Monday, January 2, 2017

The original Carleton Place Subdivision in 1966-67

Canadian Pacific's history in Ottawa goes back to the late 1800s, although there isn't much that the casual observer will see of the railway's legacy in this city today. However, if you dig deep enough, there are some fascinating hints of Canadian Pacific's past in Ottawa, including a number of spots where you can spot the old Carleton Place Subdivision, a line that dates back to 1870 when it belonged the broad-gage Canada Central Railway. Let's go digging.

The Carleton Place Subdivision was brought under the CP umbrella in 1881, after it acquired the operations of the Canada Central Railway, a road that stretched from Brockville to Mattawa in the Upper Ottawa Valley at the time (that main line was originally the Brockville & Ottawa Railway before it merged with CCR). The Carleton Place Sub essentially connected Ottawa to the Brockville-Mattawa main line, which ran through Carleton Place.

For our purposes, we are going to focus on the modern history of the Carleton Place Sub, which connected CP freight trains and passenger trains (later Via Rail passenger trains) with CP's Chalk River Subdivision and points west on CP's transcontinental main line.

Photo from the Canada Science and Technology Museum online archives

We'll start on the east end of the subdivision as it was before it was ripped up. If you travelled on this sub as it was originally laid out, you would have boarded a train at the Ottawa West train station, on the western fringes of the area known as the LeBreton Flats, just west of Ottawa's downtown core. This station was a bit of an anomaly, as CP at one point didn't use the city's main Union Station downtown for its transcontinental passenger trains (They did in fact stop at Union Station, according to a reader, see below). This changed, of course, when the downtown station closed in 1966 and a new station opened on Tremblay Road. I was told by a local rail historian that the Union Station accommodated CP's corridor trains but the pictures I have seen of the Ottawa West station clearly show the Dominion and the Canadian both used this as their Ottawa stop. I'm not sure why this arrangement was made.

This is what the CP operations looked like at the eastern end of the Carleton Place Sub in an area generally known as Bayview.

The red line shows you the general direction of the current O-Train Ellwood Subdivision, although the line is no longer continuous through to the Prince of Wales Bridge (light blue arrow, top of image. The blue line (bottom left) shows you the beginning of the old Carleton Place Subdivision as it left Ottawa West station (red arrow). The right-of-way is now the Transitway, a road reserved for the city's express commuter buses.

Just about all traces of this scene are gone now, although in the bottom right corner, you will see a green arrow and purple arrow. Both of these buildings still stand. One is a former truck facility that is now home to the City Centre plaza, a unique collection of artisan shops and eateries. The purple arrow shows you an old CP office building, which somehow survived years of redevelopment. It is now home to an art gallery after languishing for years.

From Ottawa West yard, it was a short trip west to Westboro, a now tony subdivision, which once had its own train station at the end of Roosevelt Street, situated on what is now the Transitway.

The spot where the station once stood is now a trench where the Transitway passes through. You'd never know a station once stood here, if you didn't know the history of the Transitway.

This shot above, taken in 1952, shows the Westboro station as it stood in its prime. By the time the NCC's vision for Ottawa began to change the face of Ottawa in 1966-67, this station was doomed. It was torn down shortly after this part of the Carleton Place Sub hosted its last freight train in the fall of 1967. By this time, passenger service through Westboro was already history, as the final Canadian passed by the neighbourhood in 1966.

Here's what the right-of-way looked like in 1965. Today, this right-of-way still exists, but it now exists as a trench that hosts a two-lane bus express road, known as the Transitway. That road was constructed in the early 1980s and was officially opened to buses in 1983. The red arrows show you the right-of-way in its final years. The yellow arrow  shows you Ottawa West station where the subdivision started. Toward the bottom of the image, the blue arrow shows you a small spur. I'm not sure if that was a CP customer or if it was a rail shed, which was once located near the old Westboro station.

Below you will find a view of 3105 Carling Avenue, also in 1965. Although much has changed since then, it's still easy to see this former crossing, now part of Trans Canada Trail. Just look for the pedestrian crossing near Andrew Haydon Park. That's the old Carleton Place Sub.

The shot below shows you what was then known as Acres Side Road in 1965. The road is now known as Holly Acres Road and is pretty much a feeder road between Carling Avenue and Richmond Road. In the shot below, you can see the old right of way, where the red arrow is pointing. The yellow arrow shows you where the Queensway ended at the time. Of course, the 417 goes all the way to Arnprior now and much further as Highway 17. Just to the left of the red arrow is the beginnings of one of Ottawa's more notorious neighbourhoods, Bayshore, although the area has been cleaned up significantly in recent years.

Past Bayshore, the old Carleton Place Sub passed through farmland before reaching Bells Corners. When it reached this neighbourhood, it crossed beneath the CN Beachburg Subdivision. The shot below shows you what the crossover looked like shortly before it was scrapped. In its place, CP trains were marshalled west in Ottawa over the Beachburg Sub until they hit Bells Junction in Bells Corners. This junction is just east of Moodie Drive an it served as the new beginning of the Carleton Place Subdivision.

Photo from the Canada Science and Technology Museum online archives. Check out those railfans trackside! You can't get that close to the rights of way now.

I played around with a few title ideas for this post, which has been in development for more than a year. It really seemed like the 1966-67 timeframe was the last gasp for railways in Ottawa. This line, of course, was of little strategic importance to CP east of Bells Corners, so the junction idea seems like a reasonable compromise, even in retrospect. But given how useful these old lines could be for Ottawa's light rail ambitions now, it makes you question when rails are ripped up and when no one does a thing to preserve the rights of way for future use.


Jeff L. said...

I have pre-1966 CP timetables that clearly show that the Canadian Pacific transcontinental trains stopped at the old Union Station, but that they also stopped at Ottawa West. I believe the engineer and fireman would change crews at Ottawa West instead of Union Station (the train crew, Conductor etc., may have changed crews at Ottawa West as well, but perhaps at Union Station.)

I may not be completely correct about this, perhaps someone knows for sure.

Michael said...

I thought it was curious as well that CP's transcontinental trains wouldn't stop at the old Union Station, but I was told that was the case by a rail historian at Doors Open Ottawa at the old station. Thanks for the added info. I have no reason to doubt old timetables!

AJ said...

Great post!
While I pay a lot of attention to the more modern Beachburg sub and the CP sub (I have both experienced activity on each in person which helps!), I don't really know much about how the area used to be back in the 40-70's and the role the lines played at that time. The little I have seen to date has been old pics or maps which have been interesting to see how much or in some cases little the landscape has changed. For example, I am now on the bus and getting off at Westboro daily and after your post, it is interesting to both think about how the CP sub not only came through there, but taking the time to sort of see it's former path while I am around there.
As I am sure you expected - I completely agree - the value that line could have today would be outstanding. I am a big fan of the transit way for bus use, but a heavy rail line would solve a lot of the current problems!