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Operations
Steamin? up the line
Passenger train chugging up the Gatineau line c. 1910.

With the completion of the various sections of the railway, no time was lost in initiating freight and passenger services. During the first ten years of operation, most trains were mixed. Following the C.P.R. take-over, separate freight and passenger services were offered.

In 1914, there were two trains a day each way, except Sundays. Freight service to Maniwaki was offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning to Ottawa the following day.

Service was expanded between 1927 and 1931 to include an additional passenger train for commuter service between Alcove (the next station north of Wakefield) and the nation’s capital. The bunkhouse used by the train’s crews is still standing and is located there, on the west side of Highway 105. During the same period an express train was run non-stop to Kazabazua after which it would stop at each of the stations. This train was run only during the summer on Fridays (northbound) and Sundays (southbound) and was intended for the cottage traffic.

Current tourist train
Tourist train in Wakefield with Steam Engine 909.

During the Depression, passenger service was trimmed substantially. From that time to the end of passenger operations in January of 1963, service consisted of a train each way, daily except Sunday when the Saturday northbound train returned to Ottawa in late afternoon.

Steam-powered passenger trains were utilised until the latter part of the 1950s when, to cut losses (the mail contract having been lost), CP introduced their gas electrics and finally Budd RDC “Dayliners.” Records are sketchy but it appears that the date of the last run of a steam-hauled freight on this line was March 29, 1959. The last regular steam-powered passenger train was January 3, 1960.

Passenger services ended on January 27, 1963 but regularly scheduled freight operations continued until March 1968, with Monday, Wednesday, and Friday northbound trains returning Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. After that, service was as required.

Summer excursions on the train
Summer excursion train operations, with Steam Engine 1201

In 1973 a serious washout occurred just north of Chelsea, putting the branch out of service until 1974. After this, the National Museum of Science and Technology and the National Capital Commission began summer excursion train operations, which ran on a twice-weekly basis until September 1, 1985.

For Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ottawa in October 1977, the Museum of Science and Technology arranged for a “Royal” train to carry Her Majesty up the Gatineau Valley on her way to the Prime Minister’s summer cottage (Harrington Lake in the Gatineau Hills). On a cool rainy October day, steam locomotive 1201 hauled the former Governor General’s cars to Wakefield, Quebec with the Queen on board. The G.G. cars are the same ones, that had carried her mother and father (George VI), across Canada in 1939.

In 1992, the CHOO-CHOO Company began operating a steam train carrying tourists on a scenic journey along the line from Hull to Wakefield. In 1994, the H-C-W (Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield) Company took over the operations. In the current year of 1999, the steam train continues to thrive as a popular attraction, carrying some 50,000 people from all over the world to the beautiful Gatineau region

Ballantyne, Bruce, Up the Gatineau!>

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