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The Temiscouata Railway Company - 1889-1948

by Wendell Lemon

TMCR 11 with the morning mixed train waits for a highball in a typical shortline scene at
Connors, New Brunswick, end of a 19-mile long branch in the late 1940's.
Collection of Kenneth S. MacDonald


The Temiscouata Railway, in northwest New Brunswick, was about 200 miles at the nearest from where I grew up in central New Brunswick. Something about the tiny pike always held my interest over the years once I learned of its existence although I have never seen a Temiscouata Railway (TMCR) locomotive or train.. Maybe my teenage familiarization with Canadian Pacific Railway's ancient trackage and 4-4-0's between Chipman and Norton was the connection.

Photos I received from Ken MacDonald and Harold Vollrath in the 1960's kindled my interest too, especially when I realized one of the TMCR's steam locomotives first worked my home town of Chipman. Over the years I picked up tidbits of information on anything concerning the tiny pike. On a few family Upper Canada vacation trips between the 1960s and 2000, I encountered the TMCR roadbed in several places along Highways 2 and 185, which link northwest New Brunswick with Quebec.

Early day money for the TMCR came from English interests. Apparently the same people had money in the Quebec Central Railway as the QCR had a bit to say about the daily operation of the TMCR. In fact, the President was also the General Manager of the Quebec Central Railway. Two TMCR locomotives came from the Quebec Central Railway in a time of need and stayed. However, the railway was on its own after the CPR began operating the QCR in 1912.

Riviere du Loup and Edmundston

The Temiscouata Railway was charted in 1882. It began operation in 1889 with a scheduled passenger and freight train each way between Riviere du Loup, Quebec. and Edmundston, NB. This 81.5-mile section paralleled and crossed the highway several times. The terrain through the Notre Dame Mountains is hilly, forested and speckled with beautiful waterways and tiny French communities. Rail traffic was mostly lumber and agriculture related, and the railway provided several on-line towns and villages access to the outside world. Bad winter highway conditions and frozen waterways also helped revenue for the railway through difficult times. American sportsmen arrived by train to hunt big game and catch the plentiful fish in Lake Temiscouata and the Madawaska River. The Temiscouata Railway often lettered their rolling stock "The Sportsman Route".

In the early years passengers made rail connection with the Intercolonial Railway (later Canadian National) at Riviere du Loup. About 1890 the TMCR interchanged with the New Brunswick Railway at Edmundston near the time the NBR was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railway. A 21 -mile ruling grade started at milepost 2.8 soon after leaving Riviere du Loup. Leaving Edmundston, the ruling grade started at mile post 40.2 and continued to 26.9.

The Temiscouata station in Edmundston was just north (west actually) of where their main track crossed Victoria Street. A three-track yard paralleled the main track while a fifth track crossed over the Madawaska River to the Fraser Mill. A scale house, water tank, bunkhouse and a turntable were about 600 feet north of the station on the right.

In 1891, a 32- mile main track was laid west from Edmundston to Connors, NB. A Nova Scotia business man by the name of Robert Connors, previously well established, provided much of the traffic on the Connors line. The end of the line was named after him as he had a sawmill active since 1875 and he welcomed the railway. He built the deluxe Connors Hotel in 1894 and provided other community staples including a church, several barns and a general store. One of the barns now fills in as the general store and local area museum. Connors' beautiful home, with an attached staff residence is maintained by the present owners. My wife and I viewed the beautiful Connors residence in 2006. Connors was a bachelor and died at age 66 in 1895.

The Connors' trackage had passenger and freight service and followed the St. John River's north side. The Bangor and Aroostook Railway, in place by 1910, was on the south side of the river in the United States. The railroads did not connect but passengers and freight did by a cable ferry and swing bridge between Clair, NB, and Fort Kent, Maine. Clair got a station in 1891 with the arrival of the railroad. The new settlement was named after Thomas Clair, later changed to Clairs.

In the very early days, there was talk in the TMCR camp of continuing trackage another 60 miles connecting Connors with the Quebec Central Railway at Lac Frontiere, Quebec. This area was well forested. Later in time, about 1930, the QCR proposed an extension connecting Lac Frontiere with Cabano. Their 1932 passenger timetable even had a sketch of this extension. However, this did not happen as the terrain was difficult, a depression was on and money, as usual, was scarce.

In the summer of 1909, fourteen miles of TMCR trackage west of Edmundston found itself being paralleled on its south side by construction of the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR). This was not a surprise as the TMCR had been supporting such a line with hopes of bettering their operation. This federal government sponsored main track soon connected Moncton, NB. with Levis, Quebec. A diamond was now required at Baker Brook so the NTR could cross the TMCR and head north towards the St. Lawrence River.

The Temiscouata Railway had problems with yearly washouts on their Connors trackage. On May 29, 1936, they acquired 12 miles of running rights over Canadian National. This section started two miles west of Edmundston and continued farther west to Baker Brook diamond. The diamond at Baker Brook was replaced by a switch and renamed Baker Brook Junction. CN installed a tower and a telegraph office there.

TMCR 11 one of two ancient 4-4-0's with mixed train at Edmunston, NB in April 1947.
Collection of Harold K. Vollrath

 

Passenger Schedules

From early days and up to 1951, TMCR's southbound passenger train No.1 left Riviere du Loup between 7 and 8 am and arrived at Edmundston near noon. Upon leaving Edmundston train No.1 became No. 3 and continued west to Connors to arrive about 3 pm. Morning eastbound train No. 2, left Connors about 8 am and arrived at Edmundston before noon. Upon leaving Edmundston a bit after noon for Riviere du Loup, train No. 2 became train No. 4. The trains continued through Edmundston each way and returned back the next trip. Eight-wheelers (4-4-0's) powered the passenger trains up to 1950. The Ten-wheelers (4-6-0's) worked the freight trains in later days. Previous to 1910, eight-wheelers worked the entire main track on both passenger and freight trains. A lone Mogul (2-6-0), TMCR's second No.1, worked in early days but was swapped when the NTR was under construction for a nearly new NTR Ten-wheeler which became TMCR No. 10.

Starting in June 1922, the CNR allowed the TMCR to use their Riviere du Loup station for passenger business. The little railway was on hard times. Their abandoned station now became an office. The two stall locomotive shop was still retained at Riviere du Loup.

In the midst of the Great Depression, TMCR management purchased three 11 -year old gasoline motorcars from Canadian National Railways. Since one arrived motorless, it became trailer car number 53 (ex-CN 15706). CN powered cars 15704 and 15705 became numbers 2 and 3. This equipment was built in Montreal by the Ledoux-Jennings Company. One motorcar teamed up with the trailer car and the other teamed up with a standard coach. Running trades did not like the "jitneys" as they only required an engineer and a conductor. However, the president of the TMCR, C.A. Stewart, said the motorcars were profitable to run. After 1940, the primitive cars were taken off as they could not handle the increasing passenger traffic and express. Before CN, the cars worked for the Quebec, Montreal and Southern Railway Company with numbers 50, 51 and 52. The TMCR's official car 'Madawaska' probably could not be handled by the motor cars. Steam trains took over after the motorcars were retired - all three were scrapped by CNR in 1951.

Mediocre years

For 60 years, the TMCR rambled on with little change. Light rail, light business and light locomotives hung on. Often it was hoped that maybe CN would take over. CN already had many unprofitable lines and did not need more. A bit of federal money was injected starting in 1929 to help the cause as the tiny railway was needed in the area and the Canadian Railway Board would not hear of any abandonment talk. The roster changed some and forest products and general merchandise were still the main tonnage. The passenger count eventually declined because of improved highways through the area.

A big concern with any railway is forest fires. From May to September are the dry months. Some 1918 facts and figures I have from the New Brunswick Department of Land and Mines show that the TMCR's ash pans and front-end screening of their seven locomotives were kept in good shape. The employees were kept constantly aware of how to prevent and fight fires. However, the report was not happy with the 40 miles of right-of-way in New Brunswick. Loggers and farmers were not cleaning up their brush along the rail line.

The big pulp mills at Riviere du Loup, Cabano and Edmundston took most of the local pulpwood. Logs went to the many online sawmills. Interchange was small with CP at Edmundston and with CN at Edmundston and Riviere du Loup. Don DeWolfe, a CP
brakeman working Edmundston Yard in 1946 told me they often dropped off a bit of pulpwood and a car of potatoes across Victoria Street at Edmundston East, but that was all. This was done at night and he never saw a TMCR locomotive or employee.

The few winter and summer timetables I have come across, dated between 1889 and 1949, show only passenger trains and these became 'Mix' in the 1940s. The photos I have of freight trains were shot in good daylight and most sport white flags. Freights would have left their terminals behind scheduled passenger trains in the mornings and did the main track shunting during daylight.

TMCR 6 one of five 4-6-0's on the roster. Cecil A. Barrett

1949 to The End

The TMCR's Riviere du Loup two-stall engine facility burned in 1949. Business had been hurting and this was about the last straw. In order for TMCR customers to keep rail service, CN was encouraged to take it over. Negotiations began with British bond holders in the spring of 1949. By mid-July, 1950 CN had taken over the railway for operating and administration purposes.

After the 1949 fire, TMCR locomotives moved into the Riviere du Loup CN shops for dispatching and servicing. The 4-4-0's, numbers 11 and 12, were quickly slated for scrap and the remaining ten-wheelers were renumbered into the CN system by January 1951. TMCR second number 6, which served my home town when it was new for the New Brunswick Coal and Railway in 1911, was now renumbered CN second 1014. It worked a few years until scrapped by CN at Moncton in April, 1956. TMCR 4-6-0 7-10 became CN second 1015-1018.

At the 1950 takeover by CN, there was no scheduled train service between Edmundston and Connors. The 'Mix' had come off about 1948. However the 'Mix' was still running between Riviere du Loup and Edmundston, but not for long. CN soon introduced a diesel on the Temiscouata Sub. A photo of GE diesel electric 70 ton 7812 appears in a special issue of Classic Trains (Aug. 2007) showing it rubbing shoulders with tiny 4-6-0's in the Riviere du Loup roundhouse in October 1953, photographed by Dr. Philip Hastings.

In 1952, CN began connecting with the Temiscouata Sub. at their Fraser Jct., milepost 111.79 of the Grand Falls Sub. (Napadogan Sub. after 1962). Previously the TMCR had connected at mile post 112.99. This may have been the same time CN stopped the Temiscouata Sub. 'Mix' and the Edmundston East TMCR station was closed in favour of CN's at Edmundston just down around the corner.

The Bernier family at Connors, presently living in the late Bob Connors residence, told me they remember diesel locomotives in 1961. During late-1961, probably after the change of time, the Connors Sub. was shortened to 8.3 miles and listed as a spur. In later years a short lived small siding was at the end for the Clair Industrial Park. The Connors spur was dropped completely from 1980 timetables once Nadeau Feed Ltd. traffic went to trucks.

I went to work for CN at their Moncton Gordon Yard Diesel Shop in 1972. One of the first things I noticed in the shop were light rails with 1887 Temiscouata' cast in the web. Our shop was storing wheel sets on these light rails. I expect the rails had been replaced with heavier iron by CN and this may have come off the Connors Sub. Recently it was related to me that some unearthed Moncton street car trackage was discovered with 'Temiscouata' cast in the web. A railfan friend salvaged a short piece. I have bookends made from a similar piece purchased at a Moncton flea market.

On returning from a Montreal highway trip on June 28, 1976, I met CN RSC-18 1769 squealing over rusty rails and pushing aside high grass at milepost 65. Its speed was about 10 miles per hour. The engineer was constantly changing throttle notches to keep his speed down. This sight was not positive for CN's Temiscouata Sub.

By the spring of 1984, CN was allowed to abandon between Riviere du Loup, mile post 0.00 and 42.7 near Cabano, Quebec. Business had dried up, especially from the many private sidings. The ancient and winding rail was doomed. Two years later CN abandoned between mile post 42.7 and mile post 44 at Cabano. Traffic from the big Cascade Paper mill at Cabano had gone to trucks . The remaining 37.5 miles was now called the Temiscouata Spur. CN even abandoned their own ballast pit at mile post 59. By March of 1989, the Canadian Transport Commission permitted CN to abandon trackage to within 4.8 miles of Edmunston at milepost 76.9.

CN's Edmundston Spur

After 1989, mileage was numbered north/west from Fraser Jct. at Napadogan Sub. mile post 218.1. The word "Temiscouata" was no longer used. The remaining 4.9 miles was now called the Edmundston Spur. By 2000, the Edmundston Spur ended just before the steel rail bridge over the Madawaska River at milepost 3.1 (earlier TMCR Sub milepost 78.6). Irving Oil has a modern tank car unloading facility and a new lumber reload facility at mile post 3.

The big Edmundston Fraser Paper mill has been using rail service since 1917. A pole trestle over the Madawaska River connects at mile post 0.75. In fact Fraser steam locomotive number 2 came from the TMCR and worked the mill from 1917 to 1920. The Mill has owned both steam and diesel-electric and operated a rare Plymouth Flexmotive up to 1971. CN has been shunting the mill since 1971.

Today downtown Edmundston's busy overhead Fournier bridge straddles the abandoned TMCR yard and the Belair Restaurant looks upon it. One abandoned right of way serves as a local walking trail.

TMCR 8 Ten-wheeler at Riviere du Loup, Quebec July 18,1946 George Parks Collection


Subdivision mileposts

Roster


 

Sources

Roster information, timetable and other related information from Steve Boyko, R. R. Brown, Colin J. Churcher, Danny MacCracken, Ray MacCue, George Parks, Conrad Steeves, and Canadian National Steam Power by Anthony Clegg and Ray Corley.

Local area information from Rachael and Armand -Bernier of Connors, and Joe Vender of Edmundston.

Also information from retired TMCR employee Aldeo Long (1946-1950) who worked Edmundston and Cabano; then as CN operator (1950-1965).

I could not locate a TMCR 100 page book written in French in 1993 by Adrien Levasseur titled Chemin Temiscouata.

Motor car information and photos on Page 23, March 2002 Branchline.

Some information from Canadian Rail, issue 41.

Please address any errors and additional roster information to cwlemon at rogers.com.


 

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