|1956||Ontario History||Vol. 48 No. 1|
The exact date at which the agitation began for a railway from Toronto to Lake Simcoe and thence to Lake Huron, would now be difficult to determine. At any rate, the importance of the route was recognized at an early date in our province's history. It had been utilized by our Indian predecessors as an important trade route,The North-West Company continued to use this route until its amalgamation with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. and it was natural that Simcoe, in his scheme to open up the province, should follow the first stage of the route in his great trunk road, Yonge Street. By the early 1830's the idea had emerged of building a railway over this route, and proposals for its construction became more and more frequent, until at last, a committee to further the project was organized at a meeting held in the British Coffee House on York Street on July 29, 1834.
In essence, the projected line was designed to achieve two ends: to open up the fertile country north of Toronto, and,-the more ambitious purpose, -to form a portage railway to Georgian Bay from where steamers could connect with the ports of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, and so draw the trade to and from the west through Toronto and to Lake Ontario. In the minds of many, also, was the hope of restoring the old North-West Company's fur trade route, from which they had ceased to benefit on its amalgamation with the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1821.
At bottom the plan was the same as that of the old Toronto portage, using rail instead of road or river, but the route was of even greater importance in this period because of the large amount of through passenger and freight traffic which was moving to and from Wisconsin, Michigan and the states west and south of Lake Michigan, which were in the real rush of settlement. The proposed railway was designed to substitute a rail haul of some 90 miles for the long water haul via the Niagara River, Lake Erie, Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron. How adequately the railway achieved this end is suggested by the fact that it eventually transported passengers and freight in fewer hours than it frequently took sailing ships days to reach Lake Huron.F.E.D. McDowell, The Boom Began in '53 C.N. Magazine, April 1953, 9.
With regard to local considerations, the advantages to be derived from the construction of the line were obvious.
Simcoe County had already become a fine wheat-producing district, but the only outlet for the grain was found through teaming to Toronto, a depressingly slow means of transportation. Toll gates dotted along the road added to the charges payable by shippers, and the feeding and watering of the teams of horses en route added to the other delays.N. Thompson & J. H. Edgar, Canadian Railway Development (Toronto, 1933), 25. Ruts in the roads were sometimes so deep that coaches and freight wagons toppled over, while during and after heavy storms, the roads were so clogged by snow or mud that communication was frequently completely cut off.In 1835 even Yonge Street was macadamized only to Yorkville; by 1850, however, the macadamized portion had been extended to Holland Landing.
Thus the ambitious desire for a portage railway to Lake Huron merged with the widespread desire for the local benefits, and the movement surged ahead, attracting increasing attention from far and near. As a result of the increasing agitation, the Upper Canada Legislature early in 1836 incorporated the City of Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad Company, with a charter to build a railroad from Toronto to any point on Lake Huron within the Home District. Apparently the citizenry of Toronto heartily supported the railway project, for we find Dr. Thomas Rolph stating that
from the spirit and enterprise of the inhabitants of Toronto, there is every reason to believe that a railroad communication will be formed between the city and Lake Huron, via Lake Simcoe; the ground is now being surveyed for the purpose.T. Rolph, Statistical Account of Upper Canada, 175.
In spite of these promising developments, however, the projected railway soon faded from the public's attention. The reasons for its disappearance are not certain, but the outbreak of the Rebellion, and more particularly, the disastrous economic crisis of 1837, were without doubt among the factors which kept the project in the background.
By 1845, however, the question had been revived, and the agitation for the road was begun again with renewed vigour. By this time, however, several groups had emerged, with the common desire to build a line between Toronto and Lake Huron, but disagreeing as to the most desirable terminus on Lake Huron.The idea of building the road to touch at Lake Simcoe enroute to Lake Huron had, in the interval, apparently disappeared completely.
In May, 1847, the prospects of the proposed road took a decided turn for the better. In the words of the Examiner:
From 1836 to 1847, eleven long years, the Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad Company have been talking, surveying, scheming, sleeping and issuing prospectuses . . . During (this) period we have done nothing but quarrel and get up opposition schemes, while . . . the public mind has been bewildered by the multiplicity of conflicting railroad projects . . . The Directors, after eleven years cogitation, have positively something new to propose. They ask the Government to loan to the Company two-thirds of the capital required to construct the road, for the repayment of which the revenue of the road is to be made available; and if the Company fail to meet their engagement, the Government is to have the power to take the work into their own hands.Examiner, May 19, 1847.
The future looked bright for the projected line, for it seemed that the Directors were at last ready to cease their bickering and to adopt a constructive policy. Hopes ran high throughout the province,--and beyond. The Montréal Transcript urged the Government to co-operate with the Company, and suggested a further benefit to be derived from the proposed line:
what now would render the co-operation of the Government more especially desirable, would be the means that would be afforded by its active progress, of providing employment for the abundance of emigrants who will this year overrun the Colony . . . It is the only feasible method of providing for an immense emigration such as may be this year expected.Montréal Transcript, May 18, 1847; cited in H. A. Innis & A. R. M. Lower, Select Documents in Canadian Economic History, 1783-1885. (Toronto, 1933), 123.
But hopes soon dimmed as it became clear that nothing was to come of the Company's proposal; and it appeared that the projected line must die before it had truly been born, when there appeared on the scene a saviour, in the person of Frederick Chase Capreol, an English businessman who had taken up residence in Toronto in 1833.
Since 1836, no official proposal had been made that the line touch Lake Simcoe enroute to Lake Huron, but in June, 1848, several gentlemen from Barrie met with interested parties in Toronto to revive this project Among those present was C. S. Gzowski,A name usually associated with the western section of the Grand Trunk, from Toronto through Guelph to Sarnia, the road which he subsequently built. who pointed out that the shortest line between New York State and the western states lay across the Canadian Peninsula, it being 245 miles shorter from Oswego to Chicago via Penetanguishene than by a railway within the United States. It was Capreol, however, who became the center of attraction at the gathering when he said that
he could easily get the necessary cash to build a railroad to Barrie, since
finance was as easy to him as the axe in the hands of the woodsman.Examiner, July 5, 1848. From this time onward, the entire railroad project to connect Toronto with Lake Huron was dominated by Capreol, and, for the first time since 1836, real progress began to be made.
Capreol conceived the brilliant, if somewhat unorthodox idea of raising the necessary funds by means of a lottery, a curious but common device in those days. The proceeds of the tickets were to be used for the purchase of 100,000 acres of land along the projected route of the road, the resulting increase in the value of the land providing the funds to pay for the entire construction of the road. When the plan was criticized both on moral and financial grounds, Capreol deemed it wise to modify his scheme. In 1849 the Canadian legislature passed a bill granting a charter and permitting the raising of money either by subscription or by lottery, but because of the lottery clause, the Governor-General reserved it for the Queen's assent. Capreol, nothing daunted, set out for England, determined to advocate his cause in person before the throne. In the short space of seven weeks he had returned with the royal assent to
An Act to incorporate the Toronto, Simcoe and Lake Huron Union Railroad Company.The royal assent was received on August 29, 1849. An Act of August 10, 1850 changed the name of the Company to the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union Railway (jocularly referred to as the
Oats, Straw and Hay Railway, from the initials of the three lakes). In 1858 the name of the Company was at last officially changed to the Northern Railway of Canada. It had, in fact, been frequently referred to as the 'Northern' from its inception.
In spite of its modification, however, the scheme continued to be vehemently attacked from many sides. Capreol succeeded in persuading the Toronto City Council to invest £100,000 in tickets, and a by-law was passed to provide the money, subject to the approval of the electors at the polls.J. E. Middleton, The Municipality of Toronto. (Toronto, 1923) I, 244. But the Toronto Board of Trade condemned the Council's action, and opposition to Capreol and his scheme became more widespread and more bitter as the voting days approached. On May 29, the following notice appeared in the Examiner:
All citizens friendly to the lunatic project of taxing their property threefold for the next twenty years to enrich a few gambling speculators, should be in readiness at the various polling places in the different wards of the city on Monday and Tuesday next-By a sufficient number of votes, the rate of taxation will be raised from 1s. 7d. to about 4s; all property will be depreciated in value; public improvements within the city will be retarded; and Mr. Capreol's fortune will be secured! Examiner, May 29, 1850.
A week later, the same paper, under the heading,
The Bubble Burst!!, was able to report that
the issue of £100,000 in debentures to aid in the gambling project was, we rejoice to say, met with a thorough vote of condemnation from the citizens.Ibid, June 5, 1850.
This stunning defeat marked an end to the proposed lottery; the Directors turned to more orthodox methods of financing the project.
In 1849, Francis Hincks had introduced in the Canadian legislature the famous Guarantee Act, which was to play an important part in financing several early Canadian railways. Under its terms, the provincial government agreed
to guarantee the interest on loans to be raised by any Company chartered by the Legislature of this Province for the construction of a line of railway, not less than seventy-five miles, on condition that no such guarantee be given to any Company until one half of the entire line shall have been completed.H. A. Lovett, Canada and the Grand Trunk (1924), 12. This promise of government aid was a great source of encouragement to Capreol and his associates as they set about to raise the necessary capital through methods less objectionable to the public. A typical prospectus indicates the manner in which subscriptions were solicited:
This grand and important plan is particularly deserving of attention from every class of the community in Canada and various pacts of the United States. It has been projected as a great public advantage, that of opening a railway communication across the peninsula to the Far West, in connection with the lines now finished from New York and Boston to Oswego--thus rendering the northern route via Toronto to the Western States shorter than any other by several hundred miles, avoiding the circuitous and dangerous route by Lake Erie and the southern shore of Lake Huron. It is presumed that when this line is finished, it will be the best paying stock in North America.Thompson and Edgar, op. cit., 17.
But, although some £20,000 of stock was purchased by private individuals,F. N. Walker, Four Whistles to Wood-up (Toronto, 1953), 15. it was obvious that such subscriptions alone would be hopelessly insufficient. So the Simcoe County Council was approached with a request for financial assistance, and, after apparently being assured that the road would pass through Barrie, passed a by-law to purchase £50,000 of stock and to issue debentures for that amount.A. F. Hunter, A History of Simcoe County (Barrie, 1909) I, 164. The Toronto City Council, desirous of aiding the road, but hesitant in view of the fate of its earlier proposal, decided to make a cash grant of £25,000 and an additional loan of £35,000,-payable as the work progressed.Examiner, December 4. 1850; nothing whatever was to be given until £100,000 had been expended on the road.
At the same time as Capreol was striving to raise the necessary capital, he was making arrangements with M. C. Story & Co., a firm of New York contractors, for the construction of the road. Under the terms of the contract, the cost of the road was to be £6,250 per mile, which, for an estimated 90 miles, would be £562,000.Report by the Chief Engineer to the Directors, 1852. The total amount subscribed, however, was considerably less than one-half of this amount, the sum needed to qualify for aid under the province's Guarantee Act. The contractors obligingly agreed to take £150,000 of the amount due them in stock. Examiner, September 17, 1851. The road thereby met the requirement for governmental assistance, and the financial hurdle had been overcome. By August, 1851, the following advertisement was appearing in the Toronto newspapers:
Sealed proposals will be received at the office of the subscribers in the city of Toronto, Canada West, until the 5th day of September, for grubbing, clearing, grading, masonry, bridging and all other necessary work to prepare the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway for the superstructure from Toronto to Barrie, a distance of sixty-four miles . . . M. C. Story & Co.Ibid, August 6, 1851.
Preparations for the turning of the first sod were quickly brought to a conclusion. The date fixed upon was October 15, 1851, which, to honour the occasion, was declared a public holiday. The ceremony was to take place at three o'clock in the afternoon, but at an early hour in the morning streams of country people began to flood the city, and by noon, 20,000 people had gathered near the City Hall on Front Street where a grand parade was scheduled to begin.Walker, op. cit., 11. A description of the ceremony itself is given by a contemporary observer:
The first sod was turned by Lady Elgin,Wife of the Governor-General. assisted by Mayor Bowes, nearly opposite the Parliament Buildings. Mayor Bowes was in full official costume,--cocked hat and sword, knee breeches, silk stockings, and shoes with steel buckles. The earth dug by her ladyship, with a beautiful silver spade, was taken by His Worship, a short distance in an oak wheel-barrow, the whole ceremony creating great interest. Mr. F. C. Capreol had so far seen his much ridiculed scheme carried into effect. No longer laughed at and spoken of as 'Mad Capreol', as the writer has often heard him called, he had shown great method in his madness. Having been a fellow-passenger with him when crossing on his visit to England . . . I saw his determination to carry out his plans, and the clear prospect he had of the future of the undertaking.C. C. Taylor, Toronto Called Back from 1886 to 1850 (Toronto, 1886), 99.
But others were apparently less appreciative of Capreol's efforts, for on the day previous to the turning of the first sod, he was dismissed from the office of managerHe had been appointed to that position by his grateful fellow-Directors after his successful mission to England. and deprived of the honour of presenting the spade to Lady Elgin. The details of his dismissal are obscure, but Morgan suggests that
Mr. Capreol had incurred the malice of one of the Directors and to this low and petty annoyance alone could his dismissal be ascribed.H. J. Morgan, Sketches of Celebrated Canadians (Montréal, 1865), 752. Whatever the reason for his dismissal, it is certain that a great deal of sympathy was elicited on his behalf. The citizens of Toronto petitioned the Directors, as did also the Toronto Board of Trade, but to no avail. Even the Examiner wrote:
With the construction of this, the first railroad which will be in operation in Canada West, the name of Mr. Capreol must ever be identified; and we only regret that, having wisely abandoned the lottery part of his original scheme, any difference between him and the Board of Directors should have prevented his realizing fully the honour and credit to which he was entitled for his zeal and enterprise as its original projector.Examiner, June 2, 1852.
But the many protests fell on deaf ears, and a Board of Directors, which collectively ventured a paltry £37 10s. in the enterprise, succeeded in dismissing from his office the man who had spent on behalf of the project £12,350 out of his private fortune.R. S. Duncan, Upper Canada Railway Society Newsletter, November 1951; £11,000 in the Company's bonds was later granted to Capreol. Although Capreol retained his seat on the Board of Directors, and remained one of the road's most vigorous supporters, he was never again to dominate the Company's policies.
Capreol had gone far afield in his search for a capable Chief Engineer, and he had inevitably been attracted to the Erie Railroad, where Hezekiah C. Seymour had attained prominence as one of the outstanding civil engineers in the United States. As early as February, 1850, Capreol had contacted Seymour with a view to asking his advice on the best method of constructing the line out of Toronto. Seymour personally reviewed the proposed line, and after reporting his findings to the Directors, was offered the position of Chief Engineer, which he readily accepted. Seymour was a highly competent engineer and organizer, and within ten months the entire line of 63 miles between Toronto and Barrie was graded throughout.It is interesting to note that railway construction labourers in those days worked 12 hours a day for one dollar; (Examiner, June 15, 1853). By the summer of 1852 such rapid progress had been made that the road was ready for the laying of the rails, and on July 21, the Examiner reported that
The ceremony of laying the first rail took place in the presence of a few of the Directors and their friends on Thursday last, about four miles from the city, . . . the lady of one of the contractors having broken a bottle of champagne on the rail. The meaning of this ceremony is not apparent, unless we assume that the road is happily to be conducted on temperance principles, . . . no Engineer, Conductor or Brakeman to be employed but tea-totallers. The lady has great credit for giving this salutary intimation, and if the principle be adopted, it will doubtless save many a life and limb.Examiner, July 21, 1852.
By 1852 the location of the railroad between Barrie and Lake Huron was becoming the main preoccupation of Seymour's successor,Seymour severed his connection with the Northern in the spring of 1852 in order to take an interest in the contracts for building several large railroads in the American West. Frederick W. Cumberland, whose engineering skill was matched by rare business and organizing ability. Born in London, England, and educated at King's College in that city, he had studied architecture and engineering and had proved himself outstanding in both fields. In the Engineering Department of the Admiralty he had gained considerable experience in the construction of docks, and Samuel Keefer, the Canadian Railway Commissioner who recommended him, considered him the ideal man to establish the harbour for the young railroad's northern terminus. During the next decade, in fact, Cumberland
acted as consulting engineer for all the railway docks constructed from Montréal to Sarnia and Detroit as well as some in the United States.Walker, op. cit., 19. Alfred Brunel and Sandford Fleming were employed as assistant engineers.
Cumberland had received his railway experience as assistant engineer on the Great Western Railway in England, and was a devoted disciple of that school of English railway-builders who believed that railways should be as straight as possible. In fact, he found such fault with the portion of line already under construction that the contractors agreed to straighten it for £11,000 extra, to which the present C.N.R. line owes the twenty mile stretch of straight track between Parkdale and King.
It was on the section of the road north of Barrie, however, that Cumberland was for the most part engaged during the six months following his appointment. Five separate routes were surveyed from Barrie: north-east to Penetanguishene; north-east to Victoria Bay; north and north-west to Nottawasaga; west and north to Nottawasaga; and northwest to Collingwood. After lengthy consideration of the advantages of each, Collingwood was decided upon as the most desirable terminus.
Actually, no such place as Collingwood existed in 1852, this location being known as the 'Hen and Chickens', on account of the numerous small islands studding the shore. A local chronicler of that district, commenting on a visit to that location by the railway engineers, states that
While stopping at a rock which peered above the deep snow on the shores of the harbour, the discussion turned to the name of the new town. Mr. Cumberland suggested Victoria in honour of the Queen; others thought it well to retain the existing name of Hen and Chickens; while Mr. D. E. Buist offered the name of Collingwood, already borne by a neighbouring township. The latter name was accepted as the most suitable.Cited in L. J. Burpee, Sandford Fleming, Empire Builder (London, 1915), 53.
Thereupon they took a bottle of wine and christened the new town Collingwood.
Cumberland's report to the Directors in February, 1853 contained a lengthy account of the five surveys made, and a logical exposition of the reasoning behind his choice of Collingwood, which he justified from the standpoint of shortness of line, superior grades and curvatures, and natural harbour facilities. The Directors, much impressed by his argument, thereupon adopted Collingwood as the northern terminus.
In the meantime, the first locomotive seen in Upper Canada, named the
Lady Elgin after the wife of the Governor-General, had arrived in Toronto by schooner from Oswego. A large body of onlookers gathered on October 6, 1852, to view the debut of the new engine.
Built at Portland, Maine, the
Lady Elgin weighed 24 tons,The relatively modern '6400' class C.N.R. locomotives weigh 290 tons. and had driving wheels five feet in diameter. Speaking of the
Lady Elgin, the Globe of October 7, 1852 explained that
The cost was about nine thousand dollars, and the duty paid to the Provincial Customs over a thousand dollars. It was necessary to import this locomotive, for it was required immediately, but we understand that the contractors for the road have made every exertion to employ Canadian mechanics to execute the work and that a machine is actually in the course of construction for them by Mr. James Good of this City . . . Cited in Walker, op. cit., 23.
Lady Elgin, however, was found to be too light for anything but construction work, to which use it was put soon after its arrival.
Cumberland's report of February, 1853, listed the Company's rolling stock:
one Locomotive Engine, one passenger car, twelve trucks and two freight cars have already been delivered, and the Engine and trucks are now employed carrying iron.Report by the Chief Engineer to the Directors, 1853. Arrangements had also been made to secure three locomotives and two passenger cars from the United States. A large contract had been made with McLean and Wright of Montréal to deliver twelve passenger cars, six baggage cars, sixty freight cars, one hundred flat cars and forty gravel cars. Since McLean and Wright had opened a branch factory on Bathurst Street, Cumberland was pleased to report that
we shall hereafter be enabled to procure all our supplies of this nature in our own locality, and on very advantageous terms, effecting a saving of from 10 to 15 per cent upon the past cost, in duty, freight and insurance.Ibid. Two additional locomotives were under construction in James Good's Foundry on Queen Street. Upon completion, the
Toronto, the first locomotive constructed in Upper Canada, was moved over temporary tracks from the foundry at Queen and Yonge Streets to the railway right of way on Front Street. A few yards of moveable rails were laid, and when the engine had passed over these, they were taken up and relaid ahead. The progress made was astonishingly slow; it took five full days to move the new engine from Queen Street to Front Street. Throngs of spectators lined the sidewalks to witness the pilgrimage. In an issue of the Canadian Journal is a lithograph of the locomotive and the following account:
We have much pleasure in presenting our readers with a drawing of the first locomotive engine constructed in Canada, and indeed, we believe, in any British colony. TheTorontois certainly no beauty, nor is she distinguished by any peculiarity in her construction, but she affords a very striking illustration of our progress in the mechanical arts, and of the growing wants of the country.Canadian Journal, II, 76.
These first locomotives were, of course, wood-burners; it was not until 1878 that coal was used to generate steam. Prior to that date, the firebox was fed with four-foot cordwood sticks of maple, birch, elm or beech. The wood was consumed almost as fast as the stoking could be done, and the furnace door could remain open for only a minute when fuel was thrown in, or the steam pressure declined. The fireman was sometimes required to creep along the running board while the train was in motion, in order to place tallow in the bearings, an especially dangerous task in cold or wet weather. Accumulations of cinders in the wire screen fastened across the top of the smoke stack required removal frequently, by striking the mouth of the stack with a long pole. The early engines were usually well-painted, their boilers being a glossy black and coated with tallow and the decorative work being thoroughly polished on the completion of each trip.Thompson & Edgar, op. cit., 22.
Until long after the road was in operation there were no air-brakes. The engines had steam brakes, but coaches and cars were braked by hand.
Opposite a certain sign-post, before reaching a station, or sometimes half-a-mile previous to a desired stop, the locomotive whistle would blow 'Down brakes', and there followed a rush of brakemen over freight cars or through passenger coaches, to twist around the old 'Armstrongs', as the brake handles were humorously dubbed, no doubt in reference to the muscular energy required for their proper manipulation.Ibid. The passenger coaches were, of course, all wooden. Since there was no steam heating, each car had a stove, about which clustered the passengers during the winter months. The platforms at the ends of every coach were open, rather than vestibule as in present-day equipment, and to walk from one car to another a person passed into the open air and was in danger of being jolted off. But to the traveller of this period, the Northern's passenger coach was a veritable paradise on wheels.
At the same time as the Company's rolling stock was gradually accumulating, the construction work on the road itself was steadily progressing. Like the ties, nine thousand tons of rails, which were bought in New York, had to be hauled and deposited along the right of way by farmers' wagons. By February of 1853, contracts had been completed for the construction of docks and warehouses in Toronto, as well as for the erection of stations at Weston, Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Machell's Corners (Aurora), Newmarket, St. Albans (Holland Landing), Bradford, Innisfil (Lefroy) and Barrie. The buildings at these points were to include
sidings, platforms and offices, with their necessary appendages, freight, tank and wood houses, with, at the service stations (as Barrie) Locomotive and Car Stables, etc.Report by the Chief Engineer to the Directors, 1853.
By May, 1853, although little ballasting had been done, it was felt that a regular service could be inaugurated between Toronto and Machell's Corners. At eight o'clock on the morning of May 16th, in the presence of a large crowd, the first train pulled out from the little wooden shed at Front and Bay Streets, which had been dignified with the name of a station. The train was made up of the engine
Toronto, two box cars, one combination baggage and passenger car, and one passenger car. William Huckett, master mechanic of the road, was at the throttle. In those days locomotives carried mascots or figureheads of various designs mounted above and behind the cowcatcher, which was all that the name implied. The mascot of the
Toronto was a cast iron figure about three feet in height of a Highlander, which carried a signal flag in his hand normally, but on special occasions this flag was supplanted with a Union Jack.Barrie Examiner, April 19, 1951. All along the route people turned out to see the novel sight, until, two hours after leaving, the train pulled into Machell's Corners. The first railway had begun operation in Canada West!
The initial section had been in operation less than a month when the next section, to Bradford, was opened. Describing the trip from Toronto to Bradford, which had greatly impressed members of the Canadian Institute invited on a special tour of the road, the Canadian Journal wrote as follows:
It is indeed a matter of no small moment to Western Canada, and especially to Toronto, that it is now possible to pass from Lake Ontario at s speed exceeding forty miles an hour, over an elevation of more than 730 feet, to the landing place on Lake Simcoe . . . Many portions of the extensive country traversed by the line. cannot fail to impress the passing stranger with a well-grounded conviction of its admirable adaption to support a dense and independent population . . . of undulating plains of extraordinary fertility, a teeming soil and a healthy, industrious population, of these . . . desirable attractions, a rich share is strewn around its path. Although the line has been opened for a very few weeks, yet it seems to have given already an extraordinary impetus to the growth of the villages through which it passes.
Apparently the gentlemen concerned were much impressed by the Northern's rolling stock, and there is a suggestion of righteous pride in Canadian workmanship as the article continues:
It is something to know that the materiel of the line, the locomotives and cars, are in themselves, admirable illustrations of the rapid progress we are making in the mechanical arts. Canadian White Oak and Bird's Eye Maple, give a lightness and brilliance to the First Class Passenger Cars, which we have rarely seen equalled, and as to the ease and comfort of the whole of their internal arrangements. it would be gilding refined gold to have them surpassed. To the enterprise and energy of Mr. Good of Toronto, the public are indebted for the construction of the powerful locomotive, which brings the lakes within an hour's ride of one another; and to Messrs. McLean & Wright, for the luxurious passenger cars, which exhibit a neat taste in design, and appropriate skill in workmanship.Canadian Journal, I, 281.
With the opening of the line from Toronto to Bradford, Cumberland came to feel that the railroad must control the navigation of Lake Simcoe. So he recommended construction of a 1½ mile branch line to the main shore of the lake, at the present Belle Ewart.
Long before the branch line to Belle Ewart was officially opened, the main line had reached Allandale, which was called Barrie Station. Actually the station was more than a mile from the town of Barrie, and this fact led to a controversy which was not to be settled for more than eleven years.
When the railroad had first been proposed, the people of Barrie had contended that the main track should be directed into their town, and then to the outlet on Georgian Bay. The Barrie Herald reported on March, 1852, that it had been informed on good authority that the line would indeed touch Barrie;Hunter, op. cit., 170. but by the following year it had become apparent that such was not to prove the case. It was rumoured that the county capital had offended the railway in some manner or other, possibly financially, and that Cumberland had vowed that he would
make grass grow in the streets of Barrie and pave Allandale streets with gold. However, it is far more likely that the geographical obstacles presented by the hills around the town played a more significant part in the railway's decision. Ibid.
Needless to say, not only the citizens of Barrie, but the county as a whole, was infuriated by the railway's policy. The county had invested £50,000 in stock on the condition that the road should pass through Barrie, but the Company had inexplicably decided not to fulfill its obligation. The people of Barrie, in what appears to have been a definite attempt at conciliation, offered to accept a switch in lieu of the main track. Cumberland, on behalf of the Company, entered into negotiations with this end in view, and a survey was made of the proposed branch between Allandale and Barrie, but for many years the Company ignored the agitation for this 'Barrie switch', until at length the town furnished a right of way, and the line was at last constructed. On June 21, 1865, the formal opening of the branch from Allandale to Barrie drew the curtain on the prolonged and unpleasant agitation over the 'Barrie Switch'.
On January 1, 1855, twenty-one years after it had first been projected, the entire line was completed, and on that day a train for the first time made the 94 mile run from Toronto to Collingwood. The completion of the Northern Railway to Collingwood soon made that terminus a thriving port. During 1854, steps had been taken to secure steamship connection with Chicago, and early in 1855, five paddle steamers were making the connections. The Lady Elgin, Queen City, Niagara and Keystone State provided a tri-weekly service to Chicago, while the Louisiana ran to Green Bay, Wisconsin.F. Landon in London Free Press, October 23, 1954. Still another steamer made regular trips between Owen Sound and Collingwood. The Lady Elgin, Keystone State, Louisiana and Queen City were chartered by the Northern Railway, and were said to be
superior vessels, capable of carrying 4,000 or 5,000 barrels of flour, and fitted up in the best manner, with saloons the whole length of the upper deck, and having state-room accommodation for upwards of 300 passengers.Examiner, February 14, 1855.
Soon the inconsequential 'Hen and Chickens' developed into an important entrepôt to which grain was shipped from the mid-western states, and lumber forwarded from all over Georgian Bay for transhipment over the Northern Railway to Toronto. In 1861 the trade at Collingwood amounted to more than two and a half million dollars.Innis & Lower, op. cit., 494.
The impact which this traffic had upon Collingwood itself, may be readily imagined. An account of its growth, written in 1872, states that
Collingwood furnishes an instance of what becoming a railway terminus will accomplish for a place. Before the Northern Railway was built, an unbroken forest occupied its site and the red deer came down through the woods to drink at the shore. Now there is a thriving town of two or three thousand inhabitants, with steam saw mills, and huge rafts from the north almost fill the little harbour, with a grain elevator which lifts out of steam barges the corn from Chicago, weighs it, and passes it into railway wagons to be hurried down to Toronto . . . Around the town. the country is being opened up, and the forest is giving way to pastures and cornfields.Thompson & Edgar, op. cit., 24.
Prior to construction of the Northern Railway, no lumber was sent out from Simcoe County, despite its magnificent pine forests. But from the completion of the first part of the Northern Railway across its southern border, that county began to grow into the chief lumber producer in the province. A. R. M. Lower, Settlement and the Forest Frontier in Eastern Canada (Toronto, 1936), 43. In the beginning, the railroad ran through solid forest all the way to Barrie. Mills literally sprouted up as the construction of the road continued northward, and as the construction boom of the fifties increased the local demand. In 1860 the railway carried over thirty-seven million feet of timber and lumber to Toronto. Within three years this figure had risen to nearly fifty-two million feet,Annual Reports submitted by the Board of Directors for the years 1860 and 1863. and as many as fifteen trainloads a day were arriving at Toronto.
The local traffic was by no means confined to timber and lumber. Within a few months after the railway had penetrated Simcoe County
Bradford blossomed forth as the great grain-shipping center for that neighbourhood, new warehouses were erected, and grain poured in from the surrounding countryside . . .Thompson & Edgar, op. cit., 25. In 1860 Bradford shipped 155,000 bushels of wheat to Toronto, and by 1863 it had doubled that amount,Annual Reports submitted by the Board of Directors for 1860 and 1863. and other commodities of local trade were increased in like proportion.
The benefits which the road conferred upon the province as a whole were inestimable. New lands were opened to settlement in York, Grey and Simcoe Counties, the population of the latter county increasing from twenty-seven thousand to sixty-four thousand between 1852 and 1871.Canadian Almanac, 1852 and 1871; in 1852 Simcoe ranked thirteenth in population among the counties of Canada West. By 1871 it ranked fifth. New wealth was created, freight costs reduced and intercourse facilitated. A new and important timber industry was developed, while the need for railway equipment encouraged local manufacturers. Urban settlement was everywhere encouraged: Collingwood doubled its population between 1861 and 1871; Barrie increased from 2,134 to 3,398 in the same period.Canadian Almanac, 1861 and 1871. The beginnings of a tourist trade was suggested in a report of the Canadian Journal that the railroad
cannot fail to secure for the delightful scenery of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching many admirers during the coming summer.Canadian Journal, II, 255. Then too, while the trade scarcely fulfilled the golden dreams expected of it, the Northern did form a link in the land and water route to the Canadian West until the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway naturally proved of special value to Toronto, as it decided the supremacy of that city as the greatest distributing and marketing center in Ontario, in addition to forming the junction with subsequently-built lines and the port of transhipment for water-borne traffic.
There had been waste and mismanagement, it is true, while the road was for some time financially unprofitable, but the Northern Railway had brought indirect gain that more than offset the direct loss, a fact which had been prophesied as early as 1852 by the editor of the Examiner:
Whatever may be the pecuniary advantages or disadvantages arising from the investment of capital in the construction of this road, there is but one opinion as to the public benefits which must arise from it. Its opening will form a new era in our material Progress, and cannot fail to confer great and lasting benefits upon this city and district!Examiner, June 2, 1852.