Did you know that tracks from the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway used to run through Renfrew?
These tracks have since been removed and turned into two beautiful trails: the Millennium Trail and the Algonquin Trail.
Let’s learn about the history behind the tracks that once had a home in our town.
The Canadian National Railway is a Class I freight railway headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. They currently serve Canada and the Midwestern and Southern United States. The Canadian National Railway was incorporated on June 6, 1919. Although the railway was primarily a freight train, they transported passengers until 1978 when Via Rail took over.
In 1923, the company’s second president, Sir Henry Thornton, created the CNR Radio Department to provide their passengers with radio entertainment and to stand out amongst their main competitor, CP Railway. However, claims of unfair competition from CPR and pressure from the government to create a public broadcasting system caused the CNR Radio Department to end in 1931. In addition, it was common for railways to create their own line of hotels. The main goal of these hotels was to provide their passengers with a place to sleep, however, many became popular tourist attractions as these hotels were known to be very luxurious.
The CN tracks throughout Renfrew have now been turned into the Millennium Trail- a beautiful trail designed for walking, bird watching, cycling and cross country skiing. The trail is 3.4 km long and runs from Barnet Boulevard to Lisgar Street. Along the trail there are many benches and picnic tables for rest stops. Most importantly, the Millennium Trail provides users with a scenic view of Renfrew.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was founded in 1881 in order to physically unite Canada from coast to coast. In 1882 the railway launched their first commercial telegram and entered the express shipment business. Similar to the CN Railway, the CP Railway once had passenger carts and their own line of hotels. One of their most popular hotels was the Banff Springs Hotel, opened in 1888. These locations allowed tourists to participate in many outdoor activities, including sight-seeing, hiking, trail riding, mountain climbing, fishing, golfing, swimming, sailing and canoeing in the summer and, skiing, skating and tobogganing in the winter.
The CPR played a part in immigration and settling in Canada as well. The railway actively recruited immigrants and settlers from eastern Canada and Europe. They sold farmland to attract settlers, set up model farms to show settlers how to farm in the prairies, sent train car exhibits to eastern Canada, built and marketed “ready-made” farms, and built one of the largest irrigation projects in North America to transform 440,000 acres of semi-arid land in Alberta into productive farmland.
Fun Fact- The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway is considered to be one of Canada’s greatest achievements in engineering!
The CPR sold the stretch of rail line between Smiths Falls and Mattawa to Renfrew County, County of Lanark and the Township of Papineau-Cameron. The section of the trail in Renfrew County was named the Algonquin Trail, however, the trail’s official name is the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail. The trail is perfect for biking, ATVing, site-seeing and walking.
Next time you are walking along the trails, you can now think about all of the history that they hold!
Written by Makenna Moran
Marketing and Communications Student for the Town of Renfrew
CP. (2020, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.cpr.ca/en/about-cp/our-history
Transportation Services – Rail Shipping, Intermodal, trucking, warehousing and international transportation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cn.ca/en/
Trails. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.countyofrenfrew.on.ca/en/living-here/trails.aspx