Nepean Junction Mystery

Today, Ottawa Central trains going west towards Arnprior or Pembroke take the Beachburg subdivision from the junction with the Walkley Line at Wass.  They cross Ottawa as far as Nepean Junction where the Renfrew subdivision diverges from the Beachburg line.

An early view of
Nepean Junction looking west not long after it was opened to traffic.  This shows the Renfrew line diverging to the left and dropping down to reach the old original alignment.  (Canadian Science and Technology Museum Mattingly collection)

It wasn’t always like this.  The first to be built was the Renfrew line which was opened on 18 September 1893 as part of J.R. Booth’s Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway (OA&PS).  The OA&PS ran out of Ottawa along the alignment of the present day Queensway.  The Beachburg subdivision was opened 22 years later by the Canadian Northern Railway on 15 October 1915.  The Beachburg line crossed the Renfrew line on an overbridge and this state of affairs continued, even after both lines came under the same management of Canadian National in 1923, until 28 September 1952.  On that date, a new connection was opened between the two lines, the junction was named Nepean and all Canadian National trains were diverted over the Beachburg subdivision.  This lead to the abandonment of the former OA&PS line from Island Park Drive west to Nepean Junction and allowed for the eventual construction of the Queensway on much of this alignment.

This shows a westbound freight train on the Beachburg subdivision crossing over the Renfrew line.  The lower line was abandoned in 1952 when
Nepean Junction was laid in and all trains started to use the upper line. (Canadian Science and Technology Museum Mattingly collection)

So far this is a pretty straightforward story.  The connection was put in as the first in a number of stages in the relocation of the railways of Ottawa which was funded by the National Capital Commission.  The funding might be clue as to why it took Canadian National some 30 years to carry out this project which would reduce their track maintenance costs – the funding was provided by the NCC and not the cash-strapped railway. 

A view of the overbridge looking east towards Ottawa just after the lower portion had been abandoned and the rails lifted.
In my title I refer to a “mystery”.  Bridges are a valuable asset and when a bridge is removed, the railway will normally remove it for use elsewhere or sell it for scrap.  However, in this case, the railway, or the NCC, removed the heavy side girders but left the central spacing portion upon which the rails are actually laid.  This was moved and left in the bush close to the Beachburg subdivision, but some way away west of its original location.  It is still there today.  I would be curious to know why part of the original structure was moved and left in the area.


The remains of the bridge abandoned in the bush seen on 18 November 2006.  From a rough measurement, this is the same size as the original bridge.

Ottawa Central Railway, Spareboard, July 2008.

Malcolm Vant writes (December 2019)

It was Colin’s original article that led me to the spot to take more detailed photos which we shared and then the general consensus was this was way too light to be a railway bridge and was not the one from where the Renfrew Sub passed under the Beachburg.
That’s when Bruce Ballantyne and I started to look at the possibility it was used in the nearby quarry for something. It has a bridge-like structure with cross members tying the two side girders together all along its length and it appeared to have "ties" bolted to the top of it as one remains. There are pieces of rail on the ground around it.
The place it sits is on top of some rocks as though it was dragged there and there is no obvious gap it was spanning nearby.
Where and what it was used for remains a mystery

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