Ottawa, Algonquin & Georgian Bay
In this thread, I intend to recount the (fictional) story of the Ottawa, Algonquin & Georgian Bay Railway.

Components will include:
  • origins (i.e. the "prototype" part)
  • evolution (i.e. the "freelance" part Wink)
  • industries
  • facilities
  • rosters
  • routes
  • passenger and freight operations
  • other points of interest (both real and fictional)
  • how I (eventually) intend to model all/most/some/a bit of this
I hope it will be entertaining! Big Grin

annual financial reports?
lists of the boards of directors and major stockholders?
an accounting of the politicians bribed to get the line built?
Analysis of the first, second, and third bankruptcies?
Moderato ma non troppo
Perth & Exeter Railway Company
Esquesing & Chinguacousy Radial Railway
In model railroading, there are between six and two hundred ways of performing a given task.
Most modellers can get two of them to work.
Perhaps the easiest way to recount the origins of the fictitious OA&GB is to point you to some resources on the web and (possibly) in your local library or even hobby shop book section.

Over the Hills to Georgian Bay is a great book on the founding and subsequent build up of what would become the Ottawa, Arnprior & Parry Sound by Niall MacKay. Click here for more info from Amazon Books.

Web sources include wikipedia, which has some good entries on the Canada Atlantic Railway, which was put together and/or built by J.R. Booth, an Ottawa lumber baron in the late 1800s. Through the CAR, Booth ultimately created/controlled the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Ry through a series of building and acquisition.

In the 1890s the line was complete all the way from Depot Harbour on Georgian Bay (transfer point) through to Ottawa, and Montreal and the Maritimes beyond via other parts of the CAR.

In 1905, Booth sold his railway interests to the Grand Trunk Railway as it was positioned by the Canadian Government as a competitor to trans-Canada giant Canadian Pacific. This effort ultimately failed, with many smaller lines, plus Grand Trunk, Canadian Northern, and the Intercolonial Railway being first run as Canadian Government Railways, then amalgamated into Canadian National Railways between 1918 and 1923.

But back to our line of interest. In addition the the huge freight business (transshipping grain from the west and lumber from the Algonquin Highlands), the Grand Trunk built the Highland Inn and other more rustic camps in Algonquin Park. These were initially very popular, and the hotel expanded several times over the next decade.

In 1933, a trestle just east of the hotel was weakened in a flood. CNR applied to the government for funding which was refused. This effectively ended the transshipment business, and traffic flowing east from Ottawa. ***

Over the following years, the line slowly declined, and only the extreme east and west ends of the former OA&PS were used. The hotel was closed during the Great Depression, and in 1958 was purchased and demolished by the government to comply with a new "naturalization" policy for Algonquin Park.

*** Note that this is where my fictional history departs from the real history. Stay tuned...! Wink

AF350 Wrote:That would be great, sorry about the hijack of thread 35 always been fastenated Freelanced railroads.

No problem. This stuff has been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years or more now. Nice to finally have a place to put it.

My "history" of the Ottawa, Algonquin & Georgian Bay (as noted above) departs the real thing (Ottawa, Armprior & Parry Sound) in 1932/33. In 1932 the Highland Inn was closed due to the Great Depression. In 1933, the Cache Lake trestle was damaged, but not repaired due to lack of funds, instantly cutting off the east-west route between Georgian Bay and Ottawa.

My fiction differs in the severity of the Depression. A less damaging (or even non-existent) Depression allows two main things:

One - the Inn stayed open. This is great for modelling, since I really like the 1930s, the Inn, and it just works for me Wink. I also have a partially completed model of the Inn that I intend to get to some day.

More importantly from a railway point of view was that a group of local business owners up and down the line got together and formed a company designed to save the line, and therefore their own businesses, by repairing the trestle.

More on this company later...

So here's where the "real" fiction begins... Wink

The CNR never had much of an interest in the hotel built by the Grand Trunk, nor were they enthused about supplying passenger service through the Park. It was highly seasonal, and mostly of a local nature in the "off-peak" season. With the Cache Lake trestle damaged in 1933, CNR thought it saw a way out of the passenger business, and indeed the local freight too. CNR figured that the loss of the route through southern Algonquin Park could be made up by the route through the north end (this one from the former Canadian Northern).

However, the people whose livelihood depended on the passenger service (i.e. the hotel) and the local freight (i.e. local industry) were of a different mind. Many of these business owners therefore got together with their community leaders and formed the Algonquin Highlands Transportation Co. This company repaired the trestle and began operating the Ottawa, Algonquin and Georgian Bay Railway.

At first, the OA&GB was intended to supply only passenger service, and a very small amount of truly local freight. CNR would continue to run through with the transhipped grain from Depot Harbour, and handle the timber trade. To this end, the OA&GB invested initially in a Mack Railbus. However, this soon proved inadequate and was supplemented with a gas-electric "Doodlebug". The Mack was restricted primarily to assisting with the tourist traffic that arrived from Toronto and other points south via Scotia Junction. The Doodlebug made regular runs from Depot Harbour to Ottawa (west on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, east on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (no service Sunday)).

The Doodlebug also hauled a boxcar on occasion, or a reefer, mainly to bring supplies to the hotel, although some goods were left at Ottawa or Scotia Junction for shipment further afield. This service proved popular, and industries other than timber were interested in more regular service, especially a flooring manufacturer that was left out of the timber and "through grain" service, but who also created more business than a single Doodlebug could haul.

Now was the time for the OA&GB to acquire a locomotive - 4-6-0 1337 leased from CNR. Following shortly thereafter, another loco - this time a 2-8-0 to handle the growing freight tonnage in the hills - and a small purchase and refit of CNR passenger cars to create OA&GB's "Colonization Road" series. The 4-6-0 would take over passenger duties.

This story then sets the scene for what I want to model. I have more that takes the OA&GB right to the present day (albeit in a "parallel" universe).

I have not yet decided the complete breakdown of the passenger and head-end cars that I want to model, but I do know that they will be the "Colonisation Road" series.

In the early to mid-1800s, the government of the day wanted to encourage settlement in "northern" and eastern Ontario. To that end they created a series of roads (often really just dirt paths or tracks) that lead north from the St Lawrence River or Lake Ontario. I have decided that the passenger fleet will bear the names of some of these roads:
  • Opeongo
  • Frontenac
  • Bobcaygeon
  • Lavant
  • Snow
  • Addington
  • Hastings
  • Monck
There may be others more appropriate; my research is on-going... Wink

Andrew, just as a bit of trivial information, the CNR had cars named Opeongo, (Fort) Frontenac, and (Port) Hastings. Wink

Thanks Wayne! That's good to know. Perhaps if the OA&GB made arrangements to purchase those, there'd be less painting to do... Wink

I was going to offer you the lettering for those names from the Microscale decal set for CNR passenger cars, but not even one of those three is on the sheet. Eek 35

All of this sounds interesting! Keep us posted as you go.

BTW, my family and I had a nice visit to the Algonquin area in late-September. We did a fair bit of exploring -- hiking and canoeing -- around the area just west of Algonquin, i.e. around the village of Oxtongue Lake, Ragged Falls and Dwight.

All the best,

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Thanks for the offer. Interesting (and unfortunate) that those names are not included on the sheet.


Yes, it's one of my favourites too, although I don't get there very often at all. Very interesting history though. If you haven't you should read Lessons from my Father by Roy MacGregor (Ottawa Citizen columnist). It's about his father (no kidding... Wink) and extended family who lived and worked in and around Algonquin until the government shut down most logging operations and evicted virtually all the residents of the park.

I like your alternative history Andrew. I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops!

This is the rest of the story that I developed for the Algonquin Highlands Transportation Co and the OA&GB Ry. I didn't really need it for my modelling purposes, but it does give a nice closure, and it also avoids the demolition of the Highland Inn... Wink

In the mid-1950s the Governments (provincial and federal) were in full swing with both economic development schemes and "naturalization" plans for wilderness areas. For its part, the Ontario Government proposed preserving the natural state of the Park by buying out or expropriating private properties in the Park including the Highland Inn, moving Park HQ to Whitney on the eastern border, and removing the railway altogether. This (real) proposal was met with strong resistance by the inhabitants and local business owners. Eventually their argument that the hotel, service buildings, and station, as well as local industries, were in situ and the proposed use would not change, won the day (unfortunately this did not happen in real life). The added benefit that tourists would spend money in the area with otherwise limited economic potential lead the Governments and CNR to grant AHT Co a 99 year lease to operate both the railway and the hotel.

On the federal front, improved roads and the St Lawrence Seaway were both under development. Depot Harbour (western terminus) had been in decline since the end of WW2 following the destruction of the grain elevators and freight shed in a fire. With the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway, Depot Harbour's niche as a transhipment point became irrelevant as ocean-going ships were able to steam directly into the heart of the continent (Thunder Bay) to deliver and pick up a wide variety of commodities to and from the West (again, a real event).

As a result, large scale freight traffic, including the grain and coal traffic, ceased almost overnight, and CNR turned over the entire route to AHT Co. The line was now dedicated almost entirely to passenger service, although local industry continued to generate demand for a small volume of freight service. In the 1970s, a trio of Budd RDCs replaced the venerable doodlebug and Mack Railbus (both over 50 years old at that point). Freight shipments were also finally discontinued as local roads were constructed or improved to most points along the railway.

Today, a ride on the OA&GB through Algonquin Park is one of the most sought after excursion tickets, with the fully restored doodlebug and Railbus being the most popular. Also very popular is one of the three RDCs that still runs - it has been converted to provide an overnight experience in the interior of the park for up to 20 passengers. Fall colour weekend tours are often sold out in June. The recently updated Highland Inn offers a wide range of year-round activities, including skiing, dogsledding, camping, and canoeing adventures.

While accessible by car since the construction of Highway 62 in the 1930s, the railway remains the most popular way to the Highland Inn and through the Park.


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