[Home page] [Who is Past Forward ] [Contact Us] [Publications]

Past Forward is now on Facebook "LIKE" us to keep in touch


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 & Almaguin News.

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 being restored. 

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 Sudbury. 

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, transportation, etc. 

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

Past Forward Heritage Limited: 

330 Sumach St. #41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3K7   Tel. (416)-925-8412


Copyright © Past Forward Heritage Limited