News from the Past

An article from the North Frontenac News by Katie Ohlke, March 29, 2007

The K&P Railway – A Clarendon Historical Night

Colonial St. Pierre spoke to an audience of 25 last Tuesday night in a very entertaining and educational lecture on the Kingston & Pembroke Railway – lovingly referred to locally as the Kick & Push.

The idea of building the railroad was discussed in the 1860’s. A railway enthusiast, Sir John A. MacDonald was in on it, and approved of the idea. The building of the line commenced in 1871 and was charted as having 103 track miles as well as nine spare miles of track for mines, located in Calabogie, Godfrey and Mississippi.

Ardoch, Plevna and Ompah supplied the lumber to build the track and stations. The timber was milled at Wilber, whose output was 30,000 to 40,000 feet of lumber a day. From this mill there was also shipped 700 pieces of fine lumber to the US, 46 feet long each, for stations.

The tracks reached the river at Mississippi in 1878 and ended there for a while, but a town grew there as a result and was called Omstead’s Station. The village supported three hotels, a casket factory, a furniture factory and two stores. A man named Dave Scott owned one of the hotels – he was known to burn full logs in his stove, sliding the log ahead further into the stove as it burned up. He also had a few bottles of moonshine on hand for the thirsty.

Later a roundhouse was built and in 1878, Boyd Cabot’s engine #9 crossed the new bridge and reached Snow Road. In 1888 Renfrew was reached and a plan to extend the line into Playfair, Elphin and up to Lanark, but there was a lack of money. The tracks never reached its namesake of Pembroke.

In 1913, the Canadian Pacific Railway leased the K&P for 999 years, helping the railroad out of financial difficulty. The trains were a major transportation route for this area, and also a major shipping route.

Some of the freight included the mail, timber, the Clarendon Station had a cattle pen, the Mississippi Station shipped out foxes, wild horses rode the rails, cream and milk were sent out to the creameries and loads of minerals from the mines. Trains usually measured ten cars in length – if they were lucky, and the passenger car was on the end.

Men from Ardoch, Plevna and Coxvale would haul logs to Clarendon Station by horse and cutter. Each man had his own boxcar for his load of timber to go in. In the 1940’s, Jim and Harold Derue drew the mail for the Plevna area. One time a casket came in from Kingston; Harold had a few drinks in him and he step-danced on the lid! When asked why he was doing that, he replied that the occupant wouldn’t mind.

Colonial St Pierre’s first association with the railway was in 1940, when his family moved to Crotch Lake. His mother was the Station Agent and his father worked on the train at Clarendon. In the 1940’s a trip to Sharbot Lake cost 25 cents – children would collect empty bottles and return them for a penny each to raise money for a ride on the green velvet seats of the passenger car. There were five trains that went each way, every day.

The speed of the K&P was not its main selling point. As the engines used steam, it took longer to go uphill. It also depended on the weather and if the engine boiler was low on water. The trip between Snow Road and Wilbur took longer as it was entirely uphill. Sometimes the train would need to stop and chase livestock off the rails, pick up passengers who flagged the train down, or back up and pick up the forgotten on the station platform. The train also made unscheduled stops to pick up blueberries and rabbit pelts for market in the city from local people living along the line. A few of the ladies present in the audience remembered running down in the 1930’s and 40’s to greet every train, especially the troop trains to wave at the boys off to war.

There were a few train wrecks along the line: an engine left the bridge for the river at Mississippi in the 1930’s and pieces of an engine are still rumoured to be below the causeway in the river at Calabogie.

In 1951, Colonial made 80 cents an hour working for the K&P, nine hours a day. That was very good money in those days, double what he made working on Hwy 509. It put the bread and butter on many local tables, he noted. He also stated that the K&P was an institution all its own, [it was] one of those things that had to be done.

Sadly, with the advent of better roads and newer trucks, the steam engine train became an outmoded method of travel. The K&P had only 80 lbs steel in its rails, too small for modern diesel engines. So in 1962 the last train ran, and gradually the tracks were lifted and a golden era ended. But the whistle still sounds in the memories of our older generation, and perhaps still echoes across the lonely local fields.

Original article

Several news article on the closing of the Perth C.P.R. station

Background – The Perth station was located at the end of Herriott Street until it was demolished in 1979. It was built of mottled freestone from nearby Otty Lake. It was surrounded by freight sheds and there were spur railway lines that once served the factories.

Perth CPR Station Soon to Be Closed

Clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 09 May 1968, Thu, Page 8

Save Perth Station Urge Citizens

From a news clipping. Unfortunately, for now, the date and source are unknown.

Special correspondent

PERTH – The old Canadian Pacific Railway station here could be saved in town council moves quickly enough.

This conclusion was reached by a cross-section of local residents who want the 88 year old sandstone building to receive Ontario Heritage Foundation status.

The railway’s regulations call for any unused building lying within 50 feet of a track to be torn down or removed for insurance purposes.  Perth’s station sits within 10 feet of the main line.

A nucleus of local residents, spurred on by a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation team, agreed this week to try and prevent the disused station’s removal.

It was suggested that a high wall between the track and the station would eliminate any danger, the group also thinks it would be easier to move the track than the building.

The people feel they have a good case, since exceptions to the demolition rule exist.  The old Grimsby station is now a restaurant.

Canadian Pacific plans to level most of its unused Ottawa Valley stations.  The citizens’ group believes if the public had been aware of its options, the former Grand Trunk/CP station at Almonte could have been saved.

Arnprior and Perth stations are next on the demolition list.

CBC Country Report host Ed Needham rented the town hall here this week, and invited people interested in saving the station, to attend.

Until a few years ago, the Perth station was a centre for the transportation of textiles, milk products and passengers.

It has been estimated that the cost of moving the building would be $60,000.

If council requests Ontario Heritage Foundation designation for the building, a six month stay of demolition would be obtained. This, the citizens’ groups said would give the town time to recommend alternatives to the railroad.

The CBC will air its program about the plight of the valley station on Friday, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m.

Original article.

There were several attempts to save the old station but time ran out.

Station Untracked

Demolition picture clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 11 Oct 1979, Thu, Valley Edition, Page 3