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The Carillon & Grenville Railway Montreal & Bytown Railway

Early railroad entrepreneurs saw the uncomfortable stagecoach journey as a business opportunity so on July 26, 1840, the Company of Proprietors of the Upper and Lower Ottawa Rail-road (sic) Company was granted a charter to build the portage railway. This charter lapsed and seven years later, on June 24, 1847, the Carillon and Grenville Railway Company was chartered for the same purpose but, it too failed to materialize.

Next up was W. A . Masson and 38 associates who launched a scheme called the great Montreal and Ottawa Valley Trunk Line. This was not a “real” company name but merely the label used in the press of the time to describe the project. Three railways were to be included: The Montreal and Bytown Railway Company which would follow the north bank of the Ottawa River from Montreal and would traverse the route of the previously proposed Carillon & Grenville railway; the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company and the Bytown and Pembroke Railway Company. Plans for these railways included tunnels just to add variety and interest. One was to be in Montreal and the other in Brockville. The one in Brockville was built but the Montreal tunnel never materialized.

The Montreal and Bytown Railway Company (See Map of Montreal & Bytown Proposed Route) was charted in August 1853. From Montreal it was to start from Commissioners Street (now called de la Commune) at the foot of Jacques Cartier Square. It was to go under Notre Dame Street in a tunnel and proceed north on a route east of and parallel to St. Denis Street to the “Back River” in Ahuntsic. The river crossing would have been about 500 feet (152 m) to the east of the present Pont Viau. It was then to cross Ile Jesus (now Laval) and proceed to St. Eustache, Saint Andrews, Carillon, Grenville and finally Hull.  At Hull it would cross the Ottawa River just above the Chaudiere Falls and make its entrance into Bytown as Ottawa was then called. There were also to be two lightly constructed feeder branch lines using wood and strap rails serving St. Jerome and Lachute. The total length of the line was to be 133 miles (214 km); 110 miles (177 km) would be the mainline and another 23 miles (37 km) would be feeder lines. Interestingly the original charter stated that the railway was to cross the Ottawa River between Carillon and Grenville. The charter also authorized a connecting line to the Victoria Bridge or to a point on the Grand Trunk west of Montreal. These latter provisions were never fulfilled.

No surveys had been done so the contractor would be compensated at the rate of £6,500 per additional mile for the main line and £1,200 per additional mile for the feeders. This supplementary payment would kick in if the actual length exceeded the estimated length by 2.5%. Subsequent surveys put the actual length of the line at 119.5 miles (192.3 km) so the total budget was £831,750 ($4,042,305). The contractors were to receive $100,000 in cash and the balance in twenty-year 6% bonds.

Before the end of 1853 James Sykes of Sheffield, England was awarded the contract for the Montreal & Bytown Railway and the Brockville & Ottawa. In keeping with the practice of the time, Sykes was to be not only the contractor, but the principal fundraiser as well. Sykes brought in his brothers William and Samuel.  Charles de Bergue of Manchester was also in on the project. Work was undertaken under the names of James Sykes and Company and Sykes, de Bergue and Company. James Sykes was to provide his engineering and contracting expertise, Samuel and William were competent field superintendents and de Bergue was the financier. The railway was to issue bonds, payable in 1874, which would be turned over to Sykes, de Bergue and Company and they in turn would sell them in England.

In addition to de Bergue’s funding, the corporation of Montreal subscribed £25,000 and Deux-Montagnes County put up £62,000. Ottawa County also provided a substantial amount.

The Carillon to Grenville section was given priority to meet the urgent public need and this was completed (12.5 miles (20 km)) on Oct. 25, 1854. It was in operation by the beginning of December. In order to be eligible for subsidies it was constructed to 5’6” (1,676 mm) gauge, then the Canadian standard and which has sometimes been called "Provincial Gauge." The rails themselves were wrought iron “U” rails weighing 56 pounds per yard. The roster had one locomotive; two first-class coaches; four second-class coaches; two boxcars and four platform cars. On December 1, 1854, the contractors turned over this equipment and the completed section of the line between Carillon and Grenville to the Montreal and Bytown Railway Company. This transfer was confirmed by a notarial deed dated May 12, 1855. The locomotive was provided by Kinmond Brothers of Montreal and was a 4-4-0 type bearing the number 1 and named Ottawa. Carmichael & Brown of Montreal built one first-class coach and one second­-class coach for the railway. O'Meara, another Montreal builder, produced a second class coach that was subsequently converted to a combination baggage-passenger car. The body of this latter car survives today at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. No information has come to light on the builder or builders of the other rolling stock.

The Montreal & Bytown Railway managed to raise about $100,000 through the sale of shares in Canada and $98, 761.00 had been spent on construction making the cost per mile about $7,597.00.

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