The first time I drove past the old Havelock station, I was more interested in a pair of old Angus Van Cabooses, one in good condition sitting proudly next to Highway 7, the other looking worse for wear back in the rail yard. I got a couple of shots of those and one of the old stations. But at that time, I did not know the rich heritage of the area and its relation to the station. The current village of Havelock owes its thanks to the development of the new Ontario & Quebec line in 1881. The original settlement grew up south of whereRead More →

At first glance, the old Don Station at Roundhouse part appears custom-built for the miniature railway, a popular attraction to visitors at the park and the Railway Museum. But when you get closer, you realise that it is indeed a full-sized station with a special place in the history of the Canadian Pacific in Toronto. When the Ontario & Quebec Railway line from Perth to Toronto finished construction in 1884, access to the city proved limited. Trains arriving from points east or heading east out of the city had to travel a roundabout route. Travelling across the northern border of the station, they approached throughRead More →

While attending the local Toronto Urban Exploration Meetups, the biggest question in conversation was where we wanted to visit? In those days, the UE community was tight-knit and often secretive, and things like Instagram were still new and not so much in the public eye. During one cold January event, we ended up in Leaside to check out a warehouse from Winpack. I quickly discovered through my work that we were not in a warehouse but rather a significant historical building that maintained locomotives, not storing paper products. The Canadian Northern Railway grew out of a small collection of defunct railways in Manitoba to extendRead More →

When looking for train stations in Woodstock, most people are quick to point you in the direction of the VIA station. While it certainly gets the most attention, a second station has sat on the other side of the downtown and remains in operation today. Thanks to the members of John Cowen’s Classic Railfan group on Facebook for filling in some of the gaps in this station’s history. When the Credit Valley Railway was chartered in the 1870s, its primary goal was to construct a line from Toronto to Orangeville. The completion of the Canadian Southern Railway line saw the backers of Credit Valley lookRead More →

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 →

Ever since the invention of the automobile and aeroplane, the way people moved changed rapidly. Henry Ford’s Model T put the dream of a personal car within reach; improvements in planes through the inter-war period into World War Two and the post-war period allowed long-distance travel at an even faster rate. While steam motive power continued to drive many railroad operators through the war, the rise of diesel began to reshape even the train industry. Through the war, fuel and material shortages spiked passenger train services, but even now, those were starting to decline. It became clear that the golden age of rail had comeRead 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 →

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 →

History is far more complicated. And when it comes to the history of the railroad in Ontario, there are many more moving parts to the story than most people think. The history of the railroad does not begin in the 19th Century; rather, the events of the early 19th Century are simply a culmination of a vast array of the human need to improve our own mobility beyond that of our own two feet or the control and domestication of animals. As I am fond of saying, there has to be context to understand. While this is not the furthest I’ve gone back in time,Read More →

Honestly, you can thank Facebook for reminding me of this amazing trip that I took nearly eight years ago when I am first starting to see posts reminding me that this started to occur. It was 2012, several months after my first major Urban Exploration Meetup, since a rather off-putting event in Buffalo, New York. MAMU or the Mid-Atlantic Meetup had been resurrected by DJCraig, who I had met in December 2011 outside an abandoned hotel north of Dayton, Ohio, at a separate UE event VCXPEX. Early in April, I found myself on a twelve-hour drive south, the first time I had ever done suchRead More →