Railway Charters

Every railway built or authorized to be built in Canada had to have a "Charter" approved by the relevant authority whether a Provincial Government, the Government of Canada (or its predecessors) or (in the very early days of the railway age) the UK Parliament.

Railway charters give some insight to the times they were chartered, the hopes of the people, the attitude towards aliens, the plans of the promoters. A railway charter can help give a history to your model railroad.

Where to Find Charters

In Canada THE reference book is A Statutory History of Railways in Canada 1836 - 1986 by Robert Dorman/D.E. Stoltz. Published by the Canadian Institute of Guided Ground Transport Queens' University 1987.

Every railroad is mentioned with charter information and amendments listed as well as subsidy and other notes.

For example the entry for the Nicola Valley Railway reads:

S.B.C. 1891, c.59: Incorporates * to build from Spence's Bridge, on the Canadian Pacific Ry., via the Nicola River to a point on the western end of Nicola Lake; and branch to the confluence of the Voight and Clearwater Rivers, etc.
S.C. 1892, c.50:Declares the works of * to be for the general advantage of Canada, etc.
SUBSIDY S.B.C. 1893, c.37 S.B.C. 1894, c.37
The first line reads "S.B.C. 1891, c.59: Incorporates * to".
"S.B.C." means Statutes of British Columbia. "1891, c.59" means the year of 1891 chapter 59 in the statutes for that year. Then follows a short summary of the Railway charter. "*" is shorthand for the railway name.

The second line reads "S.C. 1892, c.50: Declares the works of * to be for the general advantage of Canada, etc.". "S.C." means statutes of Canada, year 1892, chapter 50. The declaration "to be for the general advantage . . ." is a standard declaration that all railways tried to get. It made them eligible for grants from the federal government.


The statutes for a province should be available in the larger libraries in the major cities in a province.
The Statutes of British Columbia are in the Vancouver Public Library main branch. Statutes before 1900 are in the special collections. Newer volumes are in the main stacks.

To my knowledge you have to go to Ottawa to access the Statutes of Canada (S.C.), the Statutes of Lower Canada (S.L.C.), the Statutes of Upper Canada (S.U.C.) and the Ordinances of Lower Canada (O.L.C.).

Some Charters I have Transcribed

The Nicola Valley Railway
The Vancouver and Nicola Valley Railway
The Nicola, Kamloops & Similkameen Railway

Bill Dixon's Railway Pages

Last Modified: August 24, 2003. Copyright 1999, 2000 W.R.Dixon.
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