The junction and the railway era: 1886-1923

The Forks National Historic Site

An aerial photo of railyards with a river in the foreground and tall office buildings in the background.
An undated photo of the railyards of what is now known as The Forks.

Throughout the 1800s, agriculture in southern Manitoba faced a great obstacle: in good years, any surplus was wasted since it could not be efficiently transported to any other markets, while in the case of crop failures, food could not be imported quickly, meaning that other food sources, such as the buffalo hunt, had to be maintained. The solution was to build a railway connecting Manitoba with ice-free ports and world markets.

The Forks was one of the key sites of early railroad development on the prairies. The railyards of the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railroad, the Canadian Northern, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad and the Canadian National Railway took over The Forks and largely eliminated the traces of the structures that preceded the yards.

Many of the buildings you see now at The Forks date from this time. Union Station (1908-11), designed and built by Warren and Wetmore Architects (the same architects who designed New York's Grand Central Station), is still used as a passenger railway terminal as well as an office building. The Bridge and Building Structure (1889) is now the Manitoba Children's Museum. The National Cartage Building is now the Johnston Terminal, and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Stable Building (1909-12) and the Great Northern Railway Stable Building are joined together to form The Forks Market.

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