With the building of the railway to Maniwaki between 1890 and 1903, stations were built in the larger villages such as Chelsea, Wakefield, Low, Venosta, Kazabazua, and Gracefield. The Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railway (O&GVR) built one-and-a-half storey structures with steep-gabled roofs. These stations could accommodate the agents' living quarters and waiting rooms. The design did not provide for a freight section. Instead, for this purpose the company built a substantial separate building that stood directly beside the main building along the tracks. To economize, the company used the same architectural design, sometimes with minor alterations, depending on the need.
Two of these freight sheds survive: one next to the Venosta station, still located on the right-of-way, and the other moved from the Low station to a site next to the St-Jean store on Highway 105 in Low.
Other communities were provided with something less substantial, which in most cases did not include an agent. These stations would have a caretaker who opened and closed the station when required and looked after heating. Still others were provided with flag stations. These stations were buildings that provided nothing more than shelter (unheated) from the elements. These did not have a regularly scheduled stop, but did permit passengers to request a stop closer to their final destination. All they had to do was flag the train down or ask the conductor to stop the train there to let them off. Flags were provided in the stations, but often disappeared. Travellers then had to resort to using something they were carrying or had in their baggage or just waving frantically, hoping the engineer would understand that they wanted to get on.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) leased the O&GVR in 1903 (by then the O&GVR was known as the Ottawa Northern and Western), it continued to use the stations that had been built by the O&GVR. Time takes its toll, however, and several stations had to be replaced for a variety of reasons. When this happened, the CPR used its standard designs, making minor alterations when needed to suit local conditions. Gracefield‘s station burned in 1926 and was replaced by a CPR-designed building that survived into the mid-1960s. Wakefield station was demolished in 1929 to provide more room for freight trackage across from Orme‘s Bakery (where the turntable is now). The station that now houses a restaurant was built to replace it.
Other villages that eventually had CPR-designed stations included Cascades, Blue Sea, Messines (originally called Burbidge), and Maniwaki. The Blue Sea, Messines, and Maniwaki stations were built after the CPR leased the line and finally completed construction between Gracefield and Maniwaki.
The CPR also used its own designs when replacing or adding new flag stations. The most frequently used structure consisted of a small room with a veranda. It was of a size that could be conveniently placed on a railway flatcar and moved to the chosen site, and then moved again as passenger demands changed. A few of them survive behind houses and barns, and are now used mainly as storage buildings.
With the abandonment of passenger service in January 1963 most of the Gatineau railway stations were no longer required. Some were torn down or sold, but a few of the larger ones remained in service until the mid-1960s for the handling of orders for freight and express services. The CPR then introduced a centralised customer service in Ottawa and most of the few remaining stations were soon torn down. In 1986, the line north of Wakefield was abandoned all together. Only two stations remain standing: Wakefield as a restaurant and Venosta as a private residence for the section foreman.
The Gatineau railway eased the rigours of travel and also provided the valley with some interesting station designs. The method of travel has come full circle, albeit with much greater speed, as roads have replaced the railway. Nonetheless, part of the Gatineau railway survives, giving us a picture of what it was once like to travel up the valley by train. The few remaining stations add to this and provide a hint of how important the railway was to the local economy and the small communities it served.
Flag station, siding for the mine, named for the Hull Iron Mine. A deposit of magnetic iron ore had been known since 1826 when the Hull Mining Company was formed to operate it.
Thomas Brigham and his nephew, T.B. Prentiss, both came from Chelsea, Vermont and it is believed that this inspired the name of the two Chelseas. Chelsea station was torn down in 1970 but used to be a busy, well-kept depot. Senator Connolly reminisces: "No one could forget the gardener at the station, Mr. Merrifield. 1 suppose the CPR paid him but the station garden was his own, a thing of beauty and he guarded it with his life. Not even Sir William Van Horne could have trespassed on its lawns without a warning from Mr. Merrifield."
Tenaga was one such flag station and passengers got off at 'The Tank'. Tenaga originally had an unusual building that looked more like a guardhouse. For many years beside it stood a watering tank, fed by a nearby spring, for the train. In a pinch, an engine crew could fill the locomotive tender with enough water to see them to the next tank which would provide sufficient flow to complete the fill-up. Wishing to give the stop a more elegant sounding name, "tanaja" which is Spanish for water jug was chosen.
Mr. Thomas Kirk came from Londonderry, Ireland, and got land on both sides of the Gatineau river. He established Kirk's Ferry and teams and loads were ferried on a scow. Kirk's Ferry had a larger flag station, which looked much, like a wooden country cabin with a hip roof and small windows on either side of the centrally located door. It had other amenities: a small stove and benches around the perimeter of the walls. When the railway tracks were re-sited to higher ground because of the hydroelectric developments on the Gatineau River in 1926, it was simply moved, and a separate freight shed was added.
Station used to be called "LaCharite" after a farmer, Augustin LaCharite. LaCharity used to own property which is now the Larrimac Golf course. Larrimac is the namesake of Larry McCooey, a man who started the golf course.
Named after the Burnett family who still own property there.
Named for the rapids on the river. Mr. Homer Cross moved the old station building to his farm. It may be seen behind a farmhouse on the Cross Loop Road, at the junction of Highway 105.
The Aluminium Company mined brucite at Farm Point and closed down in 1969. The old station is now on the property of Mr. Henry Martineau on No. 105 Highway.
The name came from the English city of Wakefield in Yorkshire. "In the early days of the railroad it is said that a Low resident asked at his station for a ticket to 'the Peche' (old name for Wakefield). A new CPR agent was at Low and he thumbed in vain through the list of stations for that name. By the time Wakefield was identified with 'the Peche', the train was gone and the would-be traveller left behind." From Miss Robb's History of Wakefield. Students going to high school in Ottawa by train paid $2.50 a month.
Note the historic home "The Homestead" built by James Pritchard who arrived from Ireland in 1834. The door on this house is most interesting with fan transom and matching sidelights. The commuter train during the last war came as far as Alcove.
Patrick Farrell from Ireland settled here. His descendant, F. J. Farrell runs a general store in the village. St. Camillus Catholic Church is a landmark. The steeple was destroyed in 1954 by Hurricane Hazel.
Named after a surveyor. Low United Church had its 100th birthday in 1969. Another historic home-"Brooks Hill"-restored by Mr. and Mrs. R. Hale, is the farmhouse built by Mrs. Hale's great-great-grandfather, Caleb Brooks, in 1859.
Named after Venosta, Scotland, by John Macauley who came from Scotland and purchased land from John and James MacLaren in 1867.
J. L. Gourlay writes in 'History of the Ottawa Valley'-"Freight is carried by rail at about the same rate as by teams but it is a great convenience for passengers. By train they can do all their shopping in one day instead of the old three days, two on the road in storm and calm, and one in the city."
Mr. S. Grace had the first store here.
A popular summer destination for cottagers had many flag stops along the lake, for example, Fortin-Gravel, Orlo, New Lismore, Ellard, Rockhaven.
The New Lismore flag station was placed along the Gatineau railway for a very particular reason. In 1917, the new Governor General of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire, purchased property on Blue Sea Lake to build a summer cottage. Naturally, travel to his new cottage was by special train, and the CPR constructed a flag station specifically to serve him on the shore of Blue Sea Lake where the line bordered it. He called his cottage Lismore House and the station was therefore called "New Lismore." It survived long after the Duke returned to England, and was used by cottagers in the summer. Four other stations near Blue Sea over a very short distance were also for summer cottagers' convenience.
Named after Joseph Bouchette, a surveyor well known in Canada and England.
Named after a place in Northern France where Canadians fought in the Great War.
Terminus of the railway. Maniwaki is an Algonquin word, which means 'Land of Mary'. Previously called Notre Dame du Desert because the village is situated on a large point formed by the Desert River. The Hudson's Bay Cmpany. had a fort on the Desert. The first regular train left Maniwaki on Monday morning the 8th of February 1904 at 7 a.m.
Excerpt from "Railway up the Gatineau" Up the Gatineau!