Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail

There used to be three interprovincial rail links.

Ottawa streetcar Line H went across the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park.

Hull Electric Railway streetcars went across the Alexandra Bridge to Ottawa Union Station.

CN Rail CP Rail crossed at Alexandra Bridge & Prince of Wales Bridge.

UPDATE 2018-02-14: The Internet tells me that both Alexandra and Prince of Wales were CP Rail bridges.  END UPDATE

Ottawa Electric Railway – Line H

Line H (Hull – St. Patrick) crossed the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park (the solid red line on the map below).

[Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars 1948]
from Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars and Buses 1948

Hull Electric Railway

Three rail lines crossed the Alexandra Bridge.  The outer two tracks were for the Hull Electric Railway streetcars (one line for each direction).  The centre track was for heavy rail, I believe CN rail.  The Internet tells me the heavy rail was CP Rail.

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge approach circa 1915]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Streetcars, Rails & Locks circa 1915 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Greber Plan - Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side]
from Greber Plan – Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side (circa 1948?)

You can sort-of see the rail lines heading up to the Alexandra Bridge (diagonally to the upper left) in this 1928 aerial image below from GeoOttawa, on which just for illustration purposes I have overlaid Confederation Line 1 underground rail and Rideau Station in yellow and red.

GeoOttawa Alexandra Bridge rail lines 1928 and Confederation Line 1

I was unable to find a map for the historical Gatineau streetcar (Hull Electric Railway) but there are photos available.

[Hull Electric Railway cars inbound and outbound near Alexandra Bridge]

Above is Hull Electric Railway (HER) car No. 50 in a clear view of HER cars both inbound and outbound on the tracks to and from Alexandra Bridge, from TrainWeb Hull Electric Company.

[Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa]

Above is a view looking south of a Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa, image CSTM/MAT04642 from Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

The above postcard with colour applied almost certainly originating from this image below posted on Lost Ottawa February 19, 2013.

Lost Ottawa Hull Electric Railway 20130219

The Hull Electric Railway closed in 1947. The terminal was underneath Confederation Square, across from Ottawa Union Station.

Interprovincial heavy rail

Heavy rail crossed the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau on the centre track, and returned to Ottawa over the Prince of Wales Bridge.

There were numerous stations on both sides of the river.

Below is an image of heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge, from Urbsite – Those Museum Trees, The Digester Tower, and a Smokestack.

[heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge] Image captioned “The Pontiac and Pacific Junction Railway Alexandra Bridge is the national capital region’s mightiest engineering landmark.”

Even after the Hull Electric Railway lines were removed in 1947, the heavy rail continued until 1966 when Ottawa Union Station was closed.  You can see just the central rail tracks remaining in this cover image from Canadian Rail (Number 179, July-August 1966 Ottawa Union Station Closes).

Canadian Rail - Number 179 - July August 1966 cover
Photograph by Jim Sandilands.

The Greber Plan Plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa – Hull and Environs 1948 below gives a view of industrial Ottawa, with a mix of passenger and freight rail lines criss-crossing the capital region.

Greber Plan plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa - Hull and Environs 1948

You can see the loop of a train going Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Hull – Prince of Wales Bridge – Bayview Station in the video A train ride from Union Station Ottawa to Bayview via Hull 1966.  You can also see some photos of the various stations in Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

If you want to understand what the planners of 1949 thought about the trains, see this great video: A Capital Plan.  “Today, into the very heart of the city, come the trains to the Union Station, but with them comes smoke and grime and noise.”

Ottawa Union Station - A Capital Plan - 1949 (see above image in more detail on Flickr)

They succeeded in eliminating most of the train lines, and wrapped the region with highways (often running on former rail rights-of-way).  They imagined these highways as “capital arrivals, scenic entries and parkways”.  (They are in practice commuter highways.)

Capital Arrivals
Above was from draft Plan for Canada’s Capital 2017-2067 (PDF), page 103 “Capital Arrivals, Scenic Entries and Parkways” which in usual NCC fashion has disappeared from the web.

NCC Interprovincial Transit Strategy 2013

Since everything that goes around comes around, having eliminated all of the interprovincial rail, the NCC circa 2009-2013 tried to conjure up some ideas about bringing it back, as a light rail loop.

In usual NCC fashion, almost all of the documentation has vanished from the web, including the website

www interprovincial-transit-strategy ca

and the archive website

archives ncc-ccn ca/planning/transportation-strategies/interprovincial-transit-strategy

In fact the only thing remaining on the web is the summary hosted by Quebec’s STO – Connecting Communities: An Interprovincial Transit Strategy (PDF).

Some other sites have preserved the report: Action Sandy Hill has the full report in a Google Doc, and City Centre Coalition has all of the annexes/detailed reports as Google Docs.

I saved the presentation deck, and here is the key slide with their imaginary LRT loop.

NCC Interprovincial Transit - Infrastructure

There was no money and no plan so the whole thing is moot.

It would be great if OC Transpo and STO would at least integrate at the level of payment, but right now all you can do with your OC Transpo Presto card is take STO if you have an OC Transpo transfer or monthly pass.

Ottawa LRT Stage 3 and Gatineau West-End Rail

The only thing likely to happen in terms of interprovincial rail is a resurrection of the Prince of Wales rail link, since all of the infrastructure is still there.  This might happen in Ottawa LRT Stage 3 (which has a reasonable chance of being funded) or, rather less likely and also somehow including an Alexandra rail crossing, in the proposed but not funded Gatineau West-End Rail.

1 thought on “Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail

  1. The Alexandra Bridge was Canadian Pacific, I believe. (The train crossing the bridge in one of the photos is being pulled by a pair of CP F-unit diesels.)

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