In 1880, the Montreal, Portland & Boston Railway, which has been present in Marieville since 1877, wants to extend the line to Saint-Césaire. In preparation, Mr. Bradley Barlow, president of the company, obtains a meeting with municipal leaders and requests a subsidy to help with the building costs. After a series of discussions, the two municipal councils agree to contribute a total of $30,000. Of this amount, $20,000 will come from the parish and $10,000 from the village. The councils expressly stipulate that the railway must be completed by January 1, 1883. Earthworks begin in Marieville in June 1882, and are completed in Saint-Césaire, on Wednesday, October 25, at the railway station under construction, in the presence of the leaders and residents of the village. On this occasion, the steam locomotive named Saint-Pie, belonging to the South Eastern Railway, is the first to reach Saint-Césaire. These steam trains will operate on the line to Saint-Césaire until the arrival of electric streetcars on May 3, 1914.
In their agreement, the municipal councils asked for a station “worthy of Saint-Césaire and located as close as possible to the Catholic church.” Since the Montreal, Portland & Boston Railway has complied with these two conditions, the Village of Saint-Césaire authorizes a $800 disbursement for the construction of a station matching the one in Marieville, and agrees to pay for the purchase of the land. The inauguration of regular scheduled train service to Montreal takes place on Monday, December 4, 1882. After speeches by local dignitaries and company representatives, the South Eastern Railway, as the new owner of the line, offers free tickets to 475 people from the village and the parish so they can enjoy an excursion to Marieville. The arrival of this new station leads to the opening of two new streets, one extending from near the public market and the other from near the front of the convent, which eventually join up at a right angle in the direction of the station. Around twenty lots of land are sold on this occasion. The parish priest of Saint-Césaire, Curé Joseph André Provençal, acquires 14 of them. Unlike in Marieville, no industrial district will develop near the train station in Saint-Césaire, except for the Yamaska Valley Farming Cooperative.
The Saint-Césaire train station originally built in 1882. On the lower right, we can see the milk cans waiting on the platform for the express freight train and its milk car.
The rail yard of the Saint-Césaire train station on August 15, 1913.
Demolition of the Saint-Césaire train station in July 1971.
Following the electrification of the line between Marieville and Saint-Césaire, residents now have access to four trains in both directions each weekday, including two non-stop “Limited” trains from Montreal’s McGill–Marguerite-D’Youville station to Saint-Césaire station, covering the distance of 31 miles in just 70 minutes. This is a great improvement for travellers, since the Vermont Central Railway train used to arrive at Saint-Césaire late in the evening and only depart the next morning at 6 a.m. Starting in June 1914, the steam trains of the Vermont Central Railway will no longer operate on this line. The electric train will be in service for the people of Saint-Césaire until November 24, 1951.
A promotional insert by the Montreal & Southern Counties Railway, in 1914, indicating the new electric streetcar service between Montreal and Saint-Césaire.
Car 607, a regular visitor to Saint-Césaire.
By 1944, Mr. Manny has 32 years of experience in the railways and has been station master in Saint-Césaire for 20 of those years. He also teaches courses in telegraphy at Collège Saint-André in Saint-Césaire. During this era, the station also serves as the drop-off point for packages, letters and merchandise. Each station is also equipped with a telegraph machine. A good telegraph operator can tap out 40 to 50 words per minute with the specialized electrical switch known as a Morse key. But telegraphy equipment will disappear from the stations once the telephone system takes hold.
Since the Montreal & Southern Counties Railway was founded, its objective has been to extend its electric streetcar line to the town of Granby. They will achieve this goal in 1916. However, before they can build this 15-mile extension, they have to build a crossing over the Yamaska River at Saint-Césaire. Contractors Ross and McCombe are awarded the bridge construction job for the sum of $75,000. They complete the work in July 1914. Thirty-two years later, on August 8, 1946, at around three o’clock in the afternoon, the worst accident ever recorded by the railway company takes place. Just minutes before a Granby-bound train is to cross the Yamaska, half of the bridge plunges into the river. Erosion of the shoreline by the Yamaska River is cited as the cause.
August 8, 1946: The bridge over the Yamaska River collapses into the water. It is the worst railway accident ever recorded by the Montreal & Southern Counties Railway.
Two streetcars cross the Yamaska River bridge on November 24, 1951, the last day of electric train service in Saint-Césaire.
Location of the pannel on La Route des Champs
Research and text
Gilles Bachand, historian
Société d'histoire et de généalogie des Quatres Lieux
References and photographs (2020)
Archives of the Société d’histoire et de généalogie des Quatre Lieux
Archives of the Société d’histoire de la Seigneurie de Monnoir