A motor car and trailer of Quebec Railway Light & Power (QRL&P) seen in the 1950s. The predecessor Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix Railway Company (QM&C) was incorporated in 1881 and was to be built along the Saint Lawrence River, intended to provide service to as far east as Baie-Sainte-Catherine, which was in turn expected to be developed into a major seaport with ice free shipping even in winter. The first part of the line between Limoilou and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec went into service on Saturday 10 August 1889. It was built at the time for the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, and the railway was nicknamed the "Railway of Good Saint Anne". Initial operations were with steam locomotive hauled trains.
The line was electrified in 1904, when the company changed its name to to the QRL&P. Between 1904 and 1959 electric trains like that shown provided an interurban type service for passengers between Québec City and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.
The second part of the line, extending from Beaupré to Clermont in Charlevoix, was built between 1909 and 1919. The large Manoir Richelieu at Pointe-au-Pic (now part of La Malbaie) was built in the 1890s. At first hotel guests would get to the hotel via Canada Steamship Lines steamships. Eventually the QM&C line was extended. This part of the line is very scenic because it is literally wedged between mountains and river. It required huge investments in time and money: there are two tunnels and 900 bridges and culverts, or an average of one every 165 metres (541 ft).
With the line extended Manoir Richelieu hotel customers could use the QRL&P trains instead of CSL vessels to get to the hotel. The hotel building burned down in the autumn of 1928 but was rebuilt and reopened in June 1929. CSL vessels continued to call on the hotel until 1966.
In 1951 Canadian National took over as owner of the railway. The line became known as the Murray Bay Subdivision of CN, Murray Bay being an English name for La Malbaie. In 1959 CN terminated passenger service and dismantled the overhead lines used for electrification between Limoilou and Saint-Joachim.
In 1994 CN sold the whole line to the Quebec Railway Corporation. In 1996 the Charlevoix Railway Company created a major timber transshipment yard at Clermont, which is used by almost all timber processors of the Côte-Nord.
In April 2009 Le Massif de Charlevoix organisation purchased the line between Quebec and La Malbaie from the Quebec Railway Corporation. Track rehabilitation for a new tourist line began in October 2009. CN still uses the line to haul freight between Clermont and Quebec via trackage rights. The Port of Quebec City lists the Chemin de fer Charlevoix as a rail transport provider to the port's facilities.