New markets

Open up the cars and see what they’re carrying.

Agricultural produce, cattle, construction materials, objects for everyday use, postal parcels: freight cars took everything, winter or summer!
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The circulation of merchandise at the Rivière-du-Loup station

Receiving merchandise


Seeds, as well as tree and ornamental shrub seedlings arrived in the spring as soon as the winter cold was over.

The railway made it easier to send merchandise over long distances, even to rural areas and faraway towns.

Before the arrival of illustrated catalogues, merchants advertised their goods in the newspapers. Seeds to grow winter wheat, white Belgian carrots, or beets – now people could simply choose a variety and order it! Merchants and farmers sent their orders by mail. Village general stores ordered large quantities and distributed them to their customers. The deliveries came in by train and were picked up at the post office or at the station.

When it opened in Village-des-Aulnaies in 1868, Auguste Dupuis’s nursery offered a delivery service. His seedlings for fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, and annuals were distributed by steamship and by train to all the Canadian provinces and the United States.

Facade of a trade

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, 1907, b10941.

Advertisement for seeds in the Bulletin Politique

Source: SHGRDL, Bulletin politique, Advertisement for seeds by Dubé and Sons, 21 March, 1899, p. 1, 5th column.

Advertisement for Auguste Dupuis

Source: Advertisement for Auguste Dupuis’s nursery on the back cover of Abbé Léon Provancher’s book, Le verger, le potager et le parterre, 1874., 1874.

Rioux Shoes

Retail business was gradually transformed after the arrival of the railway, culminating in a revolutionary change at the turn of the century.

Transportation by rail was competitive and opened up a vast distribution network. Outdoor markets operated throughout the year and the products sold in them often travelled for several days before reaching their destination. Merchants didn’t hesitate to boast of the merits and originality of products from the United States and elsewhere. Théophile Rioux’s shoe store opened in 1887. Like several other businessmen, he took advantage of the growth of the clientele in the quickly-developing town. The store was located on Chemin du Lac Témiscouata (now Rue Lafontaine), a main street that led to the station.

Chaussures Rioux is still selling shoes on Rue Lafontaine today.

Theophile Rioux in front of his shop on Lafontaine street

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Joseph-Adélard Boucher, Théophile Rioux, Rivière-du-Loup, jab0054.

Théophile Rioux’s shoe store

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Joseph-Adélard Boucher, jab0058.

Window of the shop Rioux, 1939

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Ulric Lavoie, Rioux shoe store, 1939, l18800..

Advertisement for Theophile Rioux's store

Source: T. Rioux advertisement, Union Meeting, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Canadian Division, 4 July, 1905, Rivière-du-Loup, Richard Michaud Collection.

Postal parcels

At the end of the 19th century, manufactured items began to fill homes in the Province’s regions at a dizzying pace. By means of their mail-order catalogues, available in Canada from the 1880s onward, large department stores like Eaton’s, Simpson’s, and Hudson’s Bay threw themselves into conquering the countryside, offering all sorts of products. Objects of domestic life, stoves, furniture, clothing, toys, and preserves: everything to be had was ordered and jammed into railway cars!

Like other young women of her age, Mimmy Pratte impatiently awaited the arrival of Eaton’s autumn-winter catalogue. The pictures of glamorous outfits and hats were the stuff of dreams for big girls and small!

Sales by mail-order catalogue climbed at the beginning of the 20th century and by the 1910s, Eaton’s was even selling house plans. In the Canadian West, when such a plan was purchased, the store could even supply and send the building materials by train!

Every year, catalogue’s toy section featured innumerable locomotive engines and cars. Toy trains were children’s favourite Christmas gifts.

Mimy Pratte wearing a winter coat

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Mimmy Pratte, b03892.

Cover of Eaton’s catalogue, Autumn-winter 1901

Source : Cover of Eaton’s catalogue, Autumn-winter 1901, p. 3, Private collection.

Domestic items of Eaton's catalogue in 1901

Source : Domestic items, Eaton’s catalogue, Autumn-winter 1901, p. 187, Private collection.

Ladies’ capes, Eaton’s catalogue

Source : Ladies’ capes, Eaton’s catalogue, Autumn-winter 1901, p. 13, Private collection.

Toy trains in Eaton's catalogue in 1928

Source: © McCord Museum, Toy train, 1880-1900, M975.55.3.1.

Iron toy railway car, 1880-1900

Source: © McCord Museum, Iron toy railway car, 1880-1900, M975.55.3.1-3.

Toy trains

Source : 1928 Eaton’s catalogue, Toy train, Private collection.

Cover of Simpson’s catalogue, 1931

Source : Cover of Simpson’s catalogue, 1931, Private collection

Wheat from the west

Freight cars brought the wheat grown in western Canada to Atlantic ports. In the second half of the 19th century, Ontario was already exporting wheat to Europe. In the days of the Intercolonial Railway, the wheat was loaded onto trains that obligatorily passed through Fraserville on their way to the Maritimes. In Halifax, merchandise was loaded on the railway dock.

Train dock, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Source : © McCord Museum, Train dock, Halifax, Nova Scotia, M.P.0000.25.64.

In the opposite direction, cargos of sugar from the Caribbean islands, salt-fish, and other food staples were delivered by rail to Canada’s western provinces. Almost “two hundred tons of freight” left Halifax every day, reported a newspaper at the time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a grain elevator belonging to St. Lawrence Flour Mills Limited was erected beside the railway track in Rivière-du-Loup, near the coal depot and the ice house. Located on Rue Magloire, the elevator had direct access to the freight cars.

The grain elevator of St. Lawrence Flour Mills Ltd

The grain elevator of St. Lawrence Flour Mills Ltd. Underwriters' Survey Bureau, Toronto Montreal, G1144, R58, G475, U5.


Napoléon Dion (1849-1919) was born in Trois-Pistoles. Son of an ironmonger, he studied in Rimouski and moved to Fraserville in about 1885. As a merchant and ironmonger, he sold wood- and coal-heating stoves and other domestic ironware items. His stoves arrived by train from all over Canada and the United States. The home-building boom that began in the city in the 1870s was a boon to merchants who supplied the population with items for everyday use. The North Shore, still dependent on river transport, was also a market of interest for the businesspeople of Rivière-du-Loup. Merchandise arrived by train and was taken across the St. Lawrence by schooner. A member of the Fraserville town council, and later, Liberal Party representative for Temiscouata, Napoléon Dion was committed to the development of the town and the region.

Napoléon Dion, ironmonger in Fraserville

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, 1912, b15329c.

Napoléon Dion advertisement

Source: SHGRDL, L’Écho de Fraserville, 31 May, 1884, 4th column.

Interior of a general store

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Belle-Lavoie, Inside a store, bl0931.


Coal from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, was exported west to the cities by the Intercolonial Railway, from its inauguration in 1876 to the beginning of the 20th century

The town of Rivière-du-Loup, like most urban centres in this era, stored reserves of coal supplies for use by locomotives and by citizens. The coal for the trains was piled in the south part of the station grounds, near the shops. Access to the coal for private use was via Rue Magloire. The delivery point was located on the side of a slope; the chute made it easy to pour the coal for delivery to customers. In the towns during this period, coal was an attractive alternative to wood for heating and cooking.

extract from newspaper Le Courrier de Fraserville

“Regarding the Intercolonial Railway at the present time, the export of coal on the rail line has been enormous, particularly this year.”
Source : SHGRDL, Le Courrier de Fraserville, Le commerce par l’Intercolonial, 15 Feb., 1888, p. 2, 5th column.

Location of the coal deposit

Source: Library and Archives Canada, Insurance map of Rivière-du-Loup, 1954, Underwriters’ Survey Bureau, Toronto Montreal, G1144, R58, G475, U5.

Sending merchandise


In 1889, the opening of the Temiscouata Railway gave access to a vast forest basin. With yellow birch, spruce, pine, cedar, and tamarack, timber was a plentiful resource

The merchants and businessmen transformed the wood to resell it in various forms: railway ties for the railway companies, cedar shingles for the roofs and walls of houses, telephone and electric poles, etc. Wood items made up a large part of the freight sent from the region to the Canadian West and the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century, wood pulp would occupy an ever-larger place among exports.

Lumber ward of M.G.A. Binet

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Lumber ward of M.G.A. Binet à Rivière-du-Loup, 1900, b04502.

Lumber merchant advertisement

Source: Lumber merchant advertisement, Union Meeting, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Canadian Division, 4 July, 1905, Rivière-du-Loup, Richard Michaud Collection.


At the turn of the century, the Fraser Company’s squared timber was loaded onto the freight cars of the Temiscouata Railway at Cabano.

The cargo of wood passed through Rivière-du-Loup and was redirected to the dock at La Pointe via a siding built in 1885. This crossed the Rivière du Loup on the Intercolonial line bridge and continued for almost 7 km. long before reaching the dock. Loaded onto barges, the wood was transferred off-shore onto trans-Atlantic ships that made the long crossing to England.

The steamboat Carolina docked at Rivière-du-Loup

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Paul-Émile Martin, The steamboat Carolina docked at Rivière-du-Loup, 1903, m07083.

Bulletin Politique local notes

“Several cars carrying timber arrived at La Pointe via the Intercolonial siding. The wood belongs to the Frasers of Cabano, who are building at Lake Temiscouata.” Source : SHGRDL, Bulletin politique, Notes locales, 11 May, 1900, p. 1, 1st column.

Donald Fraser, Cabano

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Donald Fraser, Cabano, 1900, b04386.

Lumber at the Fraser saw-mill, 1920

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Aline Cloutier, Lumber at the Fraser saw-mill, 1920, c179.

Loading wood into the train

Source: Fort Ingall Archives, Loading wood onto the train, Fraser Company, Fonds Fraser, C-2. no 83.


Animals for slaughter and local agricultural products such as butter and maple syrup were sent by rail to markets in Quebec City.

Butter was one of the most highly-prized agricultural products of the region. In the 19th century, farm butter from Rivière-du-Loup and Isle-Verte was sold in the markets of larger cities. Merchants collected it at the farm and sent it upriver by schooner.

With the arrival of the railway in 1860, farmers had a new means of commercializing their produce. The adaptation did not always go smoothly, however: some farmers complained about the conditions prevailing in train transportation.

Butter was made on the farm. Churning butter was a task reserved for women. Salted and sold in molds weighing a pound, half a pound, or lesser quantities calculated in ounces, farmers’ butter was highly sought after in public markets.

With the opening of butter and cheese factories beginning in the 1890s, the rate of production rose rapidly. The introduction of the first refrigerated railway cars was also a stimulus for a rise in production. Placing insulation on the walls and a trap-door on the roof to keep ice made the butter last longer.

Herd of cows

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Marie-Alice Dumont, Herd of cows, d7462.

Extract from newspaper Le Canadien

“I would be much obliged if you would publish the following on the manner that the employees of the Grand Trunk Railway carry out their duties on the Rivière-du-Loup line. It’s really disgusting to see the extreme dirtiness of the second-class carriages and freight cars. Farmers often have to put their butter and lard in cars that have held live animals and which haven’t been cleaned before receiving produce for sale at the market.”
Source : Journal Le Canadien, 5 Nov., 1866, p. 2, 6th column.

St-Modeste butter factory, 1916

Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Ulric Lavoie, Saint-Modeste butter factory, 1916, l01775.

Butter churn

Source : Michel Lessard, Objets anciens du Québec. La vie domestique. Montreal, Éditions de l’Homme, 1994, p. 135.


At the close of the 19th century, the potato became one of the staples of food production in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. Three quarters of the potatoes grown in the counties of Matane, Rimouski, and Isle-Verte were sent by freight car to the markets of Montreal.

Strong potato production continued into the first decades of the 20th century. In 1925, Montreal received approximately 6,000 freight-car loads of potatoes from the Bas-Saint-Laurent and the Maritimes. The tubers were destined for markets in Montreal and in the United States.

As potatoes can be spoiled by frost, the railwaymen gave accounts of how they sometimes had to set up improvised stoves in the freight cars to keep their precious cargo warm! A risky adventure at the least, according to our informers.

sorting potatoes, 1925

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Marie-Alice Dumont, Sorting potatoes, 1925, d6881.

Agricultural machinery

At the end of the 19th century, agricultural machinery was manufactured by a number of companies in the region. Essential for the modernization of agriculture, the threshers, potato-diggers, and seeders made by the Bertrand foundry on Isle-Verte or the Desjardins foundry in Saint-André, and farm carts made by the Normand Company in Saint-Pascal, were loaded onto flatcars and delivered throughout the Province.

Agricultural machinery on the Intercolonial Railway, 1907

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Pelletier-Landry, Agricultural machinery on the Intercolonial Railway, 1907, pl102.