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A new aid to the Gatineau Valley steamed in about the turn of the last century: when the railroad was finally completed to Maniwaki.

Planned for many years, with many stops and starts, it finally was completed and as far as transportation was concerned this was a welcome addition.

The railway line to Maniwaki was incorporated in 1871 under Quebec Statutes as the Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railroad Company to build "from or near the village of Hull to a point at or near the confluence of the Desert and Gatineau Rivers" (Maniwaki). Included on the first Board of Directors were such prominent Gatineau Valley individuals as E. B. Eddy, Alonzo Wright, John MacLaren, Andrew Pritchard, and Patrick Farrell.

Building the railway
Building of the railway. A family poses for a picture

As with so many railway projects of the last century, a number of years passed between incorporation and actual construction; some 11 years, in this case. Finally, on June 15, 1882, the first sod was turned "at a site 1/4 miles north of the Aylmer Road near the toll gate." Alonzo Wright and Murray Mitchell, the railway's Chief Engineer, were given the honours of digging.

Delays continued, however, and local politicians became dissatisfied with the lack of progress. During several meetings of Hull council early in 1886, O & GV representatives were questioned. They responded with a whole host of excuses for the delays. In fact, it was not until the end of the decade that any significant activity took place.

The first indication that work had commenced was in 1890 when various accounts reveal that construction was actually taking place. By this time W. Dale Harris, who was to hold the position until 1896, had replaced Murray Mitchell as Chief Engineer. Harris was faced with a particularly "sticky" problem in the form of clay which plagued construction south of Wakefield. Embankments collapsed and culverts shifted, causing more delays.

The first train to Wakefield
First train up the Gatineau, one mile south of Wakefield, 1892.

Finally, the Hull-Wakefield section was ready for government inspection in October of 1891. Regular passenger service started in 1892 and during this time construction continued north of Wakefield. The line reached Farrellton in December of 1891 and Low in August of the following year. On February 14, 1893, the first train reached Kazabazua: regular passenger service to there started approximately one month later.

Gracefield was reached in 1895 with the first regular freight train arriving on October 21. By this time, some of the leading figures involved in the line had changed, as had the name.

On July 23, 1894, the line was incorporated as the Ottawa & Gatineau Railway Company. The leading directors were H.J. Beemer, M.S. Lonergin, J.E.W. Currier and J.D. Mullarky.

Following the completion of the railway to Gracefield, the pace of activity slowed to a crawl. No further activity appears to have taken place until 1900 when records reveal that rock cuts were worked on to the north of the community.

In May of 1901, the name of the railway was again changed and plans were formulated to take over the Pontiac Pacific Junction Railway (Push, Pull and Jerk) to Waltham in the Pontiac region. The O&G thus became the Ottawa Northern & Western, amalgamating later that year with the PPJ.

The following year (November 1902) the ON & W was leased to Canadian Pacific for 999 years. Under C.P.'s control, construction picked up. Grading was completed to Blue Sea Lake by April of 1903 with track laying being completed in June. Finally, In January of 1904, the rails were in place to the end of track at Maniwaki.

Though it took more than 20 years to reach Maniwaki, the line's promoters had dreams of expansion all through the building period. In 1887, the company's charter was amended to permit the construction of a railway all the way to James Bay, a provision that Canadian Pacific retained until the 1930s. A further amendment in 1894 permitted the company to extend to Lake Temiscaming while newspaper accounts of the day also mentioned the possibility of a branch to the east to Buckingham.

The only actual new construction occurred during 1926 when the tracks between Chelsea and Cascades were re-routed because of the building of the Chelsea dams. The old line was to be flooded along this part of the route.

In 1958, CP. Rail officially absorbed the company.

Ballantyne,Bruce,Up the Gatineau! Vol. 17, 1–3.

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