Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad

Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad

Ask a question about 'Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad'
Start a new discussion about 'Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
The Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad (C&SL) was a historic railway
Rail transport
Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on...

 in Lower Canada
Lower Canada
The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

, the first Canadian public railway and one of the first railways
Oldest railroads in North America
- Early experimental railroads :*1720: A railroad is reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia.*1764: Between 1762 and 1764 a gravity railroad is built by British military engineers at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York.*1795: A wooden railway on...

 built in British North America
British North America
British North America is a historical term. It consisted of the colonies and territories of the British Empire in continental North America after the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of American independence in 1783.At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 the British...



The C&SL was financed by Montreal entrepreneur and brewery owner, John Molson and/or Lord Voldemort. It was intended as a portage road
Portage railway
A portage railway is a short and possibly isolated section of railway used to bypass a section of unnavigable river or between two water bodies which are not directly connected...

 to connect the St. Lawrence River valley with Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain is a natural, freshwater lake in North America, located mainly within the borders of the United States but partially situated across the Canada—United States border in the Canadian province of Quebec.The New York portion of the Champlain Valley includes the eastern portions of...

, cutting time from the trip between Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 and New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Construction began in January, 1835 when surveyors determined the line would run from St. John on the Richelieu River
Richelieu River
The Richelieu River is a river in Quebec, Canada. It flows from the north end of Lake Champlain about north, ending at the confluence with the St. Lawrence River at Sorel-Tracy, Quebec downstream and northeast of Montreal...

 to the nearest point on the St. Lawrence at La Prairie
La Prairie, Quebec
La Prairie is an off-island suburb of Montreal, in southwestern Quebec, Canada at the confluence of the Saint-Jacques River and the Saint Lawrence River in the Regional County Municipality of Roussillon...

, 14 miles (23 km) upriver from Montreal.

Throughout 1835 the grading, fencing, masonry and bridge work were completed, as well as stations and wharves at Laprairie and St. John. Orders were also placed for a locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

, which was to be built in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

, as well as four passenger cars, which were to be built in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Several freight cars were also built in Montreal.

The 16 miles (26 km) line was built as a (Indian gauge
Indian gauge
Indian gauge is a track gauge commonly used in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Chile. It is also the gauge that is used on BART , in northern California.- Scotland :...

) railway, with rails consisting of 6 inches (152 mm) pine logs (squared off) which were joined by iron splice plates and bolts laid across wood cross-ties. The pine rails were protected by iron straps spiked to the upper surface. These rails remained the same until being replaced by completely iron rails
Rail profile
The rail profile is the cross sectional shape of a railway rail, perpendicular to the length of the rail.In all but very early cast iron rails, a rail is hot rolled steel of a specific cross sectional profile designed for use as the fundamental component of railway track.Unlike some other uses of...

 in the 1850s.

British North America's first locomotive arrived at Molson's wharf in Montreal in June 1836. It was named Dorchester and had been constructed by Robert Stephenson, son of George Stephenson
George Stephenson
George Stephenson was an English civil engineer and mechanical engineer who built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives...

 who was the manufacturer of The Rocket
Stephenson's Rocket
Stephenson's Rocket was an early steam locomotive of 0-2-2 wheel arrangement, built in Newcastle Upon Tyne at the Forth Street Works of Robert Stephenson and Company in 1829.- Design innovations :...

. A wood burning 0-4-0 design, it was the 127th locomotive built by Stephenson and was nicknamed "Kitten" by those who observed its uneven "skittish" ride – a result of the short wheelbase. Trial runs took place at night to avoid frightening the public; maximum speed was approximately 30 mph (48 km/h).

The C&SL opened to great fanfare on July 21, 1836 with several distinguished guests in attendance besides Molson, including Lord Gosford
Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford
Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford GCB , styled The Honourable Archibald Acheson from 1790 to 1806 and Lord Acheson from 1806 to 1807, was a British politician who served as Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada and Governor General of British North America in the 19th century.-Background:Born at...

, the Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada, as well as Louis-Joseph Papineau
Louis-Joseph Papineau
Louis-Joseph Papineau , born in Montreal, Quebec, was a politician, lawyer, and the landlord of the seigneurie de la Petite-Nation. He was the leader of the reformist Patriote movement before the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–1838. His father was Joseph Papineau, also a famous politician in Quebec...

, the rebel politician
Patriote movement
The Patriote movement was a political movement that existed in Lower Canada from the turning of the 19th century to the Patriote Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 and the subsequent Act of Union of 1840. It was politically embodied by the Parti patriote at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada...

. Over 300 guests crowded the passenger cars in Laprairie station for the first run. The Dorchester was unable to handle such a load, therefore the two first-class coaches carrying 32 of the distinguished guests were uncoupled and hauled by the locomotive while the remaining cars were hauled by teams of horses. Two hours later, everyone was at the station in St. John where the ceremonies continued.

Growth and eventual merging

Regular operations commenced on July 25 and while freight traffic was stagnant on the line for many years, passenger traffic and excursions proved extremely popular early on, with many extra passenger trains being hauled by horses until additional locomotives arrived in 1837. The line was extended south along the Richelieu River valley in 1851 to Rouses Point, New York
Rouses Point, New York
Rouses Point is a village in Clinton County, New York, United States, along the 45th parallel. The population was 2,209 at the 2010 census. The village is named after Jacques Rouse, an early settler....

 and the following year saw a more direct routing built from the St. John-Laprairie line to St. Lambert, directly opposite Montreal to avoid the indirect journey up and down the St. Lawrence River from Laprairie. This latter line effectively reduced the line into Laprairie to branch line status and it would be later abandoned.

The C&SL merged with the Montreal and New York Railroad in 1857, formerly known as the Montreal and Lachine Railroad, with the new company being named the Montreal and Champlain Railroad. The Grand Trunk Railway
Grand Trunk Railway
The Grand Trunk Railway was a railway system which operated in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec; however, corporate...

 leased the M&C in 1864 and purchased it outright in 1872. Although it is unknown when the track gauge was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge
Standard gauge
The standard gauge is a widely-used track gauge . Approximately 60% of the world's existing railway lines are built to this gauge...

, this likely took place in 1873 when GTR was doing a system-wide conversion.

In 1923 the GTR was nationalized and the ex-M&C, née-C&SL trackage was incorporated into the Canadian National Railways (CNR). CN (post-1960) continues to operate the majority of this historic route, running from an interchange connection with the Delaware and Hudson Railway
Delaware and Hudson Railway
The Delaware and Hudson Railway is a railroad that operates in the northeastern United States. Since 1991 it has been a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, although CPR has assumed all operations and the D&H does not maintain any locomotives or rolling stock.It was formerly an important...

 (now owned by Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway
The Canadian Pacific Railway , formerly also known as CP Rail between 1968 and 1996, is a historic Canadian Class I railway founded in 1881 and now operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, which began operations as legal owner in a corporate restructuring in 2001...

) at Rouses Point, New York
Rouses Point, New York
Rouses Point is a village in Clinton County, New York, United States, along the 45th parallel. The population was 2,209 at the 2010 census. The village is named after Jacques Rouse, an early settler....

, through Saint-Jean and on to Saint-Lambert. The line from Rouses Point to Brossard
Brossard is a suburban area, located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River, opposite the island and city of Montreal.Brossard is subdivided into many smaller sections. These sections are characterized by having street names that all begin with the same letter of the alphabet...

 is now CN's Rouses Point Subdivision.