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New York and Ottawa Railway Reporting mark: NYC

The New York and Ottawa Railway began as a plan conceived by two Cornwall politicians, federal M.P., Dr. Darby Bergin, and provincial M.P.P., Joseph Kerr. Dr. Bergin was already involved in the enlargement of the Cornwall Canal and the railway was another step in his plan for improved transportation in the Cornwall and eastern Ontario area.

Picture of brochure
Brochure, 1902

Bergin and Kerr obtained a railway charter in 1882 under the name Ontario Pacific Railway. Four different plans were proposed, the most ambitious being a plan that traversed as far west as Hastings County, where they hoped to obtain running rights as far west as the Georgian Bay. The route that was finally approved travelled from Cornwall to Ottawa and onwards to Lake Nipissing near the French River. Most importantly, the charter included rights to build a train bridge across the St. Lawrence that connected Cornwall to any U.S. railroad.

Although the plan was well conceived, it wasn't executed until 1896 when Bergin met with Charles Hibbard, owner of the Northern New York Railroad. Hibbard was already considering expansion into Ottawa. The two men struck a deal to build a single line that travelled from Ottawa southeast through Cornwall, connecting with Adirondack Extension Railroad, through Saratoga Springs and ending at New York City. In 1897 the railway's name was changed to The Ottawa & New York Railway. Construction began August 23 1897 and the railway was opened July 29, 1898.

In the meantime, another railway, the New York and Ottawa Railroad, had been formed to build an extension north from Tupper Lake to connect with the Ottawa & New York Railway at Cornwall. The Northern New York Railroad was folded into this company, which then acquired the Ottawa & New York Railway's stock.

By the time the route was completed in 1900, the New York and Ottawa Railroad was in receivership and later sold to the New York Central Railroad (NYC). Since the New York and Ottawa Railroad retained ownership, it was renamed the New York & Ottawa Railway and then leased to the NYC in 1905. Although somewhat complex, the original Ottawa & New York Railway always existed on paper as a separate company. Nevertheless NYC remained the principal operator and the railway used the NYC reporting mark. In 1913 it was merged into NYC's general operations.

The bridge crossing was probably the single most important piece of the construction. It was to be the first bridge crossing east of Queenston, some 500 kilometres west of Cornwall. Construction that began in the summer of 1897 turned into tragedy with a horrific accident that killed 15 workers and injured 18 others, after a pier sank into the river taking two spans along with it. Contractor negligence was found to blame. The bridge was completed by another contractor and opened in 1900. It was leased to the New York & Ottawa Bridge Company until 1917 when it was absorbed into the NYC. In 1934 the bridge was upgraded to handle vehicles and renamed the Roosevelt International Bridge.

The railway operated until December 1957 when it was shut down and the property sold to the Canadian National Railway. The bridge remained in operation until 1957 when the spans were removed by the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation. A couple of spurs continue to be used. The New York Central Railway was dissolved in 1970, following a merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad (Penn Central) that ended in bankruptcy.