Find records of people who worked for the Canadian National and associated railway companies.
There are very few personnel files, but other records document the service of officers and employees. This includes a wide range of occupations (brakemen, porters, locomotive engineers, car repairers, cleaners and more).
LAC does not hold Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) employment records. CPR employees seeking their own records should contact Canadian Pacific Pension Services.
On this page
Before you start
Gather as much information about the person such as:
- their approximate year of birth
- the name of the railway where the person worked
- the location where they worked
- their years of employment
Note that labourers who worked on the construction of railroads were employed by construction companies, not railway companies.
Places to look
1. Canadian National Railway Company
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the records of the Canadian National Railway Company (Record Group 30). This includes the records of many affiliated railway companies. Here are just a few:
- Grand Trunk
- Canadian Northern
- National Transcontinental
- London and Port Stanley
- Inverness and Richmond Railway Company
2. Canadian Government Railways Employees Provident Fund records
A fund was established in 1907 for employees of the Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island railways. The fund provided life allowances for those who retired following long service, disability or on-duty injury.
Service details and personal information were recorded on file cards that cover a date range from 1855 to 1959. The cards for fund members no. 1 to 21999 are indexed and digitized in this database:
Railway Employees (Employees Provident Fund)
There are also cards for no. 22000 and higher that are not in the database. To access these cards, see the Scope and Content section of the employees provident fund record description.
There are also 13 staff ledgers from the Intercolonial Railway Company that cover the years from 1855 to 1910. They are not indexed or digitized. In the railways provident fund record description, see the Scope and content section, then click on the lower-level descriptions to identify dates and volume numbers.
These lists usually included only name, occupation, and period and amount of pay. Depending on the railway, there are some from the early 1800s to the 1950s.
Use Collection Search to find relevant volumes:
- Select Collections and fonds.
- In the search box, enter the keywords RG30 and payroll or paylist.
- You can also try including the name of the railway.
4. Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada – Permanent staff register
This is a register of 207 staff who worked at Toronto Station from 1886 to 1914. It contains details such as name, date of birth and year started. Volumes 2935 and 2937 are the relevant ones.
5. Personnel service records of the Canadian National Road Department
This is a ledger of service information for employees of the Canadian National Road Department in eastern and southern Ontario, from 1899 to 1950. In the personnel service record description, see the section called Scope and content for more information about the ledger.
6. Winnipeg, Staff Record Bureau, employee personnel files
These files relate to employees in western Canada, from 1918 to 1980. In the employee personnel files record description, click on Additional information for more details about the records.
Note that only about 10 percent of the original files still exist.
7. Other records in RG30
Use Collection Search to look for other records. Select Collections and fonds.
In the search box, enter the keyword RG30 and any other words relevant to your search, such as the words staff, employee, the name of a person or a railway company.
8. Immigrants to Canada, porters and domestics
LAC holds an Immigration Branch file relating to Black immigrants who came from the United States to work as porters for the CPR, from 1931 to 1949, with names indexed in our database.
In the search box, enter the name of a person or any term in the keyword box.
Immigrants to Canada, porters and domestics
9. Published sources
More information about the RG30 records at LAC relating to employees can be found in the book Canadian Railway Records: A Guide for Genealogists.
Employees may be mentioned in magazines published by railway companies or unions. Search our Aurora catalogue using keywords like:
- Railroads (or railways) Canada employees
Access the records
For records that are not digitized, you will need to see them in person. If you cannot visit us in person, you can hire a researcher.
Census records indicate a person’s occupation. If the person worked for a railway, the company name is sometimes indicated.
City directories list adult residents alphabetically and indicate occupation and address. Some digitized city directories are available at LAC in the Canadian Directories Collection.
If you do not know the name of the railway company where the person worked, you might find that information in the 1940 National Registration records. Read our blog to find out more about these Statistics Canada records.