MONTREAL -- Canada's two biggest railways moved record amounts of western Canadian grain in March and the first quarter despite challenging weather conditions.

Canadian National Railway said it moved 2.95 million tonnes of grain, its 13th consecutive record month, exceeding the previous record of 2.74 million tonnes last year.

That's up 8.8 per cent in one year and 19 per cent ahead of the three-year average of 2.47 million tonnes.

Canada's largest railway said it moved 8.2 million tonnes of grain in the first quarter despite extreme temperatures over large parts of its network in February.

That bested a record seven million tonnes in 2017 and was 25 per cent more than the three-year average of 6.5 million tonnes.

The Montreal-based railway said it has moved 22.7 million tonnes of Canadian grain so far in the 2020-21 crop year, up 19 per cent from the record 19.1 million tonnes moved two years earlier.

"Since the beginning of 2021, Canadian grain farmers, along with all of our supply chain partners, have worked closely with CN's railroaders to deliver record grain performance despite the pandemic and the very difficult operating conditions we faced in February," stated James Cairns, senior vice-president, rail centric supply chain.

Containerized grain shipments direct from Western Canada are also on record pace, approaching 800,000 metric tonnes crop year to date, in addition to the tonnage shipped from Eastern Canada.

Canadian Pacific Railway said it moved 2.53 million tonnes of grain through March 27, according to the weekly results posted on its website. That's up from 2.21 million tonnes a year earlier.

The railway says it was running 14.5 per cent ahead of last year's crop-year to date.

Over the first quarter, shipments totalled 6.62 million tonnes, compared with 5.88 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2020.

The Calgary-based railway said it moved 21.4 million tonnes of grain last year, with record shipments in January, March and the first quarter.

The record shipments came as both railways have invested in their grain fleets by adding larger hopper cars than the older ones they are replacing.