Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pointe-au-Pic Wharf

Félicia, a 1923 steam tugboat preserved in Charlevoix (Musée maritime de Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive)

Pointe-au-Pic wharf is an interesting rail-marine feature in Charlevoix located a few miles southwest from La Malbaie. This is where the first ever steam locomotive was delivered in Charlevoix when Rodolphe Forget started to build the line. The original line linked the wharf to Clermont's pulp mill. Nowadays, the wharf is still used to export paper made in Clermont. Also, it was the quay where large steamships would bring tourists to famous Manoir Richelieu located just upon the cliff.

When Champlain explored the area in the early 18th century, he named gave the name La Malbaie because the bay there was to shallow to be used as a port. La Malbaie thus would translate as The Bad Bay in English. Later, the area was renamed Murray Bay to honor the first britannic governor after the Conquest in 1760. The nearest suitable place to locate a decent wharf was at Pointe-au-Pic where waters are deepers.

"L'Accalmie" - The last goélette preserved in Baie-Saint-Paul (Flickr)

The actual pier may be relatively small, but it can still serve quite large vessels. In the past, "goélettes" (schooners) were a staple on St. Lawrence River. Those ships did a lot of work, moving different bulk commodities like pulpwood, cement pipes and many others. Unfortunately, one of the last preserved in Charlevoix was lost in an arson earlier in 2015. A few years ago, many others were destroyed when a smoker had the very smart idea to throw away his cigarette inside a boat. Fortunately, three boats were saved from this disaster, including the famous St-André. There used to be one preserved on Côte-de-Beaupré... Guess what? It also burned to the ground during an arson! Nothing new under the sun they say.

Now, back on track, Pointe-au-Pic wharf as an interesting story. So far, photographs and maps helps us to identify three phases. The primitive structure date back to 1853 and was made of wood.

Wharf seen from the east.

The first real wharf, still preserved, was long and had a large shed for passengers and freight. A siding, facing east, ran along the pier's east side where freighters would be anchored.

Boxcars on the pier (Collection Roland Gagné, Musée de Charlevoix)

Many pictures of this old wharf can be see on Lise Lapointe's website. At some point, there was two sidings on the wharf. If you read French, there's many interesting historic notes about the wharf.

Later, sometime during the 1960s or 1970s, a new pier was built west to the old one. A new modern warehouse was added and track was relocated on the west side. The track was nested between the warehouse and the river, just like the first iteration. The picture posted on Flickr by Lorence Toutant depict this new setting.

The last phase: long siding (

Finally, between 1983 and 1993, the second pier was again enlarged as the warehouse. This is the actual configuration. The siding was relocated on the north side of the warehouse, then later reduced in length. It no longer serves the warehouse.

The last phase: short siding (

For our purpose, it is easier to model the 1960s-1970s variation because of space requirements and modelling era.

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