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The Real Cobalt
Cobalt - Canada's Wonderland


THE first question one asks when hearing of a new place is “How do you get there?” I asked this when I used to hear, in Ottawa, of the silver land of New Ontario. I knew, as you know, that Cobalt is away up somewhere in the north. That is all I knew.

I went to the Canadian Pacific station in Ottawa and asked for a ticket to Cobalt, and the train did the rest, It was in the middle of May, that charming month for travel. One needs but sit in one of the palatial cars of this great road and glide through beautiful changing panorama, not once noting the passing of time—ever and anon looking out upon rapidly growing towns along the way. Oh it is delightful!

I am ever interested in the towns along the way, each with its own individuality.

There was the live town of Carleton Place, then Almonte with its busy mills. It was to Almonte the Prince of Wales— now the good King Edward—was driven from Amprior while on his memorable visit to Canada in i860, and Amprior with its vast lumber mills, sixteen miles away, where again we reach the Ottawa River, which we had left at the Capital. Seventeen miles beyond is the beautiful town of Renfrew, with its well-laid streets, miles of concrete sidewalks, and its varied industries. Cobden, whose life went out when the old Ottawa River boats no longer ran the upper river, is another sixteen miles away. Onward nineteen miles and we have come to the great lumber and manufacturing town of Pembroke. Here my mind ran back to that day three years before when I started from here to go up Lake Allumette on that jolly 50-mile trip to Days-Washing (spelled Des Joachims) with Captain Murphy. Sweet memory, that day three years ago!

At just 198 miles from Ottawa we come to Mattawa, once the livest, busiest town in all the north. It may not be what once it was, but it has given to other Canadian towns, men who have made those other towns. I later visited Mattawa, and found those who were left, a charming people, genial and courteous. It is here that the Mattawa River enters the Ottawa, which at this point turns toward the north, to run in tumbling rapids to Lake Temiskaming, 39 miles away. Along the eastern bank of the Ottawa runs a branch of the C.P.R.; it passes Lumsden’s Mills, or Temiskaming, where it connects with a steamer line whose boats run up the lake for nearly 100 miles, and goes on a few miles north-easterly to the beautiful Kippiwa Lake, with its 600 miles of indented shore line. At Temiskaming is the popular summer hotel—the Bellevue, and the great mills of John Lumsden, of Ottawa.


Beyond Mattawa, some 45 miles, we reach North Bay, destined by reason of its advantageous situation to become a large city. It was a result of the Canadian Pacific Railway— nothing in the early 8o’s, now a business and railway centre of many thousand people.

North Bay is 244 miles a little north of west of Ottawa. It lies on the north shore of Lake Nipissing—at its eastern extremity. The Nipissing is but a spot on the map of Canada, and yet it looks here to be a great lake as it goes out of "sight to the west. Its waters flow west to the Georgian Bay through the French River, and the Ottawa carries a part of it to the east, through the River Mattawa; the lake is fifty or more miles in length.

So full of lakes is this great north, that the “little ones” don’t count, and thus many a charming sheet of water is never heard of until one by accident runs across it. This is why Canada is well called “The Land of Surprises.” No preconceived notion of it will fit the situation. One must see it to know even a little bit about it. This of the eastern half—the grandeur and the sublimity of the western may never be painted, and cannot be told. Through the length of both runs this great railway, through varied and ever-changing beauty, each year becoming better known and more popular as a tourist road.


At North Bay begins the Government railway, the T. and N.O., and here is where passengers from the east and west change to go to Cobalt, which lies 103 miles to the north.

This railway is the consummation of the Hon. Frank Latch-ford’s dream. For years he worked for it, session after session, when in the Provincial Parliament as Minister of Public Works, He was finally successful and before he went out of power he saw trains running to the north for more than 100 miles. The Whitney Government took up the work and are pushing it rapidly on toward James Bay, many hundreds of miles toward the North Pole. From a small beginning it promises to become one of the most important in the country, by reason of the vast forests and millions of acres of farming lands that will be made available by it, not to mention the thousands of square miles of mineral lands which may be made practical for mining.

What was once called “ The Land of the Muskeg and Stunted Poplar” will yet be found rich in mineral and a very garden in productiveness. Along its line are growing up prosperous towns, many destined to become cities by reason of the vast wealth that lies around them.

It is well called “ The Picturesque Temiskaming,” for here and there all along the way are lakes and rivers with magnificent falls pouring down through deep defiles of the hills.

Lake Temagami is in a forest reserve of 1,400,000 acres. It in itself is one of the most beautiful lakes in the north, and besides, this vast reserve contains innumerable other lakes and many rivers. The Montreal, with its endless interest, bounds its northerly edge. It is reached at 72 miles from North Bay, at Temagami Station. Here a number of lines of steamers connect and carry the tourists far up and around its borders. It is so full of islands—they do say nearly 1,300 of them—that the scenery is kaleidoscopic in its beauty. Many hotels are here and there along the way, private residences peep out at the passing steamer through vistas on the islands, palatial yachts flit by with merry parties from the hotels and cottages, and—but it would take a book to tell you about it, and I’m on my way to Cobalt on the T. and N. O.

Beyond Temagami, and a few miles before reaching Cobalt, we cross the Montreal River at Latchford, named for the Hon. Frank. Here are big lumber mills. It is from Latchford that the mining country of the Upper Montreal River is reached by steamer, or if you are in a hurry, by canoes.

We now come to the end of our destination, Cobalt, as before said, 103 miles from North Bay, and 347 miles from Ottawa.

It has been a pleasant trip, fine scenery, and many bright travelling companions, all intent on “what we’ll find when we get there.” Enough of them had been there before to point out the places of interest along the way, and to tell the “tenderfoot” what to expect when he got there. Elsewhere I have told you of some of the more important places along the line of the road.

It is one of the pleasures of the writer to meet old friends in new places. When in Pembroke in 1904 I was indebted for many courtesies to W. D. Cunningworth, who was then with the Canada Atlantic. I had lost trace of him and had often wondered where he had gone, but coming to the far north I found him an active part of the T. and N.O. Railway line. The Commission certainly deserve credit for its selection for the road’s management. From its genial young manager, J. H. Black, down through the office force, the young men are wideawake and efficient. At North Bay a fine office building of stone is being erected; its stations are models of beauty, especially those of Temagami and Englehart—the latter rarely equalled, for size, in places less than a large city. The roadbed is well laid, the cars are remarkably well built, after the latest models, and manned by a train force, from conductors to brakemen, whose courtesy is most pleasing. “Why so efficient”? I asked, and was told than UJ. H. will have nothing less.” The road is now completed to McDougall Chutes, 204 miles from North Bay, and regular trains will shortly begin running beyond Englehart, the divisional point. From McDougall Chutes to the crossing of the Transcontinental Railway it is some over 40 miles, and for this portion of the line the contract is let and work is progressing rapidly.

The great Transcontinental, under the wise supervision of our good friend S. N. Parent, Chairman of the Dominion Railway Commission, is rapidly going forward. At the crossing, east and west, a section 150 miles in length is being cleared, and the roadbed being graded. It is a vast undertaking, since to get material for the roadway and supplies for the army of men and the hundreds of horses requires great generalship. Were the T. and N.O. completed to the crossing it would be but comparatively easy, but to overcome the 40 miles of a gap may require the blasting out of the rock along the bed of the Abitibi River, that steamers may carry down the material and supplies.

So silently move the vast works of this great upper country that one must see to realize their magnitude.

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