The Railways of Ottawa

Findings of the Circle

The purpose of this section is to set out some of the conclusions we have come to on various aspects of Ottawa Railway History.  They have been taken primarily from the messages sent by members with some editing.  It is hoped, over time, that this will become a useful reference source and will avoid going over old ground. Some additional information can also be found on Rene Gourley's web pages at:  Bob Moore has put a great deal of effort into the Railways of Eastern Ontario.


1. Ottawa Stations
2. Bridges
3. Ottawa Area Yards
4. Ottawa and New York Railway
5. Roundhouses and Enginehouses
    Locomotive coaling facilities
     CNR Water facilities in the Ottawa - Smiths Falls area
     CPR Water facilities in the Ottawa - Smiths Falls area
     NYC Water tanks
     Fuelled by wood in the Ottawa area
6. Interlockings and Signal Cabins
7. Whistling Prohibitions
8. Rideau Canal Rail Road
9. Lines to Uplands
10. Rockland
11. Hull Electric Railway
12. Canadian Northern access to Kingston
13. Kingston Penitentiary Railway
14.  J.R. Booth
15.  Interchanges
16.  Alfred Peat Bog Railway
17.  Russell Shale Bricks Company Railway
18.  Area Industries
18.5  Internal Plant Tramways
19.1  Glebe Tramway
19.2  Tramway at site of Carleton University
20.1 The Dufferin Bridge or Parliament Hill Tramway
20.2  Buckingham Plumbago Mines
21.  Structures destroyed (mainly) by fire
22.  Railway Pole Routes
23.  The Britannia Park Miniature Railway
24.  Change of Gauge at Prescott Junction
25.  Rails for the Bytown and Prescott Railway
26.  The Electric Train Staff System in the Ottawa-Hull area
27.   QMO&O History from Montreal Directories.
28.  Ottawa Iron and Steel Manufacturing Co.  Horse Railway
29.  Plant Operations at Deeks (Dominion Construction/Grenville Crushed Rock)
30.  CPR Dows Lake Tunnel
31.  The Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) Panel in Ottawa
32.  Bulletins relating to the opening of Ottawa Station in 1966
33.  New Signals on the Canadian Pacific Brockville Subdivision
34.  Ownership of lines in the Ottawa area
35.  Plans for railways in the Ottawa area
36.  Weight of Rail for Railways in the Ottawa area
37.  Pits and Quarries in the Ottawa Area
38.  CPR Smiths Falls Yearbook 1967
39.  CPR Smiths Falls Rail Welding Plant
40.  Ottawa Railway Relocation Plan March 1962
41.  CNR Operating Diagrams 1981
42.  CPR Hilton Mine
42.  CPR Track Diagrams
43.  Rail Ferries by Brian Gilhuly (pdf format)
44.  Brockville and Ottawa Railway Rule Book 1858 (thanks to Bruce Ballantyne)
45.  Bytown and Prescott Railway Anecdotes (from the Citizen )
46.    Brockville and Ottawa Railway Locomotive Roster (pdf)
47.   Bytown and Prescott Railway Locomotive Roster
48.   Bob Elliot's Manuscripts on the Bytown and Prescott Railway
49.   Rigaud Granite Company
50.   Ottawa Area Videos
51.   Seizures of railways and equipment in the Ottawa area
52.  History of Rail Served Industries in Ottawa - a presentation by Malcolm Vant
53.   Ottawa Horse Cars - an unpublished manuscript by the late Michael Iveson. (pdf format)
Additional documents on the Ottawa City Passenger Railway (horse cars)
- Discussions between the Joint Committee and the Ottawa City Passenger Railway from March 25th, 1868, to April 4th, 1868.
- Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company and its Rockliff Extension"
54.   The Mines of Ottawa - A  guide to the Mineral Deposits of Southeastern Ontario and Southwestern Quebec by John E. Udd
55. Ottawa Electric Railway Rule Book 1936
56. Publications by Wayne Tasse
- Broad Gauge in the Valley (Brockville and Ottawa Railway)
- Pacific Extension (Canada Central Railway)
57. 1871 Survey Report of the Montreal & Ottawa City Junction Railway

Finding No. 1 - Updated 24 December 2019

Ottawa Stations

1.1.1    Bytown and Prescott - Sussex Street
1.1.2   St. Lawrence and Ottawa - Chaudiere
1.2.1    Canada Central - Chaudiere
1.2.2    Canada Central - Union Station
1.3    Canadian Pacific - Broad Street stations
1.4    Canada Atlantic - Elgin Street
1.5    Canada Atlantic - Richmond Road/Chaudiere Falls
1.6    Canada Atlantic - Chaudiere
1.7    Canada Atlantic - Maria Street
1.8    Canada Atlantic - Central Depot
A note on Canada Atlantic Railway Station Builders
1.9    Grand Trunk - Union Station
 1.9.1    The Chateau Laurier
1.10    Canadian Northern stations in Ottawa
 1.10.1    Temporary station
 1.10.2    Henderson or Hurdman
 1.10.3    Rideau Junction
1.11     New York Central - Mann Avenue
1.12     National Capital Commission - Ottawa Station
1.13     Canadian Pacific - Ottawa West
1.13.1  Canada Central - Skeads
1.13.2   Canadian Pacific - Westboro (first)
1.13.3   Canadian Pacific - Westboro (second)
1.13.4  Canada Central - Britannia
1.14     Canadian Northern - Federal
1.15     Canadian National - Bank Street
1.16     Canadian Pacific  - Billings
1.17     Quebec, Montreal Ottawa & Occidental - Hull
1.18     Ottawa, Northern & Western - Hull Beemer
1.19      Gatineau Junction
1.20      Gatineau Point
1.21      Temporary Stations
1.22      Special or Ceremonial Stations

Stations on Branch Lines Around Ottawa
Hull to Waltham
CN Alexandria subdivision
CP Prescott and Sussex Street subdivisions
Ottawa and New York/New York Central Railway - Ottawa to Cornwall and Tupper Lake
Stations Along the CPR Winchester subdivision - from Nation Valley News December 2019

1.1.1    McTaggart Street or Sussex Street

See the article by Colin Churcher  The Sussex Street Station, Ottawa  - Branchline, December 2004.

Ottawa's first railway terminus was opened by the Ottawa and Prescott Railway on 24 December 1854.  The Rideau River was not crossed by trains until early in January 1855.  It has been suggested that at a temporary station in New Edinburgh was used until May 1855 but there is no evidence to suggest this although a temporary stopping place was used in the spring of 1855 because of high water in the Rideau River and potential problems with the bridge over the river.  The original station was destroyed by fire on 7 May 1860 and was rebuilt.  There are two early pictures of the station CA-18221 (City of Ottawa) and C-957 (Public Archives).

Public Archives picture C-957

The St. Lawrence & Ottawa Passenger Station appears on the 1878 Insurance map, (NMC 0010731 7/49). It was a free-standing 1.5 storey building, 24 x 60 feet with 4-foot overhanging eaves on all sides. The platform ran 375 feet west from Dalhousie. The freight shed continued 290 feet to Sussex. A building the same size as the station at the east end of the freight shed, had a baggage room in its eastern third.

Double track ran along McTaggart Street from Dalhousie to the Rideau River. Crossovers east of Dalhousie and at King Edward formed a 1000-foot passing track. The station was on the south side of a single track, though its platform was built for two tracks. Its east wall was 250 feet from the centre line of Dalhousie. Three additional yard tracks to the north and one south of the station also extended to Sussex.

With the take over of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa by the Canadian Pacific Railway passenger service to Prescott was transferred to the Union station at Broad Street, effective 22 August 1885.  From then on, Sussex street was used only for freight and there was even talk of closing it in the late 1880's when the Rideau River bridge became unsafe and the railway was reluctant to spend the money to rebuild it.

The station was partially burnt for a second time on 1 July 1895 but steps were not taken to rebuild until November 1896.

For much of the nineteenth century the station seems to have been referred to as the St. Lawrence and Ottawa or Lower Town station.

Because it could not reach agreement with the Canada Atlantic Railway over the use of Central Depot, the Ottawa and New York Railway used this station when it inaugurated service to Ottawa in 1898.

The Sussex street station was replaced by a small yard office (or maybe this was an adaptation from the earlier building) as shown in these illustrations provided by Dennis Peters.

This plan, dated January 1952, is based upon a plan provided by Bruce Chapman.

1.1.2    St. Lawrence and Ottawa - Chaudiere

The St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway opened a branch from Chaudiere Junction to Chaudiere on 13 December 1871.  A station was constructed running east-west opposite the north end of Preston Street, a little north of Richmond Road.  This seems to have been for freight only as passenger service on this line did not start until 22 August 1885 by which time the Canadian Pacific had taken over and passenger trains used the "Union" station.(see 1.2.2).  This station was turned into a paint shop by October 1882 (Ottawa Free Press 30 October 1882). 
1.2.1    Canada Central Railway - Chaudiere
The Canada Central Railway opened from Chaudiere to Carleton Place on 15 September 1870.  A station had been completed and was being painted on 28 June 1870, well in advance of the opening (The Times, Ottawa of same date).  This line was built to the Provincial or broad gauge of 5' 6" and was not converted to standard gauge until March or April 1880.

The 1878 Insurance map shows the original Canada Central Railway Passenger Depot on Lebreton Flats, (NMC 0010731 4/49). It was an L-shaped building, 60 x 30 feet, 350 feet west of Broad Street, and 100 feet north of the line of Ottawa Street. Its long side faced the east side of the track with a 300-foot platform. The single track also led to a 3-track yard, running
north to Oregon Street.

There were three small outbuildings: one at each end of the platform, probably for signalman and switchtenders, and one near the depot, possibly toilets. A long freight shed ran just south of and parallel to the line of Ottawa Street, west of Broad Street. This became the site of the 1881 Passenger Station. No photos have been found.

1.2.2  Canada Central - Union Station
The Quebec Government's Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway reached Broad Street via the Prince of Wales Bridge on 3 December 1880.  A new Canada Central Union Station was opened in May 1881 to handle Canada Central and Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental trains.  This is a picture of this station.

National Archives C-4848

This picture of  the old Ottawa Broad Street station was most likely taken in 1892.  The Ottawa Citizen of 22 December 1892 reads:

A new safety switch has just been patented by J.P. Kelly, section foreman on the Canadian Pacific railway and Jos. Leslie, the new roadmaster on the Parry Sound railway both of Ottawa.  The inventor is Mr. J.P. Kelly.  It is claimed for the new invention that it will positively prevent derailment from an open switch.  The patent is adaptable to both single and double switches.  It stated trials have been made which prove the anti derailing qualities of the switch.  In addition to its sureness it is claimed to be light in weight and easily worked.  It is said the C.P.R. will make a test of the new invention with a view to its adoption.

The foreground stub switch would appear to be the switch referred to.  It is quite complex with throw bars and two spacer bars. The long "guard rail" on both sides would crowd the flange of the wheel on one side forcing the other flange to ride up over the spacer bar and climb over the running rail.  This would happen for moves approaching the camera on both tracks.  The modern equivalent would be a spring switch.

The insurance area and detail plans of January 1885 show the track layout as in the picture with the two opposed switches on the bridge over the aqueduct.  The detail plan shows the three platforms as 350' long, with the middle one widest.  The area plan shows the two freight sheds off to the left, angling towards the intersection of Queen Street and Broad Street.  They are about 250' and 300' long.

The station is shown as an L-shape, slightly angled to Broad Street at the west end of Ottawa Street, and with a width across the platforms of about 80 feet.  The architecture of the station and freight sheds is the typical Victorian style with roof-end cross-bracing and carved rooftop finials.

In the background is the silhouette of the Victoria Tower and the centre block water towers behind the telegraph pole on the right, and part of the west block Mackenzie tower at the extreme right edge.  In the centre are the buildings on the west side of Broad Street between Ottawa and Queen Streets.  The plans show that the gable end facing the centre platform was on a transverse wing whigh continued the L-shape towards Broad Street.  It may have contained an imposing approach to the main platform.  The right side platform was to allow carts to get close to the train.  The left side platform was triangular with an unsheltered side.

The two station tracks converged to a single track throat to the Canada Central, just west of the aqueduct, whose parapets are visible.  The track diverging to the far right is likely to be the Prescott connection.

The two-arm starter signal is interesting.  Its function is not clear but it would appear to control the entrance to or exit from the two adjacent station platforms.

There is a poor quality photo in the Merrilees Collection in the National Archives (PA-207507) taken on 6 June 1891 of Sir John A. MacDonald's funeral train. The locomotive is CPR no 283 and the notes on the photo say it was taken at Queen Street.  There is a building behind and what may be a platform canopy.  Clearly this was located at this station.

The Canada Central Union station was destroyed in a disastrous fire on 14 November 1895.

This drawing of the fire appeared in the Ottawa Journal of 14 November 1895 shows the fire at the station. and gives a good idea of the layout of the building.

1.3    Canadian Pacific - Broad Street (known as Union Station) stations

Click here to see this article in Branchline on the CPR Broad Street Station

Canadian Pacific - First Broad Street station (known as Union Station)

Canadian Pacific built two stations at Broad Street.  The first, opened on 28 January 1896, was a replacement for or a major rebuild of the Canada Central Union station which burned on 14 November 1895 and little is known about it as it had a relatively short life.  It was remarkably similar to the building it replaced and was erected in great haste.  It was burnt in the great fire of Ottawa Hull of 26 April 1900.

City of Ottawa Archives CA-90025 courtesy Dave Knowles
The above picture shows the first CPR Broad Street station with Ottawa Electric car 202 in front.  The picture was taken on 29 January 1897.

This picture, PA-135438, from the National Archives, shows the first Canadian Pacific Union Station a day or so after the fire of 26 April 1900.  It is taken from Wellington Street, just west of Broad Street, looking towards the Chaudiere. In the foreground are the tracks of the Canada Atlantic Railway, two may have been cleared to restore access to the Chaudiere, where Booth's mill was not destroyed. Trucks of destroyed freight cars are on two of the Canada Atlantic tracks.

Behind is the debris from a coal stage of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa, which had a high level unloading track. Behind it is a platform of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa, which appears undamaged.  A track of destroyed St. Lawrence and Ottawa freight car trucks is behind.

Beyond that are two damaged stone walls which were the partitions in a row of three one-storey storehouses owned by E.B. Eddy, just west of Broad Street.  The St. Lawrence and Ottawa and E.B. Eddy site shown here was to be redeveloped over the next few months as the new CPR second Broad Street Union Station.

Behind the lumber yard is part of a row of fence posts, a line of trees, and the aqueduct leading to the water works. This is below grade so not visible.  Behind the aqueduct is a triangular piece of open ground, widening towards the west at Broad Street.

Behind this are the remains of the station platforms, visible as a horizontal line, with ruins of the station building at the right. A tent has been erected as a temporary station, probably on the triangular platform at the north side of the station.   The tent was the second temporary station after the fire.  On 27 April 1900 "a small office in connection with the roundhouse on the Richmond road was improved as a station" although by 3 May a tent was in use and by 5 May trains were running from the former station site with the tent shown above. There is a crowd on the platform, where a train with two coaches, a baggage-mail-express car and at least four head-end baggage cars is loading.

A second train of baggage-mail-express and two coaches is waiting further up the track that ran along Broad Street. The silhouette of Booth's surviving Chaudiere sawmill is seen behind this train. The debris of the station is directly in front of the baggage-mail-express car.  There may be a burned-out locomotive in front of the clerestory baggage car of the first train.

Canadian Pacific - Second Broad Street Station (known as Union Station)

It was built between late July 1900 and January 1901 at a cost of $25,000 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.   Broad Street station, with its six tracks, was known, for many years as, "Union Station". At the turn of the century the CPR had great plans to connect Broad Street Station to the Grand Trunk Central Station on Confederation Square by a railway tunnel under Wellington Street.  This plan was deferred due to the costs arising from the fire.

Broad Street was designed by a celebrated Montreal architect, Edward Maxwell the elder of the two brothers who constituted the firm of E & WS Maxwell. This firm was a major architectural firm in Montreal in the first part of this century and did many many buildings across Canada. Their work was commemorated in an travelling exhibition in 1991 which was presented in Montreal, Winnipeg, St John and Quebec City. The catalogue for the exhibition is a good record of their work and a very useful research tool. Their work covers many fields and a complete record would be many times the size of the catalogue, which is already 190 - 11" x 8.5" pages.

The catalogue contains a chapter devoted to Hotels and Stations, which covers CPR's Vancouver Station, (1897-1913), CPR's Sicamous Junction Station and Hotel, 1898-1964, CPR's Arnprior Station, 1898- demolished (Almonte, Pembroke & Renfrew were built to similar designs). CPR's Winnipeg Station and Royal Alexandra Hotel, 1904-1971, CPR's Palliser Hotel (Calgary)1911- ), CPR's Chateau Frontenac (central tower & additional wings) 1920- ).

In the discussion of the Vancouver Station, the following comment  is made" Edward used these castle-like elements on most of his other CPR designs of the time including the similarly treated Broad Street Station in Ottawa (about 1900, ...)". unfortunately no pictures or plans were included.

Passenger service ceased when the CPR began to use the GTR Union Station in January 1920. The National Archives online catalogue has, from the Clifford M. Johnston collection, Broad Street Station, the C.P.R. Depot, Deserted, 1930, C-034440 so it would seem it was still standing then.  The 1922 Fire insurance map shows it as vacant.

1.4    Canada Atlantic - Elgin Street
The Canada Atlantic Railway from Coteau via Alexandria crossed the Rideau Canal to its depot on the west side opening 13 September 1882.  The station was known as Elgin Street and was located in Stewarton, the old name for the community south of Gladstone Avenue annexed to Ottawa about 1889.  It was on the south side of Catherine in the block east of Metcalfe.

A picture in the Public Archives (PA 28212) shows a view of the Rideau Canal "looking west" (but actually due south) in 1902.  It shows the railway swing bridge over the Rideau Canal, apparently made of wood, a short trestle extension at the west end of the bridge, and a large, almost barn-like building running along the rail line on the south side, west of the bridge.  A steam locomotive is partly visible on the west side of the canal, facing the camera, and a passenger car is parked on the line in front of the building. This could well be the Stewarton station. Stewarton was named for a farmer, William Stewart, who in 1834 purchased the lot bounded by Gladstone, the Canal, Bronson, and Isabella Streets.  His family later retained the site of the Victoria Museum for their house built in 1870, and in 1887-8 McLeod Stewart was Mayor of Ottawa.  Mcleod Street is named for him.  The Bank Street Yards were therefore entirely on Stewart's lands. (From Courtney C.J. Bond, City on the Ottawa,NCC, 1967, Page 69.)

1.5    Canada Atlantic - Richmond Road/Chaudiere Falls

The first Canada Atlantic Railway station in the Chaudiere or Lebreton area was opened on 1 January 1885 (Ottawa Citizen 3 Jan. 1885) and was located at Richmond Road at Broad Street.

"The new passenger station of the Canada Atlantic Railway at the Chaudiere was opened for the convenience of passengers on New Year's Day. It is a very neat and comfortable building and will be no doubt appreciated by passengers at the West End."

This was also known as "Chaudiere Falls" and passenger services started from this point on 2 January 1884 (two trains in each direction with connections to and from the Montreal trains at Elgin street.

The January 1885 fire insurance map shows this 1-storey building, on Richmond Road at Preston Street, at the west end of the 600-foot platform. Its size appears to be about 32 x 24 feet. Its longer dimension is along the street, so it was probably not a pre-existing house.  This size is consistent with a "Barrington" style station. (Barrington was also built in 1884, as "Johnson's").   The location at the outer end of the platform makes sense, as the site was too narrow to allow a building beside the platform.

The June 1885 timetables show the trains from Ottawa to Montreal, originating at Richmond Road and running to the main Elgin Street station and  the Ottawa Evening Journal of 9 August 1887 notes

"the Canada Atlantic Railway Company are now running all their regular trains to the station at the Chaudiere instead of as formerly only stopping at the Elgin street depot."  

However, by 1888 a connection was made with an engine and a passenger car at Elgin Street to bring passengers to and from Richmond Road.  Trains ceased using the Richmond Road station in June 1888 as this notice in the 16 June 1888 edition of the Ottawa Citizen indicates (a similar note appeared in the Ottawa Journal n the same date):

"Owing to construction work on the Chaudiere branch of the Canada Atlantic Railway passenger trains heretofore leaving the Richmond Road station are discontinued until further notice."

This notice appeared in subsequent editions until June 19th when the CAR timetable advertisement was modified by deleting reference to the Richmond Road service

The Richmond Road/Chaudiere Falls station was intended as a temporary structure until the Chaudiere Extension could be completed as is indicated in the Ottawa Evening Journal of 3 October 1887:

"It is also the intention of the company to do away with the small passenger station on Broad street, and use the new station house on Bridge street as a central passenger and freight depot for the Chaudiere and Hull."

It can be assumed, therefore, that the Richmond Road station ceased to be used as a passenger station about 16 June 1888 and was replaced by the Chaudiere station (see 1.6 below).

1.6    Canada Atlantic - Chaudiere
The CAR completed its line to the Chaudiere in late1888 and a ticket office on Bridge Street (later Booth Street) was built at that time.  The Ottawa Evening Journal talking about the Chaudiere Extension plans on 3 October 1887 said:

The station house, which will be the termination of the extension, will be constructed on the property now occupied by T. Ahearn's blacksmith shop.  From this point, branch lines will be constructed into all the lumber yards, thus enabling the lumber men to load their cars with lumber right in their yards.  It is also the intention of the company to do away with the small passenger station on Broad street, and use the new station house on Bridge street as a central passenger and freight depot for the Chaudiere and Hull.

The Ottawa Evening Journal on 12 November 1888 said:

The Canada Atlantic Railway company have a number of workmen engaged in building a small station house at Crown Acre facing Bridge street.  This station will be used only as a freight depot.

National Archives PA-027295

National Archives PA-008952

The above two William Topley photographs, presumably taken at the same time in 1893, show the Bridge Street station (it is to the far right in PA-008952). 

The station was destroyed in the great fire of Ottawa-Hull on 26 April 1900 and was replaced by a smaller structure which survived into the 1960's

The following exchange from the minutes of the Privy Council Railway Committee meeting of 21 May 1901.(National Archives RG 46 vol 1516 file 9) indicates that the Canada Atlantic had a station in the Chaudiere at that time:

"Is the CAR used for other purposes than to haul lumber to the yard?"
"Yes - they sometimes bring passengers in, they have a small station here."
This is the main line of the Canada Atlantic to Britannia Station.  It was in existence before 1897.

The reference to Britannia is Britannia Terrace and not Britannia village on the Ottawa River/Lake Deschenes to the west.

Updated 1 February 2024

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