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Barry’s Bay railway station – A remnant of the long-vanished OA&PS Railway

October 2020

Before the motor vehicles and major highway systems, the railway was the fastest and most efficient way to transport people and goods across the country. In addition to the national railways, like Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, there were many smaller regional railways that criss-crossed the provinces and territories, connecting towns and villages with the big cities.

Many of those smaller railways have long-since vanished, some of them swallowed up by the bigger railway companies, while others went bankrupt, leaving behind old train stations, trestles and rail lines; some still in use; some converted to recreational trails; some forgotten and overgrown.

The restored former train station in Barry’s Bay, Ontario, now operates as a visitor information centre and railway museum, but it was once a station of the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway (OA&PS).

Founded in July 1891 by Canadian lumber and railway baron John Rudolphus (J.R.) Booth, at its height, the railway operated from Depot Harbour, Ontario, through Ottawa and on to Alburgh Junction, Vermont.

The Barry’s Bay station, built in 1894, was part of the Depot Harbour to Ottawa section. The first train to come through Barry’s Bay was on 7 January 1897 and by the time the railway was at peak traffic, there was a train coming through the town every twenty minutes.

To help power the steam locomotives, a large, 984-foot-high wooden water tank was built beside the station in 1894. This water tower remained in operation until 1943, when it was demolished in favour of a new wooden water tower a short distance away, at a “Y” junction in the rail line.

By the mid-1950s, diesel locomotives had replaced the steam-powered ones travelling through Barry’s Bay, and the water tower fell into disuse.

The OA&PS was taken over by the Canadian Atlantic Railway in 1899, making it the largest North American railway to be owned by one person. The Canadian Atlantic itself was taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway on 1 October 1905, with the then-bankrupt Grant Trunk being taken over on 19 January 1923 by the newly-formed Canadian National Railway.

The former OA&PS line continued to be operated by CN Railway until the mid-1970s, but it was only a shadow of itself by then. The section from Depot Harbour to Algonquin Provincial Park was abandoned in 1933, when trestle near Cache Lake was damaged beyond repair. The section from Whitney, 30 miles to the west of Barry’s Bay, to Ottawa, remained in use by freight trains until 1959, then by passenger excursion trains until the mid-1970s.

Much of the abandoned railway line was converted to a recreational trail. Besides the Barry’s Bay station, the water tower was also restored by a local community group in 1989, where it remains the centrepiece of Water Tower Park; the last remaining wooden water tower in Ontario.

Read my article on Depot Harbour here:

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa,_Arnprior_and_Parry_Sound_Railway, http://therailwaystation.ca, www.heritagewalk.ca/barrysbay, https://renfrewcountyconnections.cioc.ca/record/RCC0398.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/barrys-bay-railway-station-a-remnant-of-the-long-vanished-oaps-railway/

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