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Charlevoix Touring Train
Quebec Railway Light and Power Reporting marks: QL&P, QLP, CFC
The Quebec Railway Light and Power (QL&P) began in 1881 as the Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix Railway Company (QM&C).
The railway was originally built to provide service to Baie-Sainte-Catherine, which was supposed to become a major seaport. When that didn't happen, the railway was turned into a small short line which became an important component of a growing tourist industry.
The railway was opened with great fanfare in 1889, following completion of the first stretch of line between Limoilou and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Cardinal Taschereau, surrounded by bishops, was in attendance to give his blessings to the new railway. The church had a vested interest in the railway's success. A large part of the railway's traffic included transporting pilgrims to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, which was under construction at the time.
In 1904 the company switched the railway line from steam to electric power. To generate electricity, the company built a power plant on the Montmorency Falls, close to the nearby village of Montmorency. Besides providing power to the railway, the company also provided power to the city of Quebec as well as the surrounding industries. To reflect its changed status, the company was renamed the Quebec Railway Light & Power (QL&P).
In 1909 the railway was extended to Clermont and then on to the Charlevoix which included the luxurious hotel, Le Manoir Richelieu (now Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu). A certain amount of political assistance was provided by Rodolphe Forget, an investor and federal politician, who also happened to be the owner of Le Manoir Richelieu. Owing to the difficult terrain, both extensions took many years to complete.
Tourism played a major role in the railway's business. Over the years they produced highly detailed travel brochures covering the history of the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and the surrounding community. At its height, the railway had around 50 stops on its route. Besides the railway, the company provided streetcar service to city of Quebec.
In 1951 the railway was sold to Canadian National (CN). It was a curious move as CN, which owned a number of interurban electric railways, was already in the process of shutting them down. It's quite possible CN was main interested in the right-of-way. The QLP lasted until 1959 when passenger service was permanently cancelled. The electric lines were removed shortly afterwards. By the early 1960s, all of CN's electric railways had been shut down.
Two later attempts to reopen the railway for passenger service failed. In 1985 a dinner train service was offered from Quebec and La Malbaie. It only lasted one season. The railway was then sold to the Quebec Railway Corporation in 1994. Quebec Rail leased the dinner train service to a private operator in 1995. However it only lasted two seasons before running into financial problems and shutting down.
Then a revival began to take place. In 1996 the Chemin de fer Charlevoix (Charlevoix Railway), a subsidiary of Quebec Rail built a large timber transshipment yard at Clermont for the surrounding lumber industry.
Then in 2009 Quebec Rail sold the section from Quebec and La Malbaie to Le Massif de Charlevoix organization. This company is currently involved in a huge expansion of the acclaimed skiing area on Le Massif. The expansion includes a tourist train which began operating in 2011.
Now operating under the names Chemin de fer Charlevoix and the Charlevoix Touring Train (reporting mark CFC) the railway offers an assortment of attractively priced packages to suit a variety of tastes. In an strange way, the former Quebec Railway Light and Power has returned to its roots of serving the tourism industry. More information can be found on the company's website.