EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, June 25, 2011


Uneek Luxury Tours presents Regal Realty Showcase, featuring luxury real estate homes now available for sale.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chapleau 'definitely located' on Trans Canada Highway and CPR diesel shop to bring higher employment and payroll in community but the bubbles eventually burst

First diesel arrives in Chapleau, 1949
When the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena was officially opened in 1951, it appeared that Chapleau was destined to become a much larger community as its economic future was assured with it now being "definitely located" on the Trans Canada Highway and the development of a diesel maintenance shop by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

At least, that is the news Chapleau citizens received from Welland S. Gemmell, the MPP for Sudbury and minister of mines, whose riding included Chapleau, and Fred Donegan, the general superintendent of the Algoma Division of the CPR.

First, Mr. Gemmell in the arena, moments before Reeve B.W. Zufelt led the official opening ceremonies:

"Chapleau is now well on the way to being on the map. It is now definitely located on the Trans Canada Highway and this should mean a great deal to the community. We in government have tried to give your community as much assistance as possible...", Mr. Gemmell said, in a Sudbury Star story.

Next, Mr. Donegan of the CPR:

"Many residents believe that rail dieselization program might throw many out of work.

"Actually our present program of maintenance expansion will mean a much higher payroll and higher employment in the Chapleau shops.
CPR Advertisement

"It has always been the same when mechanical improvements have been made. It has always been felt that machines will replace men whereas it has always resulted in greater employment at higher scales of wages.

"The same is developing today and I am looking forward confidently to an even larger community as a result of the present railway program."

The first passenger train with a diesel engine arrived in Chapleau  on December 5, 1949.. We were out of school early so that we could get to the station for this historic moment.

What happened?

I recall the day we were given a school holiday when the announcement was made that Chapleau would be on the Trans Canada Highway.

So did Bill McLeod (we were in the same grade at Chapleau Public School) and he writes about it in his book, 'The Chapleau Game Preserve: History, Murder and Other Tales'. Bill recalled that on June 8, 1950, the schools were closed, fire sirens screamed and the Chapleau Post put out a special edition with 'WE GOT IT' as the headline.

Bill also mentions that Arthur Grout, according to the Sudbury Star, threw a giant party, and even though Mr. Grout was a teetotaller, strong drink was served.

The Globe and Mail described Reeve Zufelt as a man with a "jubilant grin" who told the reporter "It looks as if half the world is going to come driving down our main street".

The advantages of the Chapleau route were obvious as it would be shorter and construction costs less running along the south side of the CPR line from Sudbury to Chapleau and on to Schreiber, than the Sault Ste Marie route to Wawa.

Bill McLeod notes that the 'bubble burst slowly" for Chapleau concluding that for the most part there was just too much political clout along the North Shore even though much blasting and rock removal was required.
Now, on to the CPR.

In 2001, Entrepreneur magazine, had a railway buff, travel the CPR line on the Budd Car and he summed up the situation that occurred at Chapleau regarding the diesel maintenance shops. The writer chatted with Jim Cockburn who was the conductor on the Budd car for many years.

"The changeover to diesel engines around 1953 saw the development of a diesel shop in Chapleau. Cited as an ideal location for the shop due to its central location between Thunder Bay, Toronto and Montreal, Chapleau became headquarters for engine maintenance and repairs, resulting in the creation of over 100 jobs in the community

The Dominion 1959
"However, as diesel engines evolved and required less servicing, operations downsized and the diesel shop was forced to close its doors in the late 1960s."

While I am really no expert on the CPR, I remember when it started transferring employees to places like Agincourt, London and Windsor, and the population of Chapleau started its gradual decline, that has continued for many years now.
Engine 5433 now in Chapleau Park

Also, although Mr. Donegan likely would never have thought it in 1951 when he visited Chapleau, passenger train travel was eventually taken over by VIA Rail. In the Fifties there were four transcontinental passenger trains daily in each direction (by my count: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8).

The Entrepreneur magazine writer noted that n 1990, the VIA Transcontinental train discontinued service on the CP line and converted operations to the Canadian National rail line.

I first read Mr. Gemmell and Mr. Donegan's comments when I was writing a piece on the opening of the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena earlier this year, and decided to share what they had to say about the Trans Canada highway and CPR expansion in Chapleau.

I am sure they both meant what they said at the time, although they undoubtedly were  telling people what they wanted to hear, but had the highway come through Chapleau and the CPR maintained its presence, Chapleau would be a much different place than it is today.

By the way, also at the opening of the memorial arena was Fred Dunbar, the Ontario minister of municipal affairs, who in his remarks pointed out that although Chapleau was incorporated as a municipality on February 3, 1901, the "early town fathers" somehow neglected to gazette it as required.

It was not until 1927 that a special act of the Ontario legislature, the Chapleau Boundaries Act, was passed, to legalize all municipal transactions that had taken place since 1901. I guess the good people of Chapleau were far too busy building their town, but it was good to learn from Mr. Dunbar's comments that they were "law abiding" -- despite failing to complete all the legal niceties.

Thanks to Bill McLeod and Doug Greig for research assistance.
Happy Canada Day! My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chapleau holds highly successful Relay for Life

Pat (Purich) Russell, one of my great friends from Chapleau, who keeps me posted on local events, sent me the following message about the recent Relay for Life held in the community.

Pat also provided the photos.

She wrote: 

"Hope you are well. Our 4th Relay For Life June 17th was truly the best Relay yet...

It's totally amazing what a little town like Chapleau can do and how as one big family we pull together to fight back against the one disease that has touched so many of our lives. 

We've had 3 successful Relays for Life since 2008, but Relay 2011 seems to have topped them all. 

Here's to Good Causes, Great Ideas and people willing to give both. Cheers!

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE