Saturday, April 6, 2019

Gladstone approaching Preston in 1957

This post started off with the intention of sharing a single photograph, just for the sake of putting out there what I thought to be a pretty interesting photograph. But as any historian knows, it's easy to get lost down the rabbit hole when trying to find out a little more, or add a couple of details.

Gladstone Avenue looking east at the CP and CNR tracks,
just west of Preston Street.
(Source: CA-43162 City of Ottawa Archives)

At first the above photograph from February 6, 1957 isn't all that exciting. It's a photo capturing a rather random and routine moment from 62 years ago. What makes it a notable though is that it's a scene that is not really recognizable today, because of where the photo was taken. The train tracks pictured are the old CP Rail and CN Rail tracks that ran parallel to Preston Street for many, many years (the CP Rail lines are now buried in a trench; the CN Rail tracks are of course long gone, and the right-of-way is now the bike path on the east side of the trench).

This is a view of the same location today:

Google Streetview 2018

And this photo is the same view, but taken a little further east on Gladstone, just to get the detail of the first houses, which are evident in the 1957 photo, especially the one on the left with the slightly smaller rear portion.

Google Streetview 2018

I found the photo was actually used a few days later in the Ottawa Citizen, in an article discussing the safety challenges at a crossing like this. The article below is from February 11th, 1957:

Ottawa Citizen, February 11, 1957

Pretty interesting to think about how different life would have been around these tracks for the near-century they ran above ground (the CP line opened in 1871 as a track for the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway, the CN line opened in 1883 as a track for the Canada Atlantic Railway) (thanks as always to Colin Churcher's amazing blog and detailed maps at for these specific details).

Anyways, it made me wonder when did the trench actually get put in... I had never actually done any research on it. From searching through old papers, I discovered the first plans were announced in June of 1961, and was surprised to read that they very nearly built an elevated track instead, that would have been 2 miles long, built of steel and stone, creating a "Great Wall of China" across the city! Obviously there is so much more that could be researched and written about this entire topic, but in the interests of trying to keep this post short and focused, I'll leave it at that!

Ottawa Journal, June 13 1961

Anyways, construction was delayed repeatedly, and it was not until August 1st, 1967 that the first train went through the new tunnel/trench. Here is a photo of it in the news coverage below:

Ottawa Citizen, August 1, 1967

So there is a little bit of local history, with a few key dates and interesting tidbits, all of which I learned tonight thanks to one simple photo.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, our family home was at 869 Gladstone(Pine St before that) until '63