The Kinmount Railway Station
January 22, 2023
Kinmount Station, circa 1900
By Guy Scott
The most enduring symbol of Kinmount’s railway history is the railway station. It stands in the core of the village, like an umbrella pole with the rest of the village under its awning. The railway station is an original, built in 1876 by Sir William Mackenzie from Kirkfield. At the time, Mackenzie Brothers was a lumber dealer and contractor of larger structures. They won the contract to build both the Fenelon Falls and Kinmount stations plus various trestles and bridges on the Victoria Railway. A standard blueprint was used for all stations. The Mackenzie Brothers were noted or their quality work: their structures were made to last!
Sir William rather enjoyed railway work; we went on to complete contracts on the Canadian Pacific Railway, our first transcontinental line and the ultimate symbol of the National Dream. Most of Mackenzie’s works were trestles and bridges in the Rocky Mountains. In a twist of irony, Mackenzie eventually founded the Canadian National Railways, which took over the Kinmount station.
The railway station in Kinmount followed a basic design: passenger waiting room, ticket office and baggage room. The busy Kinmount station was soon overwhelmed with freight, so an addition on the north side was added to handle the freight. In later year, the ‘garage’ now occupied by the village blacksmith (2009) was added to park vehicles. The bay window on the front was a feature that enabled the station agent to see up and down the line.
The Kinmount Station is a survivor. Twice (1890 & 1942) the town surrounding the station was levelled by fire. Both times, the building was unscathed! The Great Fire of 1942 burnt out the town core and even burnt down the sheds beside the station, but not a shingle was scorched! Legend has it that the ghost of Sir William stands watch over his handiwork, protecting it from any harm. During the Great Flood of 1928, water flooded the station floor right up to the firebox of the woodstove in the waiting room. The line was kept open, trains pulled up to the platform and unloaded their passengers into canoes or boats (no logs please!) for the (brief) paddle to higher ground. Not many villages paddled visitors to their destinations.
Over time, business on the railway (after 1923 a branch of CN) declined. Freight dwindled and passenger traffic stopped completely. The waiting room was turned into a storage shed for the handcars: the big windows were replaced with ugly doors. The station became a storage depot, mostly used by work crews. Eventually in 1978, the station closed. It was a low point in Kinmount’s railway tradition.
But for every door that closes another one opens. The closure of the line meant CN sold off all the assets. The first right of purchase was given to the counties. Fortunately, both Victoria and Haliburton leapt at the chance to acquire these valuable assets and the Kinmount Station had a new master. Of course, the next logical step was the restoration of the old gal to her former glory. Over the next decade, Sir William’s baby was overhauled, face lifted and lovingly restored. The waiting room was restored to its original role of people, not vehicles. Later coats of ugly green paint were stripped away to reveal Sir William’s original wood handiwork.
The station was repainted to its original colours. Kevin Robillard, the village blacksmith, occupied the garage section. And lastly, the baggage room was restored as the home of the Kinmount Model Railway. In 2007, the City of Kawartha Lakes gave the elder citizen of Kinmount a new foundation: she having acquired a ‘lean’ towards the river over the years. When the contractors lowered the station on the new foundation, she settled perfectly plumb on her new base: all the doors and windows that were stuck suddenly worked just the way the did in 1876. There is no substitute for quality.
The Railway Station has fulfilled several usages since her most recent reincarnation. She has served as home for the Kinmount Senior Citizens Club, Kinmount Lions Club, headquarters for the KCPED, numerous public meetings and finally as a tourist information centre. But above all else, she adds dignity and grace to the village. The whole Railway Station Yard, with its Gazebo, Icelandic Monument, flowers (and washrooms), strategically situated on the banks of the Burnt River, give the village charm and class. Rumour has it, several ‘commercial shoots’ (including automotive companies) have taken place in the yard with the station as a background. Even in the modern age, there is a place for tradition and dignity. Today the Kinmount Railway Station, and the whole corridor, serve as a meeting place for the community. It is the ‘centre’ of the village, same as it was in the 1800s. Some things never change.