Quebec Central My 78th Railway, Published 4 April 1944Despite my fairly assiduous travels around Canada, I had never ridden the Quebec Central, and so I jumped at the chance to do it while in Lennoxville. Since I was returning to Ottawa on the afternoon train. I thought up the idea of going down the line and riding back on the Q.C. Thus you find me driving toward North Hatley, where I hope to find my new railway train.
The drive along the highway to North Hatley is in itself a real treat. Below and to the left, the erstwhile Grand Trunk winds its way toward Portland. Far east are the blue peaks of the Boundary Mountains, highest summits in Canada east of the Rockies, always remembering Mount Ste. Anne in Gaspe. To the south are the white-covered, yet blue. Green Mountains of Vermont. Then on the right is the friendly, frozen Massawippi. hibernating from its summer chore of emptying Lake Massawippi into the St. Francis River. Following the serpentine course of the river, and equally serpentine itself, is the Q.C. I am soon to take.
Instead of going on toward Stanstead, the turn-off brings you to Lake Hatley. Here, nestled on both sides of Lake Massawippi. one of the prettiest lakes in Eastern Canada, is North Hatley. But your semi-bird's eye perspective, as you come down the icy road, makes every house look like a toy house, each street like a nursery room counterpart. This place I had seen before. But with the magic of winter sun shining on snow, with each little home enhanced in this setting, I could well believe I was viewing a touched up picture postcard rather than -a real Quebec village.
* * *
Once down at the Q.C. depot, I sat on a bench and viewed the onlookers. I had rather expected they would talk French. Instead, they spoke English, and rather reminded me in manner and in speech of Vermont Yankees. Actually, these people originally came from across the line in many instances, and were, I suppose, Quebec Yankees. I got talking to a man outside about the Bloc Populaire. He said the Bloc got only six votes in North Hatley. I noted that they certainly knew their politics here.
"I suppose." I said, "you know who those Bloc six voters were."
"Just about," he answered laconically.
The former member, R. G. Davidson, has a lovely place, filled with Oriental curios, and whose front lawn is embellished with gliding swans in a pretty pool, about two miles above the village. I learned too late that he was wintering in North Hatley. otherwise, I should have called him. Incidentally, since the French Canadian farmer has gradually encroached on this area, his old post office address Katevale, has been changed to Ste. Catherine de Stanstead. Autre temps, autre moeurs.
* * *
I would not say the Q.C. was exactly on time, though they boasted on the platform she had been three minutes early a few days previous. But she lumbered in a scant 31 minutes in arrears. First came a long string of box cars, then at the back, was our coach. The Q.C. was not giving us much haute monde travel, with all those freight cars up front. I notcd the engine was 2536. When I got home, I consulted my engine book, and found I had last seen her in the Winnipeg shops 26 years ago. Meanwhile, I was riding my 78th railway.
So we wound our way up the valley. The engineer had a trick like no other engineer I ever accompanied. He could throw on the brakes as one does on a motor car. It was a better way than the usual locomotive engineer has, and I think he has something he ought to pass on to his fellow throttlc-tossers.
This was quite a treat, to come like the tail of Mary's lamb, at the very end. and in leisurely swings we insinuated ourselves curvaceously up toward Lennoxville. We passed the ghost station of Eustis. where the Guggenheim interests for almost 100 years extracted copper from the ground, only to wake up one day to find out that the vein had run out. There was another ghost station. Cableton, and still we snaked along the twisting Q.C. Finally, we picked up the outskirts of Lennoxville and were held up till a Canadian National freight got out cf our way.
Though the Q.C. is an adjunct of the C.P.R., it runs, oddly enough, along the C.N.R. to Sherbrooke. where it goes into the C.P.R. station. There I saw on a siding. the Q.C. evening train to Levis, already made up. This equipment does not go beyond Sherbrooke. Why I mention this is because the parlor car for that run is No. 6614, an observation car that was a familiar sight in Ottawa, for years and years, before the parlor car ban of last year.
* * *
I took the C.P.R. at Sherbrooke, discovering as travelling companions such outstanding persons as Major Beverley Puddicombe, old Ottawa boy. and Senator Charles B. Howard.
The train moved deliberately toward Montreal, and once more I got a glimpse of Elephantus, the mountain with the contour of an elephant. Then there was Owl's Head, on the other side of Lake Memphremagog. apparently, yet actually on the same side when you get down there. This international lake, with Magog, Quebec and Newport, Vermont, as its north and south shipping termini, is also another beauty spot.
Traffic was heavy and meets were many, but once out on the double track west of Foster, we ran like Saturday travellers after an empty seat. The result was that 2610 roared across the Caughnawaga Bridge and into Windsor Station on time.
That two hour and ten minute trip to Ottawa on No. 7 behind 2413 was sheer delight. The engineer must have known that Leo Sauve wanted a pleasant trip.