Quebec Central Railway Reporting mark: QCR
The Quebec Central Railway got its start as the "Sherbrooke Eastern Townships and Kennebec Railway" in 1869. Service from Sherbrooke to Westbury began in 1874. Financial difficulties led to a reorganization and name change in 1875 when the railway became known as the Quebec Central Railway (QCR).
Although the area was largely farmland and lumbering, things began to change after the discovery of asbestos in 1876. Asbestos quickly became a major source of revenue until the 1980s when its name became synonymous with serious health risks.
The railway continued to grow and expand. In 1880, it was extended to Vallée-Jonction, to connect with the Levis & Kennebec Railway (L&KR). The L&KR had been provincially incorporated in 1869 to construct a railway from the city of Quebec to the coast of Maine. By 1881 it had run into financial difficulty and was purchased by the QCR following bankruptcy.
Other expansions included the opening of the Chaudière Subdivision in 1881, a line to the Intercolonial station in Quebec City in 1884, and the 60-mile Megantic Subdivision in 1894. A new branch from Vallée-Jonction to Lac-Frontière was added in 1918. In 1912, the line was leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway however it continued to operate as a separate entity.
Over the years the QCR grew to a respectable size. At its height, it maintained six subdivisions, Tring, Lévis, Vallée, Chaudière, Beebe and Stanstead covering about 360 miles of track where it operated 37 stations.
The QCR did well until the 1930s, when traffic began to decline. Passenger service lasted until 1967. Abandonment of the line began in 1987. Freight service lasted until 1994, when the line was completely shut down.
Since the CPR only owned about 10 per cent of QCR's stock, it was not in a position to tear up the line and sell off the right-of-way. Then in a strange twist of events, the line was acquired by a local trucking operator, Express Marco Inc. The trucking company had hoped to revive the line for freight transport and build a passenger excursion service. Service resumed in 2000 but only lasted until 2006, when the line was shut down yet again due to financial difficulties.
Then in 2007 the provincial government threw the QCR another life line. The government acquired the Vallée subdivision from Charny to Sherbrooke, followed by the Chaudiere subdivision (Vallée-Jonction Lac-Frontière) in 2008. Following track repair and upgrades, service between Charny and St-Lambert-de-Lévis resumed with Express Marco as the interim operator.
Although no information is available on the government's future plans, there appears to be little doubt that the government is committed to maintain and revitalize the QCR with a focus on providing rail service to industrial customers.