Victoria and Haliburton Counties

Background

Before the Railway Age, travel and the movement of goods in Upper Canada were primarily dependent on water ways, and to some extent on such trails and crude strips of dust or quagmire that passed for roads. Needless to say, both of these traditional modes of transportation relied very much on the seasons and the weather. Agitation for a more efficient mode for the movement of goods and people (in that order) had started to build with the news of the new-fangled railroad, but the economic depression of 1837 and the years following were bad years for Upper Canada and for railway development, especially in view of the unsettled economic and political conditions in Europe in general and in England in particular, on whose financial houses the crucial investment in railway ventures depended. 

However, in 1849 the Province of Canada passed the Railway Guarantee Act which guaranteed the interest on loans for the construction of railways not less than 75 miles in length. It was this legislation that triggered Canada's railway building boom.

Geographical location assigned different roles and levels of financial involvement. Victoria County was fortunate to be the beneficiary of the economic and political ambitions of others. Examination of the early Central Ontario network, the connecting thread of the Grand Trunk Railway aside, shows that the earliest routes along the shore of Lake Ontario stretched north as "development roads" from Toronto, Whitby, Port Hope, Cobourg, Trenton and Belleville. Victoria County and Lindsay stood to gain directly from the Port Hope and Whitby roads, and indirectly from the Toronto and Belleville roads when the Midland Railway consolidation took place. In addition, arguably, the direct benefit from the Port Hope road was augmented by the tragic and costly failure of the Cobourg-Peterborough Railway across Rice Lake.


From 1853 to 1893 - The Years of Development

While the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada (GTR), incorporated in 1852, busied itself with the construction of the Ontario component of its, well, trunk line from Portland, Me. to Chicago via Montreal, Toronto and Sarnia, Port Hope and Peterborough were busy with their own railway ambitions. The original 1846 charter of the Peterborough & Port Hope Railway became the 1854 Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway (PLH&B) that had an abiding belief in the superiority of the Port Hope harbour, and set its sights on Georgian Bay. Construction reached Reaboro in December 1856, and Cunningham Corners just southeast of Lindsay in August 1857. The first train arrived at the St. Paul and King Streets station on the east side of the Scugog River on October 16, 1857. A branch to Peterborough was commissioned, and the first train operated from Millbrook to Peterborough on May 12, 1858. The name of the PHL&B was changed to the Midland Railway of Canada in 1869, and Port Hope's ambitions were consummated when the railway reached Beaverton in 1871, Orillia in 1873, Waubashene in 1875 and on to Midland in 1879. Around the time of the completion of the line to Midland, Peterborough interests under the directorship of its several-times mayor George A. Cox took control of this railway.

This DND 1931 topographical map shows the original right of way of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway ("the Old Road") coming north from Millbrook and swinging to the west on that side of Omemee.

This DND 1931 topographical map shows the original right of way of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway ("the Old Road") coming north from Millbrook and swinging to the west on that side of Omemee.

A "Bird's Eye View" of Lindsay map, 1875, showing the route of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway through Lindsay along the east bank of the Scugog River, crossing to the west bank by means of the swing-bridge in the centre-right of the view, and then making its way out to Beaverton in 1861.

A "Bird's Eye View" of Lindsay map, 1875, showing the route of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway through Lindsay along the east bank of the Scugog River, crossing to the west bank by means of the swing-bridge in the centre-right of the view, and then making its way out to Beaverton in 1861.

Lorneville Jct. station with turret, before the GTR remodelling in 1900, at which time the station lost its turret. Larry Murphy Collection

Lorneville Jct. station with turret, before the GTR remodelling in 1900, at which time the station lost its turret. Larry Murphy Collection

The next railway to reach Lindsay was a struggling line that had begun as the Port Whitby & Port Perry Railway, reaching that place in 1871. In 1876 it was extended to Lindsay, reaching Albert Street on June 15, 1877, becoming the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway (WPP&L).

Mariposa station and freight shed, looking east to Lindsay. 1950s. John Freyseng photo.

Mariposa station and freight shed, looking east to Lindsay. 1950s. John Freyseng photo.

Lindsay Union station 1879-1890. The station was shared by the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway and the Victoria Railway. The house on Melbourne Street in the left background still stands. Ray Corley/Charles H. Heels Collections.

Lindsay Union station 1879-1890. The station was shared by the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway and the Victoria Railway. The house on Melbourne Street in the left background still stands. Ray Corley/Charles H. Heels Collections.

While all this was going on, the Toronto Gooderham & Worts Distillery, under the leadership of George Laidlaw who was employed there as a wheat buyer and was about to make a name for himself as a railway promoter, had chartered the narrow gauge Toronto & Nipissing Railway (T&N) in 1868 (amended in 1869 to include a branch to Lindsay, but not built), and entered Victoria County between Cannington and Woodville. Its immediate purposes were to extract grain for the distillery and to break the Toronto firewood monopoly. The railway was also planned to reach Lake Nipissing (and connect up with the forthcoming CPR transcontinental railway), but never went further than Coboconk, which was reached in late 1872. However, the steamer Coboconk plied between Coboconk and Fenelon Falls from 1875 to 1887 through the rebuilt Rosedale lock to provide a link between the T&N and the Victoria Railway (see below).

Woodville. Original T&N station 1872. Dismantled 1966. James A. Brown photo.

Woodville. Original T&N station 1872. Dismantled 1966. James A. Brown photo.

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