| Mar 29, 2007

Feature Article - March 29, 2007

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Feature Article - March 29, 2007

K&PRailway:A Clarendon Miller historical nightby Katie Ohlke

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 Olmstead'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 Clarenden 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 1930s and pieces of an engine are still rumoured to be below the causeway in the river at Calabogie.

In 1951, Colonial St. Pierre 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.

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