Rail travellers

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For vacationers seeking the fresh sea breeze, for sons of immigrants looking for work, for rich and poor, train travel opened new horizons.
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Rail travellers


Blanche Lacoste Landry - La Pointe at Rivière-du-Loup
 View of La Pointe of Rivière-du-Loup and its hotels

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, postcards, Blanche Landry, Landry Collection.

Advertisement of the Bellevue Hotel

Source : Advertisement of the Bellevue Hotel, Union Meeting Canadian Divisions, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, July, 1905, Richard Michaud Collection..

Beginning in the early 1840s, well-to-do families from Montreal and Quebec City travelled to the resorts of the Lower St. Lawrence by paddle-wheeler. The steamboats docked at the main tourist destinations on the north and south shores. Vacationers particularly favoured Tadoussac, Murray Bay, Kamouraska, Pointe à l’Orignal, and Cacouna.

Landry family on the terrace of La Maison Blanche Hotel

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Cartes postales, Blanche Landry, Coll. Landry.

With the advent of the railway, holiday-makers could reach their favourite resorts more quickly. Between 1860 and 1876, the Grand Trunk Railway even added an express train that brought tourists from Montreal to Rivière-du-Loup on Fridays and returned them to the city on Mondays. Some people would take the train to the terminus and continue their trip from the wharf by steamboat. The area of La Pointe developed gradually, with private villas and hotels appearing from the 1890s onward. The Bellevue, Venise, and La Maison Blanche hotels hosted tourists in search of fresh air and salt-water bathing. In 1916, as they had every summer for the last few years, the family of Blanche Lacoste Landry came from Montreal by train. They would have their tea on the veranda of La Maison Blanche, taking advantage of the salt air from the St. Lawrence River.

“Fleeing the heat of the last few days, citizens from everywhere have been arriving at the various watering holes of the Lower St. Lawrence. All the trains are crowded with them. At Fraserville and at Notre-Dame du Portage, most of the available houses have been rented for the season.”

postcard, La maison Blanche

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint Laurent, postcards, Blanche Landry, Landry Collection.

Mrs Gendron - Customers of Stanislas Belle

Mr and Mrs Gendron came from Temiscouata by rail to have their photographs taken at Stanislas Belle’s studio in Fraserville. Attracted by the town’s popularity as a tourist destination and the increase in business activities as it expanded, Belle opened his studio on Rue Lafontaine in 1894. He became a well-known artist, and people came from all over North America to have him take their portraits. The photography session was an important occasion for which the subjects usually donned their best clothes.

Mr  and Mrs Gendron at photography studio

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Mr and Mrs Gendron, Temiscouata, June 30, 1894, b00104.

Stanislas Belle, photographer

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Stanislas Belle, b20091.

Stanislas Belle's Studio

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Stanislas Belle’ studio, bl0239.

Advertisement by Stanislas Belle

Source : Advertisement by Stanislas Belle, Union Meeting Canadian Divisions, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, July, 1905, Richard Michaud Collection.

Students of Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

The Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière welcomed its first students in 1829. Over several generations, the sons of many families in the region completed their 8-year (pre-university) cours classique program at the Collège. The teachings of the priests at the Collège were credited in the Côte-du-Sud district as well as outside the region. As soon as the railway arrived in 1860, students could be seen on the station platforms, and when the Intercolonial Railway built the eastern line in 1876, many more young collégiens were able to travel easily between their home villages and the institution.

Graduates of Collège of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, graduates of Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, 1898, b02630.

M.G. Grandbois, young student

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, M.G. Grandbois, Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, 1899, b03219.

Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Belle-Lavoie, Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, b12929.

The company encouraged students by issuing return tickets for the price of a one-way trip. At the beginning and the end of the Christmas and Easter holidays the train was filled with students, for whom the train’s departure was a joyful – and sometimes, a regretful – occasion.

advertisement of Bulletin politique

Intercolonial Railway Easter Holiday Excursion , “Students of schools and colleges; from March 17 to April 1st inclusively. March 13, 1899.”

Source : SHGRDL, Le Bulletin politique, October 13, 1899, p. 1, 4th column.

John A. Macdonald

Sir John A. Macdonald and his wife spent their holidays in the Rivière-du-Loup area. The Prime Minister and his wife arrived by train every year as soon as the weather warmed up. Beginning in 1873, they rented a spacious country house on a rocky ledge overlooking the St. Lawrence. Enchanted by the region, they soon decided to buy the house, enlarging it and decorating it according to the style in vogue. This holiday residence, known as Villa Les Rochers, is one of the oldest and most beautiful houses in the St-Patrice sector.

John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada

Source : Library and Archives Canada, John A. Macdonald, PA-006513-v6..

Villa Les Rochers

Villa Les Rochers, circa 1885.
Source : Library and Archives Canada, Villa Les Rochers, Saint-Patrice, John A. Macdonald, PA-008869.

Macdonald’s summer house

Villa Les Rochers, circa 1910.

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Belle-Lavoie, Sir John A. Macdonald’s summer house, circa 1910, bl0038.

The old Saint-Patrice neighbourhood, popular among English-speaking vacationers at the end of the 19th century, is still frequented by the descendants of the wealthy families from Quebec City, Montreal, and Toronto, who came to exchange the stifling, sticky summers in town for the fresh salt air of the Lower St. Lawrence. Starting with the Grand Trunk in 1860, the railway companies made sure that convenient trains were available for the holiday clientele from June to September. Their arrival at the station platform was an event that was unfailingly reported by the newspapers every summer season.

advertisement of Écho de Fraserville

Lady Macdonald will arrive in our city next week. Our distinguished guest will spend the whole summer season among us. She will reside at the magnificent home that Sir John A. Macdonald had just finished rebuilding on the outskirts of town. There is no doubt that the presence of such a distinguished person in our midst will be a strong recommendation for the large number of tourists looking for a advantageous place to spend the hottest time of the year.”

Source : SHGRDL, L’Écho de Fraserville, May 31, 1884, p. 2.

Reverend Harding

Reverend Harding regularly went to the station to meet immigrants arriving from the Maritimes. Some of these mainly Protestant hopefuls had left Great Britain, and others were born in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. The railway shops in Rivière-du-Loup attracted labourers of various origins. Most of the immigrants lived in the new neighbourhoods of Saint-Ludger and Saint-François-Xavier, on either side of the river and close to the railway. In the 1880s, an Anglican church and a Methodist school were built on Rue Saint-Elzéar for the benefit of Protestant families. Harding was the pastor of the town’s Protestant churches from 1898 to 1925.

Reverend Harding, Fraserville pastor

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Reverend Harding, 1899, b03742a..

View of the station near the bridge and Saint-François area

Source : SHGRDL, View of the station near the bridge and Quartier Saint-François, circa 1883, file 467.

Frank King and his family, 1904

Mr. Frank King and his family, 1904.

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Frank King, Rivière-du-Loup, 1904, b07655..

M. James Hogg, 1895.

Mr. James Hogg, 1898

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, James Hogg, 1898, b02951.

Mr Cook, 1898

Mr. Cook, 1898.

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Mr Cook, 1898, b02938.

Mr. Arthur Desrocher

Arthur Desrocher, an employee of the Victoria Hotel, was on hand at the station to meet guests and escort them to the hotel with their baggage. For over twenty-five years, this hotel had lodged visitors disembarking at Rivière-du-Loup station. The hotel was at the foot of Chemin Fraserville, right beside the Intercolonial Railway station. Rebuilt at the end of the 19th century, the hotel had 35 rooms and even contained a bank branch. The Victoria, along with the Vendôme, Ophir, and Anctil hotels, all of them close to the railway tracks, were the principal lodging facilities for train travellers at the turn of the last century.

Arthur Desrocher, an employee of the Victoria Hotel

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Arthur Desrocher, Victoria Hotel, 1898, b02647.

Advertisement of the Victoria Hotel

Source : SHGRDL, advertisement of the Victoria Hotel, Le Bulletin politique, February 17, 1899, p. 1, 5th and 6th columns.

Advertisement of the Vendôme Hotel

Source : SHGRDL, advertisement of the Vendôme Hotel, Le Bulletin politique, February 17, 1899, p. 2, 4th column.

Victoria Hotel on Lafontaine Street

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Victoria Hotel, 1901, b05596.

The Victoria and Vendome  hotels on Lafontaine Street

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Rue Lafontaine, 1901, b05595.


Élisa Poney

That year, Élisa Poney and her husband, Édouard Ouellet (1841-1926), decided to leave Rivière-du-Loup to try their luck in Massachusetts. A railway labourer and a farmer in Saint-Modeste, Édouard Ouellet’s land had just been expropriated to make room for the construction of the Temiscouata Railway line. They travelled to Montreal on the Grand Trunk Railway, then towards the south-east, to the United States, through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Like more than a million other French-Canadians during this period, Élisa and Édouard emigrated to the U.S.A. with their children. Édouard worked as a carpenter in Lawrence, then in a shoe factory in Brockton, near Boston. They left all their other relatives behind, including their eldest son, Napoléon, who began working as a conductor for the Intercolonial Railway in 1888 and would not leave his home. Job opportunities in the railway shops and the business establishments connected to the railroad attracted innumerable workers. However, many were drawn by big American cities and the promise of higher wages.

Many young people and families left their regions from the mid-19th century onwards. Factory work was very tiring and the emigrants’ living conditions were often difficult.

Élisa Poney, mother

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Élisa Poney, November 17, 1895, b01117.

Édouard Ouellet, labourer

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Stanislas Belle, Édouard Ouellet, November 17, 1895, b01117a.

Newspaper article in Le Courrier de Fraserville

“Emigration -- Several families of the Kamouraska region have left their parishes to go to live in the United States. These are farming families and they will establish themselves in Lewiston, Maine.”

Source : SHGRDL, Le Courrier de Fraserville, December 7, 1887, p. 3, 1st column.

Arthur Buies

Arthur Buies (1840-1901) was a writer and journalist. With his childhood memories of the gently lapping waves at Rimouski and Sainte-Luce, he wrote about the Lower St. Lawrence in a realistic yet poetic way. In 1877, Buies was assigned to write about the “watering holes” of the region, praising their merits with a view to halting the rural exodus. Moving by train from La Pointe à l’Orignal to Rimouski, with stops at Cacouna and Rivière-du-Loup, he regaled his contemporaries with fascinating descriptions of his travels. On one trip between Rimouski and Quebec City on the Intercolonial Railway, Arthur Buies commented how comfortable the ride was:

“The amount of freight carried every day by the Intercolonial Railway between Halifax and Rivière-du-Loup is unimaginable. An unending series of trains passes four times daily, twice in each direction, not to mention the Express, which travels 560 miles in only 20 hours. The rails are steel, and the bridges as elegant as they are solid. It’s clear that nothing was spared to make this line a veritable monument to modern industry. There are none of the bumps and jerks that we’ve come to expect on the Grand Trunk line, and leaving that company to take the Intercolonial is like leaping from a hay wagon into a plush four-wheeler.”

Arthur Buies, Rivière-du-Loup, 1877.

Excerpt : Arthur Buies, Petites chroniques du Bas-du-Fleuve : en passant par La Pointe à l’Orignal, Kamouraska, Rivière-du-Loup, Cacouna, Bic et Rimouski. Trois-Pistoles, Éditions Trois-Pistoles, 2003, p. 161.

Arthur Buies, circa 1880

Source : Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Arthur Buies, circa 1880, P560, S2, D1, P1584.

Interior of a restaurant car of the Grand Trunk Railway, circa 1875

Source : ©McCord Museum, William Notman, Interior of a restaurant car of the Grand Trunk Railway, circa 1875, VIEW-1181.

Lord George Mount Stephen

The construction of the Intercolonial Railway in 1876 gave enthusiastic fishermen easy access to the plentiful salmon rivers and fishing camps of the Matapedia Valley. One of the most famous sportsmen of this region was Lord George Mount Stephen. In 1873, this businessman and financier of Scottish origin had bought land at the confluence of the Causapscal and Matapedia Rivers. Members of British and American high society were frequent visitors to his fishing domain and to other camps in the area. An important railroad stockholder, Stephen even had his own private train car for rail travel. In 1881, he became the Canadian Pacific Railway’s first president. The little community of Causapscal owed much to this benefactor.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Intercolonial’s Maritime Express linked Montreal to Halifax, offering its passengers sleeping cars. The company promoted hunting and fishing facilities in eastern Quebec and the Maritime provinces, printing pamphlets for tourists.

Lord George Mount Stephen

Source : Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, George Stephen, Baron Mount Stephen, circa 1921, P1000, S4, D83, PM0144.

Interior of a sleeping car of the Intercolonial Railway, circa 1910

Source : ©McCord Museum, William Notman, Interior of a sleeping car of the Intercolonial Railway, circa 1910, VIEW-4875.0.2.

The Sportsmen’s Route: Lake Temiscouata

Fish were abundant in Lake Temiscouata. The catch would include char, trout, and whitefish. With the inauguration of the Temiscouata Railway, the train became the preferred means of transportation of hunters and fishermen heading to the heart of the Temiscouata region and Aroostook County in northern Maine. “The Sportsmen’s Route” wasn’t marked on the train cars for nothing! The men would most often disembark at Notre-Dame-du-Lac, an ideal spot for contemplating the breadth and beauty of the lake, and also the place where guides, canoes, provisions, fishing tackle, hotels, and boarding houses were available. The highly-recommended Cloutier hotel was owned and operated by one of the best guides in the area; perched on a hill overlooking the lake, it dominated the landscape. A diminutive station named Cloutier was even built along the track for the convenience of the hotel guests.

 Hunting and fishing on Temiscouata

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Belle-Lavoie, Hunting and fishing on Temiscouata, bl0516.

Cloutier hotel on Lake Témiscouata

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Aline Cloutier, Cloutier Hotel, c204.

Cloutier station on Lake Témiscouata

Source : Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Fonds Aline Cloutier, Cloutier station, c215.

advertisement of Bulletin Politique

“Temiscouata Railway
Picturesque route in Canada with famous fishing sites
Every day, a train leaves Rivière-du-Loup station on this route at 8:00 a.m. and another arrives at 2:50 p.m.
General Office, Rivière-du-Loup
D.B. Lindsay
General Passenger Agent”
Source : SHGRDL, Bulletin politique, February 17, 1899, Le chemin de fer du Témiscouata, p. 3, 7th column.