Throughout the world the history of rail transport is a long and fascinating one.  The first traces can be found in early Greek and Roman times.  Wagons filled with different types of freight were pulled by both men and animals through grooves in limestone which acted as the tracks. 

In Canada small railways may have been used as early as the 1700s to transport quarried stone and timber.  To build the Quebec Citadel in the 1820s, a winch that was powered by a steam engine was used to hoist cable cars filled with stone uphill.

Railways as we know them now can be attributed to Richard Trevithick in the United Kingdom, who created the first full scale working model of a steam locomotive in 1804.

As in most countries around the world, the coming of the railway changed the face of Canada entirely.  In 1836 the first public train began running between Saint Jean sur Richelieu and La Prairie near MontrĂ©al.  Though a relatively short distance by today's standards, the roughly 35km distance was revolutionary at the time.  The train carried not only passengers, but large amounts of merchandise as well.  As is common with expanding railways, towns and factories sprang up around railways stations, yards, and tracks furthering the growth of the country's economy.

In 1849, the Guarantee Act helped to complete the country's rail system by offering grants to railroads over 75 miles long.  The railroad itself was beneficial to the growth of the country, but the manufacturing of all of the supplies needed to build the railroad created many jobs as well.  Often much of the population of a town depended on some facet of the railroad for employment. 

The railways and the country continued to expand until 1916 when the Canadian government began to nationalize the largest companies.  In a series of moves over the next 7 years, Grand Trunk Pacific, Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk, were merged with Intercolonial and National Transcontinental to become Canadian National Railways, now known simply as Canadian National.  The other nationally run company, the Canadian Pacific, still exists today as well.

In 1977, the federal government created VIA rail to transport passengers because the Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific railways had been gradually decreasing passenger services.

Today, construction and engineer companies such as A & B Rail Services Ltd and many others work to keep the existing railways in good repair as well as building new tracks.  Without the railways, Canada, it's landscape, and its economy as it is known today would not exist.

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