Stone Haul on the Ottawa and Prescott

The following extract from the Arnprior Watchman of 19 June 1916 sets out an interesting early traffic for the Ottawa and Prescott Railway. It must have been pretty hair raising running such heavy trains (for the times) without continuous brakes.

"The destruction of the House of Parliament has awakened reflections of its building in the mind of Peter Redmond, a retired locomotive engineer, who saw King Edward lay its foundation stone in 1860.

"When construction work was first started Mr. Redmond was employed as a fireman on the Ottawa and St. Lawrence railroad, and he was promoted to engineer a few days before the first material for the structure was hauled to Ottawa. One train crew was employed for three summers, hauling sandstone and quarry rock from Prescott, where it was landed from streamers on the St. Lawrence river.

"The train made a round trip each day. The first stone used in the building came from the quarries located where the main part of the city of Cleveland, Ohio, now stands. It was shipped to Prescott where it was loaded from the boats onto railway cars by large cranes.

"Mr. Redmond's train did nothing else during three summers but haul the stone. "It required two cars and sometimes three for each piece of stone that was moved to Ottawa," Mr. Redmond said yesterday. "The smallest stone that was hauled by the railroad weighs three tons, and the average weight was about five tons. We moved two stones which weighed nine tons each. I believe that they were the largest that were put into the building.

"Owing to the excessive weight on the cars, which were much lighter than the steel cars now in use on the railroads, it was necessary to run our engines slowly. We seldom went over eighteen miles an hour, and as a rule the fastest time we made was fifteen miles.

"No iron or steel was used those days for the springs on the cars. Solid rubber was used for the most part, and the cars were loaded so heavy that at the end of each trip new springs had to be put in most of the cars.

"Our train was given the right of way over all other trains. This was principally because of the heavy train we hauled. We were permitted to stop only in case of necessity. The necessity came frequently and was caused mostly by the excessive weight on the trucks, which caused many hot boxes.

"My train brought out the first shipment of rock and stone and stone cutters' tools. The first part of the building erected was a massive wall over 500 feet long. It was on the end of the wall that the Prince of Wales laid the cornerstone. Thousands of people witnessed the laying of the stone and I had the opportunity to shake hands with the Prince as did many of the workmen."

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, February 2004.

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