CNR "Courtesy and Service" Billboard Bridges

"...Courtesy and Service go hand in hand. The slogan of the Canadian National Railways is "Courtesy and Service"..."

This excerpt was taken from the December, 1956 edition of the Canadian National Railways' Station Employees Handbook. CNR not only used this term as a slogan, but expected courtesy and service from their employees. In 1911 the Grand Trunk Railway's Rulebook specifically stated that railway employees "...will be held responsible...for the courteous behavior and proper deplortment of all employees...". As an advertising slogan, "Courtesy and Service" dates back to 1924. It was a marketing device developed under the guidance of Henry Thornton. By 1961, it had become a way of doing business and a slogan well known by their rival competitor. In a copy of a Canadian Pacific Railway Form 19Y dated June 11, 1964 which was issued to a CP Extra travelling along the Oakville subdivision between CP/CN Canpa and Burlington, ...(Remember Boys — "Courtesy and Service") handwritten below the subdivision's special instructions. Although courtesy and service may still be expected by CNR employees today, it's no longer the official company slogan.

Throughout the '40s and '50s, the slogan was printed on Passenger System Timetables, various travel brochures and internal company documents. Nowhere however, was it more in the public eye than on their billboard bridges. The C&S slogan is visible in a photograph taken on opening day of the Dunblnae Bridge in 1926 and continued to be applied to hundreds of bridges for nearly thirty five years. A number of bridges exist today still sporting this lettering. Although at least one concrete structure does exist, this lettering was typically large white letters on black steel bridges. Interestingly enough, not all of these bridges were over public roadways. Some were over CPR tracks with no roads nearby. The bridge at mile 0.2 of the Graham sub. [abandoned] is over a river with CPR tracks beside, again no road nearby.

It's not entirely certain if this bridge lettering was applied in the shop prior to shipment, or painted in the field after the bridge was erected. It's quite likely that it was a combination of both. The number of bridges that either cross a watercourse or another railway would tend to suggest that the lettering was shop applied. The number of variations in lettering styles and fonts used would tend to suggest that different bridge painting crews worked a district, and as a result, no two Scistine Chapels were alike. The application of this lettering on bridges ended with the new corporate image introduced in 1961 which was heralded by the now familiar CN "noodle". With the new corporate logo now being applied to the bridges, CN also ended, as did Henry Ford before them, the philospohy that the public can have a bridge in any colour they like, just so long as it's black. CN now began painting their bridges in colour. Despite the change to coloured bridges sporting the CN "noodle", The "Canadian National Railways — Courtesy and Service" lettering will long be remembered as the true Canadian billboard bridge.

The earliest CNR Engineering standard found to date for the Courtesy and Service logo is the, "Standard Sign on Bridges Over Highways" — Plan No:S14C-20, dated Nov 1, 1927. This placement drawing was courteously provided by the National Museum of Science and Technology, Canada, and shall not be used without the express written consent of the NMSTC [ ]. A revision to this drawing [Plan No:S14C-20-1] dated Nov 1957 does exist and apparently shows the placement for Type 1 lettering.

An interesting feature of the NMSTC's copy is the handwritten note in the centre of the drawing: "Inclusion of Maple Leaf with Slogan. see file E4035-34" . To date I have not been able to locate this file, but it's quite likely that it led to the development of the lettering style Type 11. If anyone has a copy of file E4035-34, details would be appreciated. As you will see by the drawing, some freedom appears to have been left to the creativity of the painter.

Type 1

The words 'CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS', are all capital letters with the first letter of each word larger than the rest of the letters which are placed approximately
on the horizontal centreline of the first letters. All words, less the first letter are underlined. 'COURTESY AND SERVICE' is centered below, again all caps which are the
same size but smaller than the CNR words. No underlines on 'COURTESY AND SERVICE'.

Type 2

Similar to Type 1, except 'AND' is smaller and is on the horizontal centreline of 'COURTESY' and 'SERVICE'.

Type 3

Similar to Type 1, except 'COURTESY & SERVICE' uses an ampersand.

Type 4

Similar to Type 3, except the first letter of both 'COURTESY & SERVICE' are larger than the rest of the letters in those words

Type 5

Similar to Type 4 except no underlines are used and the bottom of all letters in the CNR words are on the same horizontal line.
The word 'AND' is spelled out, smaller and is on the horizontal centreline of Courtesy and Service. In one example, periods are placed after
the words 'CANADIAN' and 'NATIONAL', and a dash is used after the word 'AND'.

Type 6

All words are all caps, all the same size, and all on the same horizontal line across the length of the spans. The word 'and' is spelled out.

Type 7

Similar to Type 6, except the word 'and' is smaller and is oriented vertical. A period follows the word 'RAILWAYS

Type 8

Similar to Type 6, except 'COURTESY & SERVICE' is smaller and centred below the CNR words, and an ampersand is used.

Type 9

Similar to Type 8, except 'AND' is spelled out.

Type 10

The lettering for 'CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS' is similar to Type 1. The word 'COURTESY' precedes the words
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS, and the word 'SERVICE' follows the CNR words. Both words are on the horizontal centreline of the CNR words.
(This type appeared on a bridge shown on a postcard photo taken in June of 1959. The caption indicates the train is arriving into Winnipeg, MB from Russell, MB.)

Type 11

On the bridge, appearing to be centre over the span is a round maple leaf herald. The leaf, perhaps green in colour and having the "soft edges" of the earlier versions,
is superimposed on a white circle. Overall, the herald resembles a horizontal caboose maple leaf logo, with "CNR" across the top and "COURTESY AND SERVICE" on the wafer inside
(instead of the customary "CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS").
This is far and away the most interesting and unique application found on a bridge.

Type 12

Similar to Type 8 except that the year [1959] is located between the words Courtesy and Service. No AND, or ampersand is used.
The numbers, the year of completetion, are the same size as the CNR words.







west leg of wye over Hwy 16 west — Edmonton




east leg of wye over Hwy 16 west — Edmonton




Parkside Dr. northbound from Lakeshore




Colborne Lodge Drive




Ellis Avenue




Windermere Avenue




South Kingsway ramp to Gardner Expressway




Royal York Rd.




Eastern Avenue




King St. West Overpass




near Wyevale


Ontario (sub?)


Elora-Fergus road (no tracks left, just bridge)


Ft. Frances


Atikokan (near old iron ore mine)


Ft. Frances


east of Ft. Frances station




Rosslyn Rd. — Thunder Bay




over the CPR mainline — Thunder Bay




[abandoned] one span of the structure over the Mattawin River. Tracks removed in 1996 but structure still remained intact.


Calgary Industrial


Over the CPR & Ogden Road. North elevation Type 2. South elevation Type 5

2 and 5



Fairford Street — Moose Jaw (concrete spans)




Athabasca Street — Moose Jaw


Central Butte


Moose Jaw — adjacent to the Lynbrook Golf Course