CNR Engine, Diesel Day, August 1951, Queen’s Archives
From the mid-nineteenth century until 1967, Kingston’s downtown core and Inner Harbour were dominated by the sounds, sights, and smells of the railway. The arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Kingston-Pembroke Railway in the mid-1800s had a tremendous impact on the city, as their presence changed the physical features of Kingston’s waterfront, advanced trade and economic development, connected Kingston to its local hinterland, and played a crucial role in integrating the regions in an evolving Canada.
Reinforcing the importance of Kingston’s railways to the development of Canada is one of Kingston’s biggest employers: the Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) – at one time the largest locomotive works in the British Empire. Located along Kingston’s waterfront, the CLC built engines for the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway. When the CLC closed in 1969, the firm had manufactured over 3,000 locomotive engines, directly influencing the westward expansion of the railways and building Canada’s economic, political, and cultural linkages from the east coast to the west coast.
Although railroads no longer run into Kingston’s downtown and the tracks have long since been torn up, Kingston’s involvement in railways continues today. High-speed trains and streetcars are still designed in Kingston by Bombardier and Parsons – and rail design specialists SNC Lavalin became one of Kingston’s newest employers this year. Since 1992, Bombardier’s Kingston branch has held contracts for the creative development of transportation systems in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, South Korea, China and South Africa, and has designed cars for the Vancouver SkyTrain. These state-of-the-art rail transportation systems and projects have put Kingston on the map for industrial, mechanical and environmental innovation in Canada and the world at large.
Kingston is at the heart of Canada’s story - shaping our past and building our future.