OTD: The Government of Canada creates the Canadian National Railways

On today’s date in 1918, the Government of Canada created the Canadian National Railways (CN). This was the first time the name “Canadian National Railways” appeared, as the government authorized the term as a descriptive name for the various amalgamated railways.

At the time, the amalgamated railways included Intercolonial Railway, The Canadian Northern, and the Canadian Government Railways. As such, the Canadian government mixed the predecessors’ names into Canadian National Railways.

25-cent coin created by The Royal Canadian Mint for the centennial anniversary of CN.

This amalgamation was completed to simplify funding and overall operations. They began rebranding by painting their locomotives with “national” instead of “northern” and left the rest in original condition. This would create confusion surrounding the name change and subsequently rebranding of all trains was required, including the adoption of the slogan: The People’s Railway.

The Canadian National Railways went on to be amalgamated with five financially troubled railways (the Grand Trunk, the Grand Trunk Pacific, the Intercolonial, the Canadian Northern, and the National Transcontinental) between 1917–23. Ultimately becoming CN and officially incorporating in 1919. CN is now the largest rail network in Canada.

CN locomotives 2304, 6400, and 6060 are highlighted on the reverse of 100th Anniversary gold coin.

To mark CN’s centennial year, The Royal Canadian Mint created two coins. The 25 cent coin features the unique red and black freight train. While the Pure Gold Coin features a classic railway design with different locomotives paying tribute to CN’s various accomplishments.


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