I'm pleased with
what I've just heard. It means that unless things change, we'll have a
straight shot to Brent with first Train 114 not departing until after
our arrival. The prospect of having a day trip in both directions
appears to be good. It's not something you'd expect at this time of
year with sunlight being at such a premium. If a good connection had
not been possible I would likely have returned to Ottawa on the later
Train 114, expected to arrive at Brent around 18:00.
Train 101 meets Train 204 at the east siding switch at Pembroke, Ontario, on November 17, 1995. Photo by Raymond Farand.
significant in the
coming days because soon it will represent the end-of-track for the
Not far from the Old Alice Pit, Train 101 leaves civilization and begins a seven-mile climb up Indian Hill, the controlling grade in the westward direction. At M 99 we sound our final 14(1). There will be no further need "to make any noise", as Bob refers to it, from here to Brent, a distance of roughly 60 miles. Approaching Indian we encounter another hunter alongside the tracks, standing next to his four-wheel ATV. He's quick to give us a friendly wave. Might he be aware that the iron horse will soon be extinct in this part of the forest? Near M 106 we pass a trackside hunting cabin that the railroaders refer to as "Bachelor's Paradise." It would appear that the remoteness of the location has added to its reputation over the years. Take it from me, a mountain hunting lodge it's not.
Mileage 106.6 sees Train 101 crossing the Indian River for the third time since leaving Pembroke. In this area the topography is quite pronounced with the railway and the river pinched closely together at the bottom of a^ ravine that continues for the next two miles. Somewhere east of M 108.5 we enter Algonquin Park. We're not sure of the precise park limits because the boundary is not demarcated in any manner. The terrain is stunningly beautiful as we proceed westward on what appears to be in excellently maintained roadbed. Between M 108.5 and M 121.9, 50 MPH running is permitted, and even at track speed the ride is Cadillac smooth. One by one, station name boards at Dahlia, Kathmore and Achray (a popular camping location), Gordon and Brawny all disappear in the swirling snow kicked up by our passing train. At Lake Traverse the old station structure is conspicuously absent having only been recently demolished. For years it provided living quarters for lonely operators whose duty it was to copy and pass along those all important train orders. Any romantic notion of railroading as it used to be would be a hard sell for the poor souls assigned to this remote outpost.
West of Lake Traverse the railway parallels the Petawawa River for a distance of approximately 11 miles. As we first engage the river's shoreline, just west of Devil's Cellar Rapids, the line appears to be cribbed to prevent undercutting by the swift flowing water as it washes against the lower portions of the right-of-way. The scene is captivating as it advances and then disappears on either side of our office windows. I turn and exclaim to John, who is busy with some paperwork, "You're missing this!" "Missing what?" was his reply. "The scenery ... it's absolutely incredible. There's a picture around every curve in the track. You can't help but wish that you could run out ahead of the train snapping photographs all along the way." The words were barely out of my mouth when Bob pipes up, "Well as far as I'm concerned you're welcome to go ahead and try!!!" The cab erupts in laughter and I quickly realize that some ideas are best kept to oneself. Turning to John once again I mutter, "I'm starting to change my mind about your mate."
Near Radiant the Montreal RTC contacts the crew to ask if they can take first Train 114 back to Ottawa immediately upon our arrival at Brent. Without hesitation they agree to the request. Somewhere between Odenback and Acanthus we tone the RTC in Toronto. It's at Brent that westbound trains enter into the Great Lakes Region. Even though our TGBO gives us permission to proceed as far as the west cautionary limits at M 165, a crew member is obliged to communicate with Toronto RTC for yarding instructions prior to entering the east cautionary limits at M 162. It's indicated to us that today Train 101 will hold the mainline.
Train 101 meets Train 114 at Brent, deep in Algonquin Provincial Park, on November 17, 1995. Photo by Raymond Farand.
At 11:25, we glide past a half dozen structures nestled together on the north shore of Cedar Lake, and come to a stop in front of the old operator's shelter located just a stone's throw from the bunkhouse (a.k.a. the Brent Hilton). A short distance away on the near passing track is the headend of the Extra 9494 East. As the crew disappears into the bunkhouse I hastily take a number of pictures to suitably record the moment. Who knows, I may be the last photographer to have this opportunity. It's during these brief moments, as I stand alone on the platform, that the reality of what will soon happen hits home. After 80 years of operation, the railway will be shut down and erased off the company's system map.
It was on November 23, 1915, that the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) officially opened the "Valley Line." Thanks largely to the efforts of two Canadian railway contractors, Sir William Mackenzie and Sir Donald Mann, there would now be a competitive alternative available for shippers who chose to do business with a company other than the CPR for the movement of goods between Montreal and points west of the Lakehead. It was they who realized that the CNoR could only compete with the CPR for transcontinental traffic if a parallel route was constructed through the Ottawa Valley. Initially it had been necessary to forward everything to and from Montreal via an Ottawa to Toronto routing, before turning northwest towards Capreol.
Today's economic realities are such that the company can no longer justify the expense of maintaining the Beachburg Subdivision as an option for the movement of goods to and from the West. In addition to the Bala Sub. from Toronto to Capreol and points west, the new Sarnia Tunnel now makes it possible for CN to provide seamless doublestack intermodal container service between Halifax and Vancouver. Albeit for the moment, the latter can only be accomplished with help from the Burlington Northern Railroad, (soon to be Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.), between Chicago and Duluth.
It's ironic that the extra distance CN must absorb into its transcontinental service via Northern Ontario is approximately 165 miles, almost identical to that of a one way trip from Ottawa to Brent. The new routing in some respects mirrors what had been deemed unacceptable over 80 years earlier. But time changes everything and in this case CN is hoping that modern technology and extended running territories will overcome the handicap, thus allowing it to remain competitive with rival freight carriers. Management feels confident that the current number of 25 crew changes it takes to run a train between Halifax and Vancouver can be done with 16. In theory the extended runs mean that CN can reduce transit times on the Toronto-Vancouver segment of the journey to a truck competitive 75 hours. With a new northeast connection at Doncaster, (junction of the York and Bala subs.), opening in the spring of 1996, a Montreal to Vancouver trip of under 85 hours becomes an attainable goal. If successful, the advantage of operating over the "Valley Line" will have been neutralized. I hope that Old Man Winter was consulted when drawing up the service design specifications!
Can it be only a coincidence that Canadian National's decision to truncate the Beachburg has been closely followed by a CPRS request to the National Transportation Agency (NTA), that it rescind its order to permit abandonment of large portions of both the Chalk River and North Bay Subdivisions. Realistically the situation may simply be a case where the timing is not right to eliminate all through service in one fell swoop. In all likelihood the clock is still ticking on the other Valley railway corridor. In fairness, supporters of rail transportation in Canada should wish CN the very best of luck as it deals with tough economic times on the road to the 21st century.
Train 101, powered by GP40-2L(W) 9601 and a sister, plus a 7000-series GP9RM pauses at Brent, Ontario, on November 17, 1995.
Photo by Raymond Farand.
At 12:15 the Extra 9494 East, Train 114 begins a pullby inspection. The journal shows it to be 5,641 feet, 3,417 tons, 46 loads and 32 empties. After a short delay at the east switch waiting for Train 101 to clear, we're on our way with a clearance to Indian at M 105.4. The Park is every bit as beautiful in the eastward direction. East of Dahlia the RTC issues the following instructions:
PostscriptOn November 21, Train 204 set off a boxcar at Brent. During the latter part of the final week of operations, all of the company's possessions from the bunkhouse were loaded for forwarding to Capreol.
On Friday, November 24, 1995, CN Extra 9551 West, Train 101, departed Walkley Yard for a final time and became the last transcontinental freight train to operate through Algonquin Provincial Park in the westward direction. Later the same day, CN Extra 9542 East, Train 114, operated for the last time in the eastward direction. After Train 114's departure from Brent, the incoming crew made an engine-hop back to Capreol, in all likelihood taking with them the boxcar filled with company material. The line would be silent now, surplus to requirements west of Pembroke, with eventual dismantlement sure to follow. And so it came to pass:
....... that after eighty years plus a day, the work was done in every way.
GP40-2L(W) 9542 and a sister pull Train 114, the last eastbound train through Algonquin Provincial Park, to a stop at Walkley Yard in Ottawa on November 24, 1995. Photo by David Stremes.I sincerely wish to thank former Ottawa Trainmaster Rheal Belanger, and of course the crew of Train 101, for making this tribute possible. My best wishes go to each and every Ottawa Terminal employee with whom I've had the pleasure of knowing and in some cases working, thanks to those memorable BRS 1201 excursions. HIGHBALL!!
Branchline, January 1996, page 8.
Follow up Letter in Branchline by Jim
PARLIAMENTARY SPECIAL, OCTOBER 12, 1915: This is a follow-up to Raymond Farand's "Sunset on the Algonquin Route" in the January 1996 Branchline, and commemorates the beginning of the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) service over the same line that recently came to an end.
The CNoR ran special trains from Quebec, Montreal and Toronto and headed west to Port Arthur and then on to Winnipeg for the start of service. The schedule for these special trains was issued by the Office of the General Superintendent in Toronto, 11 October 1915, as follows.
A connecting train from the Intercolonial Railway arrives at Quebec at 12:40 PM, Tues 12 Oct. and the special Canadian Northern train departs at 1:30 PM. This train consists of (head end to tail end) Baggage car 3202, Diner 69, Sleepers Radisson, Gladstone and Toronto and arrives at Joliette at 6:15 PM.
train from Montreal leaves at 5:10 PM and consists of a baggage car,
Sleepers Quetico, Aberfeldy, Lloydminster, and Athabaska and arrives at
Joliette at 6:25 PM. This train, less the baggage car, is coupled to
the rear of the train from Quebec and the combined train departs at
6:30 PM and arrives at Ottawa at 10:45 PM.
The train from Toronto departs at 11:15 PM with engine 1400 (Napier and Burke) and consists of Baggage car 3205, Colonist 1244, Diner 68, Sleepers Bristol (Press), Bombay and Canterbury (Members from Toronto), Rosseau (Entertainment car) and the Atikokan which was the President's car. The train arrived at Parry Sound at 5:00 AM, 13 Oct. Engine 1404 (Gauvereau) couples up and the train leaves at 5:10 AM arriving at Capreol, 129 miles from Parry Sound, at 10:30 AM, 13 Oct.
The combined train departs Capreol at 11:30 AM consisting of 14 cars: all that arrived except baggage car 3202 and the Athabaska, pulled by engine 1401 (Gordon). At Sellwood Jet. engine 1363 (Drewitt) is on standby. Arrival time at Foleyet, 148 miles from Capreol, is 5:30 PM. The train departs at 5:45 PM, engine 1402 (Boyd) and arrives at Hornepayne, 148 miles from Foleyet, at 11:45 PM. Departure is at 12:00 Midnight, with engine 1398 (A. Stewart). Engine 1080 is on standby at Fire River, with 1078 on standby at Caramat. The train arrives at Jellicoe at 6:00 AM 14 Oct. and departs at 6:15 AM with engine 1371 (McFall). Engine 1082 is waiting at Nipigon and the train arrives at Port Arthur at 12:15 PM Eastern Time. This is the end of the run for this Special train.
There is a departure time from Port Arthur at 12:00 Noon Central Time arriving at Atikokan at 6:00 PM, Fort Frances at 9:45 PM and finally arriving at Winnipeg at 7:00 AM 15 October 1915.
In the summer of 1995 I visited Capreol, Ontario, my hometown. They have a small railway museum there, the main item on display being "6077", a CN bullet nosed Betty, which I might add is in very good condition.
While there I asked for and was given a copy of a map on which is written all the information I used in writing the article, detailing this First Scheduled Train Operation on the line. Details appear to have been transcribed after the fact as CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS is mentioned in bold letters.
Father was an engineer for the CNR from about 1929 until he retired in
1961. Prior to moving to Capreol he worked in Ottawa and in Trenton
after returning from the war. Probably because I grew up with steam
engines coming and going through town all the time, I think steam
engines are the most fascinating machine ever invented. [Jim Stanzell]