History of the Trans-Canada highway across PEI

PEI National Park The predominantly red colour of the island's soils is due to the presence of iron oxide in sediments laid down in sandstone bedrock 250-300 million years ago. These Iron oxide rocks were created over many eaons, by early algae in the oceans of that time, which was a by-product of them creating oxygen for the Earth's atmosphere.

After the glaciers retreated after the last Ice Age, water levels rose and actually created three smaller islands. As water levels have changed, one island arose, but parts looked 'drowned" from their previous centuries of underwater isolation (particularly in the eastern half of the island).

When PEI entered Confederation in 1873, the Dominion accepted the obligation to provide "continuous steamship service" to the province, year-round. In the 1880s, the Prince Edward Island Railway extended a rail line to the Cape Traverse wharf to facilitate ferry traffic.

Over the 20th century, the federal government was adjusting for the reality of an unreliable winter iceboat service. In 1912 they commissioned a custom-designed railcar ferry, the SS Prince Edward Island from a shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

The new ferry, to be operated by Canadian Government Railways (later merged into the Canadian National Railways system), was to operate year-round from Carleton Point, PEI. This spot was several kilometres west of Cape Traverse; whose harbour was too shallow, despite being the closest point on Prince Edward Island from Cape Tormentine. As a result, the rail line also had to be shifted.

Confederation Bridge, under construction In 1919, the community was incorporated as the town of Borden, named for Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, whose government re-located the ferry terminal to Carleton Point. The area outside of Borden stayed with the community name of Carleton.

Borden, or Port Borden, as it was frequently called, grew with the increased use of the ferry system. In the 1920s, the SS Prince Edward Island was modified by to accept automobiles in addition to rail cars, the roads connecting to the port were improved.

Confederation Bridge, under construction In 1977, CN reorganized its ferry services in eastern Canada under a separate operating company named CN Marine; and replaced the aging MV Abegweit with a new high-capacity vessel MV Abegweit. In 1986, CN Marine was renamed Marine Atlantic, to remove all traces of its link to the railway company.

Passenger rail service on PEI ended in the 1970s, and in 1989 all trains and rails were removed from the Island. this was the impetus for creating a fixed link, the Confederation Bridge.

At the same time, the roads on the Island needed to be upgraded to handle traffic, that could now come and go at any time and in numbers no longer restricted by the capacity of a signle ferry boat. This process contiues to this day.

History of Railways in PEI

Here are some history notes, organized by Itinerary Segment (from west to east):

Moncton, NB to Charlottetown

Charlottetown to New Glasgow, NS

Other Resources

PEI Trans-Canada overview PEI Highways Map 50 Years of Trans-Canada

More Trans-Canada Highway History

← West
← Prev
Trans-Canada History  ↑ East →
Next →

Trans-Canada Highway Website Features for PEI:

Provinces with the Trans-Canada Highway Province Cities along the Trans-Canada Highway City Town along the Trans-Canada Highway Town Itinerary Transcanada Highway History History Trans-Canada Highway Ferries Ferry Trans-Canada Highway Ferries Tour

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on "+" or "-" to zoom in or out. "Satellite" combines map & photo.