home > north transcona yards

History of North Transcona Yards


North Transcona Yards was part of the City of Transcona when it became part of the City of Winnipeg which came into legal existence on January 1, 1972.

Although the early development of Transcona was intimately connected to the National Transcontinental/Grand Trunk Pacific railways and their shops, Canada's first transcontinental railway, the Canadian Pacific (CPR), was also an important early industry in Transcona.

The company announced plans for a $3.5-million facility to alleviate the congestion in the Winnipeg yards in late 1912. The new complex was to include a large roundhouse, a boiler and machine shop and a car repair department, all to be completed by the summer of 1913.

Construction began and by opening in May 1914, the facility boasted there was a total of 168.9 kilometres of track, organized into two sorting and two receiving yards with two "humps" (hills which the cars were pushed down to gain speed) to facilitate switching and classifying. A fifth yard, for repairs, was located nearby and included a turntable that fed the 30-stall roundhouse where repairs to engines and cars were carried out. An office building, storehouse, employees' dining hall and small machine shop were also built and the entire facility was connected to a large boiler house.

Also in the yards, completed by January 1, 1913, was a million-bushel grain elevator known as the Eastern Terminal Elevator. The structure included 65 circular bins, 4.4-metres in diameter and 27.5-metres deep. On October 18, 1913, settlement was noticed in the binhouse and much of the ground surrounding the elevator heaved up more than a metre. The elevator began to list severely and by the time it stopped, approximately 24 hours later, the elevator stood 28º from the vertical (the east side was raised 1.5 metres while the west side was 9.2 metres below normal). Repairing the elevator was a huge job and entailed underpinning the structure, digging trenches and shifting the elevator back to its proper position onto a new foundation of concrete caissons. It is still considered a significant engineering feat today.

With the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the beginning of World War I, Winnipeg's position as premier railway centre in Western Canada was undermined and in North Transcona, plans for major expansion of the CPR yards were halted, the facilities underutilized and finally abandoned and demolished (only the smokestack from the boiler house remains) and the yards became little more than a boxcar storage facility, although the railway does continue to maintain a small presence on the site.

Cordite Road, the neighbourhood's southern boundary, is named for the explosive material, which resembled brown twine that was essential in the manufacture of shells during World War II. Cordite was manufactured in Transcona, in a plant on Dugald Road (Provincial Highway No. 15) east of what today is the Red River Floodway.