The plaque commemorating the New York Central Railroad was added to the Historical Plaque Program in 2022.

This plaque is located along the Recreational Trail near 901 Notre-Dame St, Embrun.

Impact on the Regional Economy

The New York Central Railroad had a great impact on our regional economy. This railroad transported passengers and goods to and from Ottawa, Montreal, and New York City. There were train stations in the village of Russell and the village of Embrun. It connected our community to these major cities and throughout North America from 1898 until 1957.

The Canadian National

For a while our community was completely isolated from large city centres. Economic and commercial development was relatively slow.  At the end of 1881, the Canada Atlantic, which would later be called the Large Trunk and the Canadian National, passes by in our region. This railway linked Montreal to Ottawa through nearby villages of Casselman, Limoges, and Vars. 

Residents began to see the incredible impact this new form of transportation had on the regional economy, especially for villages with stations along the rail line. Passengers could make their way to city centres more easily, and merchants had the opportunity to bring in new products from the city.

Since all had to be done at the nearest station at least a village away, our residents had to travel roads that were often in bad condition. With this challenge, a sense of spirit began towards having a station in their own village, one day.

Construction the New York Central

In 1897, the Ottawa-New York company begins talking about building a railroad between Ottawa and New York, eventually known as the New York Central railroad. The dream of having a local train station was finally coming true. 

The construction of the new railroad in our area started great economic growth. This construction job required hiring many local workers. All the work was done with the help of mules and horses.

Once completed in 1898, the New York Central railroad served local regions of Ottawa, Hawthorn, Ramsayville, Piperville, Edwards, Pana, Russell, Embrun, Cambridge, Crysler, Berwick, Finch, Newington, Northfield, Harrison, Black River, Cornwall Junction, and Cornwall. The two stations within our community were in Russell and in Embrun.

Learn more about the Russell Train Station

The Decline

Unfortunately, the prosperity the New York Central brought to the region is also what led to its downfall.

During the 1920s, some pieces of cedar wood within the railway line began to rot. This led to New York Central making some extremely costly repairs. In 1922, the cedar wood along the rail line was replaced by white pine. Just two years later, the wood had to be replaced again, this time with maple and oak dipped in tar.

The use of the railroad really declined after the Second World War. By this time, automobiles and trucks became the popular modes of transportation. By 1952, trains no longer ran between spring and fall. By 1954, New York Central cancels their passenger services entirely.

The Last Train

On February 14, 1957, the last train from New York Central completes its journey from Ottawa to Cornwall, making a stop at each station along the way. Crowds gathered to give a bittersweet goodbye, and witness the end of an era.

Canadian National acquires New York Central the same year, removing all rails and bridges along the railroad.

Repurposing the Railway

In 1979, the Township acquired a section of the railway between Russell and Embrun and converted it into a multi-purpose recreational trail. The Township's New York Central Recreational Trail is named in honour of the historical railroad that helped develop our community. The trail is a main feature in our community, just as the railroad was during it's 60 years of operation.