Looming over the edge of the downtown, the old Stratford Motive Shops has been a source of controversy and a reminder of the city’s rich heritage for many years with the railroad. These are the surviving remains of the largest railroad maintenance yards in Ontario, if not Canada and are now only a shadow of their former glory. Metal siding hangs off the concrete superstructure; empty windows stare out darkly. On one of the first visits I made to Stratford on my own, I was immediately drawn to this ancient giant and was even granted a single glimpse into the darkness but never made itRead More →

The city of Stratford is home to some of my favourite buildings in Ontario, home to a tonne of 19th Century architecture. Still, the city’s original growth is not thanks to the tourism industry but rather the railroad. However, you would not know that today, as the city’s grand station sits outside the downtown but shows how important the town was to the railroad. In 1856 within two months of each other, two railroads crossed their lines at the seat of Huron County, the town of Stratford. Coming from the east, Grand Trunk’s push westward and from the south Buffalo & Lake Huron heading towardsRead More →

When it comes to unique station styles in Canada, the one that stands out the most is the Witch’s Hat; these were popular among all significant railway operators through the early 20th Century. Sadly, there is only a handful left standing, but the only one still operates as a train station, which is the station at Uxbridge. The first railway to arrive in Uxbridge was the Toronto & Nipissing Railway. A narrow-gauge line was chartered and supported by George Laidlaw to access the agricultural and timber resources in northern Ontario and access a potential transcontinental railway at Lake Nippissing. The line originating in Cannington startedRead More →

Amazingly, many historic railway stations still exist in Ontario. And while many still operate, some of the oldest stations no longer operate as railway stations and are no longer in their original location. And then there’s the Unionville Station. While it no longer operates as a railway station, it remains in its original location and is only one of two surviving stations from Toronto & Nippissing. Following Confederation, in 1867, a second railway boom was starting. Scottish businessman, George Laidlaw who worked for the Gooderham & Worts distillery in Toronto, began chartering new railways. But unlike most railways in Ontario that stuck to Provincial GaugeRead More →

When it comes to Aurora, Ontario, unless you take public transit regularly, the old train station may not even be in your mind. Even then, you may not realise the importance of this small community regarding the impact the community had on Ontario railway development, as in 1853, it was the first destination for the first steam train in the province. As I spoke of last week, Ontario, Simcoe & Huron faced plenty of problems in getting their line constructed. The biggest problem that came after securing the needed funding came to construction. Starting in October put them already at a disadvantage, running north fromRead More →

It’s hard to believe that a single station would provide the same service for over a century by a decade. But when it comes to the King City train station, that is the absolute truth. While its railway days are over, it is also surprising that the station survived this long in near original condition and without demolition at any point through the three railway operators that used the station. Still, King City survives as the oldest train station in Ontario. It is amazing that a railway even saw completion. The concept of a railway between Toronto and Georgian Bay can trace itself to theRead More →

If you haven’t heard of Palmerston, Ontario, that is perfectly understandable. It is a small historic town tucked away in the rural areas of Wellington County. But the town owes its existence in a major form thanks to the railroad and is one of a few communities that can claim that. At the railroad’s height, Palmerston was a major centre for Grand Trunk and later Canadian National during the golden age of rail and also found a place in history as the location of one of Canada’s first vaccine farms because of the railroad. The Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway starts during the waning daysRead More →

The interesting thing about the Guelph Central Station is that I have walked past it many times but have never been drawn to the structure. I’m more likely to walk past it to get a better angle on the armoury or move past towards the old city hall turned courthouse. But Central Station is one of only a few surviving propaganda stations built to instil confidence in the railway operator in the second decade of the new century. Guelph and the railroad share an interesting relationship since the first Grand Trunk Railway line rolled through 1855. Having acquired the Toronto & Guelph Railway, Grand TrunkRead More →

Most people would drive past a small red building sitting along Highway 25 south of the Canadian National train line running over the roadway heading into downtown from Highway 401. The red building has the appearance of a railroad station. Still, the rail line is sitting high above, and there is no way for the station even to serve the line when Canadian National operated passenger services. The building is Milton’s third train station. It is not so far from its original location located on the outskirts of the downtown next to Milton’s claim to fame, the P.L. Robertson factory, maker of the Robertson screw.Read More →

The late 19th century brought the final push to extend out the transcontinental line. The arrival of the 20th century, the Canadian Pacific Railway was the only line that extended across Canada, at least from Vancouver to Montreal. In Ontario, Grand Trunk managed to secure itself as the big player in the province by absorbing all the competition but could not do that with Canadian Pacific finding itself against a competitor that it simply could not buy out. This was the golden age of rail travel when mighty steam locomotives travelled across the country; rail networks connected people and places, mail and cargo were easilyRead More →