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 →

In about three decades, the railway in Ontario had grown from a small collection of operators to the principal means of moving people and cargo around the Province and, by extension, Canada. But the one thing that it still lacked was a complete link across the entire length of British North America. While some efforts had been made in 1873, the resulting scandal ousted the MacDonald conservatives, and the new Liberal Government made some efforts to start the construction in 1875. Despite completing 1,000 kilometres of track by the time they were voted out in 1878, not enough had been done. MacDonald returned to power,Read More →

Today moving around is easy. At the same time, we deal with traffic and delays, our availability of automobiles, aeroplanes, transit, and trains. Combined with well-paved roads, GPS, maps, gas stations, rest areas, travel for us in the 21st Century is a breeze. But some two centuries earlier, life in Ontario, then Upper Canada, was far more challenging. Many who lived in the settlements well outside the few urban centres never strayed too far from home. Local roads were often blazed trails from Indigenous people who lived on the land. Sir John Graves Simcoe had ordered military roads, but even these were little more thanRead More →

I have this memory that recently floated up to the surface of a camping trip I took many years ago with my dad and brother. We were camping at Sherkston Shores a camping resort half-way between Fort Erie and Port Colborne. While I have excellent memories of swimming in the old quarry and the three waterslides, but less clear is a visit we made one trip to the Welland Canal. We’re all unclear as to what lock we visited. My brother remembers stores. And there was also the stranger who gave us chocolate bars (through our dad) on that same trip. I’m sure buried inRead More →

Out of all communities formed along the Welland Canal, both large and small, the ones that are most important to the Canal are the ports. It’s easy to tell which communities along the Canal remain or are former terminuses or access points onto the Welland Canals as most of them carry the title Port in their name. Welland for example offered through the first two Canals access onto the feeder canal that exited at Port Maitland (which I will not be covering today, sorry). While once-thriving communities with some level of municipal independence all save Port Colborne are a part of a larger city today,Read More →

Most will overlook the third Welland Canal, and with good reason, of all the canals it is the least interesting, the least preserved and is, to be honest, boring. The Third Canal came at a moment of transition, a move from a colonial province to a world power for Canada. Plus the end of the age of sail. The Second Canal by the 1850s had just completed their depth increase to put it in line with the improved navigation along the St. Lawerence, Detroit, and St. Clair Rivers. But the increased depth, increased size in ships only showed the need for an improved water sourceRead More →

Any modern historical narrative is incomplete without the inclusion of the human cost to any historical event. The Welland Canal, despite being a thing, impacted the human condition in the corridor where the canal runs. It took a great deal of human effort to build all three canals. Not only is there the cost of human lives but also impact on the communities, land, and political landscape. One thing that you have to remember, the Welland Canal came in the days before labour laws and protections for workers. In many cases, the men who did the dangerous work did so without safety equipment, medical attention,Read More →

If you mention the Welland Canal today many people will think of the massive shipping channel cutting across the Niagara Penisula, an artificial river you see from the Garden City Skyway that carries the QEW over the top the channel. Part of an elaborate and technologically advanced highway and major trade corridor from the Atlantic Ocean to the northernmost Great Lakes. The Canal has humble beginnings. Since the earliest days of human settlement in the Niagara Regions, the major transit between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie has been the Niagara River. Even the first peoples realised they required a long portage as the great falls,Read More →

A school mate and I trudged along the small muddy path along the Mill Pond in downtown Milton, the pond that was created by Jasper Martin to help drive his grist and saw mills. But what I did not expect to find was an abandoned rail bridge. What made things all the more interesting is that the bridge did not match in with Milton’s two main rail corridors, this one was different older almost. But let’s go back, back to the middle of the 19th Century. The first major railroads to form in Canada West (Ontario Today) were Great Western, Grand Trunk, and Ontario, Simcoe,Read More →

In a strangely ironic twist, the final of the significant three colonial railways to be completed would be the sole survivor of them all into the 20th century. And while Great Western and Northern Railway of Canada all survived past Confederation in 1867. It would be the Grand Trunk railroad that would absorb both of these before the turn of the century and then lose it all a couple of decades into the new century. Unlike Grand Trunk’s peers, the new railroad had not tried to build a line before the 1850s, chartered on the 10th of November 1852. British investors wholly-owned grand Trunk andRead More →