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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the July 20, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Train station suited Burnet to a T

by Louise Schwartz and Jennifer Parmelee

Foreword: The current owner of 32 Burnett Rd. in Chelsea is Jennifer Parmelee. After she bought her home in 1994, she started tracing its history. She discovered that the original owners were Edward and May Jackson. They built a cottage there in 1919, adding a large porch in 1923. In front of it, to the east, was the CP rail line. In 1926, the rail line was relocated behind the Jackson cottage, a move to accommodate the hydroelectric project on the Gatineau River. A stone foundation was added to the cottage in 1932, to help winterize it for year-round living, after Edward lost his job during the Depression. In October 1998, Jennifer interviewed their son, Russ Jackson, who was in his late-80s by then. This is one of the stories Russ told Jennifer. Russ Jackson died in May 1999 at the age of 90.

The Way We Were
In those days, train station roofs always had the name painted on both sides.

Edward Jackson was a jeweler. A couple of times a year he would calibrate the watches used by train conductors and engineers working out of Ottawa. One summer evening Jackson and his young son, Russ, caught the train at Ottawa Union Station to commute to their family cottage on Burnett Road.

At that time, the nearest train station to their cottage was at Cascades. Since Jackson knew all the train engineers through his work, he asked the engineer if he would slow down the train as they went past Burnett. Jackson would then be able to throw their bags and parcels off. This made it easier for him to carry his son on his shoulders from the Cascades station to Burnett Road.

The boy was disabled and needed crutches, following a bout of polio during his childhood. The engineer in charge said that he would do better than that. He would stop the train and let father and son hop off at Burnett Road - but they needed to be quick. And that is exactly what they did.

A few days later, a couple of fellows from the train company came by the Jackson home in Ottawa and wanted to know where the family would like the new Burnett train station to be built.

It seems that the owner of the railway had been in his private car on the train when it made the unscheduled stop at Burnett. He wanted to know what had happened, and subsequently made a decision to construct a new station at Burnett. It was placed close to the Jackson house, now No. 32.

After the Burnett station was built, the worker who painted the name on the roof misjudged the size of the letters and ran out of space before he could add the second "t" in "Burnett."

The mistake was never corrected. Apparently, the highway department took the names from the railway stations when they made their highway maps and road signs. That is why the sign on Hwy 105, marking the hamlet of Burnet, has only one "t" instead of two.

Postscript; According to train aficionado and historian, Bruce Ballantyne, the station at Burnett was a CP standard portable flag station.

This meant it was a standard design used across the CP system and could be moved anywhere on the system on a flatcar as passenger business changed.

Flag stations were usually situated at crossings at a convenient location for passengers. The stations had no agent so they had no office, waiting room or barrage room. Basically they were enclosed shelters with a room and a verandah.

The first timetable for the Burnett station was issued in May 1920, suggesting this story probably took place earlier that year, when Russ Jackson was 11 years old. A few years later the rail line and station were relocated behind 32 Burnett. For those familiar with Burnett Road, the station then sat where the garbage bins used to be. The station is no longer there. Rumour has it the station still exists somewhere else.

Ballantyne also suggested that it was probably not the "owner" who rode the train the day of the unscheduled stop, but perhaps the divisional superintendent.

He would have had a business car assigned to him to tour the lines for which he was responsible.


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