When Did Passenger Trains Begin to Run between New York City and Montreal?


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It all started out with a question from a reader wondering if there was a railroad that went from New York City to Montreal circa 1855? He had some of John Stover’s books and with maps that show a line going from NYC to the Canadian border as early as 1850.  But it’s really not too clear and there is no text stating that.

Our reader found the answer – no direct line, but there was a line through Vermont that then crossed over to Rouses Point and connected up with the Plattsburgh to Montreal line that opened in 1852. Yup, that bridge eventually became part of the Rutland line to Ogdensburg, NY

The D&H at created a line from Albany / Troy to Rouses Point. Then they bought a subsidiary, Napier Junction Rwy, that got them into Montréal. Connections NYC to Albany were not in place 1855.

If you check out the Hudson River RR 1851 Timetable (courtesy of Wayne Koch), you will see what I’m saying. No direct service from NY City to Montreal. NY Central to either Albany or Troy and connection to Delaware & Hudson. Delaware & Hudson to Montreal not in place yet.

In search of new markets for its coal, in 1871 the D&H leased the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad (R&S), which had a network of lines reaching from Albany and Schenectady north to Lake Champlain at Whitehall, New York (Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. )

The direct route north to Canada from New York and Albany was along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. The lake froze over during the winter, but by 1849 an all-rail route was in place on the Vermont side of the lake. In 1852, the Plattsburgh & Montreal Rail Road and two Canadian railroads completed a rail route between Plattsburgh, New York, and Montreal. The Plattsburgh & Montreal soon entered receivership and was reorganized.

The Whitehall & Plattsburgh Rail Road was chartered in 1866 to join the two towns of its title. Several miles of track were built south from Plattsburgh, with a short section in the middle to serve iron mines west of Port Henry, and the line was leased to the Montreal & Plattsburgh (successor to the Plattsburgh & Montreal) in 1869. In 1870 and 1871, the Rutland Railroad gained control of the Whitehall & Plattsburgh as a way to achieve a rail route to the Canadian border without using the Vermont Central Railroad — with the result that the Vermont Central leased the entire Rutland.

The people living on the west shore of the lake could foresee the commerce of the area being funneled to Boston rather than New York. They organized the New York & Canada Railroad and went to the D&H for backing. The Whitehall & Plattsburgh knew the D&H could build a parallel railroad and offered to lease its railroad to the New York & Canada. In 1873, the Whitehall & Plattsburgh, the Montreal & Plattsburgh, and the New York & Canada were consolidated as the New York & Canada Railroad. Marshy areas north of Whitehall and mountains running down the shore north of Port Henry made construction difficult, but the line was opened in November 1875.

Drury, George H. (1992). The Train-Watcher’s Guide to North American Railroads: A Contemporary Reference to the Major railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-89024-131-7.

In 1906 D&H acquired Quebec, Montreal & Southern Railway, which extended from St. Lambert, across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, northeast through Sorel to Pierreville, Quebec, 62 miles (100 kilometres), and from Sorel south to Noyan Junction, on the Rutland, just north of the U.S. border. Under D&H management the line was extended down the St. Lawrence to Fortierville with the intention of continuing to the Quebec Bridge, then under construction.

D&H’s more important Canadian subsidiary was the 28-mile (45 km) Napierville Junction Railway, opened in 1907 between Rouses Point, New York and Delson, Quebec, where it connected with the Canadian Pacific (CP) and Canadian National (CN) railways.

NY Central to Utica and then Adirondack Division to Montreal was not the answer either. In 1892 Malone & St. Lawrence opened from Malone Junction to the international border where the St. Lawrence & Adirondack Railway opened to Cecile Junction and used Canada Atlantic and Grand Trunk to reach Montreal.

When the Champlain & St Lawrence Railway to Rouses Point was completed, the Canadian government was askeo permit the use of foreign (i.e., U.S.) rolling stock on Canadian lines, subject to certain restrictions. This policy had been approved in the 1852 Amending Act, an Act of the Parliament of the Union of Upper and Lower Canada, which functioned from 1841 to 1867. The U.S. Congress enacted similar legislation and established an international agreement—quite possibly the first of its kind at that time.

Early passenger services on the Central Vermont Railway were designed to connect Montreal with Boston. As the CVR’s connections grew, the route was extended to include New York City, a route which would ultimately become more important. As travel to New York City increased, the route was extended to include Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Central Vermont Railway (CV) was a railroad that operated in the New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec. It connected Montreal, Quebec, with New London, Connecticut, using a route along the shores of Lake Champlain, through the Green Mountains and along the Connecticut River valley, as well as Montreal to Boston, Massachusetts, through a connection with the Boston and Maine Railroad at White River Junction, Vermont.(wik), and to New York City and Washington DC with connections to the B&M, New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads.

 Timeline of the Central Vermont Railway
1843 -The Vermont Central Railroad (VC) was chartered October 31 to build a line across the center of Vermont, running from Burlington on Lake Champlain east to Montpelier, and then southeast and south to Windsor on the Connecticut River. Initial plans had the main line running through Montpelier. However, due to the difficulty of building through the Williamstown Gulf, a narrow valley south of Barre, Vermont, and to land interests of Charles Paine in Northfield, Vermont, a course to the west was selected, leaving the state capital to be serviced by a short branch line.
1845 – Construction of the VC began on December 15.
1845 – The Vermont and Canada Railroad (V&CR) was chartered October 31 as a continuation of the Vermont Central north and west to Rouses Point, New York, splitting at Essex Junction (east of Burlington) and running north via St. Albans and Swanton. A branch split at Swanton and ran north to the border with Canada.
1848 – The first section of the VC, from White River Junction west to Bethel, opened on June 26, to Roxbury on September 17, and to Northfield on October 10.
1849 – The part along the Connecticut River from Hartford south to Windsor opened on February 13.
1849 – VC opened to Montpelier (including the branch from Montpelier Junction) on June 20, to Middlesex on August 30, Waterbury on September 29, and Burlington on December 31.
1849 – On August 24 the Vermont Central leased the Vermont and Canada.
1851 – V&CR is completed.
1852 – VC defaulted on rental payments, and the Vermont and Canada returned to its original owners on June 28.
post 1852 – CV lease of VC&R is reinstated.
1860 – The Montreal and Vermont Junction Railway is chartered.
1860’s – M&VJ opened extending the Vermont and Canada’s branch from the national border north to St. Johns, Quebec on the Grand Trunk Railway’s Montreal and Champlain Railroad. From opening it was operated as an extension of the Vermont and Canada.
cir 1860’s – The Sullivan County Railroad continued south from Windsor to Bellows Falls, where it met the Cheshire Railroad towards Boston. At first it was operated by the Central Vermont, but later the Boston and Maine Railroad gained control of it, giving trackage rights to the Central Vermont.
cir 1860’s -The Vermont Valley Railroad, running south from Bellows Falls to the New London Northern Railroad in Brattleboro, was originally owned by the Rutland Railroad and later by the B&M.
1867 – The Vermont Central leased the Stanstead, Shefford and Chambly Railroad, running east from St. Johns to Waterloo. The Waterloo and Magog Railway was later built as an extension from Waterloo south to Magog.
1867 – The Missisquoi Railroad is chartered as an independent entity.
1870 – The Vermont Central leased the Ogdensburgh and Lake Champlain Railroad on March 1 extending its line from Rouses Point west to Ogdensburg.
1871 – On January 1 the Vermont Central leased the Rutland Railroad system, giving it routes from Burlington to Bellows Falls and Chatham, New York.

See a CV Map

Gaining rail access to Albany, New York, did not end the Delaware and Hudson expansion. That company formalized a lease in May 1871 by which it gained the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad in perpetuity. This line ran from Albany to the head of Lake Champlain at Whitehall, New York. From the latter town it crossed into Vermont where it connected with the Rutland and Burlington railroad at Rutland. The Renssalaer and Saratoga also connected with the Adriondack Railroad in the upper Hudson River valley.

Acquiring the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad with its connects to the Adriondack created an opportunity for the Delaware and Hudson to expand its passenger service. The company had begun a rudimentary service in 1860 between Carbondale and Providence. Passengers however had to ridge the gravity line for part of the distance until 1870 when a locomotive road was opened for the entire route. With the expansion in New York, the Delaware and Hudson began connections with the central Adirondack Mountain resorts where large numbers of the wealthy traveled to places like Saratoga Springs.

The search for more markets brought increases in expansion in the 1870’s and the 1880’s. Between 1873 and late 1875, the Delaware and Hudson managers extended the rails from Whitehall to Rouse’s Point on the Canadian Border. A connection was made at the border with the Grand Trunk Railway, a Canadian firm. The D&H , thereby, had a link to Montreal that expanded its anthracite coal market. By 1880 the Delaware and Hudson operates agreed to a cooperative venture with the Boston, Hoosac tunnel and Western Railway by which a new route would be opened between Boston and Schenectady. When it began operations in 1881 the Delaware and Hudson has access to Boston. In 1886 the Delaware and Hudson obtained the Lehigh and Susquehanna railroad that extended from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre. Finally on July 11, 1889, the D&H purchases the Adriondack Railway that ran from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, New York. The increased numbers of vacationers drawn to the area made it an attractive buy.

An era ended for the Delaware and Hudson in 1891. On November 5 of that year the last coal boat passed down its old canal. The gravity railroad closed on January 3, 1899. As a result, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company managers received permission in April 1899 to change the firms name to the Delaware and Hudson Company.

The first decade of the twentieth century found the Delaware and Hudson leadership expanding there line into Canada. In 1906 the company purchased Quebec, Montreal, and Southern Railway. Its 143 miles extended to almost Quebec City. Although it has been acquired with the intent to complete the track to Quebec City, that plan never came to fruition. In the spring of 1907 the D&H owners bought another Canadian line called the Napierville Junction Railway. This twenty-nine mile line ran from Rouse’s Point, New York to St. Constant, Quebec on the Grand Trunk Railway. By agreement with the latter railway the D&H used its track to complete the link to Montreal. As a result, the D&H became part of the shortest route from New York to Montreal. The reason for buying the Canadian Railroads was to haul pulpwood south to the paper mills in the upper Hudson Valley and establish new coal markets to the north.

1871 – Delaware & Hudson leases Renssalaer and Saratoga Springs gaining access through leases north to Saratoga Springs and northeast to Rutland, Vermont, as well as trackage rights on the Troy and Boston Railroad, a more easterly route to Rutland . The D&H also obtained a 1/4 interest in the Troy Union Railroad.

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