||December 2, 2005
The CNR’s Algonquin Route closed
for a decade
Ten years ago last week, November 24, 1995, the Canadian
National Railway line that went 128km and over water 17 times through Algonquin
Park closed. The remarkable history of the line has been recalled in several
articles including one by me in March 2001. Railway buff Raymond Ferand, who I
spoke to again recently traveled on one of the last trips of the train through
the Park and wrote about it in the Bytown Railway Society newsletter. He
pointed out how long the line lasted when he wrote “November 23, 1915 to
November 24, 1995 – after 80 years plus a day the work was done in every way.”
||Headlines from the closing in November 1995. Nugget &
A closing like this has many positive and negative
effects. On the positive side the noise, pollution and danger of the trains
disappeared. In Chisholm Township where I live the silence and safety was
wonderful. In Algonquin Park the conservationists were thrilled with the Park
returning to nature. But with no train transportation many of the station stops
no longer have the service they were accustomed to but most had had reduced
service and roads for years unlike in the early years when the local economies
depended on the trains.
There was a lot of excitement by people and groups who saw
the rail bed as a great roadway for walking, skiing, snowmobiling, ATVing etc!
Some of this has developed but none inside the Park boundaries. It is
interesting to note that after a decade of decay the CNR station in North Bay is
Books could be written on each of the many stops with
evocative names like Alderdale, Wasing & Fossmill in Chisholm Township and names
in the Park like Kilrush, Coristine, Kiosk, Ascalon, Odenback, Daventry, Brent,
Acanthus, Radiant, Traverse, Brawny, Archay, Kathmore and Dahlia. I have
written books on Fossmill and Brent and am working on a book on Kiosk which
includes a look at the nearby stop at Coristine. I wrote articles on many of
the other stops in 2001, all of which are on my website as indicated below.
Kiosk, Brent and Archay remain as MNR access points from Hwy 17 into the Park.
||Steam shovel and narrow gauge dinkey engine helping build
the line 90 years ago.
Railways in the early part of the 20th century
were the backbone of the economy and they sprang up everywhere. The CPR was
completed in the 1890’s but a more northerly line across Canada was badly
needed. William Mackenzie & Donald Mann, 2 brilliant entrepreneurs with a lot
of imagination and other peoples money began to pick up various small lines
leading toward the Transcanadian CNR. They wanted a direct line from Ottawa to
The Canadian Northern Ontario line was this original
Sudbury-Ottawa line which went bankrupt in 1918 shortly after its opening and it
was purchased by the federal government as a part of MacKenzie & Mann’s CNR.
The line had regular transcontinental trains running daily and local trains
running on a regular basis. The stations listed above including Fossmill, Kiosk
and Brent were very dependent on the local train for supplies, tourists,
The Chisholm Township history books are full of references
to the line. The line was originally planned to go across the south side of
Lake Nipissing to Sudbury and some work was started but the line was suddenly
turned north through Chisholm and into North Bay joining the other CNR line that
continues today from Toronto. For a quiet rural community these were crazy
years. There was lots of work alongside many foreign workers. Several farm
buildings had to be relocated and over time people and cattle were hurt or
killed at some of the many crossings. Local people could run into Callander or
North Bay for goods and services and their lives were enriched. By the time the
railway left in 1995 roads and cars had replaced the need for the train and many
of the stations had closed their local service.
|The CNR station restoration in North Bay. D. Mackey photo.
There was a big fight by local farmers in Chisholm when the
line closed. They wanted the rail bed closed to people but this did not
materialize and locally one sees snow machines and ATV’s on the line regularly
without any overseeing organization appearing to be in charge. The section
through Chisholm and East Ferris to the Trans Canada Trails foundation (TCTF)???
Other sections of the line have been developed and others like the park are
dormant. Only time will tell the future of these rail beds. Maybe 10 years
from now on the 100th anniversary there will be a clearer picture on
their use in Ontario’s burgeoning trail system.
Heritage Perspective Home Page