Then some further distance to the west (about 200 miles) is the Second Meridian running north and south as they all do, to the west of which is property abbreviated as W2, and so on moving westward W3, W4, etc., through Saskatchewan and Alberta. East of the Ontario border, the system was very little used. I don't know if it was ever applied to BC.
Between Meridians is now checkerboarded to mark off Ranges and Townships -- the lines running north-south are called "Range Lines", the lines running east-west are called "Township Lines". Therefore (applying this to the location that sparked this discussion), if you are looking for Twp 11 R8 W1, you find the Principal Meridian line, go to the west of it and count over eight Ranges, then count up eleven Townships, and there you find the SE corner of the Township in question.
The grid reference listed is by Section-Township-Range. Maximum number of Ranges within a Meridian is 34, maximum number of Townships is 141. There are 36 Sections in each Township, each of which is one-mile square. These are plotted in the following manner:
Each of these 640 acre Sections is quartered. These 160 acre quarters are designated NE, NW, SE, SW. Sometimes you will see NE1/4 s3, meaning the northeast quarter of Section 3. Sometimes you might see N1/2 s3, which means the combined NE and NW quarters, etc. Sometimes, also, a quarter-section may be halved or quartered to designate lots of 80 acres and 40 acres respectively. In this case the designation would be X 1/2 [or XY 1/4] XY-Sec-Twp-Rge W#.
Take as an example the location of 22-11-8 W1.
Each Range being 6 miles wide, Range 8W spans miles 43-48. Townships are north from the USA border, and are also of 6 mile span; therefore Twp. 11 spans miles 61-66. Sec. #1 is at the southeast corner of the township. The southeast corner of Section #22, then is two miles west and three miles north of that point. So the SE corner of the Section being sought is at 45 miles west of PM and 64 miles north of US Border.
Plotting this on an ordinary road-map, I find this to be abutting Manitoba Provincial Road #240, about halfway between Portage la Prairie and St. Claude.
Hope that this helps someone,