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The Controversial Fenelon Falls Railway Bridge

November 30, 2021

Top: The original fixed railway bridge with Maryboro Lodge and Oak Street in the Background, circa 1890. Bottom: The new swing bridge completed in 1893 is still in service.

In 1887, after a generation of political wrangling to persuade the government to fund the Trent Waterway and five years of construction, the Fenelon Falls Lock was finally completed. For all the money that had been spent, and all the ink that was spilled, boats still could not pass from Sturgeon to Cameron Lake because there was a fixed railway bridge in the way.

For six years, the Canadian Government and the Grand Trunk Railway litigated over who would have to pay for the new bridge. The case centred on whether or not the bridge blocked a navigable waterway at the time it was constructed, if it did the railway would be responsible, if it did not the government would have to pay. The government contended that prior to the lock’s construction, the Fenelon River was navigable right up to the precipice of the falls, while the railway countered that this was nonsense—and won in the end.

While the litigation was ongoing the steamer Anglo-Saxon had been waiting to begin service passing through the lock, but by the time it was functional the boat had rotted and was pulled out into Cameron Lake and scuttled. A.W. Parkin’s Water Witch, became the first boat to pass through the locks on May 12, 1894, and countless more followed in the years to come.

Top: The original fixed railway bridge with Maryboro Lodge and Oak Street in the Background, circa 1890.

Bottom: The new swing bridge completed in 1893 is still in service.

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