On January 21, 1869 smoke billowed out of the wide funnel of the wood-burning locomotive engine of the B & O train (Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company) as the temperature roared 40 degrees below zero and a blizzard blew across Brockville. The two little wooden cars were crowded with excited passengers along with a reporter for this maiden journey to the end of the line– which was Perth.
A week previous a train inspector had ‘thumbed up’ the journey and pronounced it safe and ready for business. But, it had snowed the day before, which inspectors had not anticipated, nor the passengers. The trip was reported as uneventful to Smiths Falls-but from Smiths Falls the journey was described as a ‘heap of trouble’. Snow and ice had caked on the rails of the puffing wood burner and the trains could just not gain any traction. The ‘cowcatcher’ caught all the snow in the centre tracks and turned it over on the rails now rendering progress impossible.
Some decided to go home after sitting there for awhile trusting the Perth Stage to get them home. However, the bolder folks decided to stay put on the ‘iron horse’ that had scorned the old planks roads over the swamps. The second engine had not hauled their passengers every far when it balked. The engine was now dry and the passengers were instructed to scour the frozen ditches and creeks for water. This chore had to be done again a few miles down the road and then stalled once again barely two miles from Perth.
The last train on the car came to a dead stop as the coupling of the car had given way leaving a car full of passengers all alone until the engine returned from Perth with a rope to hitch to the car. Finally at 7 that evening the engine lurched into Perth with passengers who had been on a train nearly 10 hours to travel 40 miles, and there remained the return journey. The train was supposed to return to Brockville at 8 that night but in the shunting of the train one of the cars had gotten off the track. Three more hours were spent in the cold bleak railway yard before the car was hoisted back on the rails.
Photo by Smiths Falls Railway History
Finally at 11 pm “all aboard” was called and the weary passengers arrived home at half past three that morning never ever to forget their first journey on the B and O Railway. But soon everyone did forget about that disastrous first journey and wanted to travel by rail. In February of 1859 The Bathurst Courier published its first advertisement featuring the first railroad time table and rates. The fare from Smiths Falls to Perth was 10 cents and from Perth to Brockville was a mere $1.50 return. Of course it wasn’t long before the Perth editor was lamenting in his newspaper that the journey to Brockville was taking business away from Perth.
The line was extended to Carleton Place in 1859 and reached the Ottawa River through Almonte, Arnprior, and Sand Point in 1864. B & O turned over the right to build from Arnprior to Pembroke to Canada Central Railway and the line was extended through Renfrew County in the 1870s. Both companies were united under Canadian Pacific Railway Company and linked with a transcontinental network in 1881. Smiths Falls Railway History
Saturday October 7th & Sunday October 8th (Thanksgiving) (Tickets on sale September 2nd)
Smiths Falls, Ontario
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)
Friday October the 13th– 6:30.. meet in front of the old Leland Hotel on Bridge Street (Scott Reid’s office) and enjoy a one hour Bridge Street walk with stories of murder mayhem and Believe it or Not!!. Some tales might not be appropriate for young ears. FREE!–