• Michael

Mystery Rail Tracks at Roundabout?

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

This roundabout is in close proximity to the Governor Generals residence, but not directly in front. The one directly in front of the entrance to the Governor Generals residence currently displays the Queen Elizabeth II Equestrian Monument. I guess if you’re driving by, its probably just another roundabout like all the others that have been popping up around Ottawa over the last decade, except this one has been here much longer.

Although this roundabout may seem ordinary in all respects, if you happen to be walking in the area you will notice a pair of rail tracks that go through the centre of the roundabout and end just before they hit the road. If you keep walking along the perimeter there are tracks embedded in the asphalt that intersect a path, followed by a short cobblestone path that seems to end at a knee height stone wall. Beyond the wall the tracks continue slightly. I looked around the area and could not find a plaque to explain the anomaly.

Prior to the Queen Elizabeth II Equestrian Monument being displayed at the other roundabout I can remember the city doing a fair amount of renovation to the roads around these parts and I thought that was when these tracks were installed. Turns out they have been there much longer than that. In 2007 someone posted a comment on the Skyscraperpage forum inquiring why the tracks were there. A reply to that comment suggested that the tracks might be there as a “design element reflecting Rockcliffe Park's heritage” and the streetcars that used to go there.

Several years ago, at the Ottawa Public Library I came across this book that blew my mind called “Ottawa’s Streetcars” by Bill McKeown. If you get a chance to check it out, its an amazing book with over 300 historical photographs depicting Ottawa’s railcar history all the way back to 1865 when “the idea of the street railway project was born”. The book discusses in great detail Ottawa’s early transportation systems from horse drawn railcars to electric railcars and brief mention of the O-train.

Before seeing this book, I had no idea about Ottawa’s extensive railway history. Turns out there are several mentions and many great pictures of the railcars going up tracks by Rockcliffe Park along the “Buena Vista Loop”, now the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway.

Location Address: Near 1 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1, Canada

Railfare DC Books publishes/sells Ottawa's Streetcars - ISBN: 1-897190-07-7

Ottawa Public Library: Ottawa’s Streetcars - Call #: 388.460971384 M157