Canadian National Railway, rail system in Canada and the United States, extending from coast to coast in Canada with many branch lines in each province and in the United States. The system began as an amalgamation of five separate railroad enterprises that were unified in 1922 under the ownership of the Canadian government. The company also operated telegraph, steamship, and hotel services; Canadian National divested its nonrail businesses during the 1980s and 90s. The company was privatized in 1995, and when the railroad purchased the Illinois Central in 1998, it became the fifth largest system in North America. In 1999, Canadian National announced a $6 billion merger with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to create the largest railroad in North America, but the deal was scuttled the following year after the U.S. Surface Transportation Board froze such mergers. Canadian National resumed its expansion in the United States in 2001, however, when it purchased the Wisconsin Central.
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