Historic Railways

by D.M. Coulter

How the CN itself came to be is part of Canadian history, but the component and varied names of the railways that made up the Cataraqui Trail are not necessarily familiar to all.  Sections of the route have had a number of names as ownership changed, or as expansion took place. The names include- the Napanee, Tamworth and Quebec Railway Co., the Kingston, Napanee and Western Railway Co., the Bay of Quinte Railway Co., part of the Toronto-Ottawa line of the Canadian Northern Railway, and in 1918 part of the Canadian National Railways.

Railway connections to other lines were made at Trenton with the Central Ontario, at Belleville with the Grand Junction, at Deseronto with the Bay of Quinte, at Napanee with the Grand Trunk, at Yarker with the Napanee, Tamworth and Western Railway, at Harrowsmith with the Kingston and Pembroke Railway, at Forfar Junction with the Brockville, Westport and North-Western Railway, and at Smiths Falls with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Napanee, Tamworth and Quebec Railway Co.

This line was incorporated May 15th, 1879 to build from the Bay of Quinte to the Ottawa Valley (90 miles).The Napanee through Yarker to Tamworth section (21 miles) opened for traffic Aug 4th, 1884. The line was sold to E.W. Rathbun in 1886.The section from Tamworth through Marlbank to Tweed (20 miles) opened Nov 20th,1889.

Bay of Quinte Railway and Navigation Co

Under the direction of Edward Rathbun the section from Deseronto to the Grand Trunk Railway near Napanee (4 miles) was completed July 1st, 1881.

Kingston, Napanee and Western Railway Co.

The NT&Q RR above was renamed the Kingston, Napanee and Western Railway Co. April 24th, 1889 when a linkup of 4 miles between Yarker and Harrowsmith and 19 miles of running rights on the Kingston and Pembroke Railway gave access to Kingston.

The extension to Sydenham was completed in 1890. A turntable existed in Sydenham to turn the engine for the return to Yarker.

Bay of Quinte Railway Co.

The Bay of Quinte Railway and Navigation Co. and The Kingston, Napanee and Western Railway Co. merged as the Bay of Quinte Railway Co. in 1896. Development of the mineral fields of Madoc Township resulted in an extension from Tweed to Bannockburn (20 miles) completed Dec 12th, 1903. Here the Bay of Quinte crossed the Central Ontario Railway and terminated.

Old BofQ station houses can be found in Newburgh, Tamworth, Erinsville, Marlbank, Stoco, and Queensborough. Just to the west of Highway 62 in Bannockburn a turntable for the engine allowed for the return trip to Yarker. This turntables foundations and the remains of the station and an engine house can still be seen today.

Canadian Northern Railway

The Bay of Quinte Railway had a peak year in 1905 when it carried 374,000 tons of freight and 104, 771 passengers but unfortunately with a low 7% return of investment.

The subsequent years decrease in traffic resulted in the sale of the line to the Mackenzie and Mann Canadian Northern group Aug 5th 1909. The Rathbuns had $1,400,000 invested in the line, and sold for $500,000 cash and the assumption of $104,303 in debt. This purchase opened the way for Canadian Northern to construct a main line from Toronto to Ottawa. The construction took place as follows:-

Todmorden (outskirts of Toronto) -Trenton        105 miles   Opened Sept 30th 1911

Trenton-Deseronto                                                     28 miles     Opened Jan 30th 1912

Sydenham-Hurdman (Ottawa)                                86 miles     Opened Dec 30th 1913

The Mackenzie and Mann group had also purchased the Central Ontario Railway (156 miles from Picton to Wallace- only 8 miles south of the Grand Trunk line across Algonquin Park to Parry Sound) April 5th, 1909, and the Brockville, Westport, and Northwestern Railway (45 miles) April 1st, 1910. The Canadian Northern became part of the Canadian National Railways December 20, 1918.

Brockville, Westport and Sault Ste. Marie Railway

This railway crossed the Canadian Northern Railway (Cataraqui Trail) at Forfar Station. 40 miles of line started south of Lyn where it was planned to join the Grand Trunk at Lyn Junction for the five miles to Brockville. The planned junction did not take place and a parallel line was constructed to Brockville. The line then ran through Seeley, Glen Buell, Forthton, Glen Elbe, Athens, Lynhurst Station, Delta, Philipsville, Forfar Station, Crosby, Newboro, and terminated at Westport.

The first train ran March 3, 1888, in 1903 the line became the Brockville, Westport and North Western Railway, in 1911 the Canadian Northern purchased it, and in 1919 it became part of the CN. The average trip for the 45 miles took 2 hours and 40 minutes stopping at 16 stations along the way..

The Kingston and Pembroke Railway

From the first public meeting 7 July 1871, to the closure of the line north of Tichborne to Sharbot Lake in 1957 the K&P (known as the Kick and Push) was one of the more interesting lines in Canada. Initially there were stations at Murvale, Harrowsmith, Sigsworth, Hartington, Verona, and Godfrey with a spur line to the iron mine at Glendower, later the line was pushed through Tichborne and Sharbot Lake north to Renfrew, never reaching Pembroke.

The CPR purchased the K&P in January, 1913. The Cataraqui Trail parallels and then crosses the K&P at Harrowsmith.

Line Closures

The CN received permission from the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada to abandon the section of the former the Bay of Quinte Railway Co. from Tweed to Bannockburn in 1934. The section from Yarker to Tweed had the track taken up in 1941. Although some of the right of way can be traced, very little is accessible to the public (some of the route is under County Road 13).

The Brockville, Westport and North-Western Railway closed 1952. Very little of the right-of-way remains.

The last through train on the K&P from Kingston to Renfrew was 1957. On the section from Sharbot Lake to Renfrew through freight trains stopped in January 1932, mixed trains were run from then to June 1960 when passenger service ceased. November 1960 saw twice weekly freight trains from Smiths Falls to Renfrew via the K&P. Station closures started in Sept 1959 and continued to 1963 when the rails from Snow Road to Calabogie were removed. Some freight service continued to Snow Road until the Sharbot Lake to Snow Road rails were lifted in September 1970. The entire route is easily traced, and the section north of Sharbot Lake is used for snowmobiling.

On the Cataraqui Trail (CN line from Napanee to Smiths Falls) the first of services to go were the passenger services, for example the Sydenham Station closed in 1966. The last through train on the now Cataraqui Trail ran in 1979, the line was abandoned in the 1980’s. All of the route from Strathacona to Smiths Falls is now the Cataraqui Trail.