The NTR was envisioned as a nationwide railway to compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Portions of this transcontinental railway would be built by the Grand Trunk Railroad, and the NTR would be built by the Canadian government from Moncton to Winnipeg. The NTR would be owned by the government but leased by the Grand Trunk. In 1906 work began on the NTR.
By 1913 it was apparent that the Grand Trunk would not pay any lease payments due to its own financial difficulties, so the NTR came under the management of the Intercolonial Railway.
In 1915, the National Transcontinental joined the Canadian Government Railways.
In the end, the NTR provided a very good line through New Brunswick. It was built to high standards and provides a quick connection between Edmunston and Moncton. The NTR through New Brunswick is the CN main line.