Alma and Jonquieres Railway, Published 24 August 1944Life is so good to me; I have just ridden the Silver Bullet. On amateurs who probably have travelled on no more than a mere thirty different railways, and to those whose railway apotheosis was seeing a second class Turkish coach, l can now look down in a patronizing way, for I have just traversed the whole 11 miles of the Alma and Jonquieres Railway.
Come with me to Saguenay Power, a forlorn junction up in the middle of some pasture, on the way to Chicoutimi. Here. amid the thick clover and happy cows, is the southerly terminus of the Alma and Jonquieres Railway. This sterling system fights its way through to St. Joseph d'Alma, nine miles distant, and then nips off another brace of miles, to round out the full 11 miles at Ile Maligne. I was a sport, and took the works.
The engine on the Silver Bullet was a bargain from the old Delaware and Hudson, although I believe the other was acquired fiom the Alton Southern. Anyway, I got No. 16, while No. 4 was resting quietly in the Ile Maligne roundhouse.
I was somewhat surprised to see that the baggage coach of the Bullet once belonged to the Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac Railway, and it was equally interesting to know that the rear coach was a Quebec Central unit, although apparently a Maine Central item originally, since it was built in New Hampshire. Now I have given you the pedigree, so let's get aboard.
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The Silver Bullet takes its name from the fact that it originally was ornamented with aluminum paint, and thus we get the description, silver. The bullet part of course comes from its speed. It takes 30 minutes to do the 11 miles. I seem to recall that its efforts were a little more modest than that.
I thought I had been completely abandoned at St. Joseph d'Alma. which is the French section of Riverbend. The freight cars which had accompanied us, up ahead, disappeared, and so did the engine. So in fact, did all the passengers.
There I was, in a strange station, with no engine, no rest of the train, and no passengers. I just had to hope that some day, an engine would come along and pick us up. Finally, back came No. 16. and we started out. I was surprised that we had no freight cars. That's what I thought, later, I looked out, and saw we were pushing the loads ahead of the engine. So for most of the last two miles to the Ile we travelled in that style with the engine sandwiched in between box cars and passenger coaches. I liked the informality of the A & J.
I suppose you realize that the Silver Bullet never hopes to compete with the Denver Zephyr or the Super Chief as a time-saver. It is designed to haul the hardware and groceries in and out of these power and paper towns, and if it so happens that a passenger wants to ride. well, they're welcome. I noticed nearly everybody carried an annual pass. So did I. It is the only railway which thus far accords me that courtesy. I can travel anywhere and anytime I like, up and down those 11 miles till December 31. 1944.
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Now that's enough about the Silver Bullet. I was met at the station by T. J. Butler, the general manager, who is just about everything from red cap to president. He showed me the sights of Ile Maligne. Certainly nothing I saw was more interesting than the Chibougamou railway bridge. Years ago. when the boys struck pay dirt up at Chibougamou somebody thought they'd build a railway up there. I am hazy about the details, but this I do know. They got as far as building a bridge. There it stood, with no track on either side, and there it stands today. It is a railway bridge without a railway. It has been that way for quite a while now. However, they are going to turn it into a highway, and that will be that. I thought of the number cf places where a bridge is badly, desperately, needed in Canada, and yet this relatively small population is going to have a high class bridge for a relatively small traffic. Certainly however, one of the wonders of Canada is the railwayless Chibougamou Bridge. If ever up that way don't fail to see it.
I can't speak too highly of the hospitality of the railway and power officials and those of allied companies. I was royally treated, and finally despatched in regal state to Chicoutimi where I went to make some wrong guesses about the elections.
So, those of you who are keeping tally for me, that's No. 81 out of the way. People often ask me now if I haven't just about ridden them all. The railway guide shows about 800. You can see I have a Iong way to go yet.