52 Ancestors: Week 43 – Looking at Railway History with Old Time Trains

Week 43 of 52 Ancestors has the prompt \”Transportation\”. The biggest influence in Canada\’s history is the railway. I decided this post to look at a great site I stumbled upon called Old Time Trains. If you have a railway ancestor, you\’ll want to check this site out. Even if you don\’t, you may still want to look at it. The promise of a railway helped persuade British Columbia to become part of Confederation. The railways brought new homesteaders to the Prairies. The rail connected isolated areas of the provinces to city centers. You can be sure that in some way the railroads of Canada touched on part of your ancestors\’ lives.

Old Time Trains has been around for 20 years. It seeks to be a one stop shop about Canada\’s rail history. It\’s last update was just this month, so the site is very current. It covers the history of the railroad across the country.


What\’s New
This section gives updates on new submissions and corrections. It looks like it is updated on the first of every month.

This section has articles, advertisements, photographs, and documents relating to all aspects of rail transportation. Most date back to the early to mid 1900\’s. A few interesting examples I found were:

  • A time table for the Lindsay, Ontario train station from Oct 19 1923. The conductors and engineers are listed. This train station no longer exists.
  • A \”family tree\” of all the small railroad companies that eventually all came together to become the CNR
  • An article from 1915 detailing the CPR extension to Lake Louise, Alberta
This section contains personal memories of trains and train travel. Many of these are the memories of railway workers. These could give you an insight into your own ancestor\’s working life. Take a look at:
An amazing collection of digital images of all kinds of memorbilia. I found posters, ticket stubs, and time tables to name a few. It\’s worth taking a look at. Some of the more unusual things I found:
  • The printing plate for a 100 pound sterling railway bond
  • Toronto fireman Ray Bossi\’s trip ticket book
  • A copy of the Rules and Regulations for CPR employees from 1890
A nice little section of photos of trains, buildings and images of advertisements. There\’s a really neat collection of old bank notes. I had no idea that there used to be a $25 dollar bill!
A small collection of photos and articles about some of the projects to preserve old railway cars.
If you want to find out more about certain aspects of Canadian rail history, you can purchase these books from various vendors:
  • Cape Breton Railways: An Illustrated History by Herb MacDonald
  • Narrow Gauge Through the Bush by Rod Clarke
  • Sudbury Electrics and Diesels by Dale Wilson
  • The Canadian Steam Power Catalog from the York Central Railway
  • JBC Visuals Colour Postcards
  • On Track: The Railway Mail Service in Canada by Susan McLeod O\’Reilly
  • Canadian Pacific in Southern Ontario (Volume One) by W.H.N. Rossiter

Links to other sites that deal with Canadian Railway History. I found links to sites right across Canada. If you can\’t find what you\’re looking for on Old Time Trains, there\’s sure to be something on these other sites to pique your interest.
Old Time Trains
This section details the preservation efforts of the group in restoring rail cars.
Contact Us
Gives the contact email for communicating with the website. They welcome comments and submissions for the site. If you can\’t find what you\’re looking for on the site, they suggest you email them with your questions.

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