The Alphabet Railway Line

I’m sure a lot, if not most, people who live along the CN main line that runs through Saskatchewan are aware of this unique phenomenon.

Bill Barry, perhaps the foremost toponomist (I like that word– it’s the study of place names) in Saskatchewan, offers up this explanation:

In 1906, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) reached the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border at the point where it is crossed by the Qu’Appelle River. The GTP was a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk, which dominated Ontario and Quebec much in the same way the CPR ruled the west.

As it set off across the plains, the GTP more or less followed a practice of naming its sidings in aphabetical order. The Saskatchewan stations finish off a Manitoba sequence which began with Arona, Bloom and Caye and ended with Uno and Victor before crossing the border. After proceeding twice through the alphabet, another series is launched before the line crosses into Alberta.


My home community of Nokomis is actually one of a few anomolies. History tells us that a Mrs. Halstead, who had the original post office north of the present townsite, was a huge fan of E. Pauline Johnson’s poetry. In exchange for allowing the post office to be moved to town along the new railroad, she insisted it be named ‘Nokomis’ (Grandmother of Hiawatha).

Obviously, some of the communities no longer exist, but from an historical map we see (east to west):  Fenwood, Goodeve, Hubbard, Ituna, Jasmin, Kelliher, Lestock (not on this map), Leross, Mosten, Touchwood, Punnichy, Quinton, Raymore, Semans, Tate, Nokomis, Undorra, Venn, Watrous, Xena, Young, Zelma, then it starts over at Allan, Bradwell…

From Bill Barry’s book of Place Names:






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