescent, London, Ontario N6M 1A1 Phone: (519) 457-2605

JBC Visuals: My guess is that they no longer exist. When I type into the web searcher their name and address (Box 5736, Station "A", Toronto, Ontario M5W 1P2) I come up empty.

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