Jim Sandilands’ Canadian Railroad Pages
Home The Carillon & Grenville Railway Photo Corner Royal Canadian Pacific in Montreal CPR 2816 in Montreal VIA 8558 at Dorval, Quebec Links

All of the first railways in Canada: the Champlain & Saint Lawrence, the Albion Colliery tramway, and the Montreal & Champlain were built to the 4 8 1/2" gauge. Not withstanding this, the Legislature of the Province of Canada passed an act in 1851, which made 5' 6" the standard gauge for new railways in the Province.

This act, which was in force until 1870, stated that unless the 5' 6" or "Provincial Gauge" was used for new construction longer than 75 miles, the railroad would not be eligible for subsidies.

How did this happen? In 1845 a Royal Commission was established to look into aiding railway construction and to select a "standard" gauge for railways in the province. By the time the commission got around to the gauge question in 1851, construction of the railway between Montreal and Portland, Maine was well in hand. The line, which was really two railroads--the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Rail Road from Longueuil, across the Saint Lawrence river from Montreal to the U.S. border and the Atlantic and Saint Lawrence Rail Road from Portland to the Canadian border--used the 5'6" gauge. One theory has it that the first two locomotives for the Canadian portion of the road came second-hand from the 5'6" gauge Arbroath & Forfar Railway in Scotland. Rather than rebuild the locomotives, the railroad adopted the 5'6" gauge.

Led by the Portland and Montreal promoters, the broad gauge faction won over the Royal Commission and the "Provincial Gauge" became the law of the land.

Back Next - History in Brief

Table of Contents

The Carillon & Grenville Railway Broad Gauge