Railway history of Stittsville unveiled along Trans Canada Trail

(Representatives, along with Councillor Glen Gower, were on hand for the unveiling of the historic railway panels just west of Bradley Square alongside the Trans Canada Trail on October 4, 2023. Present for the occasion were: Gabriella Robertson-Tremblay, City of Ottawa; Tracey Donaldson, Executive Director at the Goulbourn Museum; and, Roger Young, President of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society. Photos: Stittsville Central)

On August 17, 1870, the Great Fire of Carleton County swept through ‘old’ Stittsville devastating most of the town. Not a month later, on September 16, 1870, the H.H. Abbott steam train was the first to roll on the newly constructed rails through Stittsville on its way to Brockville. Decorated for the occasion with red, white and blue ribbons and Union Jack flags, it was a sight to be seen by all of the villagers with many waving as it passed.

(In 1973, this old stream train passed through Stittsville. It is similar to the H.H. Abbott that travelled the same rails in 1870 As you can see, many residents were present to watch it pass. Photo credit: Unknown)

The livelihood for residents and businessmen of Stittsville was highly influenced with the arrival of the railway. For many, the train was their main mode of travel for those wanting to take trips out of town. For years, students travelled by the train to Carleton Place to attend high school until South Carleton High School opened its doors in 1952. Business expanded with farmers and tradesmen now able to serve a wider community.

Although demolished in 1969, the ‘Stittville’ Station, located where Village Square Park now exists, didn’t see the rails closed until Sunday, January 14, 1990 when the last train blew through on a cold wintry day. It was almost 120 years later in 1990 when Via Rail passenger train 6409 came down the tracks at 12:47pm for the last time. Leaving Ottawa at 12:05pm it was scheduled to arrive in Carleton Place at 12:58pm. About two dozen onlookers from Stittsville came out for the occasion to take photos and to wave goodbye to this part of Stittsville’s history.

(Phil Barton waves at his best friend Lorne Blackburn, who was the train’s engineer on the last train through Stittsville in 1990. Photo: John Bottriell)

The above history and more has been captured on railway panels that were unveiled along the Trans Canada Trail at Bradley Square on October 4th. For those in attendance, it was a day of celebration that brought our former history to life again with many fond memories shared of growing up in a railway town.

The panels were created by a team from the City of Ottawa, Goulbourn Museum and the Goulbourn Township Historical Society, with comments from other organizations. Staff at the Goulbourn Museum brought along some of the original artifacts that are replicated on the panels and displayed them on a table for attendees to view.

Residents can listen to the history by scanning a QR code on the display and instructions are also provided in Braille. Alex Meek and Caroline Colar who were the volunteer voice actors for the project bring the text and history to life in both English and French.

Thanks to all those who contributed to the creation of the panels, Stittsville’s railway history is preserved for residents of Stittsville to experience.


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