The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada

ISBN 9781771606714
Softcover | Publication Date: November 7, 2023
Book Dimensions: 6 x 9
112 Pages

About the Book

The Soo Line’s Famous Trains To Canada is a brief history of a small and unique Class 1 railway and its famous Canada–USA tourist trains.

Initially chartered in 1883 to serve the needs of local millers in Minneapolis, the Soo would eventually come to join the Canadian Pacific line at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with service to Montreal. In 1888, Canadian Pacific assumed controlling interest in the Soo Line, providing entry into the lucrative US market and levelling the playing field for the CPR to face the onslaught of ferocious competition from James J. Hill, the infamous American railway baron.

The “little railway that could” grew to attain giant-killer status, launching famous passenger trains from Minneapolis and St. Paul, meeting head-on the western expansion of the Great Northern Railway and viable, competitive routes to the Atlantic seaboard. Over the years, the Soo Line introduced thousands of Americans to Montreal and Quebec City, the famous Canadian Rockies resorts, and the city of Vancouver, the home port for CP’s Pacific steamship services. The Soo also successfully competed on the Spokane and Portland routes from Minneapolis to the Pacific Northwest. In 1923 the “Soo Mountaineer” was launched, becoming the most famous and longest “two-nation” train journey in North America.

About the Author(s)

Terry Gainer’s family arrived in Banff in 1948 when his father, Frank Gainer, was transferred there as station agent. From their arrival until 1955 the family lived in the residence atop the station itself. During those years, Terry explored every nook and cranny of the station and the surrounding grounds. From 1957 he worked summer jobs there, initially as a porter in the baggage room and then as a redcap through the summer of 1962, which was the bonanza year of the Seattle World’s Fair and the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway but unfortunately also the beginning of the end of train travel to Banff. Largely influenced by his upbringing, Terry has enjoyed a career that has been an amazing fifty-year adventure in tourism. Though he retired in 2005, he has stayed involved in the industry as a marketing consultant. Terry’s books include When Trains Ruled the Kootenays, When Trains Ruled the Rockies: My Life at the Banff Railway Station, and The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada (Fall 2023). Terry lives in Nelson, British Columbia.


“All aboard the Soo Line! With his new book The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada, author and historian Terry Gainer has taken a seemingly arcane subject and injected life and passion into it. Terry unravels the complex story of early railway expansion in western Canada and the US Midwest with his gift for storytelling, meticulous research and generous use of vintage photographs. He also sorts out, in an informative and entertaining way, the corporate intrigue and personal rivalries which drove the expansion westward. But it’s Terry’s personal connection to the Soo Line’s Mountaineer route which makes this journey through early railway history so fascinating. He has enhanced the railway legacy of North America with this book, which complements his two previously published volumes. Terry Gainer has once again proven to be a fresh voice in the discourse on early railway development. All aboard the Soo Line indeed!” —Keith G. Powell, publisher, author, vice-chair of the Cranbrook History Centre

“Terry Gainer’s The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada details the passenger trains on this storied line, now a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Gainer provides an overview of the line’s history before launching into the Soo’s passenger trains, including the Mountaineer, which travelled a two-country, 2,600-mile route for decades. I particularly enjoyed reading about Gainer’s experiences with this train while he was working at the Banff station. They add a human dimension that is sometimes lacking in railway history books. Highly recommended as the third in a great trilogy.” —Steve Boyko, author, photographer, host of the blog

“With each of his books, Terry Gainer’s research deepens, his storytelling expands and his combination of images with text becomes more profound. All of that brings additional reading pleasure to The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada, Gainer’s third engaging volume of little-known train stuff and fascinating lore, all told with a railway guy’s boundless love of his topic.” —Rick Antonson, author of Train Beyond the Mountains, Walking With Ghosts in Papua New Guinea, Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark, Slumach’s Gold (with Mary Trainer and Brian Antonson) and several other titles

“In The Soo Line’s Famous Trains to Canada, Terry Gainer brings to his storytelling a lifetime of fascination with trains, as well as an archivist’s penchant for finding facts and images seldom seen in print.” —Rick Antonson, author of Train Beyond the Mountains, Walking With Ghosts in Papua New Guinea, Full Moon over Noah’s Ark, Slumach’s Gold (with Mary Trainer and Brian Antonson) and several other titles