Quebec Central Railway
QC 1083 with a very short train near end of steam era. Digital restoration Gordon Kennedy
D-10 856 with rock fill being dumped from a Hart
car by sectionmen. St.Joseph, Que.
QCR Number 1 with G2 class engine lettered for Quebec
Central doing headend work at
While the C.P.R. held one of its infamous 999 year leases (effective January 1, 1913), of this Provincially-chartered railway, it only owned about 10% of it! Much of the investment came from England, as did most very early railway investment in the Colony.
The QCR was headquartered in Sherbrooke, Quebec, CPR officials in Montreal were also officials of the QCR. Its steam locomotives were lettered for the Quebec Central, as were those of another CPR subsidiary, the Dominion Atlantic. It served the area of Quebec known as the Eastern Townships, a largely agricultural and lumbering region heavily populated by English-speaking New Englanders. What industrial development existed was mostly in places like Sherbrooke, which was also on the CPR main line. It was in the Eastern Townships during construction that asbestos was discovered in 1876 at Thetford Mines. Most of the world's supply of this controversial mineral was mined in the Eastern Townships, providing traffic for the QCR. It was not until many years later that the deadly nature of asbestos became known.
Originally incorporated 1869 in Quebec as the Sherbrooke, Eastern Townships and Kennebec Ry. it was re-named in 1875 Quebec Central Ry.. Portions of it opened in 1876 and 1879, and throughout by June 1881, by which time it had purchased the Levis & Kennebec Ry. at a sheriff's sale on March 22, 1881. September 1895 a 59.2 mile branch was completed between Tring Jct. and Megantic. A branch from Valley Junction to Lake Frontier was built in 1918 but, a planned extension to Cabano, and a connection with the Temiscouata Ry. was never built.
In order to better handle New England traffic to and from its friendly connection with the Boston & Maine RR the CPR leased, effective June 1,1926, the B&M-owned Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers RR, between Wells River Jct. and Newport, Vermont (63.90 miles) and the Boundary Line, another 5.36 miles. At the same time the QCR sub-leased from the CPR the line between Newport and Sherbrooke, Quebec 40.82 miles, which included the Boston & Maine owned Canadian portion of the Massawippi Valley Ry. from the Border to Lennoxville 31.96 miles and Beebe Jct. to Stanstead 3.52 miles. A total of 35.48 miles. It also owned shares of the Quebec Bridge & Railway Co. whose bridge over the St.Lawrence River gave it entrance into Quebec City, via CPR trackage rights.
Eventually, the QCR owned and operated some 360 miles of track and owned (12/31/1927) 50 locomotives, 59 passenger cars, 1,004 freight, plus 90 work and other for a total of 1,153 cars.
Sherbrooke to Diamond Jct... 129.63 miles
Quebec Central M-286 a 1929 Packard at the Vallee
Jonction enginehouse, April 1953
3076 wooden box car. James L. O'Donnell Collection
40721 service Vallee Jct. Quebec, November 1945 Dick George
SHERBROOKE Dick George
92 coach Jerry LaBoda collection
Changes over the years.
Early 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 steam locomotives were gradually replaced by bigger, standard CPR locomotives, including M4 class 2-8-0's, G2 class 4-6-2's and, of course the ever present D-10 class 4-6-0. Engines were lettered (and sometimes renumbered) for Quebec Central.
QC 42 first of a four engine order (last pre-CPR) the
majority of which were built by CLC.
G2s 61 (ex G2d CP 2573) fresh out of Angus 5/1926.
QC 940 (1936 ex 57) D10g (nee CP 940 11/1920) MLW 50253
QC 1072 D10k (Schenectady #52109 10/1912)
QC 2556 (ex QC 66) G2s MLW 46049 5/1909 Valley Junction 1959
RDC's reduced travel time by an hour and 35 minutes to
Spanner March 1957
There were many changes in latter years, diesels replaced steam, conventional passenger trains were replaced by RDC's and the highway buses were sold off. In common with many other secondary lines, the traffic declined, first with passenger trains, and later with freight. The last passenger train (a single RDC-1 9058) made its final run at the end of April 1967.
Hydraulic Switcher 23 last of this special model built
for CPR. CLC 3010 5/1960
Finally, the entire remaining 236 miles of the Quebec Central were abandoned effective December 23, 1994. The last train had operated on November 10th.
Since the CPR's lease of 999 years still had a long way to go, the CPR set out to buy up the 90% of stock it didn't own. This would allow them to tear up the track and sell off the right of way as would normally happen in the case of an abandonment of a rail line. But, a funny thing happened, it didn't happen! At least not the tear-it-up part. Instead, a new player came into the picture in the form of a local resident who was also a truck operator (Express Marco Inc.) of all things! He saw the potential of restoring rail service to handle what he was trucking, wood for paper mills. He knew that rail had the potential to cut costs as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
After laying dormant for years, the impossible happened, in June 2000, trains began to run again on the Quebec Central! Tourist trains were added to the picture to add revenue and raise awareness. More of the line was opened on the 236 miles acquired and operations expanded. Against all odds it has happened and, hopefully it will succeed, only time will tell. Good Luck!
Great Eastern Gerry Burridge's website includes history and photos of Quebec Central.