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The Carillon and Grenville Railway operated for 56 years between its namesake towns on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It was a portage railway with no outside railway connections so its owners had no need to modernize. When it ceased operation in 1910 it was a living museum with most of the original 1854 equipment still running on the original “U” rails. The rails were still 5’6” (1,676 mm) apart as the original builders intended, making the railway Canada’s “Last Broad Gauge.”

Before the arrival of railways and roads, the Ottawa River was one principal route to the west. It was navigable from Ste. Anne to the Chaudiere falls at Ottawa save for rapids near Vaudreuil and for three rapids (the Carillon; Chute à Blondeau; and Grenville) in the 12 miles (19 km) between Carillon and Grenville.

The rapids near Vaudreuil were taken care of by a private canal built by the St. Andrews Steam Forwarding Company in 1816. (A government canal replaced it in 1843.) In 1819 the British Government started a canal project to deal with the rapids between Carillon and Grenville. The original purpose of this venture was defence, though the canal was only ever used for commerce. The construction was in the hands the British Ordnance Department with Captain Henry du Vernet, a civil engineer in the British Royal Staff Corps, in command. Despite being widened and deepened over the years, the locks remained only wide enough for freight barges. It couldn’t accommodate the larger steamboats that were in passenger service on the river. Passengers were forced to use stagecoaches on a portage road between Carillon and Grenville.

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The Carillon & Grenville Railway Last of the Breed