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Lake Manitoba Railway and Canal Company Reporting mark: unknown

The Lake Manitoba Railway & Canal Company (LMRCC) began as an enthusiastic project to build a 17-mile (27 km) railway and a canal connecting Lakes Manitoba and Winnipegosis.

Sir Donald Mann
National Archives of Canada

Buoyed by an encouraging report extolling the rich farmlands, an abundance of sandstone, and healthy salt deposits, the LMRCC was incorporated in 1889. The promoters then obtained a charter, along with generous federal land grants, to build a line from Portage la Prairie to Lake Manitoba. A year later, following the appeals of settlers, the route was extended to Winnipegosis, 125 miles (201 km) north.

The provincial government, eager to promote settlement further north, exempted the charter from taxation and offered provincial guarantees on a portion of the construction bonds. Even these additional sweeteners from the province failed to attract sufficient investment. The project eventually languished and the company fell to bankruptcy.

None of this sat well with the settlers, who were promised a railway and now felt they had been duped. Determined to keep the project afloat, the government and promoters called upon Donald Mann, who was well known within government circles from his involvement in the Winnipeg and Hudson Bay Railway (HBR).

Mann took an option on the charter and by mid 1895 had control of both the LMRCC and HBR (where he had taken a substantial loss as a contractor). In order to obtain financing, the bank stipulated that Mann enter into a partnership with one of his former associates. He reconnected with his old friend William Mackenzie who by then was involved in electric interurban railways. Thus began one of the most intriguing partnerships in railway history.

Construction began in the spring of 1896 and nine months later, the railway was up and running. Mackenzie and Mann were now solid gold in the Manitoba government's eyes. Further contracts and expansions followed, enabling the partners to extend their reach into neighbouring Saskatchewan and Ontario. In 1899 the two men consolidated their railway holdings into a new federal charter, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR).

The CNoR lasted until 1918. Due to financial difficulties, it was nationalized by government and became part of Canadian National Railways (CN). With the exception of the section running from the Dauphin to Winnipegosis, the remainder of the old LMRCC remains in CN's hands and forms part of the railway's main line.