By Dave M
Since 1870, trains travelled over the Carleton Place Sub, which was CP Rail's passenger line from Ottawa to points northwest. I've often wonder how many passenger trains travelled this section of track from Bells Corners to Stittsville, Ashton and Carleton Place. Going through my limited timetable collection (and what I've dug up on the internet), I managed to find timetables 1927, 1939, 1950, 1960, 1966, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1987.
Unfortunately, the Carleton Place Sub was abandoned in 1990. It has found a new life as a very well used recreational path. If you are looking for more information on the Carleton Place Sub, the Mississippi Valley Associated Railroaders has a good site, which you can find here.
Collecting timetable snippets for this post was challenging. I am looking for schedules prior to 1927. If any readers have any spots where I can find old passenger railway timetables, feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks to Dave for this. Next week, I am happy to share another Beachburg Sub reader, Don Douglas's guest post about his successful meet with our favourite weekly train, the Arnprior local in Carp. -Michael
Nice guest post!
Living in Stittsville, this line has always been of interest to me as I recall first moving there in 1990 and seeing trains go through the centre of town. As much as I like the trail, the trains would still be a lot more fun.
As for schedules, this may be a shot in the dark, but you might want to try the Goulbourn Museum (I think they also do the "Did you know" segments for Shad Qadri's weekly newspaper. if I am wrong, contacting them via Shad might help as well) who, from what I know, is a pretty good authority on all things Goulbourn and Stittsville. If they don't have anything, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
Thanks for the comment, AJ. It's fascinating to see all the towns in the valley that once had rail service. Every time I see that Carleton Place Sub remnant in Bells Corners, I wonder how different the LRT would be if they had that old sub in place to Stittsville. I know people out there would be thrilled. As it stands now, they are a long way's away from having commuter rail.
Thanks, Dave and Michael. I was fortunate to traverse this line aboard VIA Rail in the mid-eighties. I was able to take some photos along the line including some meets! Subject of an upcoming Trackside Treasure post!
No problem Michael, glad to help (even if it is pointing to someone else)!
I am the same way when it comes to the valley as my family has lived there for generations. My Grandfather always tells me stories about growing up and making a dime for hauling milk jugs and orange crates off the train up in Barry's Bay. Part of the old line is also special for me in the fact that a good chunk of it up there went through my family's land.
Same goes for Eganville, Renfrew, Douglas, CP, here in Stittsville, etc. All places I frequently drove to, played hockey in and all that as a kid. I think things as far as the burbs, would be completely different. Frankly, I think they would have a GO style commuter had they left the lines in place and it would be a real plus to the community. If anything, I think we would be growing at a much greater pace than we have, just like Ajax, Pickering and Oshawa are doing in the GTA. In fact for homeowners, it would be a good deal as the extra demand would likely have driven up house prices too. Certainly would have changed the direction of the city for the better from my position!
Thanks for the added memories AJ. Eric - I look forward to that post!
@AJ, I enjoy the trail as well, it is a good distance for a bike from Nepean out to Carleton Place and back in a day but I would rather see trains on it as well. I recall at lunch time coming home from school and I would frequently see the VIA train heading west. It was always a small consist in the blue and yellow. Never more than four or five cars from what I recall.
@Eric, I look forward to seeing any images you have on it. I never had the chance to ride the line and it would be great to see some images on it.
Great post as always! These timetables are really interesting to see. I've always been curios to know if freight was present on the Carleton Place sub until it was abandoned.
I'm no expert on the Carleton Place Sub, but it was my understanding that Via was the last railway to use the sub regularly. I know the last train on that line was the Canadian, but I'm not sure when regular CP freight service ended on that line. Perhaps a reader from Ottawa would know better. Anyone?
My parents moved us to Ottawa in 1992, so I only became aware of the line once it was already torn up. I remember snowmobiling on it, and the CP M&O in Ottawa's east end when they were still relatively recently abandoned, and there was still a lot of ballast that would be kicked up onto the trail whenever the snow pack got thin. This is not the case anymore though as there is no sign of it anywhere.
I have scoured online resources for pics and info on the Carleton Place sub, and as far as I know,there was still the odd freight movement on it until the late 80's, possibly in 1988 or even 1989. The concrete facility right beside where Hwy 7 crosses the line was one of the customers I think.
@DaveM - Interesting that it was a small consist. I would have expected it to be a larger one as the Canadian (or maybe it was an Ottawa/Toronto run?).
If it helps, from what I remember in 1989 forward, I don't recall seeing any VIA going through town, but I do recall seeing random freight. I also remember seeing the track removal team pull through Stittsville (We could see it out of the back window of our house at the time), however I didn't understand what it was and assumed it was a regular freight.
As for the customers, I completely recall a small siding running parallel with the main line at that concrete facility from when we would drive by to play soccer in CP. It was in Ashton and I believe it was pulled in the mid 90's? If you go by there today, Hwy 7 has been slightly re-aligned through this section, however the bridge on the westbound side I believe was the original bridge when it was a 2 laner. The Hwy came closer to the cememt plant, but if you check it out, there are a couple of silo/gravity fed storage containers on the north side of the plant. I recall these being along the siding specifically.
BTW I found this link pretty interesting as it describes the situation in the mid 80's when CP was looking to abandon the line. It includes the opposition and opinions of the municipalities, province and towns/townships.
I expect that the reason for the small consist was that it was connected up with the full consist in Sudbury I think (with other part from Toronto).
The attached government finding is interesting, it listed the revenues for the line to be 1649$ in 1987. With zero car loads of freight, does that mean that is how much VIA paid to use the tracks? So, with two daily runs a day, if the above assumptions are correct, that should bring the total cost per run for VIA to be 2.25$. Now if VIA was the only group running trains (since there were no car loads, why is it that the revenue were 5609$ if VIA didn't change its frequency. My assumptions must be wrong, or someone was cooking the books.
I think your likely onto something. In the past when I see requests to abandon a line, they almost always have been following dropping revenues and use. The one thing that stands out in the majority of cases is that while the dropping of customers and use is legitimate, what you don't see is the increasing price of the service passed onto customers. As anyone can guess, basic economics will suggest a point will be reached where it is no longer economical and customers bounce to other forms of transportation. AS I am sure you know, it's been argued that this was the case for Beachburg as well as the CP Pembroke sub's. For the train company it is more about removing the liabilities as well as the costs of regular maintenance vs. profit for the line.
Sadly, in this case, I thought the exact same thing - with Via doing steady runs, how could the costs and profits be so low? And if this was the case, why didn't VIA secure the line for their own use and cutting out the middleman? This would be a steal you would think? As for the revenue (and hopefully someone can verify this), would it be possible that a share in the revenue for thru traffic (say a Montreal-Toronto load) that uses the line, splits off a percentage in order to inflate the lines revenue? Or would they have counted only revenue directly accumulated from operations originating/ending on the line?
Perhaps we need to find if any similar docs exist regarding the VIA line from Walkley to Smiths Falls to see if there is comparable numbers.
As for VIA taking on the line themselves, it would have been a hard sell to drop a reasonable amount of cash for upkeep of the lines (assuming the figures are accurate) into a line with only two trains a day (and limited patronage on those routes).
I'm trying to think of when VIA has purchased tracks outside of their corridor service. I recall that recently for a piece of track between Miramichi and Bathurst, they spent a bunch of money, but I'm unsure if that was to purchase or to pay CN to do repairs.
Here's a link to a photo of the final Via Rail train on the Carleton Place Subdivision in January 1990.
What we need to remember is that, in 1990, Via Rail was reeling from massive funding cuts and a stagnant economy. Any move to save a rail corridor for two daily passenger trains was likely a non-starter.
Great comment thread! Let's keep it going like a Pan Am Games volleyball game! This topic has legs.
Seeing 6409 at Stittsville made me think you might like the final two VIA consists on the line:
VIA No 1 at Montreal on January 14, 1990: 6409-15417-9664-755-3232-5503.
Same day, No 2 at Sudbury: 6443-15444-9632-754-3213-5478-5648.
I checked my photos and I have us making a meet with No 2 and a freight train, plus photos of Arnprior, Petawawa, North Bay and a couple more. I WILL post these to Trackside Treasure, soon!
Great picture Michael! And interesting comments everyone!
I agree with you on the economics Dave, more so with the context Michael mentioned. I expect it would be the cost of repairs as well as potential repairs in the foreseeable future that deterred their interest. That said, I bring it up since I believe VIA purchased the line between Smiths Falls and Ottawa and Ottawa and Montreal (may be contracted out by CN instead - not sure on that). While I am suggesting it would mean a decision to kill one over the other, I often wonder why they current route was spared and not the Ottawa-CP route? Saving a corridor for two trains doesn't make sense, but re-routing all traffic instead of the current route - assuming that the conditions (line repair costs, speed, etc.) were identical - would. As much as I am passionate, perhaps it's the ridership numbers (numbers I don't know) that made this decision.
As for the NB line you mention, I heard about that as well. I thought they were in talks to purchase it from CN, however I don't recall anything more than that. I want to say that the biggest problem was a bridge being out and needing repair? (maybe I am thinking of the Churchill MB line?)
The bottom line is we all wish this service was continued, but the ridership numbers didn't support it. The Chalk River sub was actually serviced by an RDC for a couple of years in the mid 80's. The government cut back on VIA funding in 1981 and a lot of routes were lost. The CP route between Montreal & Ottawa may have been shorter than the Alexandria sub, but for some reason it was mothballed in favour of a different route. In 1990, the funding cuts were even worse and this spelled the death of the Carleton Place sub. Had there still been VIA service on it today, there is a possibility that there would have still been rail service all along the CP line, but without subsidies, CP couldn't justify the cost.
If only we could have been present for those decisions 30 years ago.
Eric - I look forward to seeing that post. Dave M seems to have struck a nerve with readers.
AJ - I think the difference between Via buying the Smiths Falls Sub and any possible purchase of the Carleton Place Sub is a matter of strategic importance. The Smiths Falls Sub is a vital link in Via's busy Toronto-Ottawa corridor service whereas the Carleton Place Sub was hosting two trains daily on a line that served no other practical use. We need to remember that CN still uses part of the Smiths Falls sub for its local service.
But I agree with you that these decisions are almost never made with anything in mind other than the immediate near-term considerations.
Prior to 1984 the speed limit on CNR's Smiths Falls Subdivision was 50MPH passenger, 40MPH freight. The rails were rolled in the 1930's, and 85lbs. The Carleton Place Sub. was 70MPH passenger and 60MPH freight, as was the section of the Beachburg Sub heading towards Bells Junction from Federal. They could have easily chosen to route the trains to Toronto through Carleton Place, just as the pool trains did up until 1966.
I remember in the summer of '84 VIA trains to/from Toronto detoured over the Carleton Place routing. It was awesome seeing LRC trains headed west on the Beachburg Sub. I wish I could have seen them on the CP sub. Certainly someone must have photographed these detours.
Also, around 1985 or 1986 CP ran a train of all it's out of service stored cars at what is now the Trainyards development on the Carleton Place sub. I only caught it out of Walkley Yard headed west... the only CP freight train I ever saw going west on the Walkley line. Those out of service cars were all 40 foot boxcars in the block and script paint schemes... something that is now extinct. There was an autorack unloading facility where Trainyards is now, and in the mid 80's it was abandoned and being used to store dead cars.
I'd be ok offering a bounty on any pics of a LRC on the Carleton Place routing! :)
its too bad it was removed it would have been good for a regional rail line as it would have allowed almonte and cp to be part of the planned new moose transit
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