A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection

Ottawa to Pembroke over the Canadian Pacific Railway

Our journey starts in the Union Station in the heart of Ottawa, beside the Rideau Canal and across the street from the Chateau Laurier hotel, built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1912.

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The photograph above was taken in May 1945. The view is facing north, and shows the train shed and platforms. Beyond the train shed is the original Union Station, built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1911, and beyond the station is the Chateau Laurier. To the west of the station is the Rideau Canal, the historic waterway constructed by Colonel John By between 1826 and 1832, that flows north-south through the heart of Ottawa. The Parliament buildings are visible in the background.

In the coach yard adjacent to the Rideau Canal, Mattingly and other railway enthusiasts could view the local passenger trains of both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways being cleaned and made up ready for their runs.

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A local Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train in 1936, above, is ready to be drawn into the station to load passengers. It is the train to Waltham, Quebec, via Hull, Aylmer, Quyon, Shawville and Fort Coulonge, and is hauled by a small 4-4-0 type steam locomotive, the largest that could be used on this line. The downtown tracks in Ottawa will eventually be removed and train traffic into the station will cease in July 1966. Except for Union Station itself, all traces of the railway will disappear.

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In this photograph of the coach yard in 1965, before the closure of the old Union Station, the view is looking north, with the Rideau Canal below the embankment to the west. This area now comprises a park and Colonel By Driveway. All of these railway tracks and facilities have since been removed.

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An interesting aspect of railway operations in downtown Ottawa is the delivery of household coal. The New York Central Railway has a coal trestle at Mann Avenue just to the east of the coach yard. This area will eventually be taken over by the University of Ottawa. Hopper cars of coal are brought in and moved up the trestle where they are unloaded by gravity. At the time these photographs are taken, in 1945, Ottawa is heavily dependent upon coal as the prime source of heating during long cold winters. 4-6-0 steam locomotive No. 875 seems to be having some trouble pushing the loaded cars on the steep incline (top), its slow progress evident in the straight column of smoke rising from the locomotive’s stack, but is finding it easier coming down (above), its increased speed evident in the smoke now trailing behind the stack.

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Before getting on the train we must ensure we have a ticket, and there are a number in the Mattingly collection. As family of a Canadian Pacific employee, Mattingly received a preferential travel rate. Both of these tickets involve travel to or from Stittsville. Notice that Canadian Pacific spells the name of this place without the middle s. To village residents, the place was always “Stittsville” but to Canadian Pacific—and Canadian Pacific only—it was always “Stittville.”

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With ticket in hand we can now start our journey. Westbound trains of the Canadian Pacific Railway have a circuitous route leaving Ottawa. It is an interesting diversion for the tourist but adds considerably to the travel time. Upon leaving Union Station, trains first run north above the Rideau Canal locks on a ledge under Major’s Hill Park, then continue north on the Interprovincial Bridge across the Ottawa River to Hull, Quebec. The view in this postcard of the Interprovincial Bridge is from Parliament Hill, looking north across the Ottawa River to Hull.

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The view in this postcard is south from the Ontario side of the Interprovincial Bridge where, if you look back just before entering the Interprovincial Bridge, there are good views of Parliament Hill. The tracks lead south to Ottawa’s Union Station. A Hull Electric streetcar is on the right-hand track. The Chateau Laurier, which blocks sight of Union Station, is in the centre while to the west are the Rideau Canal locks leading down to the Ottawa River, and then the cliffs below Parliament Hill.

There are a large number of postcards in the Mattingly collection. They provide a good record of many aspects of society in the early part of the twentieth century, and form a particularly good historical record as they were taken, in most cases, under favourable conditions. One has to be careful, however, to discern whether important elements have been glossed over in order to improve the picture!

Leaving the north end of the Interprovincial Bridge we enter the province of Quebec and the railway runs on a series of trestles, allowing good views over Hull, now part of Gatineau.

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As a railway enthusiast Mattingly would have been trying to get a glimpse of the small switching steam locomotive used by E. B. Eddy, the well known local match manufacturer, to switch its extensive yards in Hull.

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The first station in Hull is “Hull Beemer," built by two railways, the Ottawa, Northern and Western, and the Pontiac and Pacific Junction. Named after the president of the two companies, Horace Beemer, the station is located where the lines from Maniwaki (to the north) and Waltham (to the west), come together for the final part of their line over the Interprovincial Bridge to Ottawa.

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Our westbound train then runs through the “Hull West” station. This is a view looking east, showing the original Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway station. In the background is the tower that protects the level crossing with Montcalm Street in Hull. The tower man needs to keep a close watch on the traffic on this busy street before lowering the gates for a train to pass. If he lowers the gates too early he will cause unnecessary delay to the frequently impatient vehicular traffic, but if he lowers the gates too late there is a risk of a collision, in which the vehicle almost invariably comes off the worst.

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From Hull, our train turns south, and crosses the Ottawa River over the Prince of Wales Bridge back to Ontario. The station at “Ottawa West” is a signal for a sharp right-hand turn, westward at last. Before turning west, however, there is an opportunity to view the Canadian Pacific Ottawa West roundhouse (unfortunately not visible in this particular view), where the steam locomotives are serviced, as well as the extensive switching yards. The locomotive servicing facility is quite extensive. In the centre of the photograph is the locomotive coaling plant. Beyond it, to the north (upper right), the Prince of Wales railway bridge crosses the Ottawa River to Quebec.

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The Ottawa West station is more important as a railway operating point than it is for the infrequent passengers.

From Ottawa West our westward journey commences in earnest. This part of the route will eventually be used for the OC Transpo Transitway, Ottawa’s rapid transit roadway used exclusively for buses.

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The Canadian Pacific “Westboro” station, located near the future Westboro Transitway station.

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Mattingly lived in Stittsville and spent a great deal of time photographing trains in this area. The top photograph, taken in July 1920, shows the station name, spelled the Canadian Pacific way, set in the roof tiles. It is evident that the station is a very important part of the community. The octagonal tower to the right of the station is the water tank from which the steam locomotives take on their water. Emerging from the centre of the roof is a post with a ball near the top. The ball is connected to a float valve that indicates the water level in the tank, and in this case, the tank is pretty much full. The tank is enclosed so that a fire can be lit underneath in winter to prevent the water from freezing. The photograph above shows the Pembroke local hauled by locomotive No. 1265 making the Stittsville station stop in June 1949.

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Mattingly would walk close to the track to obtain photographs of trains in motion. This is a photograph of a train known as the “York” at Stittsville. This photograph is notable — Mattingly’s notes indicate that it is the “first photograph [he] took with a Brownie box camera in August 1929.”

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In Carleton Place the railway line from Ottawa joins the main transcontinental railway line (known as the Chalk River subdivision) that runs from Smiths Falls to Pembroke, North Bay, Sudbury, and on to western Canada. This is a good train watching spot and there are a large number of images in the collection taken in this area. The bridge over the Mississippi River is another favourite location. The photograph shows a southbound passenger train in July 1945.

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Taken in January 1934, this photograph illustrates that railway work can be very unpleasant and dangerous at times. Trains have to operate in all weather, and all seasons. Train crews need to walk along the tops of the cars at times, and one slip on icy footing almost invariably results in death.

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The Pembroke Local leaves Carleton Place on its way to Pembroke. The locomotive is passing under the block signals, which tell the locomotive engineer when it is safe to proceed.

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On a winter day in 1948 the train is coming off the main line and will be heading towards Ottawa. Mattingly’s comment was, “the engine had a very nice melodious chime whistle and a nice sounding bell.” The block signals are on the right. The first car behind the engine is one for moving live cattle to market. The lower part is painted a distinctive white to allow for manure—the colour, and smell, could quickly be improved with one coat of whitewash. Many cattle were moved by rail to supply the meat demands of the large cities. There was a daily movement of several cattle cars on a daily basis from the west, through Carleton Place, to Ottawa where the cattle would be slaughtered for meat in the rail served slaughter houses.

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The next place of importance on our journey to Pembroke is Arnprior. At the Arnprior station in August 1956 is a heavy locomotive on a freight train. The scene appears well cared for—the station and platform is neat and tidy while the rails and ballast look almost manicured.

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Sand Point, on the Ottawa River, was at one time an important railway town, as the railway’s terminus for a number of years as the line was gradually built up the valley of the Ottawa River. There was a locomotive house and a station with an overall roof, and the top photograph gives an impression of a busy community. However, as early as 1910 Sand Point had become less important, and the photograph above, taken in 1958, shows the railway with little more than a station. Mattingly’s comments were “Pembroke Local. Both now gone for ever. Station torn down spring of 1966.”

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Above is a heavy freight train at Renfrew. In the background is the coal chute, which was built over the tracks. Steam locomotives stop here to replenish their tenders with coal. This is an inescapable fact of steam railways—the locomotive starts out with a full tender at Smiths Falls, yet it has to be replenished at Renfrew in order to make it through to Chalk River, and vice versa.

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From Renfrew there are connecting train services to Kingston via Sharbot Lake as well as to Eganville. Here, locomotive No. 136 is waiting with a mixed train (a train with both freight and passenger cars) bound for Douglas and Eganville.

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There is a small engine house at Renfrew that was built to service the K. & P. locomotives. This railway did not manage to build beyond Renfrew, and eventually became part of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In this photograph, taken in August 1953, steam locomotives Nos. 5328 and 1003 are in the yard beside the engine house.

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Not all railway pictures are happy ones. Above, a locomotive has derailed near the K. & P. engine house at Renfrew. It does not appear to be a very serious accident and the local photographer was quickly on the scene to record the event together with the train crew who endured this frightening ride.

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Pembroke is the end of our ride on Canadian Pacific. The station is close to the Ottawa River, visible in the bottom photograph, and is one of a number of attractive stone stations built by the railway in the principal towns in the Ottawa Valley.