Quebec City Railway History Overview
1869-1874: Quebec & Gosford Wooden Railway (Q&G) operates passenger and freight trains from St. Sauveur Station to Gosford County.
1875: Quebec Montreal Ottawa & Occidental Railway (QMO&O) is the first standard railway reaching Quebec City from the North Shore.
1880: Q&G is reorganized as the Quebec & Lake St. John Railway (Q&LSJ) with the goal to reach Chambord near the namesake lake.
1882: QMO&O is sold to Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The process will take a few years to complete.
1888: Q&LSJ mainline is completed.
1889: Quebec Montmorency & Charlevoix Railway (QM&C) connects Hedleyville (Limoilou) to Ste. Anne de Beaupré. A station is built at the junction with Q&LSJ in Hedleyville (see header picture). A wye is probably used to turn locomotives north to the right of way, before the bridge to Quebec City is built.
1890: Quebec & Lake St. John Railway (Q&SLJ) extends its mainline from Val-St-Michel to Hedleyville and builds a swing bridge over St. Charles River in a joint venture with QM&C to gain access to Quebec City Downtown.
1891: Talks between QM&C and Q&LSJ about the new union station in Quebec City Downtown fails. Q&LSJ build its own station and shops at Bassin Louise.
1894-1898: QM&C builds a temporary passenger station south to the swing bridge to respect a previous deal with Quebec City Council.
1898: Quebec City pays reluctantly 100 000$ to QM&C for a new station on St. Paul Street.
1899: QM&C changes its name for Quebec Railway Light & Power (QRL&P) after a merger with Quebec District Tramway and Montmorency Falls Electric Power. Ste. Anne de Beaupré line is renamed Montmorency Division.
1900: All QRL&P lines are fully electrified from Quebec City to St. Joachim.
1905: Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) purchases Q&LSJ and QRL&P builds Mont Mills spur at Morency Junction north to Limoilou.
1908: CNoR builds a new junction between Garneau yard and Limoilou.
1915: Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) builds Palace Station. Access rights are granted to CNoR and Quebec Central Railway (QCR). CNoR Bassin Louise Station and shops are dismantled and a new freight yard and shops are built in Limoilou.
1909-1919: Quebec & Saguenay Railway (Q&S) extends QM&C mainline to Clermont (Charlevoix) from St. Joachim.
1923: CNoR and Q&S are fully absorbed into Canadian National Railway (CNR). CNoR track from Limoilou to Allenby is renamed Lairet Subdivision and ex-Q&LSJ line is renamed St. Raymond Subdivision.
1951: CNR purchases QRL&P Montmorency Division and renames it Murray Bay Subdivision.
1954: St. Paul Street Station is demolished to make room for the new post office.
1959: Commuter service between Quebec City and St. Joachim is abandoned. Remaining tracks at St. Paul Street Station are dismantled.
1960’s-1970’s: Most rail-served industries around Limoilou yard and Lairet Subdivision close their doors.
1964-1974: CNR roundhouse and shops at Limoilou are dismantled.
1976: Dufferin-Montmorency Highway is built. Palace Station closes and tracks are removed to make room for the new highway. In the process, original Hedley-Junction is removed and Limoilou yard modified accordingly. Murray Bay Subdivision now connects to Limoilou through a wye. The turntable is dismantled
1985: Via Rail Canada reopens Palace Station and passenger trains run on CNR mainline over St. Charles River’s bridge.
1990-1997: St. Raymond subdivision is abandoned and converted into a biking trail.
1994: Murray Bay Subdivision is sold to Chemin de fer du Québec (CFQ) and renamed Chemin de fer de Charlevoix (CFC).
1986-2010: Most rail-served industries on Murray Bay Subdivision close.
2010: CFC is sold to Daniel Gauthier (Groupe Le Massif) for tourist trains. CNR obtains rights to operate future freight trains.
Hedley-Junction and Limoilou yard history
Railway service in Quebec City traces its origin back in 1869 when Quebec & Gosford Railway (Q&G) was founded to connect the capital to the northern township of Gosford with a wooden railway. It operated from 1870 until the track went into disrepair in 1874. Followed the Quebec Montreal Ottawa & Occidental (QMO&O) in 1875 which built its terminal were the actual Palace Station stands. In 1882, the long process to sell QMO&O to Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) started. In 1880, Q&G was reorganized as a standard iron-rail line and renamed Quebec & Lake St. John Railway (Q&LSJ). From 1880 to 1888, the new line reached Chambord on Lake St. John from Quebec City through St. Raymond and Rivière-à-Pierre. It shared Canadian Pacific Station in Quebec City (actual Palace Station site) but would soon be a key player in Hedley-Junction birth.
|Credits: Q&LSJ brochure (1898), collectionscanada.gc.ca, 2010|
A few years erlier, Mr. Hedley, a rich businessman in the lumber trade, founded a village called Hedleyville for his employees. A small yard and station were built there waiting for the day a swing bridge would be built on the river to get direct access to Quebec City business district.
|Credits: QM&C brochure (circa 1890), banq.qc.ca, 2007|
In 1889, Horace Jansen Beemer, a well-known railway contractor in the area who had undertaken the city aqueduct yearss before, decided to build a new railway line to haul pilgrims to St. Anne de Beaupré Shrine, which was recently granted the prestigious title of Basilica by Pope Leo XIII in 1887. This new company was known as Quebec Montmorency & Charlevoix Railway (QM&C) and had a chart granting permission to extend the line to Tadoussac River (a feat it never did).
|Credits: Train wreck at Hedleyville (circa 1890), banq.qc.ca, 2010|
Naturally, Hedleyville became the new terminus for this line and soon Q&LSJ dicided to connect its mainline from Val-St-Michel to QM&C. The station was located near St. Charles River between both mainline and the QM&C yard was east of it. At this time, Hedleyville was a busy place and the small industrial village was quickly incorporated. After a few merger, the new town was renamed Limoilou in honor of Jacques Cartier’s birthplace. Over the years, the railways switched the name to Limoilou even if the former name “Hedley” would stay in colloquial speech until now. There's no proof Q&LSJ built the actual yard and it would be unlikely.
|Credits: First swing bridge built accross St. Charles River (circa 1905), banq.qc.ca, 2010|
By the end of 1889, talks between QM&C and Q&LSJ took place. Both companies wanted to build a swing bridge over St. Charles River and a modern union station in downtown Quebec City. Rivalry and jealousy between both companies prevented this to happen. Nobody wanted to pay and operate the bridge! Finally, in 1890, Quebec City council forced them to work together and Q&LSJ and QM&C finally agreed to build the bridge the same year.
|Credits: Q&LSJ Station (circa 1905), F. C. Würtele, banq.qc.ca, 2010|
Collaboration between the two railways never went further and no compromise was reached about the union station. In 1891, Q&LSJ decided to move on and quickly built a new and elegant terminal on St. André Street. It included a 3-storey victorian passenger stations, a 3-storey freight warehouse (picture: behind de station), a yard, a shop and a roundhouse (picture: right to the station, not visible).
|Credits: Valentines & Sons Publishing Co. (circa 1905), banq.qc.ca, 2010|
QM&C was slower to respect its previous agreement with Quebec City, effectively taking it in hostage to get subsidies for the new station. In 1895, the exasperated City council gave in and $100 000 were officially granted to build an already built strectch of track between the Hedleyville and Quebec City Harbour. A scandal burst out when public discovered the cunning strategy in 1898. This time, QM&C finally decided to build what would be known as St. Paul Street Station.
From this point, Hedley Junction focussed on freight interchange, both yard developing large facilities. North to Limoilou yard, on Canardière Road, Lairet Station was built. This wooden structure would be the last remaining passenger station in Quebec City until it was finally razed in summer 2007 (excluding CPR Palace Station and modern VIA Rail Ste-Foy Station formerly know as Bridge Station).
|Credits: #405 leaving St. Paul Station (Sept. 1954), petespix75, flickr.com, 2010|
In 1900, QM&C became the Quebec Railway Light & Power (QRL&P) and electrified its line. Interurban style service was implemented and the line renamed Montmorency Division. In 1919, extension to Clermont (Charlevoix) was completed but under a different ownership. This new line went under CNR management and was known as Murray Bay Subdivision. Steam power was still used to do interchange with other railways in Quebec City and St. Joachim.
Somewhere around 1905, Q&LSJ was sold to Great Northern Railway of Canada, a short-lived company quickly absorbed into Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR). Despite this fact, many railroaders still refer to the west mainline in Limoilou yard as "Le Grand Nord", the French translation for "Great Northern".
Circa 1908, a new and direct CNoR mainline reached Quebec City from Garneau through a wye junction north to Limoilou yard. National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) joined with CPR at Cadornac Jct and finally connected Quebec City to South Shore and New England railways through the infamous Quebec Bridge in 1919.
|Credits: Palace Station (1948), Paul Carpentier, banq.qc.ca, 2010|
In 1915, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) upgraded significantly its infrastructures by building the famous Gare du Palais (Palace Station). It was not an union station, but CPR granted access to CNR and Quebec Central Railway. At this time, former Q&LSJ station on St. André Street was demolished. However, even if Hedley Junction was near CPR and sharing some trackage in Quebec City Harbour, interchange was scarce with CNR/QRL&P at this place. Most CNR passenger trains had to run on CPR track from Cadorna Junction (St. Sauveur ward) to Palace Station until 1976. No direct link existed between CNR track and CPR Palace Station so commuter trains from St. Raymond and Murray Bay Subdivisions had to enter the station backward from an interchange near former St. Paul Street Station.
|Credits: Quebec Tpographic Map (1920), banq.qc.ca, 2010|
Circa 1915, after former Q&LSJ terminal at Bassin Louise was dismanteld, CNoR built the actual Limoilou yard and shops incluading a large roundhouse. In 1923, it was fully merged into Canadian National Railway. In 1927, QRL&P built the modern Limoilou shops equipped with a transfer table east to Hedley Junction.
|Credits: #4509 at Limoilou (1967), Don Jaworski, cnrphotos.com, 2010 |
In 1951, QRL&P was sold to CNR and electric traction was abandoned in 1959 in
favour of dieselization. The line became part of Murray Bay Subdivision and by late 1959, all interurban passenger service was abandoned because of automobile concurrence. St. Paul Street Station was demolished the same year and the land cleared to erect a new post office. During the 1960's, CNR also built the new Battures de Beauport yard south-east from QRL&P interchange yard. By 1974, the roundhouse and car shops were long gone; the turntable survived until 1976 when the yard was redesigned to make room for a new highway.
|Credits: Train from La Malbaie (Murray Bay), Gerry Burridge, circa 1960-1964.|
The last daily commuter trains to travel through Hedley Junction in the early 1970's were deserving St. Raymond and Murray Bay Subdivisions (excluding the former Montmorency Division)
|Credits: Last passenger train, Gerry Burridge, 31th August 1976|
In 1976, Palace Station closed, all CPR properties were vacated to make room for a new elevated highway. Track was removed as far as Cadorna Junction, near St. Malo ex-NTR facilities. The historic station was scheduled for demolition but barely survived after protests from architects and the local population.
|Credits: Transportation Safety Board of Canada (2009), tsb.gc.ca, 2010|
Dufferin-Montmorency Highway (440) between St. Roch Ward in Quebec City and Beauport was completed in 1976. This project, planned in the late 1950’s and built from 1962 to 1980 needed to make room for the modernity. Parts of St. Roch and particularly the Chinatown were razed; Hedley Junction, its station and the former QRL&P double mainline were expropriated and replaced by a concrete elevated highway. Marshes east to this yard and parts of St. Lawrence River were filled in the process. Murray Bay Subdivision lost its direct access to Quebec City Harbour and was rerouted through a new wye built south to the former CNR roundhouse.
|Credits: Pierre Fourier (1994), banq.qc.ca, 2010|
In 1985, Palace Station was fully restored and reopened. However, VIA Rail trains now use CNR track crossing the St. Charles River to access the station. In 1992, Palace Station was recognized Heritage Station by federal government and is now preserved by law.
In the 1990’s Limoilou yard became dependent from Joffre yard located in Charny. Engine houses and car shops were long gone since the 1960’s and most of the small industries located along the yard closed over the 1970’s.
|Credits: CFC train exits the wye (2008), Maxime Larouche, railpictures.net, 2010|
From 1990 to 1997, St. Raymond Subdivision is closed slowly closed section by section and finally transformed into a 22 km biking trail known as Corridor des Cheminots. The next year, Murray Bay Subdivision was sold to Quebec Railways (Chemin de fer Charlevoix; CFC) and went back under CNR management in 2010, with Le Massif de Charlevoix as operator. A major track overhaul occurred this same year in prevision of a future tourist train. From a certain point of view, Hedley Junction disappeared quietly in 1976, its right of way converted into a questionable highway which still fuels interrogation about messy urban planning from the 1960’s.
Quebec City Harbour activities grew steadily in the recent years in favour of rail transport. Nowadays, Limoilou yard handle bulk freight such as grain, chemicals, minerals and oil products. CPR no longer access the old city, subcontracting its trains to Quebec-Gatineau Railway.