|John R. Booth (2003)
John Rodolphus Booth (1827-1925), leader of Ottawa's lumber industry, created and owned the Canada Atlantic Railway, the largest railway in North America owned by one person. Based in Ottawa, by 1896 it connected the Great Lakes with the Vermont border, opening up the lumber wealth of the Ottawa Valley and Algonquin Park and becoming the most important link in the grain trade from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1896 Sir Wilfrid Laurier called Booth's Ottawa Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway "probably the most important since the building of the CPR ."
Booth employed such leaders as the great railway engineer Walter Shanly, who designed the Canada Atlantic from Coteau to Ottawa in 1881; George Mountain, chief engineer after Shanly, who became first chief engineer of the Board of Railway Commissioners; General Manager Edson Chamberlin, who modernized and expanded the Canada Atlantic from 1886 to 1904, later becoming president of the Grand Trunk Railway; and other railroaders who went on to important roles in building the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The Canada Atlantic provided first-class passenger service to all important Ottawa Valley towns, as well as through-Pullman trains to Montréal, Boston, and New York City.
Booth's railway pioneered the use in Canada of Westinghouse air brakes, steam heating, electric light, and Atlantic class high-speed steam locomotives. Booth created the first rail corridor to Ottawa's downtown Central Station, later the site of Union Station, now Colonel By Drive and the Government Conference Centre. He built thousands of freight cars and at least 13 high-quality passenger cars in his own workshops in Ottawa. The line became part of the Grand Trunk in 1904 and Booth became a director of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Today it still forms an important part of the CN and Via networks between Valleyfield and Ottawa, as well as providing the route for most of the urban portion of Ottawa's only freeway, the Queensway.
For his role in pushing back the Ontario frontier and in promoting resource industries and international commerce through reliable railway networks, we are pleased to induct John Booth as a Leader in the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame in 2003.