Grey and Bruce Counties
The 1850s saw the rapid development of the agricultural belt formerly referred to as "the "Queen's Bush", and the creation of Grey and Bruce Counties. In terms of the railway grid at that time, this vast area was bounded to the east by the 1853 Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Union Railroad (OSHU RR); to the south by the 1856 Grand Trunk Railway's line through Guelph and Berlin (now Kitchener); and to the west by the 1859 Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway through Stratford to Goderich in Huron County.
The result was pressure from the newly-formed Grey and Bruce Counties for the railway service that was going to be necessary for the furtherance of their prosperity. From Orangeville to the south in what was later to become Dufferin County, and between there and the established ports at Kincardine and Owen Sound there was a vast grid of Concessions with emerging hamlets and villages dotted about the landscape that were relying for the movement of goods and people on such primitive roads that had been established. Agitation for a better option came to a head, and in 1864 the Northern Railway of Canada, successor to the OSHU RR, was approached for a branchline from Angus to Grey County's market town and livestock exchange centre of Durham.
The Northern however had suffered real growing pains from its inception as the OSHU from 1853 to 1859, and its saviour and managing director Frederic Cumberland was leery of branch lines that had the potential to sap his railway's financial revitalization. So when Cumberland, still well ensconced in his containment policy, refused on the ground that there would be insufficient traffic, he was roundly abused in the press and in the legislature.
There the matter rested, except that this altercation underscored not only the need for railway competition, but also drew attention to the developing opportunities for connections to Lake Huron. Relief was at hand for the northwest with the incorporation of the Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway in 1868 and its completion to Owen Sound in 1873. With the threat of real competition at hand, the Northern relented and made an effort with its North Grey Railway, but it was "too little - too late". Grey and Bruce's clamour for inclusion in the prosperity of the emerging railway world was answered almost simultaneously and in rapid succession by the Toronto, Grey & Bruce, the Wellington, Grey & Bruce, the Port Dover & Lake Huron, Stratford & Lake Huron, and the Georgian Bay & Wellington Railways.
The North Grey Railway (NGR)
In the meantime, the Northern Railway of Canada's (NRC) eventual response to Grey County's clamour for railway service was the sponsorship in 1871 of the North Grey Railway which was incorporated to build from Collingwood to Owen Sound, and the 22 miles from Collingwood to Meaford were speedily completed in 1872. Laidlaw's Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway however arrived in Owen Sound in 1873 and effectively satisfied Grey County's immediate need for railway service. The section from Meaford to Owen Sound never was completed. Please click here for research on the location of the original NGR Meaford station, by Hugh Timmerman.
In 1849, the Province of Canada passed loan interest legislation that triggered Canada’s railway building boom. Unfortunately, in 1851 the Province of Canada enacted further, inter alia, to create a Board of Railway Commissioners, one of whose duties was to administer the 1849 loan interest guarantee. The Board required that to obtain the loan interest guarantee benefit, any railway had to build to the 5ft 6in gauge, which came to be known as the "Provincial" or "Broad" Gauge.
During this “broad gauge” era of railway development in Upper Canada from 1850 to 1870, one George Laidlaw rose to prominence as an advocate of the economies of the narrow gauge. An emigrant from Scotland, he obtained a position with the Toronto distillery firm of Gooderham & Worts, and persuaded his employers to invest in the narrow gauge concept in sponsoring feeder lines for their business. Accordingly on March 4, 1868, the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway (TG&B) was chartered “to build from Toronto to Orangeville, Mount Forest, Durham and Southampton; with branch to Kincardine and Owen Sound.”
The objects were (1) to provide a pipeline of grain to the distillery; (2) to break the firewood monopoly of Toronto’s existing development road, the Northern Railway of Canada; (3) to provide increased business from railway access to Grey and Bruce Counties; and (4) primarily, to establish a port for trade and transfer on Georgian Bay in competition with the Northern Railway of Canada, and secondarily, ports for trade on the Lake Huron coast.
The first sod was turned at Weston on October 5, 1869 with Prince Arthur presiding. Construction from Queen’s Wharf in Toronto began immediately, facilitated between there and Weston by a third rail on the GTR’s Stratford-Sarnia line. It then wound its way around the Humber River in Woodbridge, pushing out to Bolton and then addressed the Caledon hills with its innovative but later notorious Horseshoe Curve. It reached Orangeville in mid-1871, and Mount Forest in December of that same year.
The original plan was to build from Orangeville to Mount Forest, with a “Grey” branch from there to Owen Sound; and a “Bruce” branch on to Walkerton, with two lines from there to Kincardine and to Southampton. The politics of municipal bonuses, the premier revenue source, did however lead to a change in this plan. In a deft feint, the new plan for Owen Sound was to build direct northwards from Fraxa Junction, leaving speculators along the anticipated way holding an empty bag. The rails of the Owen Sound branch reached there in June 1873, just over a year later after the Northern reached Meaford with its belated North Grey Railway in April 1872.
As the TG&B had beaten out the plan of the Northern to reach Owen Sound, so however did the Wellington, Grey & Bruce (sponsored by the Great Western Railway) dash the TG&B’s plans for Kincardine and Southampton, so that instead of continuing on from Mount Forest to Walkerton, the TG&B settled for an extension to Teeswater (completed in 1874), even foregoing a spur to Wingham (later installed by the CPR in 1887).
In summary, the TG&B did a most satisfactory job of bringing a railway to the spine of Grey County, but its promise to Bruce was met only with its line from Fraxa Junction (just northwest of Orangeville) to Teeswater, barely into the county; notwithstanding its charter objectives. Its successor owner, the CPR, built a branch from Saugeen Junction, just south of Flesherton, to Durham, Hanover and Walkerton in 1906.
The emergence of the WG&B arose from the fervent need for railway service in its namesake counties, and the solid refusal of the Northern Railway of Canada to build branch lines. The first step in the realization of this need was the incorporation in 1856 (one year after the Northern reached Collingwood) of the Canada North-West Railway Company “to build from Southampton on Lake Huron to Toronto on Lake Ontario with branch to Owen Sound, etc. etc.”.
Sandford Fleming carried out a preliminary survey and endorsed the project. Tight money, as everywhere, remained the obstacle, but in 1864, Francis Shanly, prominent engineer and railway consultant, led the move to a successor company, the Wellington, Grey & Bruce, incorporated in that year “to build from Guelph to Southampton, with a branch to Owen Sound”. The contract for the first section from Guelph to Fergus was with Donald Robertson of Queenston; and beyond Fergus, with William Hendrie of Hamilton. The first sod was turned at Fergus on June 28, 1867 and work began on the 5ft 6in Provincial Gauge. By the end of 1870, the railway had passed Fergus and Elora, and reached Alma.
Its charter was amended in the same year to provide for a change to the 4ft 8½in Standard Gauge, an extension to Kincardine (despite opposition from the Toronto, Grey & Bruce), and lease to the Great Western Railway.
Operation between Guelph and Elora had begun in 1870. By October 1871 steel was at Harriston, the line reached Paisley in June of 1872, and the final 16 miles to Southampton were opened on December 7, 1872.
Before completion of the Southampton line, the branch to Kincardine was put in hand with the necessary solicitation of bonuses. A “subscribers’ route” was decided upon, running southwest from Palmerston to serve Wallace and Elma townships and the village of Listowel, then angling to the northwest and heading for Kincardine. The contract was given to D. D. Hay & Co. and the first sod was turned on December 17, 1871. The Palmerston-Listowel section was opened on December 19, 1872, but delays ensued and the line to Kincardine was not completed until December 29, 1874.
Plans for an extension from Kincardine to Owen Sound and a branch from Clifford to Durham were quietly abandoned as the WG&B struggled to meet its operating expenses in the mid-1870s. A traffic agreement was signed with the Great Western in 1873; and in 1876 and 1882 the GWR acquired the bonds of the company. The Wellington, Grey & Bruce was taken into the Grand Trunk system when the Great Western and the Grand Trunk amalgamated in 1882, at which time Sir Henry Tyler, president of the Grand Trunk declared: “the old Wellington, Grey and Bruce did not do well for the Great Western and is not doing well for us”. (Nevertheless its network eventually passed intact into the CNR and continued to serve Bruce County until the end of the Railway Age.)
The WG&B was formally amalgamated into the Grand Trunk in 1893, which in turn was amalgamated into Canadian National Railways as of January 30, 1923.
Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway (PD&LH)
The PD&LH was incorporated in 1872 to build from Port Dover to Stratford. The company was allowed to acquire the roadbed and holdings of the defunct and scandal-ridden Woodstock & Lake Erie Railway and Harbour Company. The line was opened between Port Dover and Woodstock in 1875, and between Woodstock and Stratford in 1876. The PD&LH purchased the Port Dover harbour from the Dominion government in 1875. The PD&LH crossed five east-west railways: the Canada Air Line at Simcoe, the Canada Southern at Waterford, the Brantford, Norwich & Port Burwell at Norwich, the GWR at Woodstock and the GTR at Stratford, which place it reached in 1876.
In 1877, the PD&LH received authority to amalgamate with the Stratford & Huron Railway. This was presumably for the purpose of enhancing its strategic interconnections and thus its revenue potential, but this was occurring in an increasingly crowded field of smaller competing companies, and rationalization was at hand. In 1881, the Port Dover & Lake Huron (along with the Stratford & Huron and Georgian Bay & Wellington Railways) were amalgamated into the Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway (GT,GB&LE) in 1881, a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railway. The seven-mile portion of the PD&LH from near Tavistock to Stratford ran parallel to the original Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich line. In 1893, when the GT,GB&LE was absorbed outright into the GTR, this section of the PD&LH was closed in favour of a short connecting track at Tavistock Jct., in the western part of Tavistock. Part of the original PD&LH line in the east end of Stratford, was retained as a connection between the BB&G, the GTR main line, and the Stratford & Huron to the north.
Stratford & Huron Railway (S&H)
The Stratford & Huron was incorporated as early as 1855 for the purpose of building from Stratford to Southampton, from where branch lines would radiate. Its incorporation was an attempt to forestall any invasion by the Northern Railway (which, ironically, Bruce County had actively but unsuccessfully been promoting with the Northern); but lacking financial backing, the S&H lay dormant until 1864 when Bruce County promised some financial support. At that time a survey was authorized and the charter updated. However funding remained an issue, and as already noted, in 1877 the PD&LH and the Stratford & Huron received authority to amalgamate. In view of the fact that Southampton had already been reached by the Wellington, Grey & Bruce, the S&H’s destination was changed to Wiarton. Construction was completed from Stratford to Listowel in 1877 and from Stratford to Harriston in 1877. The Stratford & Huron was amalgamated into the Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay, & Lake Erie in 1881, a subsidiary of the GTR and the sections from Harriston to Chesley to Wiarton were completed in 1882. The dictates of viability and consequent rationalization in the light of an increasingly crowded field of smaller competing companies were at hand.
Georgian Bay & Wellington Railway (GB&W)
In 1878, the Wellington & Georgian Bay Railway was incorporated by local promoters to build from Guelph, Listowel or Harriston to Owen Sound. In the light of the fact that the TG&B had reached there five years earlier, this ambition was scaled back to become the Georgian Bay & Wellington Railway with the more modest object of building from Palmerston to Durham, which place was reached in 1882, some 18 years after Frederic Cumberland had spurned the petition for a Northern Railway of Canada branchline to that place.
Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway (GT,GB&LE)
In 1881, the Port Dover & Lake Huron, the Stratford & Huron and the Georgian Bay & Wellington Railways were folded into the GTR under the name of the Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway. A portion of the S&H from Westonville (Listowel) to Harriston (15 miles) was then abandoned. The spur from Park Head through Shallow Lake to Owen Sound was begun in 1891. The GT,GB &LE was fully amalgamated into the GTR in 1893, so that by the time of its completion, the extension to Owen Sound was integrally part of the GTR.
Canadian Pacific Railway
With a need to remain competitive in the region, the CPR eventually (in 1887) constructed a spur into Wingham off its Teeswater branch, using the TG&B charter.
In 1906, the CPR constructed its Walkerton branch from Saugeen Jct. on its parent Owen Sound line, just south of Flesherton - through Priceville, Durham and Hanover.
Canadian National Railways
In 1970, a spur line was built from Port Elgin to the Bruce Nuclear Power Development at Douglas Point to supply oil to a heavy water plant, as well as supplies for the Ontario Hydro and plant contractors. (Per Peter Bowers, Two Divisions to Bluewater, p. 22.)
Amalgamation and Consolidation
1880 - The Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway comes to a financial arrangement with the Grand Trunk Railway re the necessary re-gauging to the Standard Gauge..
1881 - The Port Dover & Lake Huron (including the Port Dover harbour), Stratford & Huron and the Georgian Bay & Wellington Railways come under GTR control with the formation of the subsidiary Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway (which in turn was fully amalgamated with the Grand Trunk Railway in 1893).
1881 - The Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway is re-gauged to the Standard Gauge.
1882 - Major rationalization occurs when the Grand Trunk finally takes over its Great Western Railway rival.
1883 - The Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway is ceded by the Grand Trunk Railway to the Ontario & Quebec Railway (O&Q).
1883 - The O&Q acquires the Toronto, Grey & Bruce from the GTR which had become rather stretched financially in its bid to keep its competitor at bay.
1884, January 4 - The O&Q is leased to the CPR for 999 years.
1893 - The Grand Trunk Railway formally amalgamates its Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway subsidiary, and also the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway.
1923 - January 30 - The Grand Trunk Railway is assumed by the Canadian National Railways.
Summary of Arrivals and Abandonments
|Orangeville-Fraxa Jct.-Arthur-Mount Forest||TG&B||1871||CPR||1988|
|Fraxa Jct.-Owen Sound||TG&B||1873||CPR||1995|
|Mt. Forest-Durham||GB&LE (GTR)||1882||CNR||1983|
|Harriston Jct.-Hanover-Park Head-Wiarton||GB&LE (GTR)||1882||CNR||1980|
|Park Head-Owen Sound||GTR||1894||CNR||1995|
|Port Elgin-Douglas Pt (Bruce Nuclear plant)||CNR||1971||CNR||1988|
1. Arrival dates are at the last-named destination.
2. Abandonment dates may appear variously as between official abandonment order dates and actual subsequent track liftings.
3. * Port Elgin - Southampton was abandoned 1983.
Additional Discontinuance/Abandonment Dates
1931 - June 28 - service reduced on the Kincardine, Southampton, Wiarton and Durham CNR lines
1931 - September 27 - passenger service on the Kincardine and Southampton lines reduced to "mixed" trains
1932 - passenger service discontinued on the CPR's Walkerton and Teeswater branches in favour of "mixed" service
1957 - April 26 - Durham "mixed" service discontinued
1957 - mail service discontinued on Kincardine and Southampton lines
1957 - August 3 - "mixed" service discontinued on the CPR's Walkerton and Teeswater branches
1959 - June 20 - all mail service discontinued on area rail lines. Southampton "mixed" discontinued, also afternoon passenger train Owen Sound to Stratford. Railiners placed placed on remaining services. Night passenger train to Southampton discontinued and and replaced by daytime run from Guelph and return.
1960 - Regular passenger service ceases on the Meaford branch
1961 - April 29 - Kincardine "mixed" discontinued
1970 - November 1 - passenger (Railiner) service discontinued to Kincardine, Southampton and CNR and CPR Owen Sound
1972 - Wiarton spur out of service
1980 - March 4 - Wiarton spur abandoned
1980 - April - last freight out of Southampton, Port Elgin to Southampton out of service
1982 - Durham CNR spur out of service
1982 - 1983 - abandonment hearings and approvals effective August 29, 1983 - Durham CNR spur - Port Elgin to Southampton - Kincardine subdivision - Fergus to Palmerston - also CPR Walkerton branch
Stations in retirement
Sources and Recommendations for Further Reading
For reference to 1880 County Atlases, please click here and then click on 16 for Bruce County and on 17 for Grey County.
Andreae, Christopher: Lines of Country: An atlas of railway and waterway history in Canada, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ont. (Then an Affiliate of the Stoddart Publishing Co.) 1997
Beaumont, Ralph: Steam Trains to the Bruce, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ont. 1977
Beaumont, Ralph and Filby, James: Running Late on the Bruce, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ont. 1980
Bowers, Peter: Two Divisions to Bluewater – the Story of the CNR to the Bruce, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ont. 1983
Clarke, Rod: Narrow Gauge Through The Bush, self-published, 2007
Currie, A.W., The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, U of T Press, 1957.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online: http://www.biographi.ca
Dorman, Robert: A Statutory History of the Steam and Electric Railways of Canada 1836-1937, Canada Department of Transport, Ottawa, ON 1938
Grand Trunk Railway, Building and Structures Inventory Montreal, Que., 1907
Hardy, John R.: Rusty Rails – a photographic record of the branchline railways in Midwestern Ontario 1961-1996, self-published 1999
Hopper, A.R. and Kearney, T.: Synoptical History of Organization, Capital stock, Funded Debt and other General Information CNR Acc'tg Department, Montreal Que., 1962
Hunter, Andrew F.: A History of Simcoe County, The Historical Committee of Simcoe County, Barrie, Ont. 1948
McIlwraith, Thomas F.: The Toronto, Grey & Bruce Railway 1863-1884, Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto, Ont. 1963
Scrimgeour, Pat: Historical Outlines of Railways in Southwestern Ontario. UCRS Newsletter July 1990. UCRS, Toronto, Ont.
Smith, Jeffrey P.: CNR Ontario Research http://cnr-in-ontario.com
Stevens, G.R.: Canadian National Railways, Volume I, Clarke Irwin, Toronto, Ont. 1960
Trout, J.M. and Edw.: The Railways of Canada, Toronto ON 1871 (reprinted 1970, 1974)
Walker, Dr. Frank N.: Four Whistles to
White, James: Altitudes in Canada: Commission of Conservation, Canada. Second Edition, Ottawa, Ont., 1915.
Wilson, Donald M: The Ontario and Quebec Railway, Mika Publishing Co., Belleville, Ont. 1984