Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Argenteuil Railways and a Lachute Map from 1937

My grandmother, Mabel Rodger, took this photo in 1922. After graduating from Macdonald College, her first teaching job was here in Staynerville. This is the earliest confirmed photo (by our ancestors) of a railway subject. Thousands have been taken since.

You can see the shadows cast by the morning sun on the original Staynerville station used by the CPR on its former Montreal to Ottawa mainline. Notice the milk cans at the lower left corner, sitting on the main track platform. 

Rolling in on the main track at Staynerville is an eastbound train heading for Lachute and Montreal. A few years earlier in 1916, a timetable showed that the 'morning' train arrived at around 0815hr. An express and a baggage car are following immediately behind the locomotive, and the milk cans shown in the previous photo will likely be loaded into one of them. Just beyond the platform of the station's freight shed you can see the white chute through which livestock could be put onto railway cars.

On the locomotive a crewman seems to be leaning from the fireman's side window. The running board door of the cab is open - perhaps for ventilation on a warm early summer's day.

The printing data on this Canadian Government topographic map indicates it was produced with the co-operation of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and from aerial photographs by the Royal Canadian Air Force. The most recent reprint of the map was in 1937. It shows local railway lines at their fullest extent before the track abandonments on the Great Depression.

Segments of this map will appear below to show local transportation infrastructure as it existed back then.

This old map shows compass needle variation, but also includes an insert map of the location of benchmarks (particularly on the CPR line) and the lines of the railways through the Ottawa valley near Lachute. Before modern navigational aids, aircraft pilots could often find their way between major centres by simply following the 'iron compass' - that is, the railway tracks.

This segment of the map shows the connection between the CPR mainline and the spur leading to Brownsburg. The spur was shortened in subsequent years.

This CPR Public Timetable from April 15, 1936 shows the relatively light passenger traffic through Lachute. Beginning in approximately 1900, the CPR line through Vankleek Hill carried the fast passenger trains and the line through Lachute became a secondary line. Notice that trains 422 and 423 use the CPR Place Viger Station, while the other two use the CPR Windsor Station.

Here is Lachute in detail showing the 1937 status of the CPR and Canadian National Railways lines through town.

from: Ville de Lachute 1885-1985; City of Lachute - photo undated.
A photo of the original station used by the CPR at Lachute. 

from: The Railway Builders; Oscar D Skelton; 1920; Glasgow, Brook and Co.
The Canadian National Railways line passing through Lachute (which was removed during World War Two) was originally intended to be part of a much larger transcontinental system - the privately-owned Canadian Northern Railway. The Canadian Northern's tracks are shown on the map above. Before World War One, this railway was already well-established with an extensive branchline network on the Prairies and a new line reaching Vancouver.

Its builders bought and/or built Quebec railway lines which would enable it to transport grain directly from the west to its huge grain elevator at Quebec City - avoiding Montreal and Toronto. The transcontinental line, as shown above, was completed during World War One, but the railway was later forced into bankruptcy by The Canadian Bank of Commerce, and taken over by the Canadian government to form part of the Canadian National Railways.

Before the bankruptcy, the Canadian Northern builders had ALSO completed the Mount Royal Tunnel (not shown above) into downtown Montreal and the line through St Andrew's East (not shown above). Their idea was to have a rail corridor running between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto using the tunnel and the line through St Andrew's East.

This Hawkesbury-Grenville portion of the 1937 map shows the (former) Canadian Northern Railway crossing of the Ottawa River. You can see spurs into Hawkesbury industries as well as a spur to the wharf on the Grenville side. The Canadian Northern builders had bought the roadbed of the former Carillon and Grenville railway and used part of the latter's roadbed for their line along the river. The spur to the wharf likely originated with the Carillon and Grenville as its business was to speed passengers around the canals during the summer months.

This map segment shows the full length of the Grenville Canal, its horse tow path and its locks. The canal can be seen ending at 'Greece Point'.

Continuing east from the Greece Point, we can see a ferry operation between Chute a Blondeau and Cushing. 

Cushing Junction requires some explanation. This is the junction of the two main Quebec railway lines of the (former) Canadian Northern. The one to the north has come from Quebec City, passing through Lachute and St Philippe. The one to the south has come from Montreal, through the Mount Royal Tunnel, and has passed through St Andrew's East and Carillon. Continuing west from Cushing Junction, trains would cross the railway bridge at Hawkesbury and travel to Ottawa via the south shore of the Ottawa River. From Ottawa, westbound trains would proceed to either Toronto, or via Sudbury to the Prairies and Vancouver. 

At Carillon we can see the original Carillon Canal and locks, and the earlier dam and power house. You will also notice the remnants of the canal built between the Ottawa and North Rivers - I believe this was intended to transport water - not boats.

In the St Andrew's and Pointe Fortune area you'll notice that no spur has yet been built to the gravel pit at St Andrew's. Of particular interest is the CPR commuter line from Montreal via Rigaud which arrives at Pointe Fortune - and stops short of the Ontario border.

Here is a CPR suburban train ready to leave Pointe Fortune in the 1890s.

 Here is another CPR suburban train ready to leave Pointe Fortune in 1912.

Notice that the train length and the apparent power of the locomotive used have increased, suggesting a demand for quick transportation between Montreal and the Carillon area. In the second photo is a cart containing milk cans.

Both locomotives are specially designed so they could run in reverse but still provide good track visibility for the crew. This meant that the engine could be simply run around the cars at or near the end of the line where no locomotive turntable was available.

Both photos from: Canadian Pacific Steam Locomotives; Omer Lavallee; 1985; Railfare.

Leaving the CPR Rigaud to Pointe Fortune branchline, and again following the CNR track east from St Andrew's, we pass Ro(d)gerdale and Lalande. All three stations were locations where full milk cans for Montreal were loaded onto a morning 'milk run' train with the empties sometimes returning on an evening train.

My father made the following notes on local operations probably circa 1930-1950 
St Andrew's - milk was shipped to Montreal from here.
Rodgerdale - milk stop, people sometimes got on/off.
Lalande - Ross, Stewart MacAdam, River Rouge. 

The photos below are NOT from the Lachute area but show the typical Canadian activity of loading milk cans on a train for transportation to a city dairy.

I have been told that around Geneva an individual farmer would transport (for a fee) the cans of a few neighbours to meet the train at St Andrew's. In the winter, a horse-drawn sleigh would be used as most rural roads were not plowed for automobiles until after World War Two. I think there was also a note by my father that the Geneva mik sleigh (and winter sleigh road) headed off in a more cross-country direction as snow accumulation was lower there than on the public road used during the warm season.

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The following timetable shows the 1922 public train schedule of the Canadian National Railways (as reproduced in an article of the Upper Canada Railway Society bulletin of March 1987). The bankrupt Canadian Northern Railway had been taken over by the CNR only a few years before.

Spot the milk run!: Train 82 leaving Hawkesbury at 0530hr and getting to Montreal via the Mount Royal Tunnel at 0750hr.

The following is a Canadian National Railways timetable from 1928 (as reproduced in the CRHA Kingston Rail of May 1993). By this time, the bankrupt former Canadian Northern lines had been combined with the bankrupt former Grand Trunk lines on the same CNR timetable page.

Only a gasoline-electric or diesel-electric self-propelled passenger coach (shown as 'motor train') still provided through passenger service between Montreal and Ottawa via St Andrew's East and the Hawkesbury railway bridge. 

But the milk run from Hawkesbury to Montreal through the Mount Royal Tunnel still survived!

(Montreal to Ottawa fast passenger trains on the CNR ran from Bonaventure Station in Montreal and through Coteau. This was the former Grand Trunk route - not shown.)