Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad (C&SL)
The First Canadian Public Railway, it is a historic railway in Lower Canada, and one of the first railways built in British North America. The line operated in the Province of Quebec with a line into New York State. A monument marks the location of the first railway in Canada in LaPrairie, Quebec.
The railway was financed by Montreal entrepreneur and brewery owner John Molson. It was intended to connect the St Lawrence River valley with Lake Champlain, thereby cutting time between Montreal and New York.
The project commenced in 1835, a line running from St.Johns on the Richelieu River, to LaPrairie across the river of Montreal.
The initial 16 mile (26km) was built in a traditional 4’8.5″ standard gauge railway, joined by pine logs and iron splice plates and bolts laid across ties. The rails remained the same until they were replaced completely by iron rails in the 1850’s.
North Americas first wood-burning locomotive ‘The Dorchester’ arrived at Molson’s wharf in Montreal in June of 1836. The maximum speed was approximately 30mph (48 km/h).
Distinguished guests arrived for the opening of the railway besides Molson and Lord Gosford, the Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada as well as Louis-Joseph, the rebel politician. Over 300 guest arrived for the opening. The locomotive was unable to handle the load and thereby many guests returned by cars hauled by a team of horses. Additional locomotives arrived in 1937.
The ‘Dorchester’ was inducted in the North Amercian Railway Hall of Fame, as the first locomotive used in Canada.
The line was extended along the Richelieu Valley in 1851 to Rouses Point, New York.
It was merged with the Montreal and New York Railway in 1857, formerly known as the Montreal and Lachine Railroad, the new Company named ‘Montreal and Champlain’. It was leased by the Grand Trunk Rail in 1864 and then purchased completely by Grand Trunk.
In 1923 the GTR was nationalised and the C&SL & M&C trackage was incorporated into the Canadian National Railways (CNR). CN continues to operate this historic route (post-1960).
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