Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Walter Moberly (1832-1915)

Civil engineer, architect, author.

Born at Steeple Orton, Oxfordshire, England, on 15 August 1832, the second son of Captain John Moberly RN. He came to Canada at an early age and was educated at Barrie, Ontario. He studied engineering at Toronto and, from 1855 to 1857, was employed with the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway Company. In 1859 he was appointed Superintendent of Public Works in British Columbia and deputed to found the capital of the colony, Queensborough, now New Westminster. In 1862-1863 he was engaged in the construction of the Yale-Cariboo wagon road, and in 1864-1866 he was assistant Surveyor-General of British Columbia. In 1864 he was elected to the Legislative Council of British Columbia for Cariboo West. He resigned in 1866 and spent the next four years in the United States engaged in exploration and railway building. In 1871 he returned to Canada to take charge of the Rocky Mountain and British Columbia surveys for the proposed Canadian Pacific Railway.

After leaving the federal government’s service he came to Manitoba and was one of the promoters, and afterwards, Chief Engineer, of the Manitoba South Western Railway. He built the first system of sewers in the City of Winnipeg, and constructed the tramway at Grand Rapids on the Saskatchewan River for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1876 the HBC gave him the contract to build the first railway in western Canada, the tramway over the portage at Grand Rapids in what is now Manitoba. Governor General Lord and Lady Dufferin visited the site during construction and Moberly arranged for Lady Dufferin to drive the last spike.

Author of The Rocks and Rivers of British Columbia (London, 1885; reprinted, Ottawa, 1926), History of Caribou Wagon Road (Vancouver, 1908), and The Early History of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Vancouver, 1909).

He died at Vancouver, British Columbia on 14 May 1915.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

British Columbia
Unpublished MHS address, 28 May 1885.

See also:

The Grand Rapids Tramway: The First Railway in the Canadian Northwest by J. A. Rodger Letourneau
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 32, 1975-76 Season.

The Grand Rapids Tramway, An Abandoned Route of the Fur Trade by Marcile
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 6, Number 3, April 1961

Thundering Waters Stilled: The Grand Rapids of the Saskatchewan by Martha McCarthy
Manitoba History, Number 15, Spring 1988

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Grand Rapids Tramway (Grand Rapids)


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

“Mr. Walter Moberly, famous Canadian pioneer, is dead,” newspaper clipping dated 15 May 1915. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B6]

We thank Alan Crossin and Robert Hill for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 31 March 2021

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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