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Hudson Bay Railway
VIA Rail Canada
Hudson Bay RailwayReporting mark: HBRY
The original Hudson Bay Railway began with a government project that was first conceived around 1910. The government planned to establish a shipping harbour on the Hudson Bay. The ports of Churchill and Port Nelson were chosen as possible sites, with Port Nelson finally receiving the nod in 1912.
The Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) was ready to move in once the harbour was completed. They began with the construction of a bridge over the Saskatchewan River. However the rail line was put on hold after the harbour project began disintegrating into a complete disaster.
Engineering problems, storms, fires, labour unrest, followed by material and labour shortages during World War I, were among the many difficulties that plagued construction of the Port Nelson harbour. The project was finally abandoned in 1918. By then the CNoR had fallen into bankruptcy and the partially built rail line lay dormant for a number of years.
The Canadian National Railway revived the railway in the 1920s. Once again the project was not without its challenges. Muskeg and outcrops led to engineering difficulties. Financing problems for the newly formed and cash-strapped railway were another concern. A branch line opened to Flin Flon in 1928, with the line finally being completed to Churchill in 1929. It was extended from Cranberry Portage to the mining community of Lynn Lake in 1953. CN continued to operate the railway until 1997, when the trackage was sold to the newly formed Hudson Bay Railway (HBRY).
The HBRY was created in 1997 by OmniTRAX, a US-based holding company that specializes in transportation-based services. Around the same time, OmniTRAX took over operation of the Port of Churchill, making a strong commitment to sustaining and expanding industry in northern Manitoba.
Like other small regional railways, the HBRY focuses on resource-based sectors, located in remote regions. Currently the HBRY operates 627 miles of rail from The Pas to Churchill, with branch lines extending to Flin Flon and Lynn Lake. Operations are handled from offices in The Pas. Passenger rail service between Churchill and Winnipeg is operated by VIA Rail on the Hudson Bay passenger train.
The HBRY has improved service on the railway, in particular by introducing longer trains, which has translated into growth for local industries. It hauls mainly ores, copper, zinc, lumber, grain and petroleum products. Regional operations, such as HBRY, have the flexibility to concentrate all their resources on small areas, which is generally not cost effective for a much larger railway. As such they now have a major role to play in the overall transportation grid.