Gatineau Valley Railway
By Bruce Ballantyne published in Branchline May 1966
The death knell sounded on December 31, 1985 for that portion at CP Rail's Maniwaki Subdivision (Quebec) between Wakefield and Maniwaki. Since that date, the scrappers have been hard at it. As you read this issue of Branchline, it is quite likely that nothinq will remain but the roadbed and the memories of this colourful and scenic railway.
Incorporation and Construction
The line was incorporated in 1871 under Quebec Statute as the Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railroad Company to build "from or near the village of Hull to a polint at or near the confluence of the Desert and Gatineau Rivers", (Maniwaki). Included in the first Board of Directors were such prominent Gatineau Valley indivduals as E.B. Eddy, Alonzo Wright, John MacLaren, Andrew Pritchard, and Patrick Farrel.
Like so many railway projects of the last century, many years passed betwen incorporation and actual construction; it was to be some 11 years in this case. Finally, on June 15, 1882, the first sod was turned "at a site 1/4 miles (sic) north of the Alymer Road near the tollgate". Alonzo Wright and Murray Mitchell, the railway's Chief Engineer, were qiven the honours of digging. Delays continued, however, and local politicians became dissatisfied with the lack of progress. During several meetin s of Hull council early in 1886, O&GW representatives were questioned. They responded with a whole host of excuses for the delays.
Delays continued, however, and local politicians became dissatisfied with the lack of progress. During several meetings of Hull council early in 1886, O&GV representatives were questioned. They responded with a whole host of excuses for the delays.
Still no work had been done by the beginning of the summer. In fact, it was not until the and of the decade that any significant activity took place.
TO he first indication that work had commenced was in 1890 when various accounts reveal that construction was actually taking place. By this time Murray Mitchell bad been replaced as Chief Engineer by W. Dale Harris who was to hold the position until 1896. Mr. Dale Harris was faced with a particularly "sticky" problem in the form of clay which plagued construction south of Wakefield. Embankments collapsed and culverts shifted, causing more delays.
Finally, the Hull-Wakefield section was ready for government inspection in October of 1891. Regular passenger service started in 1892 and during this time construction continued north of Wakefield. The line reached Farrellton in December of 1891 and Low in August of the following year. On February 14, 1893, the first train reached Kazabazua; regular passenger service to there started approximately one month later.
Gracefield was reached in 1895 with the first regular freight train arriving on October 21. By this time, some of the leading figurew involved in the line had changed as had the name.
On July 23, 1894, the line was incorporated as the Ottawa & Gatineau Railway Company. The leading directors were H.J. Beemer, M.S. Lonergin, J.E.W. Currier and J. D. Mullarky.
Following the completion of the railway to Gracefleld, the pace of activity slowed to a crawl. No further activity appears to have taken place until 1900 when records reveal that rock cuts were worked on to the north of the community.
In May of 1901, the name of the railway was again chanqed and plans were formulated to take over the Pontiac Pacific Junction Railway (Push, Pull, and Jerk) to Waltham in the Pontiac region. The O&G thus became the Ottawa Northern & Western, amalgamating later that year with the PPJ.
The following year (November, 1902) the ON&W was leased to Canadian Pacific for 999 years. In 1958, CP officially absorbed the company.
Under CP's control, construction picked up. Grading was completed to Blue Sea Lake by April of 1903 with tracklaying being completed in June. Finally, in January of 1904, the rails were in place to the end of track at Maniwaki.
The first passenger train arrived in Maniwaki on february 8, 1904. It returned the following day to Ottawa with a Mr. McFall as engineer and a Mr. Hoolihan as conductor.
Though it took more than 20 years to reach Maniwaki, the line's promoters had had dreams of expansion all throug the buildinq peroiod. In 1887, the company's charter was amended to permit the construction of a railway all the way to James Bay, a provisi on which Canadian Pacific retained until the 1930s. A further amendment in 1894 permitted the company to extend to Lake Temiscaminque while newspaper accounts on the day also mention the possibility of a branch to the east to Buckingham.
With the completion of the various sections of the railway, no time was lost in in itiating freight and passenger services. During the first ten years of operation, most trains were mixed. Following the CPR takeover, separate freight and passenger services were offered.
In 1914, there were two trains a day each way, except Sundays. Freight service to Maniwaki was offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning to Ottawa the following day.
Service was expanded in the 1920s to include an additional passenger train for commuter service between Alcove (the next station north of Wakefield and the site of a wye) and the nation's capital. The bunkhouse used by the train's crews is still standing and is located there, on the eest side of Highway 105.
During the Depression, passenger service was trimmed substantially. From that time to the end of passenger operations in January of 1963, service consisted of a train each day, daily except Sunday when the Saturday northbound train returned to Ottawa in the late afternoon.
Steam powered passenger trains were utilized until the latter part of the 1950s when, to cut losses (the mail contract having been lost), CP introduced their gas e1ectrics and finally Budd RDC "Dayliners". Records are sketchy but it appears that the last steam powered passenger train on the line (prior to ex-CP 4-6-0 No. 1057 and ex-CP 4-6-2 No. 1201) was on January 1, 1960.
Since the 1960s, the story has been one of steadily declining activity. Regular freight service ceased in the mid-1970s. From that time to the end, service was offered on an as and when required basis. And now the line north of Wakefield is no more. A sad end for a once busy operation.
November 16, 1892: The railway had been completed north of Low when tragedy struck. A southbound work train hauled by two steam locmotives ran int a washout at Stagg Creek (south end of Low beside Highway 105). The lead engine (reportedly an ex-CP locomotive) dove into the hole and was buried in mucky clay. The crew perished and the incident was reported in great detail in the next day's edition of the Ottawa Citizen.
1895: The O&G was called upon to carry troops to Low to keep peace during what is known as the Low Rebellion. The poorer citizens of the area were up in arms (almost literally) over certain taxes which had been levied on them. Many had not paid and refused to do so. The local police were unable to handle the explosive situation so troops of the 43rd Battallion of the Princess Louise Dragoons were called in. A special train was provided and the presence of the soldiers had the right effect. Peace was restored.
1916-1921: The Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada during this time, had a summer home at Blue Sea Lake called Lismore House. CP provided special trains to the closest staion, New Lismore, to carry the Vice Regal party to the lake during the summer months. On one occasion, the GG's train was hauled by a CP 400 series 4-6-0 which broke a cylinder head as it passed throughh Alcove. The Duke of course could not be delayed so when the way freigh tran arrived its engine was commandeered and used to complete the trip. The poor freight crew was left to do what they could with the disabled engine.
Whenenever the Governor General stayed at the cottage, local legend has it that a flag pole at the station displayed the Vice Regal Standard.
1963: On Sunday, January 27, 1963, regular passenger service to Maniwaki came to an end with RDC-2 No. 9105 (now VIA No. 6212) carrying some 50 passengers into Ottawa Union Stati on for the last time at about 20:45. The late Bill Austin [mentioned this month in Dunc duFresne's article on the changing scene in an around Ottawa] was the Engineer while Frank Cope was the Conductor. The event was duly recorded in the now defunct Ottawa Journal with the two crewmen appearing in a photo which also included an elderly patron.
Newspapers: various editions of the Ottawa Citizen, Free Press, Journal;
Periodicals: Railway and Marine World
Others: extracts from the diary of W. Dale Harris; details on the GG's train problems from an intervie with the late Walter Dickson, former CP Engineer.