A Black 'Tie and Spike Affair

Moms, dads, kids and railfans line up for cab rides in Ottawa Central RS-18u 1865 (ex-CP 1865, nee CP 8743) at Walkley yard, Ottawa, on October 30, 1999. Photo by Raymond Farand.

On Saturday, October 30, 1999, the management and staff of the Ottawa Central Railway set aside the regular business of running a railroad, and hosted an 'Open House and Family Fun Day' at their Walkley Yard home in Canada's capital city.

The event, held in and around the company's yard office/shop, featured lively music and a BBQ, locomotive cab rides (to the delight of kids of all ages), a display of modern Hi-rail vehicle mounted MofW equipment, an informative exhibit of local railway history staffed by members of the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library, and even an operating Lionel electric train layout. Proceeds from the day's activities were donated to 'The Starlight Children's Fsundation Canada', an organization dedicated to brightening the lives of seriously ill children through various hospital programs and community based activities.

In addition to the many families who took the opportunity to view first hand the new face of railroading in the Ottawa area, one could spot more that just a few railfans (cameras at the ready), and a good number of both active and retired professional railroaders from both CN and CP. In many respects the festivities quickly took on the flavour of a family reunion.

The day also featured some timely pomp and ceremony. A check of the calendar reveals that the Ottawa Central Railway will soon celebrate an important anniversary. The 13th of December marks the beginning of its second year of operations in the Valley. A formal ribbon cutting ceremony was held in front of MLW built locomotive 1842 (ex-CP RS-18u 1842), to not only officially introduce the OCR to the region, but to also recognize the Company's successful revitalization of carload freight service in the business communities of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. A number of VIPs were in attendance to help celebrate the occasion. James D. Alien, the OCR's General Manager, welcomed Pierre Martin, Chairman of the Board for Societe des Chemins de fer du Quebec (Quebec Railway Corporation). Others in attendance from the QRC's head office in Montreal were: Serge Belzile, President; Gilles Richard, V-P of Operations; and Alain Tessier, V-P of Finance and Administration.

The ribbon cutting ceremony on October 30, 1999. From right to left: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, OCR General Manager James Allen, Chairman of the Board Pierre Martin, OCR Motive Power Supervisor Clayton Jones, and OCR Manager-Marketing and Sales Leigh Scott. Photo by Raymond Farand.

For those of you who may not be aware, Chemin de fer du Quebec owns a number of regional railway properties in Eastern Canada, including the Ottawa Central Railway. Representing the City of Ottawa were Mayor Jim Watson and City Councillor Allan Higdon. Present on behalf of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton was Regional Councillor Jacques Legendre. The formal portion of the event finished up with Mayor Watson being called off the spare board, and issued with a clearance to proceed and cut the ribbon, thus beginning a new chapter in the history of local railroading.

For serious supporters of rail transport in the National Capital Region, those who view the steel highway as an effective means of reducing road congestion, the last number of years have indeed been painful. To witness the systematic dismantling of local railway infrastructure while the rail industry went about re-engineering itself, left many wondering if the steel wheel would soon cease to exist in the shadow of the Peace Tower. Now that the concept of shortline railroading has become a reality for customers on both sides of the Ottawa River, the future can't help but be brighter.

The Open House offered everyone an opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the efforts of 22 committed individuals who call Walkley Yard 'home'. To the OCR, your guests and friends just want to say, welcome to the neighbourhood. Highball!

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, December 1999, page 11.

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