Railway History by Derek Booth
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Quebec Central Railway, Derek Booth , 160 pp., 8 x 10.5, History, December 2006
ISBN: 978-1-897190-02-9 (paper) . . . $39.95
Quebec Central Railway: From the St. Francis to the Chaudière
Derek Booth’s story of the Quebec Central Railway, serving the upper St. Francis and Chaudière River valley regions of southern Quebec for over 130 years. The Quebec Central included links with Quebec City and Sherbrooke, providing through passenger service between those locations and points in USA, including Boston. Much specialized passenger equipment for QCR’s service was manufactured at the company’s shops. Quebec Central continued to provide passenger service between Sherbrooke and Quebec City until 1965.
No other book like it!
The book tells the story of the railway from its earliest beginnings in the 1860s, when local business people in Quebec and Sherbrooke sought to implement rail service in their region. The largest of Quebec’s regional rail carriers, the QCR was also, for some period of time, one of Canada’s most profitable systems. After the Depression, the QCR entered a long decline culminating in its abandonment in 1994. Its subsequent rebirth under new management in 2000 added yet another chapter to the history of the railway, this one as a “short line.” This most recent business incarnation of regional railways in Canada survived until 2006.
From beginnings, to abandonment... railway rebirth... then gone again
The Quebec Central Railway, from its beginnings to its reincarnation, was a model of innovation and adaptation in both its freight and passenger operations. The QCR was one of the very few regional carriers in Canada to manufacture a significant portion of its rolling stock in its own company shops, as well as one of the first to experiment with gas-electric passenger cars in the face of rising competition from automobiles in the 1920s.
Throughout its history, the QCR was primarily a resource railway whose freight traffic rested heavily on the forest and mineral sectors, particularly on asbestos products. With major market constrictions and production declines, asbestos contributed zero freight tonnage to the re-born Quebec Central. It was forest products that, from 2000, became the mainstay of the new Quebec Central, but economic events in 2006 caused declines in that industry that led once again to the shutdown of Quebec Central Railway.
Ride Quebec Central’s right-of-way once again
While much of the Quebec Central’s right-of-way, stations and other structures have disappeared, many still survive in altered form. These are detailed in an appendix devoted to the principal physical components of the system. Information is included on the conversion, in several locations, of the right-of-way from “Rails to Trails”, thus permitting hikers, cyclists and snow-mobilers once again to travel the Quebec Central, albeit with a different means of locomotion.
160 pages. More than 200 photos and illustrations.
Over 200 photographs, some in colour, cover all aspects of the operation of the railway. These photos illustrate not only details of QCR rolling stock and operational scenes, but also (through the extensive photographic archival holdings in the Eastern Townships) a full record of the regional economic and social impacts of the railway in relation to mining, agriculture, manufacturing, forest industries and urban growth. The year 2000 rebirth of the railway permits the inclusion of not only historic photographs but also of current ones. The book contains 160 pages, and over 200 photographs.
About the Author
A retired Professor of Geography at Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Derek Booth is a historical geographer with a special interest in the roles that railways played in the creation of human and economic landscapes in Canada. A graduate of McGill University, he is a Quebecer with deep family roots in the Eastern Townships and in the Ottawa Valley. In addition to Railways of Southern Quebec, Volumes I, II, & III he has written and lectured extensively on transport issues in the Eastern Townships. His current research interests focus on elements of the region’s cultural, military, and economic geography. Derek lives with his wife, Sandy, in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
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