Back when I started this blog, I made sure I learned the history of the railway lines in my own back yard. I look back on the initial posts I wrote and I laugh. I have learned so much about the history in my own back yard since beginning The Beachburg Sub.
On New Year's Day, I decided to take some photos of the railway bridges around Bells Corners, just so I have them in my files in case I need them in the future. What started as a simple trip turned into a surprising railway archeology expedition.
My last stop was to get some photos of the old CP Carleton Place Subdivision, which was Milepost 9 on that sub (named Nepean on the CPR route map). The remnants of that sub have been used by CN in past years to store cars, but there have been no cars on that stub track in months. I took a couple of quick snaps of the rusty old stub, including the end of line. I guess railways use red octagons as well (below).
You will recall from my first post about this area that this is what is known as Bells Junction on the CN route map. This junction dates back to 1966 when the National Capital Commission pulled most rail lines from central Ottawa as part of a beautification scheme. Before CP branched off at this junction, the CPR's old line passed under the CN Beachburg Subdivision a little further west of this spot, close to where Moodie Drive dips below the CN rail bridge. In 1990, CP hosted the last run of Via's Canadian through the Carleton Place Sub and promptly abandoned the line afterward. The old roadbed was sold to the old regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, which converted the line into a recreation trail. Imagine how useful this line would be as a commuter line, especially where it passes though the growing west end communities of Stittsville and south Kanata.
A small reminder of more useful times for this stub (Spring 2013).
In between where the old CP track curves away from the CN line, there's an isolated and deep gulley (below), which is inaccessible in summer. I had to walk around the old stub track and cross over a frozen drainage ditch to get into this gulley. A small portion of Stillwater Creek had not yet frozen even though New Year's Day was bitterly cold in the city.
I knew that I was in the location where the old CP line crossed under the CN line. What I was searching for was some hint of the old CP railbed under the Beachburg Sub. This was what it looked like in 1965 (first shot below), before the CP line was ripped up, replaced by the CP turnout off Beachburg at what was known as Bells Junction. This shot and the following three are all from the Canada Science and Technology Museum collection, showing the old CP right-of-way.
Here's a shot of a CPR passenger train in 1945. How times have changed. There was no development at all.
Bells Corners has grown all the way to the edge of the CN tracks. Any traces of this old CP line in the Bells Corners core have been buried under by office buildings.
Here's a more recent shot of CPR train in 1965, a year before this section of the right-of-way became history.
Here's one final shot of a long CN passenger train heading west, approaching the old CP crossing in 1965. Getting shots of trains near this steep embankment are now much more difficult, given the development right up to this line and the extremely light schedule (one freight in each direction, each Wednesday).
So, back to my adventure. When I trudged my way into the gulley, my goal was to find a safe way to climb up the embankment and get a shot of the right-of-way from the edge of the woods near the track (so I was not trespassing). Through the trees, I saw something jutting up beside the tracks, which caught my attention. You can just make it out in the shot below.
Once I made my way up the embankment, I got another shot. If I was not mistaken, this is an old piece of the CN bridge over the old CP line. The graffiti on the old cement form shows I'm not the first person to find this spot.
Once I made my way up to the edge of the tracks, I took a quick shot. This perspective gives you an idea of the elevation of the line compared to the surroundings.
I took a quick shot across the tracks at an adjacent cement form. Looking either way, I couldn't make out any hint of the old CP right-of-way, so I didn't bother taking any shots. Checking out the area with Google Satellite images confirmed that I had found the old CP right-of-way, which is now a forested barrier between farm fields north of Bells Corners. With that help, I am sure that this was where the old bridge was located.
Here is the satellite image, which shows clearly where the CP line once was. The blue pin was where I was. The diagonal forested line (top right to bottom left) is the old CP line. The curving track is the old CP Carleton Place Sub. The straight line is CN's Beachburg Subdivision. You can see a spot where the brush gives way to heavy ballast. This was quite noticeable when I visited this spot. The heavy ballast is likely what was used to fill in the hole where the CP line passed beneath the CN line. Even now, decades later, very little grows between those rocks for some reason.
I should mention that getting to this spot was not easy. If you are so inclined, be sure to try in the winter. There is no way you will be able to make it through the brush in the summer. Also, stay off the tracks, even ones that are sparsely used like this one. It's private property after all and there's always a chance of a train, so be safe.