Pilgrimage to the Quebec Cartier Railway, July 1997.

Getting there was Half the Adventure.

By 1997, the Quebec Cartier Railway was among the last places in North America where sets of six-motor Alco-designed diesels worked in heavy daily freight service.

Ore train in Quebec.
Quebec Cartier Railway C-636 number 78 leads a southward ore train in July 1997. This locomotive was one of several Alco demonstrators acquired by the Cartier. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon N90S and f2.8-80-200mm zoom lens.

This is a remote and isolated line in northern Quebec that extends north from Port Cartier on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.

George Pitarys and Bill Linley organized a pilgrimage to photograph this remote operation. Getting there from Massachusetts was half the adventure. The two hour drive to George’s place was the first leg. We rented Ford Explorer at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, then drove north for about 16 hours.

Along the way we collected Bill and fellow photographer Ian at the ferry terminal at Baie-Comeau (they were coming from Nova Scotia.) We stayed at Port Cartier overnight. Our first full day wasn’t blessed with the finest weather, so we focused on some railway activities nearer to Port Cartier, including a tour of the shops of the Quebec, North Shore & Labrador.

After that the skies cleared. To reach the scenic areas of the Quebec Cartier Railway requires a long drive on dirt roads into forest largely populated by swarms of man-eating black flies, thirsty mosquitoes and the occasional moose, but very little else.

Yet, our efforts paid off. We spent several very productive days photographing loaded and empty iron ore trains in the rugged scenery of northern Quebec. This view was made on our second morning.

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