Images of Railway Stations now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of the exterior of an Intercolonial Railway station. A train is parked to the left, and a group of people stand on the platform, Pictou, Nova Scotia.

Intercolonial Railway station, Pictou, Nova Scotia [PA-029397]

At one time there were approximately 1,300 railway stations across Canada, which included everything from grand urban stations to small flag stops found in remote areas and in-between cities.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of immigrants on the platform of Union Station, Toronto, Ontario.

Arrival of immigrants at Union Station, Toronto, Ontario [C-047042]

Railway stations were the first buildings passengers stepped into when they arrived or the last building they occupied when they left a town by train. A station serves a variety of purposes: it is the central community hub bringing people together, and it operates as one of the main connections to surrounding areas.

A black-and-white photograph of five men with their baggage, standing outside a small Canadian Pacific Railway station, Leanchoil, British Columbia.

Canadian Pacific Railway station, Leanchoil, British Columbia [PA-023198]

Railway companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway, designed and constructed attractive stations with diverse and distinctive architecture.

A black-and-white photograph of a trolley car, and horses and carriages outside Windsor Station, Montréal, Quebec.

Windsor Station, Montréal, Quebec [PA-008678]

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Railway accident records at Library and Archives Canada

By Rebecca Murray

In recent years, large-scale railway derailments and collisions have caught our attention and have become questions of public safety, but this is not a new chapter in Canadian transportation history. Rail accidents dot the history of railways in Canada and have shaped the lives of many Canadians.

A black and white photograph of a partially derailed train in a train yard. Snow covers the ground and a city can be seen in the background.

Cars off track at Strachan Avenue, Toronto, December 19, 1916. Photograph taken by John Boyd (MIKAN 3364261)

Have you witnessed a railway accident? Was a family member or friend involved in a railway accident? Do you have an interest in railway history in a specific region or for a specific railway company? These are just some of the many reasons that researchers consult Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) Reference Services regarding railway accident records.

Starting your railway accident research

First, gather as much information as you can about the rail accident prior to contacting or visiting LAC. The exact date and location are extremely important, as are details such as individuals involved and if possible, type of accident (e.g. public crossing, derailment, crash). If you are missing some of these details, consult newspapers on microfilm or online before undertaking your search with LAC’s online tools. Accident records are usually organized chronologically by date, so the date is key for you to start your research with the correct institution.

LAC holds rail accident records for investigations that began in 1990 or earlier, whereas the Transportation Safety Board maintains an online database for investigations from 1991 to the present.

Records at LAC

Railway accident records can be found in various series of the Canadian Transport Commission fonds (RG46) depending on the time period and type of accident.

I suggest relying on the following search strategies and finding aids to begin your research:

Finding Aid # Format Time Period How to Use the Finding Aid
46-21 Archives Search 1838–1987 In the first box, click on the down arrow and select Finding aid number. In the box to the right, type 46-21. In the second row of boxes, the default is Any keyword. Type in accident in the box to its right. Press Enter. In the results list, you can use the right menu to sort all results by date, or you can limit your results to a specific decade.
46-10 Online Finding Aid 46-10 1904–1949, 1964–1972 The finding aid is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically by railway company. Each report varies in content, but often references accidents.
46-55 Online Finding Aid 46-55 1900–1992 Accidents at public crossings arranged alphabetically by geographic subdivision
46-58 Online Finding Aid 46-58 1982–1983 Chronological
46-59 Online Finding Aid 46-59 1984 Chronological

There are also additional resources online and onsite at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St., Ottawa. You can use Archives Search to do general keyword searches with terms like “rail” AND “accident” (or “derailment” or “collision”) and use the right menu to sort all results by date, or you can limit your results to a specific decade.

If you follow the steps described above and still can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t despair! Reference Services staff are always just a call or click away. You are also welcome to visit in person. No matter how you contact us, we are happy to help researchers with their questions.


Rebecca Murray is a reference archivist in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.

Early 20th century railway images now on Flickr

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) preserves a unique collection of railway materials dating from the 1880s to the 1950s. A portion of the collection showcases photographs of railway hotels, stations, trains and travel across the country.