A Brief History

In 1871 the original Brockville and Westport Railway Company was incorporated, but it would be another 15 years before construction was under way. It was the hamlet of Farmersville, today Athens, that was the sponsor. Railway building then was largely dependent on the generousity of the municipalities and counties it passed through, although getting the money was never a done deal.

A severe depression gripped North America in 1873 and the project was put on hold under Alexander Mackensies Liberals tread cautiously policy. The political climate changed in 1883 when Sir John A MacDonald came back to power. Mineral wealth was being found around Sault St Marie and railways were competing to get there. It must be remembered that there were practically no roads then and most transport was either by rail or the navigable waterways. The Rideau Canal system was in it's heyday between Ottawa and Kingston and the link between Brockville on the St Lawrence and Westport on the Rideau would undoubtedly assure the company of revenue. In March 1884 The Brockville Westport and Sault St Marie company was incoporated.

Raising the funds was a struggle. By law after by law was defeated by the local municipalities, but with perseverance the promoters managed to raise $116,000 locally and a further $128,000 from Provincial and Federal bonuses.

Construction started in several places at once in 1886 with sod turning ceremonies in Newboro and Westport. Money problems plagued the promoters with sub-contractors going unpaid. At one point a gang of Italian workers threatened to cross into the US and raise an Italian army. Initially the route planned was to gain running rights over the Grand Trunk line to Lyn Juntion, however this was refused. Now they had to climb up and over the GTR and run head first into the St Lawrence escarpment. Two trestles had to be built leading up to the GTR, and then a 1/4 mile of rockfill about 20 ft high, and a cut through some of the toughest rock in the world, the Canadian Shield.

This picture from the 1890's shows the end of the fill on the right.

In March 1888 the first train ran from Westport to Brockville, but as the line hadn't been completed to Lyn, from Lyn into Brockville it ran over the GTR tracks. It wasn't until the following year that the first train crossed the GTR lines. Insufficient funding caused the downfall of the BW&SSM and in 1894 they were in receivership. In 1903 the railway was sold under judicial sale and by the end of the year was incorporated as Brockville, Westport & North Western.

In 1910 William MacKensie and Donald Mann gained majority control of the line. These gentlemen were the principals of the Canadian Northern Railway and by 1914 CNoR owned the line outright. It was only 2 years later that CNoR was put under control of the government and in 1918 became part of Canadian National.

In 1921 GTR came under the umbrella of CN and now B&W could run over the GTR lines and so the line out to Lyn was dismantled.

The last train ran 30 August 1952. By 1953 it was all dismantled leaving a few stations and the rock cut.
CNR loco 86 at Brockville filling up with water prior to the last run to Westport 29 Aug 1952.