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Canada Southern Railway Reporting mark: CASO

Picture of travel brochure
Timetable, August 1882

The Canada Southern Railway (CASO), financed by American investors, had its beginnings in 1868 as the Erie and Niagara Extension Railway. In 1869 its name was changed to the Canada Southern Railway. The railway was built mainly to secure rail bridge access to Buffalo and Detroit and provide rail access in Canada between both major border centres. It operated from Niagara on the Lake in the northeast to Windsor in the southwest.

In 1873 the Canada Southern Railway ran into serious financial difficulties and was taken over by American railroad entrepreneur, Cornelius Vanderbilt. In 1883 it was leased to the Michigan Central Railroad (MC), also controlled by Vanderbilt's empire, which handled all operations under its Canadian Division until 1929. The US owned Pere Marquette Railroad obtained operating rights to its trackage in 1904. In 1929 operations were taken over by MC's parent company, the New York Central Railroad (NYC).

By 1968 the NYC had fallen on hard times and joined with its old enemy and competitor, the Pennsylvania Railroad. The marriage didn't last long. By 1970 Penn Central (as it was then known) had fallen into bankruptcy and was in the hands of the U.S. government. In 1974, the U.S. government formed the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) with a mandate to maintain operations, rebuild, and sell off the bankrupt lines.

In an ironic twist of fate, CASO ended up back in Canadian hands in 1983 after its assets were purchased from Conrail jointly by Canadian National (CN) and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). It has been suggested that both of these railways were far less interested in CASO than in keeping competitors away from their own turf. Whether or not the accusations were correct, over the last 25 years both railways have gradually abandoned the line.

On April 1, 1996, the Canada Southern Railway, made its last trip along the full length of the line between Detroit and Buffalo. Two routes, Fort Erie to Welland, and Welland to Fargo, remain in operation.