Operating Agreement: Ottawa Terminal Area

June 26, 1967, only weeks before the signing of the operating agreement, finds CPR Train No. 1, "The Canadian", headed by FP9A's 1409 and 1408, in the vicinity of Walkley Road, departing Ottawa over the joint trackage portion of the Beachburg Subdivision and heading towards Bells Junction, and the company's Carleton Place Subdivision. (Photo by Bill Linley)

Life's mileboards have a habit of popping up with unexpected regularity. Consider, for example, October 4, 1987. Ask any dedicated rail enthusiast in the Ottawa area of its significance, and you will probably get a response that notes the Society's 1201 Steam Excursion to Pembroke, Ontario. Lost in the glamour of the occasion is a very important local railway anniversary that should not go unnoticed.

Yes, 20 years ago to the day, Canadian National Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway signed an operating agreement that reshaped the face of rail operations in the greater Ottawa area. The Ottawa Terminal Area, a product of joint negotiations between the CNR, the CPR, and the National Capital Commission (an arm of the Federal Government), was created and its functional existence is documented in legal terms within the guidelines of the Joint Trackage Operating Agreement. This Agreement, which actually took effect on October 1, 1967 prior to its formal signing, completed the final stages of the Federal Government's railway relocation program in the National Capital Region.

The following will focus on most of the key provisions of the Agreement with emphasis placed on such items of interest:    the geographical limits and internal subdivisions of the Terminal Area; cost-sharing arrangements between the two Railways as they pertained to both passenger and freight operations; the maintenance of track facilities and associated structures within the Terminal Area; and a look at industrial switching, with consideration given to the interswitching procedures agreed to by both Railways.

The Agreement makes several references to the Ottawa Subdivision which at the time of its signing extended from Hawthorne in the east, through Ottawa Station westward to Nepean Junction. In 1976 the Ottawa Subdivision lost its separate identity, becoming part of the Alexandria Subdivision east from Ottawa Station, and part of the Beachburg Subdivision west from Ottawa Station. As a means of assisting the reader in identifying locations referred to in this study, your author has included present day Alexandria and Beachburg Subdivision equivalent mileages in parentheses, following those mentioned in the Agreement. Also included in the same manner is other relevant information considered to be of assistance or general interest to the reader. On occasion one can also expect to find conclusions, derived by your author after an examination of all information made available to him, with consideration given to historical developments that have occurred during the past 20 years.


In general terms the Ottawa Terminal Area consists of all main, passing, team, yard, siding, and industrial tracks, stations, buildings, structures, and other Railway facilities owned exclusively or jointly by the Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway, including any industrial yard or siding tracks which are located on or adjacent to the Terminal Area described as follows:

- the land bounded on the north by the south bank of the Ottawa River (beginning at a point where the Rideau River flows into the Ottawa River, westward to a location near Rocky Point, just past today's Andrew Haydon Park in Nepean);
- on the west by a line due north of mileage 16.10 of the Ottawa Subdivision (mileage 12.40 Beachburg Sub. just west of Bell's Junction), to the south bank of the Ottawa River (near Rocky Point);
- on the south by the most southerly boundary of the Ottawa Subdivision from mileage 16.10 (mileage 12.40 Beachburg Sub.) to Wass, including the connection to the Carleton Place Subdivision, to mileage 8.00 (approximately Hoodie Drive); the most southerly boundary of the Walkley Line from lass to Hawthorne, including the connection to the Prescott Subdivision to mileage 5.25, ind the connection to the Alexandria Subdivision to mileage 72.40; a direct line Iron Hawthorne (mileage 72.40) to mileage 12,50 of the M&O Subdivision;
- on the east by the most easterly boundary of the M&O Subdivision from mileage 82.50 to tellleage 83.50 (the west junction switch near Superior Propane off Innes Road); and the lost easterly boundary of the Ottawa Subdivision from mileage 1.87 (mileage 74.60 Jlexandria Sub. at the west Junction switch of M&O Junction to Ottawa Station) and on to the Rideau River; thence along the Rideau River to the south bank of the Ottawa River (the point of beginning).

Within the Terminal Area described above each Railway was to be considered joint owner and possess equal operating rights.

The only exclusions to the Terminal Area within its stated geographical limits were the lands, buildings, and facilities forming the Express-Freight Terminal of the CNR and the Merchandising Terminal of the CPR (south of Ottawa Station) across from the Alta Vista Postal Terminal; and the lands, buildings, and facilities forming the telecommunications operations of both Railways.


For the purpose of apportioning passenger and freight maintenance and operating expenses between the two Railways (the method for doing so will be discussed later), the terminal Area was divided into two zones:

1) A passenger Zone A, consisting of the Ottawa Subdivision (Beachburg Sub. ) from, but excluding the switch at Wass, eastward by way of and including the station facilities to illeage 1.31 (mileage 74.04 of the Alexandria Sub, near Baker Bros. Iron and Metal Co. off Sheffield Road), and the M&O Subdivision from nileage 83.50 to mileage 82.50 including the east leg of the M&.O wye;

2) A freight Zone B consisting of all other portions of the Terminal Area exclusive of Zone A, the telecommunications facilities and the two Express-Freight and Merchandise Terminals.

The hub of Zone A activities was and is of course Ottawa Station. It was agreed that both the CNR and the CPR would be afforded equal facilities to conduct their business p affairs, with each entitled to sufficient and suitable space in the station to accomodate their exclusive private offices. Separate passenger ticket offices would be equal in location and importance with due regard being had to the volume of passenger traffic being handled by each Railway. Each party was responsible for the payment of salaries and other expenses associated with the operation of its exclusive passenger ticket office.

In respect to operations in Zone A, it was agreed that the CNR would provide the necessary staff to operate Ottawa Station, to operate and maintain the power plant, to operate the coach yard including maintenance facilities, to maintain the signal plant, to be responsible for ordinary building maintenance and cleaning of the passenger facilities, to perform coach yard switching, and to provide police protection, with all operating expenses to be apportioned between the two Railways on the ratio of engines and cars of each Railway counted in Zone A. It was also agreed that the CPR would provide the necessary operator staff and that the CNR would provide the necessary Centralized Traffic Control dispatching office staff, with expenses related to the operation of Zone A apportioned between the two Railways using the ratio formula stated above. Revenues realized from the operation of the station, i.e. restaurant, barber shop, coin lockers, pay locks in the washrooms, and the taxi concession were to be shared equally.


To apportion expenses between the two Railways in a mutually agreeable manner, a method of counting engines and rolling stock in the Terminal Area was devised. The count, commonly referred to as "Wheelage", was applied against joint trackage maintenance and operating costs with each Railway accruing charges based on traffic volume.

In Zone A each passenger engine and each loaded or empty passenger car other than those in through trains would be counted once upon entering, and once upon leaving the limits previously defined. Engines and loaded or empty passenger cars in through trains would be assigned a lesser count of one-half when entering and then leaving the Zone unless they were set out at Ottawa Station, in which case a full count would apply when entering and later leaving Zone A. Freight trains moving into and out of Zone A would also be given a lesser count of one-half but would not be considered again if they should enter and leave a second time in the course of their immediate movement. Excluded from the wheelage count were all switching and transfer moves; engines moving light between the passenger station and Walkley Yard; engines, cars, and equipment used in connection with construction and maintenance of way; and trains detoured because of impassable track elsewhere in the Terminal Area.

It is worth noting regarding freight movements in Zone A that the Agreement discouraged the movement of intercity freight traffic over the M&O Subdivision given the fact that such movements would incur an additional operating charge as they travelled over the east leg of the wye at M&O Jct. This additional cost to Canadian Pacific could be avoided by linehauling everything over the Ellwood Subdivision and the Lachute Subdivision between Ottawa and Montreal.

The method of apportioning expenses in Zone B was similar to that in Zone A with the emphasis placed on freight trains. Each engine and each loaded or empty car would be counted once upon entering and once upon leaving the Zone except for engines and cars in passenger trains which would be given a lesser count of one-half. A second entry and exit by a passenger train would not be counted as was the case with freights in Zone A. Switching and transfer moves, etc. were also excluded from the wheelage count.

July 6, 1967 finds CN GMD1's 1913 and 1912 on Train No. 45 on the joint trackage portion of the Beachburg Subdivision. Passing by the Walkley Line switch at Wass, she will cross the Rideau River and exit the joint track at Federal where an obliging trainman will throw the switch to CN's Smiths Falls Subdivision, leading her south and west, via Smiths Falls and Brockville, towards Toronto. (Photo by Bill Linley)

The addition of a clause preventing double counting of passenger trains in Zone B appears to have been added to ensure that an equitable operating charge was levied against comparable through train service, i.e. the CPR's "The Canadian" and the CNR's "Super Continental". The path of the "Super" in the Terminal Area took it through the freight zone twice in the course of a single visit, potentially incurring half count wheelage charges for both occasions. "The Canadian", however, gained direct access to Zone A at M&O Jct. and was only subject to half count charges once, that being on the portion of joint trackage in Zone B between Wass and mileage 8.00 of the Carleton Place Subdivision.

As was the case in Zone A, it was agreed that the CNR would operate and maintain the signal plant and provide the necessary CTC dispatching staff with expenses shared between the two Railways based on the count of freight engines and cars in Zone B. Expenses related to exclusive freight operations, i.e. staff, buildings, and other structures including diesel and car shops, track scales, service buildings, stock pens, and fuelling facilities, located primarily at Walkley Yard, were to be borne by the Railway considered to be the exclusive user. Telephone charges, the cost of local communication systems, heating, public! utility charges, insurance and taxes associated with exclusively owned property and facilities, i.e. the Express-Freight and Merchandise Terminals near Ottawa Station, were to be considered in the same manner. Further, it was decided that taxes on jointly owned property and facilities would be shared equally, and each party was to maintain insurance coverage protecting their interest in all jointly owned property and facilities within the limits of the Terminal Area.

CP Rail Train No. 85, with RS-18 No. 8758 and C-424 No. 4231, its normal passage to Walkley Yard in Ottawa interrupted by track-work on the Ellwood Subdivision, detours through Ottawa Union Station in December 1984. With the detour a result of construction, the train's passage through the station will not cause CP any additional wheelage expenses. (Photo - Dave Stremes)

Consideration was also given to expenditures associated with Capital Projects deemed to be in the mutual interest of both Railways within the limits of the Terminal Area. It was decided that if replacement of Jointly owned and operated Zone A facilities became necessary, i.e. Ottawa Station, the coach yard and power plant, etc. , then the cost would be shared equally. If it were required to replace /jointly owned and exclusively operated facilities, yard offices, diesel shop, stock pens, track scales, and fuelling facilities, then the cost would be borne by the user. With respect to the remainder of the Terminal Area, all expenditures associated with the replacement of track, associated structures, and signal facilities would be shared equally. So too would be the Railways' portion of the cost of grade separations and crossing protection installations ordered or approved by the Board of Transport Commissioners (Canadian Transport Commission).


Having discussed the key clauses related to operational expenses, attention is now focused on who would actually perform the joint trackage maintenance in both zones. It would appear that an attempt was made to balance out the total mileage requirements so that each Railway had approximately the same amount of track to maintain. The reality of joint ownership also meant that trackage exclusively owned prior to the Agreement would not necessarily be maintained by the same party after the Agreement went into effect, further contributing to the unique nature of the document.

It was stated that the Canadian Pacific Railway, in addition to its exclusively operated portion of Walkley Yard and track facilities at its Merchandising Terminal, would be responsible for the maintenance of the following track facilities and associated track connections and track structures:

- the Walkley Line from either end of Halkley Yard eastward to Hawthorne West, and westward to Wass;
- the South Freight Shed Lead (the "Old Alex." Sub.) between Hawthorne West and Alta Vista Drive;
- the Prescott Subdivision between mileages 4.63 and 5.25 (beginning under Bank Street bridge via the south connecting track;
- the Sussex Street Spur (renamed the Ellwood Spur);
- the Chaudiere Spur (servicing the Bradings {O'Keefe} Breweries Ltd. and subsequently dismantled;
- the Carleton Spur (old Carleton Place Subdivision along Scott Street, since replaced by the western leg of the bus Transitway);
- the Ellwood Subdivision between mileages 0.00 and 5.02 (including the connecting track to the Beachburg Subdivision at Ellwood diamond).

Canadian National, in addition to maintaining its exclusive portion of Walkley Yard and track facilities at the Express-Freight Terminal, would be responsible for the maintenance of:

- all trackage and track structures in Zone A including the coach yard adjoining the station and the M&O Subdivision between mileages 82.50 and 83.50, including the east leg of the wye at M&O Jct.;
- in Zone B, the Ottawa Subdivision between mileages 0.00 and 1.31 (Hawthorne East mileage 72.73 of the Alexandria Subdivision to the eastern limit of Zone A at M&O Jct.); the Ottawa Subdivision between mileages 9.10 and 16.10 (the western limit of Zone A at Wass to the limit of the Terminal Area at mileage 12.40 of the Beachburg Subdivision, including the connecting track to the Carleton Place Subdivision); the North Freight Shed Lead from Hawthorne West to the passenger station yard (the "N.Y.C."); Industrial Avenue trackage; the St. Laurent connection; and the Walkley Yard detour mainline (commonly referred to as the "Bypass" between approximately Bank Street and Conroy Road).


The last major aspect of the Terminal Area operation to be reviewed is that portion of the Agreement which established industrial switching and interchange guidelines to be applied within the joint trackage area.

It was agreed that the CNR would perform all industrial switching on behalf of both Railways on the following tracks:

- the Ottawa Subdivision (Beachburg Sub.) from the western limit of the Terminal Area to Ottawa Station (serving customers such as Campeau Corporation, Texaco Canada Ltd., and Shell Oil);
the connecting track to mileage 8.00 of the Carleton Place Subdivision (serving Steenbakkers Lumber Co., east of Moodie Drive);
- the South Freight Shed Lead between Hawthorne and Alta Vista Drive (serving the National Museum of Science and Technology), including Industrial Avenue trackage (serving MacMillan Bloedel Sales Ltd. and M. Loeb Ltd.);
- the North Freight Shed Lead between Hawthorne and the station yard (serving St. Lawrence Cement Co. Ltd.);
- the Alexandria Subdivision between mileages 72.40 and 72.73;
- the Walkley Line from Wass to Hawthorne (serving Webster and Son Ltd., the Sears Warehouse, and Ontario Hydro off Ridge Road);
- the Chaudiere Spur (serving City Centre Warehousing Ltd., and Bradings {O'Keefe} Breweries Ltd.).

NOTE - customers along the Smiths Falls Subdivision, although handled by CNR switchers from Walkley Yard, were not covered by the Agreement since they were located outside the Terminal Area.

Canadian Pacific was to perform industrial switching on behalf of both Railways on the following trackage:
- the Ottawa Subdivision (Alexandria Sub.) between Ottawa Station and the west junction switch at M&O Jct. (serving customers such as Dustbane Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Boyd Moving and Storage, and later, M. Zagerman and Co. Ltd.);
- the M&O Subdivision between mileages  83.50
and 82.50 (serving Ritchie Feed and Seed Ltd. );
- the Sussex Street Spur (serving the L.C.B.O. and Brewers' Warehouse Co. Ltd. near Presswood, as well as Weldwood of Canada Ltd., and Beaver Lumber Co. Ltd., located off Bank Street near Heron Road);
- the Prescott Subdivision between mileages 4.63 and 5.25;
- the Ellwood Subdivision between mileages 0.00 and 5.02 (serving Standard Bread Co. Ltd., and D. Kemp Edwards Ltd.);
- the Carleton Spur (serving Beach Foundry Ltd., Independent Coal and Lumber Co., and M. Zagerman's old location near the old Ottawa West Station site off Bayview Drive). Similar to the situation on the Smiths Falls Subdivision, CPR switchers from Walkley Yard were to handle cars for customers outside the Terminal Area, i.e. Francon (1966) Ltd. in Bell's Corners, the Uplands Airport Spur, and the National Research Council's Railway Testing Site, though they were not provided for in the Agreement.

It was further agreed that each Railway would perform its own switching with customers located along the Ottawa Subdivision (Alexandria Sub. between Hawthorne and M&O Jct. (serving customers such as Baker Bros. Iron and Metal Co., National Grocers Co. Ltd., Canfor Ltd., and more recently, Weldwood of Canada Ltd. at their new location); and the St. Laurent connection. The deciding factor as to which Railway would perform the switching duties in these two non-exclusive areas of Zone B was determined by the linehaul characteristics of the freight traffic as it moved into and out of the Terminal Area. To clarify further, if freight was shipped to or from a point served by the CNR, then the roadhaul traffic pattern required that the CNR perform the switching operation. The same applied to the CPR if a shipper was using their service exclusively. As a result of this arrangement it was possible for a customer to receive two separate switches in a single day, one from each company.

May 19, 1987: The passage of time has tended to blur the players but the Ottawa Terminals Agreement still survives. VIA Rail's "Canadian", a far-cry from its ancestor, crosses the Rideau River, sandwiched between the junctions at Wass and Federal. Note the deteriorating bridge piers, poingnant evidence of the shattered dreams of their builder, the Canadian Northern Railway, (photo by Ray Farand)

Since the majority of the customers in the Terminal Area were serviced by either the CNR or CPR exclusively, provisions had to be included in the Agreement for the transfer of freight cars between the two Railways. It was decided that an interim $8.00 per car interchange fee would be paid to the switching line by the roadhaul carrier. This fee would be subject to periodic adjustment and initially reflected the average direct variable cost of switching within the Terminal Area. (At the present time the fee has increased to $52.00 per car). Charges levied to customers for cars only making a local transfer move with interchanging at Walkley Yard were to be shared equally by each Railway.

Coincident with the effective day of the Agreement all special interchange tariffs affecting the transfer of cars in the City of Ottawa ceased except for one which stipulated that the CNR would continue to enjoy interchange rights within the four mile interswitching limit measured from the former Gladstone Avenue interchange location across the Ottawa River into Hull, Quebec. (This interswitching limit, which was calculated in track miles, conformed with the universally recognized distance within which cars could be interchanged between the two Railways for a set rate, in most cases a few pennies per hundred weight). With this concession by the CPR written into the Agreement, the CNR was afforded the privilege of having cars switched in Hull as far as mileage 2.56 of the Waltham Subdivision and mileage 116.42 of the Lachute Subdivision (the switch at Laman is located at mileage 116.40, just beyond the interswitching limit) for the same flat rate of $8.00 per car that applied on the Ontario side of the river within the formal limits of the Terminal Area.


This concludes our look at a most interesting page in Canadian railroad history. To say that the Agreement was a well thought out and comprehensive document is most assuredly an understatement given the fact that it has stood the test of time over the past 20 years without any major changes. However, to say that the possibility for change does not exist upon the expiration of the Agreement on October 1, 1988 is to ignore the many changes that have taken place since the Agreement' s inception, i.e. the formation of VIA Rail Canada Inc. , and the many changes that might occur in the foreseeable future, e.g. the Federal Government's Freedom to Move legislation, but I suppose that's another story that remains to be written in perhaps another 20 years.

I wish to express my sincerest thanks to the following Ottawa-based CNR and CPR (now CP Rail) employees for their invaluable assistance:

J.B.  Leroux,     Assistant Superintendent  of Transportation   (CN)
J.  Berthiaume,     Transportation Clerk   (CN) T.C. MacLeod,     Mobile Supervisor   (CP Rail)

P.S.[December 2007]  If anyone ever wondered why the tail track on the M&O Wye is cut so short, they need go no further than the map on p.12 in the March ’88 issue of Branchline.  I believe that the rail is cut right at M82.5 of the M&O Sub, which just happens to coincide with the eastern limits of the Terminal Area.  The absence of track east of that location has nothing to do with a predetermination of VIA Rail’s operational needs i.e. length of track required to turn equipment, and probably everything to do with CPR’s exclusive ownership (at that time) of the right-of-way east of that location.  I understand that CNR now holds title to all active trackage at M&O Wye, and VIA Rail owns the right-of-way east from the limits of the Terminal Area at M82.5 to a point near M16.5 at Rigaud QC.  I suppose the tail track was never lengthened by VIA because their trains in a pinch could always be turned on the Walkley Line, as we recently witnessed with the Hockey Special last month.  Also, not adding track probably lightened their tax burden to the city.

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, March 1988, page 11.

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