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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Some information from Canadian Rail, issue 41.
Please address any errors and additional roster information to cwlemon