Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cool Chromes - The Quebec Central Railway

Quebec Central; Ste. Rose, Quebec; May 2002
One of the more interesting rail operations in Canada sprung up at the turn of the 21st Century in Quebec. A trucking firm revitalized the Quebec Central Railway after the line had been abandoned for almost six years.

First a little background. The original Quebec Central was incorporated in 1869 as the Sherbrooke, Eastern Townships & Kennebec Railway, changing its name to the Quebec Central in 1875. In 1912 the Canadian Pacific leased the Quebec Central for 999 years, but retained its QC identity. Passenger service ended in April 1967 and freight service ended in November 1994; a month later CPR officially abandoned the railroad.

However, since CPR only owned ten percent of the stock in the line, it could not rip up the track and dispose of the assets. The track lay dormant for almost six years until Jean-Marc Giguere, owner of trucking firm Express Marco, Inc., purchased the railroad in December 1999. By June 2000 trains were running again.

I had the pleasure of visiting the railroad in May 2002 along with George Pitarys and Bill Linley. The highlight (at least as far as locomotives go) was a high-nosed ex-Southern Railway U23B. The new QC's locomotives had a unique numbering system that combined names of Giguere family members and a number; the U23B was numbered JMG1 (Jean-Marc Giguere 1). We caught it at Ste. Rose crossing a small stream (above).

The railroad operated out of Sherbrooke right up to the Maine border at Lac Frontiere. However, it was on no particular schedule. Wherever the train finished work one night would be where it would start the next, and finding the train was no easy matter. A roll of Canadian pennies was sacrificed as we pennied the tracks at various grade crossings, then went back to check later to see if a train had gone by. After several squashed pennies, we were finally able to zero in on the train. We eventually photographed the train at Daquaam, just a stone's throw from the Maine border, loading woodchips.
Quebec Central; Daquaam, Que.; May 2002
Other power on the railroad included a pair of ex-Illinois Central GP11s (one an ex-reading GP7 and the other an ex-New Haven GP9) with numbers SG2 and GG3 (Silvain and Gaston Giguere, respectively), ex-Delaware & Hudson U23B GG4 (Dany Giguere), ex-Maine Central GP7 RG5 (Roger) and an Alco S2 that broke the numbering pattern with GS9 (Giguere Switcher 9). We caught one of the GP11s and the GP7 at Dudswell Junction, where the sun made a very rare appearance on this trip.
Quebec Central; Dudswell Junction, Quebec; May 2002
The railroad was ultimately abandoned again in 2006, but this time was purchased by the Quebec Ministry of Transport. Service has since been restored to parts of the railroad. The 2000-2006 version of the Quebec Central was a neat operation, and I'm glad I had a chance to see it.

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