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Bay of Quinte

The Bay of Quinte Railway

Location: The railway is located in Central Ontario, connecting the communities of Deseronto, Kingston and Napanee on the Bay of Quinte/Lake Ontario shoreline with those to the north that include Newburgh, Tweed and Bannockburn.

History: The community of Deseronto, originally founded by the enterprising Rathbun family, was anxious to develop the interior hinterlands to the north for the purposes of capitalizing on raw materials such as minerals, timber and agricultural products and exporting back the finished manufactured goods from local mills and factories. To facilitate such, the Napanee, Tamworth and Quebec Railway Company (NT&QR) was chartered in May 1879 by local interests that included the Rathbun family to construct a 90 mile (145 km) line from the Bay of Quinte northeast to the Ottawa River Valley. When federal money for the project failed to materialize, the Rathbun family decided to finance the project themselves. Construction began in 1881 on the Napanee to Tamworth section. After the original contractor abandoned the project, Edward Rathbun assumed control and opened the first segment of the line in August 1884. The extension to Tweed was begun in 1888 and opened for traffic in November 1889, along which service was provided to the Marmora iron ore mine and the Marlbank portland cement plant.

Meanwhile, in March 1881, the Bay of Quinte Railway and Navigation Company (BQR&NC) was incorporated by the Rathbun family to construct a four mile line connecting Deseronto and the Grand Trunk Railway to the north (Deseronto Junction) where running rights into Napanee were obtained. This link was completed in January of the following year. To reflect the expansion aspirations of the future, the NT&QR was renamed the Kingston, Napanee and Western Railway (KN&WR) and subsequently leased to the BQR&NC in September 1891. In February 1889, entry was gained into Kingston by constructing a four mile link between Yarker and Harrowsmith in conjunction with 19 miles of operating rights south over the Kingston and Pembroke Railway. Further construction began in August 1893 on the Sydenham extension east from Harrowsmith which was opened for traffic in November later that year.

The BGR&NC and the KN&WR were formally merged as the Bay of Quinte Railway (BQR) in January 1897. Construction then commenced on an extension north from Tweed to Bannockburn in May 1902 to exploit mineral fields in the Queensborough area and to connect with the Central Ontario Railway. This project was opened for operation in December 1903. At the same time, the two mile gap between Deseronto and Napanee was completed in June 1903, thus eliminating the need for GTR running rights into Napanee and causing the abandonment of the original track constructed to the GTR in 1882. Several years later, there appeared on the scene the railway duo of Mackenzie and Mann who were then in the process of establishing an Ontario main line and branch network for their Canadian Northern Railway. They viewed the BQR as both a profitable branch line and as an integral part of their main line building program. The railway was thus subsequently purchased by Mackenzie and Mann in June 1910. The tracks from Deseronto through to Sydenham were upgraded to form part of the CNoR Toronto to Ottawa mainline of which service was inaugurated on in September 1918. The company was transferred to Canadian National Railway ownership with the demise of the CNoR in 1918.

Approximate Milage: A total of 83 miles broken down into the following: Deseronto to Deseronto Junction (Grand Trunk Railway, running rights to Napanee) of 4 miles, Yarker to Harrowsmith (Kingston & Pembroke, running rights of 19 miles to Kingston) and Sydenham of 11 miles, Napanee to Bannockburn of 68 miles.

Current Status: Under Canadian National ownership, the line was divided into three components, all of which have now been abandoned. From Deseronto to Napanee, the line became part of the Deseronto Subdivision while between Napanee and Sydenham, the railway formed part of the Smith Falls Subdivision. The route north from Yarker to Bannockburn was known as the Tweed Subdivision. Abandonments occurred as follows: Deseronto to Deseronto Junction in 1904, Tweed to Bannockburn in 1935, Yarker to Tweed 1941, and Strathcona to Sydenham in 1984. That portion of track from Napanee north to Strathcona remains in place as a spur.

Principle Stations: Deseronto, Napanee, Newburgh, Yarker, Harrowsmith, Tamworth and Tweed.

Remaining Stations: A total of nine Bay of Quinte stations have survived. They are as follows:
1. Napanee: Moved to property at the northwest corner of Elizabeth and Roberts Streets.
2. Strathcona: Moved to property on Newbury Rd. No. 1 as a residence (may have burned).
3. Newburgh: In original location as a residence on Grove Street.
4. Harrowsmith: Moved to property within the former "Y" at Ottawa Street as a residence.
5. Tamworth: In original location off County Rd. No. 4 as a residence.
6. Erinsville: In original location on Highway No. 41 at Beaver Lake Park as a Township depot.
7. Marlbank: In original location on County Rd. No. 32 as a residence.
8. Stoco: In original location on County Rd. No. 13 as a residence.
9. Queensborough: In original location within community as a residence.

Last Updated: June 25, 2003

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