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The first railway in what is now Canada was built in 1836. This was the Champlain and St.Lawrence Railroad in Lower Canada (Quebec) that linked Laprarie near Montreal with St.Johns on the Richelieu River. After this initial endeavour, there was a pause of several years. The great expansion occurred in the 1850s. 1856 starts in this era, focusing on what was then Upper Canada (Southern Ontario).

The large number of railways that started during this period were undercapitalised. However, to meet political objectives, the government would often step in and loan the railways money. Eventually most of these companies owed the government too much money to repay. During the confederation of Canada, the government started to absorb these bankrupt companies to form the Canadian Government Railways, which, in turn, became the Canadian National Railway. 1856 simulates this limited government intervention and support that was Canadian railroading.

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1856 was designed by Bill Dixon and published in 1995 by Mayfair Games.
1856 is © 1992, 1995 Mayfair Games.

The game is set in the Upper Canada area, with six private companies, eleven public companies (corporations) and the Canadian Government Railways, which is formed from some of the other public companies during the game.

The game starts with a stock round, during which the private companies are sold by auction. Once the private companies are all sold, shares in the public companies are sold.

The stock round is followed by an operating round, where the private companies pay dividends to their owners and the public companies that have sold enough shares to operate start building their railroads.

The game continues in this way, alternating between stock rounds and operating rounds. In later stages of the game, two or more operating rounds take place before the next stock round.

The game ends when either the bank runs out of cash or a player goes bankrupt.

If the bank runs out of cash at any time, the game continues until the current set of operating rounds is completed. If the bank runs out during a stock round, the next full set of operating rounds are completed. If the bank subsequently becomes solvent before the game ends, this does not have any effect - the game still ends.

If a player goes bankrupt, the game ends as soon as the player in question has sold all shares they are legally allowed to sell.

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The following more unusual features are part of the 1856 game. These summaries are not intended to cover all the rules relating to these features, and are provided as an aide memoire.

Government Loans

Before the sale of the first '6' train, companies may secure one government loan, worth $100, in each operating round. Interest is paid at 10% (i.e. $10 per loan) each round. The company can secure one loan for each share held by a player. At the end of their operating turn, a company may redeem as many loans as they wish if they have the credit to do so. If the number of shares held by players has dropped below the number of loans secured, they are forced to redeem the minimum number of loans to bring them within this limit. If the company does not have sufficient funds the president must make up the shortfall, which may involve selling shares to raise funds.

Canadian Government Railways

When the first '6' train is sold, the Canadian Government Railways (CGR) may be formed once the currently operating company has completed its turn. Each company that has outstanding loans may redeem the loans using company credit, assisted where necessary (and where desired) by the president. Any company that does not redeem its loans will become part of the CGR. If no companies need to redeem loans, or all companies redeem their loans, the CGR is not formed.


Each of the public companies has a destination. When a company can trace a legal train route of any length from its starting city to its destination, ignoring the presence of other company station markers along the route, it can claim any funds held in escrow by the bank. Such funds come from the sale of shares in excess of 50% for companies started before the first '5' train is available.

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Mail me © Keith Thomasson September 1st 2004