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BAIE-COMEAU TOWN

All of the petrol stations and the supermarkets at Baie-Comeau are quite some way outside the town not too far from Manic 1, and so I stopped to fill up the fuel tank and fill up the food box as I drove past. Both were pretty low.

And a little word of warning - if you are going up to Labrador from here, the next fuel stop is 214 kms away. Not only that, but the price of the fuel is considerably more expensive the further away from Highway 138 you travel.

Not too much of a surprise when you consider the size of the market out there and the distance the fuel has to travel, but it will still take your breath away the first time that you encounter it.

Neither is there anything whatever in the way of reliable supermarkets for food, fruit and vegetables. At Goose Bay I found the world's only food shop that didn't have any food, and the world's only bakery that didn't have any bread. You need to stock up at Baie Comeau as much as you can here.


cheap motel baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

In 2010, I arrived in Baie-Comeau in the early afternoon, and the first plan was to find a motel to stay the night ready for an early night, which I duly did.

That, as it happens, was the wrong plan. Accommodation out on the Trans-Labrador Highway is few and far between, and having driven past the final stop at Relais Gabriel in early afternoon the next day, I ended up struggling around on a dirt track into Fermont long after dark in the snow.

Having fuelled up and fooded up, I should have pushed straight on up the Highway as far as Manic 5, 214 kms away on reasonable (well, what counts for reasonable around here) roads, where there are a few rooms available.

That was a lost opportunity that I came to bitterly regret.


In Baie Comeau, there is a railway system, probably the shortest isolated railway system in the world. This line runs around the back of the town connecting the aluminium smelter and the wood-processing plant to the harbour, and we'll be visiting it in early couse.

But there's an extension to the line that heads out of town north-westwards, and the first thing that you do when you turn eastwards on the edge of town in the direction of Sept-Iles and Labrador city is to cross over it.

There's not very much information that I have been able to find about the railway line, but seeing as it's connected to the forestry industry I had visions of it disappearing into the interior of the country so that trains could come back loaded with lumber, and perhaps passing by the odd quarry or mine too.

One of my ideas was at some time or other to have a drive about to see if I could find out more about the railway line and maybe even find out where it goes. In 2016 I suddenly remembered my vow, and with a free half-an-hour or so I took a drive around the big industrial estate here to see what I could see.

the end of the line SOPOR baie comeau rail network north shore st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016

And I was to be confounded because the railway line seems to peter out here in the middle of the big industrial estate. I've no idea why it would do that so had a further wander around to see if I could see anything else that might be railway-related.

And the answer to that question was "nothing at all". I didn't find a thing and it was really disappointing. I shall have to look further into this railway line whenever I can find the time.


beautiful apartment building baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2016

But this is something that I found while I was rummaging around looking for the railway line, and I think that this building is beautiful.

It's a modern apartment block at the back of the town behind the shopping centre. It seems to have only just been built because there were "To Let" signs up all over the place and people standing around outside looking at it. I would love to have an apartment in this place - it's the turrets that do it for me.


Back on the main road and back in 2010, and I don't know what is going on in Quebec right now because, just as at Portneuf down the road , they are digging up all of the roads here at Baie-Comeau. So whats going on in Quebec? Where's all this money coming from?

mural baie comeau centre quebec canada october octobre 2010

I have to pick my way through the roadworks and eventually find myself in the centre of Baie-Comeau.

That huge mural just there is where another building used to be, but was demolished. I made a note to find out if that was where the Hudson's Bay Company store was, but I'm not sure why I asked myself that now. I imagine that there might have been one somewhere in the town.

forest baie comeau centre quebec canada october octobre 2010

Looking to the right of the mural, we can see just how close to the town centre the forest is (and when I dictated my notes, I said "jungle". Is that a Freudian slip, or am I losing the plot?).

But regardless of whatever it is, it's still a lot of trees and the forestry industry was the raison d'être of the development of the modern town, as we shall discover in early course.

baie comeau town centre quebec canada october octobre 2010

The view is hardly any more inspiring to the left either. It's a typical 1950s or early 1960s glass and aliminium shopping centre that you'll see in any town centre in the United Kingdom.

But from the construction of the buildings, my initial reaction, knowing nothing about the town, was that there was nothing earlier than the 1930s. And I was surprised about how accurate that was, because the town itself does indeed date from the mid-1930s.

One of the landmarks in the centre was the Grand Hotel, dating from that era, but as you might expect here in Quebec, that burnt to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1944.


One thing that has always struck me about the Province of Quebec was that there were salons de quilles just about everywhere you cared to look.

And thanks to a helpful illuminated sign, I now know what they are. Bowling Alleys is the answer.


So having dealt with the rather depressing Town Centre, let's go down to the shore

expensive housing plateau baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

The smell of wet wood-pulp is what immediately springs to mind down here by the water's edge, but I bet they don't suffer from that up there on that ridge.

That's clearly the posh end of Baie-Comeau up there and so I went for a prowl around there. To my surprise they are in fact downwind of the odour and so they are quite on the receiving end of it. However, I suppose once you get used to it it doesn't make all that much difference.


Quebec North Shore Paper Company mill baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

And so what is it that is creating this pervasive odour throughout the south-western part of the town?. That's what I reckon is causing it, and I reckon that it is a pulp mill.

There's been some kind of settlement here, whether First-Nation or European, for more than centuries, but the impetus for the developmnt of the modern town is due to an American, Colonel Robert McCormick.

He was publisher of the Chicago Tribune newspaper in the USA and, looking for a further source of wood-pulp for his journals, began to exploit the resources of this area in the 1930s.

His company, the Quebec North Shore Paper Company, established its mill here in 1936 and the town grew up around it to provide homes and facilities for the employees.

It's named after a well-known naturalist of this area, Napoleon-Alexandre Comeau, who was born in 1845 down the road at Colombier, and can count amongst its famous citizens the controversial Prime Minister Brian Mulrony, who was born here.


parc des pionniers baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

You could see a good view of the park in the previous photograph. This is the Parc des Pionniers and was where I stopped for lunch in October 2010.

I instructed The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav to plot a course from here to Labrador City, and she told me that if I set out right now I could be there by 23:30. Of course I pooh-poohed the idea and made some butties for lunch, resolving to go for a wander around the harbour afterwards.

As I said earlier, that was not my best decision.


0 4 0 steam locomotive parc des pionniers baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

But no hap, no hap. Too late to do anything about it now. I ate my butties and went over to this steam locomotive that was parked up in the park, on display.

A little 0-4-0, it carries the logo QNSPC on the side and silly me, because I'm like this at times, I thought that I might have misread it and that it was in fact QNSRC - as in the Quebec something (I guessed "North Shore") Railway Company, and the stair rail being in the way didn't help.

0 4 0 steam locomotive parc des pionniers baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

The view from this side didn't help much either and so it wasn't until later that it twigged with me that it was indeed a P. It relates to McCormick's Quebec North Shore Paper Company, of course.

There's a helpful set or two of steps tp enable you to climb inside the locomotive for a look around if you like, and so I did. First thin that I noted, or didn't not, to be more precise, was the driver's seat, or absence thereof.

0 4 0 steam locomotive parc des pionniers baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

This makes me think that it was formerly some kind of factory shunter, and it's a locomotive that is driven from the right as you can see in this photo.

Having given it a quick once-over and a cursory glance, I reckon that it hasn't been out of service all that long by the looks of things. It still has some of the asbestos cloth or whatever cloth it is wrapped around the steam pipes.

Of course, with it being a steam locomotive and working at a huge wood processing plant, I image that it would have been a wood burner and that would be why they kept it going for so long.

And so would you have, if you had available plenty of free fuel from the wood offcuts.

0 4 0 steam locomotive parc des pionniers baie comeau quebec canada october octobre 2010

As for its state of preservation - well I can say that I've seen an awful lot worse than this on my travels around North America as you know, if you've been with me to Wyoming or to Edmundston to name but two places out of many.

From the superficial inspection that I was able to give it, it wouldn't take all that much to have this back on the rails again.

It looks in quite good condition to me, all things considered, but it remains to be seen and we'll have to take another look at in after it's been standing here for another 15 years, cynic that I am.

So enjoy the photos now while you can and while it's still in all of its glory. It might not look like this when you come by here.


From here I can see the docks in the distance. I'm going to have a good wander down there now to see what's going on.




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