The Railway Comes to Nepean Township, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Subject: Coming of the Rail Era - Desmond Kennedy
As written by Desmond Kennedy in The Kennedy Story
(available at the Nepean Museum)
Transcribed by Taylor Kennedy
The railroad in 1911 brought great changes to the Kennedy way of life.
Construction of the new Canadian Northern line connecting Ottawa and
Toronto meant that the railway right-of-way would bisect our farm. (Beldens 1879
James Kennedy, con.3) . Henceforth freight and passenger would roar by
within 200 yards of the house day and night. With the railroad, came the
ever present danger of having cattle, horses even dogs killed by passing
trains. On one occasion four cows were killed when an inexperienced hired
man tried to herd them across the railroad just at the time that the
evening train was due. The accident was judged to be our fault, hence no
indemnity was paid. On another night, when a fine young horse broke through the
railroad fence and was killed, the CNR accepted the financial responsibility,
in the amount of $400.00.
Of the building of the railroad through our farm, one memory concerns
the gangs of men who were engaged in excavating by hand, the deep cuts
through which the railway would run in passing through the low hills east of our
barn. Mostly Poles and Russians, as the case with the railway construction
laborers in those days, the men had little knowledge of English. Dad
learned four words from them, which would be used in greeting me. They
sounded like "Dobra Vetch!" and "John dobra!"in which , I believe, meant
"Good Day!" in Eastern Europe. That was the extent of Dad's bilingualism.
The right-of-way passed through the area by most of the old log farm
buildings. They had to be demolished, and compensation was paid for them
and for the land that was expropriated. The amount received from the CNR
[$1500.00] was ample to pay for a fine new "bank" barn, as the barns with
high foundations were called then. The red barn, 36 by 70 feet in size,
had a full basement in which up to 40 cattle and 6 horses could be stabled.
Atop of the barn were two large louvered ventilators - purely decorative,
they did not ventilate anything. The barn had three threshing floors,
served by a wide gangway, and a wide mow at each end. A long drive shed
and a connecting granary, frame buildings built during the early years that
Dad was working the farm, lay outside the railroad right-of-way. They
remained in use until March, 1946, when the barn and all of the outbuildings were
destroyed by fire.
The coming of the railroad brought many changes in its wake. Travel to and
from Ottawa was no longer a matter of driving by horse and buggy or cutter
the seven miles to Britannia, stabling the horse there, and boarding the
streetcar to Ottawa. Passenger train service, from the beginning, was
good and, though Fallowfield Station was a mile west of our home, one could
take the train to Ottawa in the early morning and return at evening or late at
night. Dad could never understand why the CNR bureaucrats located the
station at the back end of our farm, far from where most of the potential
users of the rail were located. The station was not even named Jockvale
after the nearest community, but Fallowfield, after the Hamlet four miles
away. It added fuel to Dad's mistrust of politicians and all their works.
I recall the time when Uncle Bill and his family made their first visit
to the East from Vancouver. It must have been 1919. Dad drove to
Fallowfield Station with the top buggy to meet them. It was ten years
since Uncle Bill and Aunt Jule (Julia McMahon) had gone west and Dad
had not seen them in all that time.
Teachers in the Jockvale school, John O'Donoghue, Betty Ryan and
others, came and went by train through Fallowfield Station. My sisters,
Dorothy and Margaret also pursued their early musical education with the
aid of the CNR, kept healthy by a brisk one-mile walk to and from the
In spite of a fairly large volume of passenger and freight traffic,
Fallowfield was never more than a flag station, where trains stopped only
as required. The small station, heated by a huge pot-bellied stove, in
theory provided shelter while one waited for the train. In fact, on a winter
morning, with the stove stonecold, the station provided shelter but no
warmth, while one waited for the lights of the Toronto train to appear in
the distance. Then one could grab the dirty red flag and stand by the
track waving it frantically for fear the engineer would not see the signal - he
always did, somehow, though he sometimes missed the station by a hundred
feet or so, and one then had to wade knee-deep through the snow to climb
Perhaps the greatest change that the railroad brought to us in the
means that it provided for marketing the milk in Ottawa. Until then, Dad had
relied on the local cheese factory to buy the milk produced by the farm.
Milk was sold to the cheese factory only during the summer months - during
the winter, what milk was produced went into the making of butter. The
cheese factory, one of a number owned by Pat Madden, was located at the
intersection of what now is the Fallowfield Road and Jockvale Road (which
we knew as the "forced""road).This intersection from it's shape, had know to
become Keystone, though no community ever developed there.
The Keystone Cheese Factory, like many others of it's kind that were
scattered through out the country, took the farmers milk during the
summer, made it into cheese and returned the whey to them for feeding
During the winter, Dad would run the milk from the few cows that were
stillproducing through the DeLaval cream seperator and sell the cream, if
possible, or make it into butter. At first, the railroad was used to ship
some of the cream to Ottawa but, before long, Dad became a dairy farmer
and shifted to year-round milk production. The cream separator, the butter
churn and the big 40 gallon cans that had been used to carry milk to the
cheese factory, fell into disuse and were eventually sold to other farmers
less fortunately located than we were. Dad, who had been the
Secretary-Treasurer of the Keystone Cheese Factory, a position of some
prestige in the community, for many years, was no longer associated with
It continued to operate on a small scale for another 10 years or so.
Finally, late one summer night, it burned to the ground, providing a bit
of excitement in the community. There were suspicions that it may have been
a planned conflagration, but nothing was ever proved.
Dad finally built up a herd of 30 cows, mostly black and white Holsteins,
with a few red and white Ayrshires for variety. The shipping of the milk
by train to Ottawa imposed a daily routine even more demanding than the trips
to the cheese factory. The milk had to be on the loading platform of the
Fallowfield Station by 7:30 am, ready for the morning train to Ottawa.
Empty milk cans had to be picked up at the station later in the day for
shipping the next day's milk. The baggageman would stack the empty cans
inside the car door and shove them out even before the train would come to
a stop. Battered cans, filled with gravel and cinders and often leaking,
were a problem over which the milk shipper had little control.
This is a fantastic story!
I'll upload it, along with the 1929 map which you sent a few days ago.
The railway also passed through my ancestors farm in Osgoode Township. In
1854, the Bytown and Prescott Railway was completed. Unfortunately our
family has no written record of the arrival of the train in the
neighbourhood. Some of the local farmers were employed on the construction
of the railway. One thing I do know is that the earliest trains were steam
powered and the neighbouring farmers made extra cash by cutting and hauling
firewood to the nearest stations (Manotick and Osgoode Stations). It was
also a means of allowing younger generations a chance to commute every week
to jobs in Ottawa, and return to the farm on weekends.
Interesting about the Poles and Russians working to build the railway. My
GGGrandfathers' farm was bought by a Polish family named Adamaski.
Similar to the Irish, the surname was "Canadianized" (to Adams) in the next
By the way, the "Forced Road" shown on the map was originally an Indian Trail.
It was used long before the concession roads were opened. There are quite a few
forced roads in Goulbourn and March Townships - they follow the easiest path from
points A and B, irregardless of the survey lines.
Thanks again for your story.
E-mail Taylor Kennedy and Al Lewis
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