Ottawa Railway History Circle Field Trip to Kingston

During the usual wide-ranging discussions that occur during Ottawa Railway History Circle (ORHC) lunches, the idea of a field trip to Kingston, Ontario, was put forth back in June by Colin Churcher. David Page, ORHC "Kingston rep", undertook to set up an itinerary and be the tour guide.
Kingston, population 116,000, is no longer an industrial city, and the railway infrastructure it once had, never extensive, has largely disappeared. The field trip itinerary focussed of necessity on traces of the past: GTR, CNR and K&P (CPR), with the remaining current railway features thrown in for good measure.

The field trip started at the VIA station [0 on map], in time to meet #43 from Ottawa and the four Circle stalwarts: Colin, Pat Brennan, Bruce Chapman and Bruce Morgan. The first sites visited were on the newly-opened K&P Trail [1], just north of Kingston. Of particular interest was the picturesque hamlet of Jacksons Mills [3], the start of the northbound "big ess" curve [4] that takes a mile to climb the escarpment, rising some 75 feet in the process. The group was able to compare the site with a photo taken during the 1974 RDC trip to Kingston, showing the Budd car stopped at the Mills for a look-around. The K&P (Kingston & Pembroke) trail has been done up quite properly by the extends northward to within a few kilometres of Harrowsmith.

The next site was the CN Kingston wye [5], used by VIA to turn the engine of train #650 for the early morning return to Toronto. Access to this site was pre-arranged with Lafarge Canada.

On to the GTR/CN "Outer Station" [7], an archeological ruin in very real danger of being torn down. Again comparison photos from the1950s were shown, using the former Montreal Street underpass abutments [6] as a reference point. At the station itself, the platform and the space for the wide trackage once there are quite evident. No one wants the building and no one has any winning ideas to turn it into something, so it will likely be razed. The trace of the Hanley Spur, functional until the 1980s, is also visible, if one knows where to look.

Back to the K&P, which wandered down across Montreal Street, and crossed the CN just south of River Street [8]. The timber arch bridge over both tracks was scrapped by the City only a few years ago, and the site is almost unrecognizable without the comparison photo. Further downtown, the K&P yard and roundhouse area is still evident [9], as are the footings for the roundhouse back wall. Included is a hand-inscribed cornerstone with "August 1911" written on it.

Lunch was taken at the former GTR downtown "Hanley"station [12], now an Italian eatery. This location gave the group a chance to look around the former K&P station [11], nicely restored and used as the City tourist bureau. Adjacent is CP D10h 4-6-0 1095, built at Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) just down the street [13] in 1913, and now in poor condition and also facing an uncertain future. Again the problem is lack of interest by the citizenry, part of a greater lack of interest in most things historical.

Ontario Street is now completely devoid of any trace of CLC and the railway infrastructure that served it and the shipyard further along. The site is now dominated by brand-new apartment and condo tower blocks, one of which curiously is named "The Locomotive Works".

With quick looks at traces of the Kingston street railway right-of-way, the crossing place for the Kingston Penitentiary tramway, and the Kingston Elevator crossing [14] and yard sites, the terminal end of the CN "Dupont Spur" [15] (now "Invista") was observed. It must be the neatest and greenest industrial yard in Canada. CN delivers about 30-40 carloads a week of nylon raw materials and bunker oil to the plant. The spur wanders from the mainline several miles through residential backyards, not sparing the "14-Ls" even at 04.30 in the morning!

After observing VIA #60 to Montreal at speed at the Collins Bay crossing [16], and a look at the top end of the Dupont Spur [17], the group repaired to chez Page [18] for refreshments and a look at the only live steam of the day: a very small 0-4-0 tank engine and train chuffing around the backyard garden railway. Shortly thereafter it was off to deposit the guests at the VIA station [0] for #46 home. A good time was had by all, and thoughts expressed that other towns in the Circle "domain" should also be field-tripped.

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, November 2008, page 11.

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