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The Railway

The railway became an obsession for Labelle. It occupied his thoughts even in the confessional, where on hearing a confession, he sometimes imposed a penance of “un chemin de fer” [a railway] rather than “un chemin de croix” [a way of the cross].

Labelle played an active role in the expansion of several railway lines in the region, including the Montreal–Saint-Jérôme line and the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway. His dedication was acknowledged by Sir Hugh Allan, a leading railway tycoon:

Sepia-tone photograph of a man aged about sixty, seated in a chair. His hair is white and he is slightly balding, with a thick, white, medium-length beard. He wears a dark velvet waistcoat and jacket, with trousers in a lighter material. His left arm rests on a table covered in a velvet tablecloth.

Sir Hugh Allan

“My dear Father Labelle,         I am sure you were glad to hear that the contract for the construction of the Northern Colonisation Railroad was at length signed. This result is largely due to your indefatigable industry and exertions and if there is any man who can claim credit for the work, that man is yourself.”



A tireless proponent of “his railway,” in 1872, the priest of Saint-Jérôme parish led a convoy of 80 sleighs laden with cords of firewood to give them away to the poor of Montreal, who were struggling with a severe shortage of fuel for heating their homes. He took the opportunity to promote the advantages of a railway line that would carry freight and passengers between Montreal and the Northern Townships of the Laurentians.

Colour photograph of a sculpture assembled from driftwood. The lifesize sculpture, located in a woodland, represents a sled filled with logs, pulled by two horses. A driver sculpted in wood sits at the front of the sled. Two men dressed in period costumes pose on the sled.

Sculpture depicting Curé Antoine Labelle’s “corvée de bois” (wood convoy), in the Parc régional de la Rivière-du-Nord, Saint-Jérôme


He led another “wood convoy” in 1876. On that occasion, the City of Montreal agreed to put up a million dollars toward the building of a railway that would link Montreal with Saint-Jérôme. In recognition of his dedication, one locomotive was named the Revérend A. Labelle.

Black & white photograph of a steam locomotive on a railway. The date “Sept. 19, 1878” has been added to the photograph, above the locomotive. A small freight car is coupled to the locomotive.

Locomotive No. 23 Lotbinière of the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway