got its start when the Canadian
Northern Railway came through in 1898 and it grew quickly.
Farmers were now able to ship their grain and livestock closer to home
instead of hauling to Boissevain or Hartney.
The town soon had all the shops that a community needed to thrive.
These shops included everything from a butcher shop to a Chinese
In 1906 a second rail line from the North Dakota to Brandon made Minto
and even busier place.
The new Great Northern line offered excursions to
October 14, 1930, this booming town met
a harsh reality that many
communities had to face in those days. A huge fire swept through
the business section and razed everything in its path.
Like all small towns in the 1930’s, some of the businesses that had
been very important in the early days, were no longer needed. People
could take their cars to nearby larger towns to shop. So many of the
businesses didn’t rebuild and Minto’s “downtown” was no longer as busy.
It did however keep its basic services and continues to serve the local
Minto Photo Collection
54: Highway 23
In 1899, after the railway was built, a survey was made of the village
of Fairfax and building lots were sold.
The first general store was built in 1900 was operated by Mr. J. L.
Hettle, who also became postmaster and Justice of the Peace. Three
grain companies were quick to build elevators.
Fairfax school was established in August 1902. It became the
Fairfax consolidated school in 1913 when it merged with Crown, St.
Luke, and Plainville schools.
The A.E. Hill Store in 2016
The ghost community of Underhill took its name from Mr. John Underhill
who arrived during the rush of settlement to this part of the prairies
in the early 1880s.
Three elevators were swiftly erected with the arrival of the railway.
Mr. A. E. Hill, who operated a store in nearby Hartney, opened a
general store in Underhill in 1897.
The first school in the area was called the Berber School and was
constructed over a kilometre south of the village in 1886. In 1909 it
was moved into the village where it stood until 1928. A new school was
built on the same site and used until the district consolidated into
the Souris Valley School Division.
The school building was always a social centre for the district.
Activities such as amateur plays, Sunday School, card games and dances
Passenger service to the Underhill station was discontinued in 1954.
Soon the railway line was abandonned and rural schools were
consolidated further, shifting the focus from the small community to
the larger surrounding centres.
Argue was known as the “Trackend” for a year as it was the most
westerly station on the Winnipeg-Cameron-Hartney Branch of the Canadian
National Railway until 1900 when the line continued to Hartney and
community was named after pioneer John Argue.
is another story of rapid growth. In 1898 when the railway
came through, there was not a building on the present site. By
1900 the population of the village was about 400, and there were many
more families in the district than at present. By 1913, as
progress continued, Elgin had a school, four churches, an active band,
and 34 places of business.
Most communities – even small ones, had a community band.
In 1912, Elgin Consolidated School was formed when the local school,
started in 1884, joined with Alice, Gilead, Maguire, and Millerway
Schools. In 1951 a new modern school was built. That school
closed in 1986 and a monument now commemorates it.
in 1904 this Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building, to the
left in this photo, was originally two stories high, providing
accommodation for the bank manager. The second level was removed
in the 1950s. After the bank closed in 1995, it became the Elgin
and District Museum.
Elgin Photo Collection
three-story convent in Grande Clairiere was built in
The Grande Clairiere community, which was established in 1888, got a
new look when the Canadian Northern line from Hartney to Virden passed
through in 1906.
The train brought better mail service and better delivery of supplies.
Already known for its large church, and convent, it now became a
stores, garages and even a bank.
Store operated by Claude Rey and Marcel Martine.
The Bank of Hochelaga opened as “la Banque Nationale” by Father
Pierquin and originally located in the Rectory. Later changed to La
The Bank of Hochelaga has been preserved on a local farm.
in the area of Waskada and Goodlands in southwestern Manitoba
waited in great anticipation for a branch line to be built through
their communities. It arrived in 1900.
The town of Goodlands was first started in 1899 by Bert and Ernest
Goodlands who built the first store. In that same year a lumber yard,
boarding house and blacksmith shop were established.
The local school was called Lennox School – it had existed long before
the town was created.
In 1928 Cranmer made the news when one of its elevators collapsed.
Workers had heard the building creaking and groaning and evacuated in
time. No one was hurt.
When a new rail line was built into a region the plan was to have a
town about every fourteen kilometres. But as years went by those
farmers between Deloraine and Goodlands who still had some distance to
haul their grain started wondering if perhaps service couldn’t be
In 1906 an extra stop, called a siding, was built, at about the midway
point and in 1913 the first of two elevators was open for business.
The U.G.G. elevator collapsed in 1928 and was rebuilt. Both elevators
continued to serve the grain trade as well as being depots for the sale
of coal. The loading platform was also used for other shipping needs,
notably the shipping of cream to creameries.
Farmers to the north and south of the new Cranmer siding appreciated
the shorter trips to deliver grain.
Post Office named Waskada was opened in 1883 a few kilometres south
of where the town is today.
When it was confirmed in 1899 that a rail line was coming nearby and
that a new town to be was being surveyed they decided to keep the name.
Until this time businesses such as stores, post offices, blacksmith
shops and gristmills were operated on the individual properties of
homesteaders. The railway brought the creation of towns, and
towns then became the most logical place to do business.
When Charles Sankey arrived in Waskada in the fall of October 1899, the
townsite was bare prairie. Sankey was a dedicated community worker, and
in fact appointed by the municipality to look after general public
interests in the town.
Waskada quickly became the commercial centre for the region.
On a walk south of the townsite one day, a vision presented itself to
Sankey: a recreational park, surrounded by trees, with space for sports
activities and community events. From this initial dream, a combination
of hard work, determination and good lick accident brought the Waskada
Park into being.
The Waskada Park in 1946, looking southwest.
Over the next two years funds were being gathered for the purchase of
trees. In the meantime Chambers planted potatoes and other vegetables
in the strips of land. He did an excellent job, and left the soil in
good condition for receiving trees.
The first version of the blacksmith shop, now featured in the Waskada
Museum is visible on the left side of this photo from around 1909.
Stops on the Lyleton Branch
elevator, now in the middle of a field is all that is left of
Cameron Siding. There were once three elevators and a store here.
In 1902, when the railway branch finally arrived near the Lyleton Post
Office, close to the US border south of Melita, another new town was
created. In fact that was what they called it at first, “The New
Town”. The streets were placed on what had been a field of grain
just two months before. Andrew Lyle's farm home was the first post
office; because of this, the district had been known as Lyleton for
some time. Soon the town took that name as well.
A comfortable station was provided by the Canadian Pacific
Before long the town was booming with all the stores and services the
The foundation of the new Presbyterian Church, which still existed in
2017, was laid and the main street was lined with businesses.
Little towns like Lyleton owed their existence to the homesteads around
them and a shopping trip to town was something the whole family would
Fire was the enemy of these new towns, and Lyleton had its share. On
August 19, 1904, the entire business section portion of Lyleton was
wiped out by fire, caused by lightning.
And like other towns before – they set out to rebuild.
The Home Bank
A visitor to Lyleton today might find it hard to believe that it once
had a thriving bank and a busy hotel.
Fire was to strike Lyleton again in 1910 and again large portion of the
business section was destroyed. The fire fighting equipment of the day
could do very little to check its progress.
The improvement in transportation and communication brought large towns
of Melita and Brandon closer. There was already less of a need for some
businesses. The store, school, church, elevators, post office, garages
and lumber yard continued to serve the village for some time. Much of
the community life continued to revolve around the church, school, hall
61: Wakopa and West
In 1886 the CPR railroad reached Killarney and Boissevain, and Old
Wakopa began to fade. Then in 1905 the Canadian Northern from the
east gave it new life.
The Wakopa Village site in 2010 – the village was relocated here when
the “Wakopa Branch” of the C.P.R. was build from Greenway in 1904.
Adelpha originated as a post office in the home of an early
homesteader, John A. Hurt who settled just to the north of the Turtle
Mountain Forestry Reserve, right next to the Boundary Commission
In 1905, the Canadian National Railway built a rail line heading
southwest from Greenway. The rail passed just to the northwest of
Hurt's home. Construction stopped there and the train station was
Since Adelpha was the “end of the line”, it became busy place for a
time. A “wye” was built at for turning trains around so that they could
head back east. In 1914 the Canadian National Railways extended
their Greenway Branch to reach Deloraine and other villages attracted
In 2017, the Mountainside Store – now used as a house, stands as a
reminder of the little village that once served the needs of the
surrounding district. At one time, in addition to the store there
were nine houses, the school and two elevators in town.
They had church in the school and there was also a public dancehall in
62: Bannerman and
The Great Northern
1906 the Brandon, Saskatchewan and Hudson's Bay Railway, a part of
the Great Northern Railway from the U.S., began service from Brandon to
the small North Dakota town of St. John's, where it made connections to
destinations across the United States.
The line was important to several communities south of Brandon.
Anything that would reduce the length of those trips to the elevator
was welcomed by farmers.
A Ride on the Great Northern
The train departed from St. John's, North Dakota, just a few kilometers
south on the Manitoba / US border.
Charlie Bryant, long time conductor, well-known to folks all along the
line, was a man who wouldn't hesitate to make an unscheduled stop or
other accommodation for a good customer.
Before long it reached the border and four kilometers past that
was the new village of Bannerman.
Of all the newly created villages along the line, the rise and fall of
Bannerman was the most dramatic.
In 1905 it was a field. In 1906 it was a brand new village.
Soon a hotel with large dining room and bar encouraged visitors. A feed
and livery barn and a lumberyard were open for business. A poolroom and
barbershop, a store and post office, a blacksmith shop, a harness and
shoe repair shop, all were built. Soon a second grocery store and
additional blacksmith shop were needed, along with two dealerships for
the fast growing farm implement business.
Because it was the first stop in Canada it was an official Port of
Entry with a Customs and Immigration Office.
When the railway line closed in 1936 Bannerman became a town without a
purpose. There were several other towns nearby that till had rail
lines. It faded away quickly and is now back to being a field.
Great Northern Story
63: North to Minto
In 1908 the hamlet of Desford consisted of the water tower for the
trains, the Railway Station, elevator, section house, bunk house, the
Methodist Church, the blacksmith shop, a Community Hall, a General
Store and a few houses.
The population exploded to near thirty.
A few kilometres out of Desford is to Fairburn. These "sidings" as they
were called were put in place to accommodate local farmers, and were
never intended to become villages.
The site of Fairburn School, now a
park alongside Highway 3.
To us in modern times It may seem odd that a place like Fairburn was
even on the map. It was just a lone elevator on the open prairie.
But although it had no stores or streets it was a community. A Post
Office had existed nearby for many years.
Boissevain & Minto
By 1906 Boissevain and Minto were already well-established and already
each had one railway line. The new line gave them a direct route to
Brandon and another elevator to choose from.
Eagerly awaiting the train at the Minto Great Northern Station for an
excursion to Brandon Fair, 1917
Any town would welcome a new connection to the outside world.
It was exciting, as Sylvia Sprott indicates in her memoir in the Minto
"A trip to Brandon on the Great Northern train was indeed an
event to remember."
The GN line crossed the CN line at Minto, a tower overlooked the
Minto Photo Collection
Railway Construction – Heaslip & Beyond
Crossing a ravine between Heaslip and Bunclody
Healslip had existed as a post office since the earliest pioneer days.
It got a big boost when the Great Northern began operations in 1906 and
the Heaslip community developed into the beginnings of a village, with
a station and general store.
A Big Project
Just past Heaslip, the line angled north-westward to Bunclody. Along
the way it had to cross two deep ravines that ran into the river from
They built temporary trestles and dumped in earth to create a
road-level earth dam, complete with huge pipes designed to let the
runoff through. The pipes soon had to be replaced with concrete tunnels
two metres square - still quite visible today. Local childhood
adventures often included a dare to go through these tunnels.
A concrete tunnel under the
The bridge over the Souris at Bunclody was the biggest undertaking.
End of The Line
The line closed in
1936. It just wasn’t needed. People travelled by
cars and the mail and freight service could
easily be handled by
existing lines and by truck.
The line is credited
with ending the rural isolation felt by many
Westman settlers and offered them an important
option. Daytime shopping trips to Brandon were a treat, and students at
university could get
home for weekends. But the car and the improved
road conditions offered a new sense of freedom to rural residents,
the line, though remembered fondly by old-timers, was just not needed
West From Lauder - Bernice & Bede
ln I902, the The Canadian Pacific rail line from Lauder to
Tilston was surveyed and in about 1905, the townsite of Bernice was
In its prime, Bernice had a large general store with a basement hall in
which fowl suppers and community gatherings were held. The store also
contained the post office.
The town also had a lumber yard, a blacksmith's shop, implement agency
and machine shop, a C.P.R. (boxcar) station, a section house, a railway
water tank, an open air skating rink, a church, and at least three
The rail line continued from Bernice westward. The next siding that
sprang up was named Ruth and it remained with that name until the
Canadian Pacific changed it to Bede in 1925.
The village consisted of an elevator, a school, and a store. The
elevator closed in the late forties.
The cemetery, along busy Highway #83, is still in use.
West From Lauder – Broomhill & Tilston
The tiny village of Broomhill never did get very big.
This large old concrete block building in Broomhill might make you
wonder: Why such a large building in a tiny village?
Kilkenny’s General Store –
Perhaps when local Postmaster William Kilkenny and his brother John
built it in 1908, they expected the village to grow, or maybe they were
just ahead of their time.
The Broomhill post office had been established in 1892 on the Kilkenny
homestead. When the CPR arrived nearby they moved to the new townsite
and build their store.
It was more than a store - more like a shopping centre with a post
office, a garage, gas station, and even implement dealership.
The first settlers to the region had chosen a site roughly two miles
east of the present village of Tilston and established a community they
called Eagleton. When the C.P.R. brought the railway through in 1907,
they established the town at the current location, and the new name was
Soon, more settlers arrived and among the early buildings was a
boarding house, a hardware, a blacksmith shop, a small school building,
and a box car for a station.
Railway Avenue, Tilston
This small building is the former R.M. of Albert Municipal
Office. Tilston is now in the Municipality of Two Borders.
The Boissevain – Lauder Branch
In November 1913 the first train followed the route from Boissevain
through stations at Sanger, Schaffner, Orthez, Croll, Regent, Hathaway
and Dand before reaching Lauder.
The Blue Flea, as it was called, ran a passenger service connected
small communities with the big passenger trains out of Winnipeg. The
trains also transported hay, grain, milk or whatever was needed.
Sanger, Schaffner, Orthez and Hathaway were sidings with
elevators and they never did become villages.
Croll had just an elevator and a store while Regent and Dand had a few
Dand United Church was originally
the Chain Lake Quaker Meeting House.
The Regent Store
and the home of the owners.
The End of the Line
After the railway stopped in the early 1960’s, the communities lost
much of their purpose. Before long schools, churches, stores and grain
elevators began to disappear.
A Cairn marks the location of Croll
Page 68: Croll, Regent & Dand
Croll School wasn’t in the village. It was over three kilometres away,
where it had been for many years before the village was started.
Of the many small railway villages that came and went, Regent’s just
might be the only one that was named by mistake. The CPR bought the
original homestead of John Riley for the town they were creating and
proposed that Riley would be the name. Someone along the way made a
mistake and Regent was the name used. As Riley was long gone, the
locals appeared quite OK with that.
Soon a large store, Post Office, Imperial Oil Dealership, hardware
store, blacksmith shop/garage, poolroom, and barber shop were open for
A Presbyterian congregation used the school for services and built a
Manse for the Minister. Later, in 1957 a United Church was built in the
West Hall / Hathaway
Back in 1912, it was important for farmers that they have an elevator
nearby. Many were still using horse-drawn wagons to deliver grain
and each trip took up valuable time. The railway and elevator companies
tried to provide the service every 6 – 8 kilometres. There was no real
need for towns at every stop. Places like Hathaway, in between the
village of Regent and Dand, just had one elevator and used an old
railway car as a station.
The station at Dand was at first known as “Landmark” before it was
renamed to honour the Dand family’s role in getting the railway to come
through the region.
Thomas Dand found hauling grain to the distant rail line was quite a
job, often made worse by blizzards in winter and heat and mosquitoes in
He asked his friends from his former employer, the CPR, to build a
railway line that would connect Lauder with Boissevain and the CPR
agreed. They were having trouble deciding exactly where to place the
route so Mr. Dand, who had experience with railways, walked a line from
Lauder to Boissevain and the CPR followed his path.