Dr. Darby Bergin, member of parliament for Cornwall, had a
dream. He would build a railway from Cornwall to
Marie. With a bridge across the St.
Lawrence River at Cornwall he would
traffic from the American mid-west and Sault Ste. Marie would become as
important as Chicago. In 1882 he chartered the Ontario Pacific
However, Dr. Bergin was overtaken by events,
the opening of the Brockville, Westport
and Sault Ste. Marie Railway from Brockville
in 1888, but
more important, the construction of the Canadian Pacific branch to
Marie in 1889. With his dreams dashed,
Dr. Bergin got out his map and sketched in a route between Cornwall
and Ottawa. New funding was obtained as well as a new
charter in the name of the Ottawa
and New York Railway (O&NY). The
scheme included an international bridge connecting to the New York and Ottawa Railroad in the United States.
The first sod was turned on Monday 23 August
1897. No engineering difficulties were
encountered and traffic commenced to run between Cornwall
29 July 1898. There was, however, a
serious problem with the bridge over the St. Lawrence River which
6 September 1898, a day after the railway had been blessed by the Roman
Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa
at Embrun. The collapse was caused by
poor work by the contractor and the structure had to be rebuilt. Through running was not started until 11
The company had serious problems gaining
access to Ottawa. J.R. Booth, the lumber baron, owned the
Canada Atlantic (CAR) and he was not to be treated lightly. The O&NY first purchased land close to
the CAR Central Depot and intended building a station there. It was naively assumed that the CAR would
allow them to run along their track from Hawthorne
into Ottawa, using the CAR bridge over
River. Not only did the CAR refuse use of its tracks
but it constructed a warehouse blocking access to the O&NY land. The government worked out a compromise route,
but the O&NY then found the CAR had built a coal trestle which
blocked this route as well. The O&NY
was forced to sell the land and acquire an alternative plot further out
town. Because of this animosity the
O&NY was forced to alter its route and come into town on running
over the Canadian Pacific Railway. At
first, the Canadian
Pacific Sussex Street station had to be used. This had not been used for passengers since
August 1885. Agreement was finally made
to use the CAR Central Depot from 20 March 1900. The
freight station at Mann
Avenue was not opened until October
The company settled down to a branch line
existence. There was talk of purchase by
several of the major Canadian railways but the O&NY came under the
of the New York Central Railroad on 31 January 1905.
This was done through a series of annual
leases and it was not until 1915 that a longer term (twenty-one year)
arrangement was concluded. Although
performing a mainly local function, through service was run to Tupper Lake, NY
where connections were
made for New York City.
When opened, the local road
network was poorly
developed and the line performed a vital function in moving passengers,
and freight - coal inbound and cheese, milk, agricultural products and
outbound. In Ottawa the railway used the same
the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk luxury trains and there were
complaints about the poor NYC trains. The
company replied that most of its passengers, being
either farm or
brickyard workers, had dirty clothes, and the accommodation was as good
could be expected.
Through traffic was interrupted in June 1908 when
canal bank gave way causing the NYC bridge to fall.
This time the fault was not the with the
railway but through traffic was not resumed until that November.
The international bridge at Cornwall was
planked over and used for road
vehicles effective 30 June1934. The Tupper Lake
section was abandoned in the late 1930’s and the passenger service was
to Helena, NY.
Traffic dropped off as the road network
and in 1939 the passenger service was halved to one train per day in
direction. To reduce costs, on 1 January
1941 passenger trains began to start and terminate in the NYC Mann Avenue
yard instead of the
Ottawa Union Station. There was a brief resurgence during the Second
but traffic continued to decline and in 1951 passenger service was
in the summer months and completely in 1954. The
line was abandoned throughout on 15 February 1957.
Although the line
lost money directly, the NYC
maintained that it made a positive contribution to system revenues
value of its interchange traffic. There
had been negotiations with Canadian National (CN) but CN did not want
over the line as a going concern. The
construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway
have entailed the building of a new and expensive high level bridge
St. Lawrence and it was advantageous for the NYC to get out of the line. CN purchased the track bed, rails, ties etc.
between Ottawa and Cornwall
mainly in order to prevent Canadian Pacific from so doing and thus
access to switching facilities in Ottawa
and Cornwall. CN quickly started lifting rails and ties to
ensure that service could not be reinstated.
Throughout its life the NYC
Ottawa line was a 40
m.p.h. branch line. The largest steam
locomotives used were NYC 4-6-0’s because of weight restrictions on the
international bridge. Towards the end, Alco road switchers and also FM
were used. The line were relaid with
good second hand rails in the 1914-1935 period while tie replacement
carried on pretty well until the end. In
all, CN reused about 23 miles of ties and 47 miles of rails, much of
hump yard which was being constructed at that time – not bad for a 56
The line lead a very quiet existence. There were a few derailments, but very few
fatalities. However, it had the rare
distinction of being one of the very few cases where a train hit a
building without first derailing. A
siding had been built too close to the Crysler station and the first
use the siding took off the corner of the building!
What is left today? A
short section in Cornwall
is retained as a
CN switching lead. The right of way
between Cornwall and Ottawa has been
used, in the main, as a Bell
Telephone right of way. A short stretch
in Embrun is now a cycle path. In Ottawa the down
lands were used in the beautification of the capital.
Part of the main line became the CN North
Freight Shed Lead and was used to service industry until recently. These rails were torn up in the summer of
New York Central line to Ottawa
never lived up to the dreams of its
creators. It was built too late in a
period of intense competition that relegated it to the status of a
line. Nevertheless, for just under 60
years its small branch line trains performed a transport service to the
agricultural communities it served.
1272 in Mann Avenue
with a typical consist. Credit
Ottawa and New York Railway
- Incorporated as the Ontario
New York Railway is chartered.
August 23 – first sod is turned at Cornwall.
July 29 - Ottawa and New York Railway
between Cornwall and Ottawa.
Agreement could not initially be
negotiated with the Canada Atlantic Railway on the use of Central Depot
trains ran to and from the Canadian Pacific (former St. Lawrence and
Railway) station at Sussex
or McTaggart Street.
September 6 - St. Lawrence River
down while under construction.
March 20 – Ottawa and New York passenger trains commence using the
Canada Atlantic Railway
Central Depot in Ottawa. Mixed trains continued to use Sussex Street.
December 11 - the bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall is
opened. A formal inspection had
taken place on 11 October 1900.
October 1 - Ottawa and New York Railway starts to use its freight
Ann (Mann) and Nicholas Streets for its mixed trains which had used the
Canadian Pacific Sussex Street station until this time.
January 31 – Ottawa
and New York Railway comes under the control of the New York Central
June 23 - the bridge over the Cornwall Canal
collapses. A temporary bridge was opened
on 30 November
1908 and a permanent structure was brought into service in 1909.
September 27 - Ottawa
and New York Railway is leased to the New York Central Railroad for 21
The lease was subsequently renewed for 99 years in 1936.
May 29 - the Cornwall-Northern New York International bridge
authorized to use the Ottawa and New York (NYC) railway bridge across
Lawrence River between Cornwall and Nyando, NY, for pedestrian and
August 3 - NYC is authorized to discontinue trains 60 (depart Ottawa
07:55) and 63 (depart Helena
15:55). This leaves one passenger train
per day in each direction.
January 1 - New York Central commences to use its own Mann Avenue
instead of the more expensive Union Station for its passenger trains.
July 17 - New York Central Railroad is authorized to reduce passenger
between Ottawa and Helena, NY to the months of November to April,
July 15 - New York Central is authorized to discontinue passenger
between Ottawa and Helena, NY.
February 15 - The New York Central Railroad is abandoned between Ottawa and the international border at Cornwall.
October 10 - Canadian National Railways is authorized to operate
the Ottawa and Cornwall area, having purchased the
Ottawa and New York Railway
– miles from Ottawa
Interlocking – interlocked crossing with Canadian Pacific and Canadian
NYC trackage proper, running rights up to this point.
5.45 Hawthorne, flag
interlocked crossing with Canada Atlantic (CN).
Creek bridge (five span pile trestle replaced by double plate girder).
23.87 Castor River
bridge (125’ deck lattice girder replaced in 1922 with 127’ steel
Castor River bridge (seven span pile bridge).
Castor Branch bridge (seven span pile bridge, replaced in 1916 by steel
27.43 Cambridge station.
29.84 St. Albert station.
Nation River bridge (150’ steel Pratt truss).
station, interlocked crossing and interchange with Canadian Pacific.
41.22 Newington station.
44.28 Northfield station.
47.06 Harrison flag station.
48.54 Black River bridge (12 span pile trestle,
by 39’ steel double plate girder).
48.71 Black River station.
Junction station, interlocked crossing and interchange with Grand Trunk
crossing with Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power.
56.71 Cornwall station.
57.1 St. Lawrence River North Channel bridge.
Lawrence River South Channel bridge.
63.39 Helena, NY.