Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Research Vol. 20 No. 2, 2010


Copyright © 2010 by the Center for Great Plains Studies. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


It was the Crowsnest Pass Agreement in 1897 between the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and the federal government that came to establish the freight rate structure for export grain. When the rates were made statutory in 1925 they remained fixed until 1983, when the Western Grain Transportation Act (WGTA) replaced the Crowsnest Pass Agreement. The fixed-rail freight rate generally provided sufficient revenues for the two major railways, the CPR and the Canadian National Railway (CNR), to develop a network of branch lines of over 19,000 miles of track designed for horse and wagon technology. After 1960, when rail costs of moving grain exceeded the revenues, the two railways refused to maintain and upgrade the rail transportation system. At first the federal government with provincial government help provided subsidies to offset the railways’ losses and maintain the rail system. But by the mid-1970s the federal government, believing it could no longer continue to subsidize an overbuilt and inefficient rail system where freight rates were fixed, set in motion a series of studies and task forces eventually leading to a new set of rail transportation policies that affected freight rates and the rail network. It is the story of how the Crow Rate was changed that Arthur Kroeger recounts in this informative, entertaining, and often humorous book.