No More Lonesome Whistle

The Brockville and Ottawa Railway has had several names over its long and interesting history – B&O, Canadian Pacific, Ottawa Valley Railway – but no matter what you call it, it’s being taken off life support.
This fine old railroad – which traversed Canada’s first rail tunnel, carried the Prince of Wales in 1860, and was the scene of one of the worst train wrecks in Canadian history in Almonte – will die today (February 5, 2011.) It hasn’t been in use for close to a year and the last opportunity for anyone to buy it as a working entity ends today. CP will tear up the tracks, and probably the counties of Lanark and Renfrew will buy the roadbed for recreational trails and possible re-use if ever needed.
This railway was a major contributor to the industrialization and settlement of many of the Valley towns in the 19th century, but today it’s really a road to nowhere. It can’t really serve as a commuter railway as most traffic runs perpendicular to it on roads to Ottawa. The last viable Ottawa commuter line near Almonte disappeared over 20 years ago.
CP doesn’t need it for slow, heavy, long haul freight transfer either, and there’s no local rail traffic between the small de-industrialized towns it formerly served in the Valley. Perhaps some of it would make a nice scenic tourist railway, but I don’t know how the Carleton Place suburbanites or the inhabitants of Almonte’s poshy downtown condos would like a smoky old Ten Wheeler or light Pacific chugging past their homes in the summer heat. Besides, Ottawa’s already got a steam railway for the tourists.
So after 150 years the lonesome whistle will no longer sound in Almonte. There’s a nice old railway bridge over the Mississippi that’ll be great for pedestrian traffic, and not much else.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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