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The Victoria Railway opened to Kinmount on November 9, 1876, and reached Haliburton two years later. When it was first completed it was the fastest mode of transportation for the communities it connected. Leaving Haliburton at 7:10 am, the train pulled into Lindsay at 11. The return trip for Haliburton departed at 3. Though slower than automobiles we use today, it was a lot faster than a horse. Lindsay’s Union Station was built for this new railway near Glenelg Street. The freight sheds and engine servicing facilities were south of Durham Street.
Ken Reid Conservation Area
At the time that the Victoria Railway went through, the land at the mouth of McLaren’s Creek was part of Isaac Reid’s farm. The lot passed down through the family, then just as the railway was abandoned, Kawartha Conservation bought the property and today the site is home to outdoor recreation trails and the administrative centre for obtaining permits to work in City of Kawartha Lakes Conservation Regulated Areas.
Passengers liked to look across the farm fields to catch a glimpse of Sturgeon Lake over the distant trees. Though the trees have grown up, it's worth taking a moment to appreciate the view today.
The first station north of Lindsay on the Victoria Railway was the two-storey Cameron Station with a waiting area on the first floor, and living quarters for section workers above. The section foreman had his own house on the other side of the track. The original photograph is of foreman Edwin Wood and his family in 1942. Though Cameron was technically a flag stop, the locomotive would always drop off and pick up mail. It also once offered a freight scale for livestock and other produce. Like many sites along the railway, nothing remains of the buildings today. The Cameron Railway sign is exhibited at Maryboro Lodge. (Credit: Taylor Wilkins, Haliburton by Rail and the I.B. & O.)
Hall Station was about halfway from Cameron to Fenelon Falls and was just a small waiting room, with space for farmers to leave their cream cans for shipment to town. It also had a siding to load freight cars. Today the former station has overgrown with Sumacs. (Credit: Taylor Wilkins, Haliburton by Rail and the I.B. & O.)
GTR Snowplow in Front of Fenelon Falls Grain Warehouse
In its early years, one of the most important functions of the Victoria Railway was to allow the rapid and convenient exchange of goods over long distances. The local commodity exported in the greatest quantity was lumber, but farmers had grain to sell, especially wheat in the nineteenth century.
In 1885, Joseph McArthur and William Webster, two Fenelon Falls grain dealers, rented property on the south side of the railway tracks, near the village’s recently constructed station, and built a grain warehouse, 50 feet by 24 feet. The structure was raised up on posts so that the floor was four feet above ground—on a level with the floors of rail cars. Capable of holding 10,000 bushels, it was used by other merchants too, including John H. Brandon, who operated the North Star Roller Mill in partnership with Findlay McDougall.
Around 1920, the grain warehouse was repurposed as a Co-op, reflecting the changing needs of local farmers. In the twentieth century, most family farms used grains as animal feed. By 1938 the building had become a feed warehouse and chopping mill, where farmers could process their crops. It was also home a cold storage unit, where families could rent a freezer box, 3 feet x 3 feet x 2 feet—before the advent of household freezers. Around 1985, the Co-op moved to 117 Lindsay Street, and today the site is home to Community Care and the Fenelon Falls Independent Living Centre.
Railway construction was financed by government grants and extorting bonuses from municipalities (typically by threatening to build the station outside of town if they did not pay up). At the time the Victoria Railway was built, Fenelon Township was already served by the Toronto and Nipissing Railway (which actually ended in Coboconk... an ambitious name helped secure funding). The township as a whole saw no particular need to fund the railway, but Fenelon Falls’ business community and residents were so eager that they separated from the township, incorporating in 1874. It ensured the iron horse came to town. Until amalgamation, the village logo was a train. The first Fenelon Falls Station burned in 1880, but was replaced two years later. Today it lives on as the Station Gallery, featuring local artists’ inspiring creations.
Swing Bridge, 1894
When the railway was built in 1874, a fixed timber trestle bridge spanned the Fenelon River. Eight years later the Canadian government funded the construction of a lock to allow navigation around Fenelon Falls. However, the timber bridge was then blocking navigation, prompting six years of litigation between the government and railway over who would have to pay the bill to replace it. 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 court was sorting things out, 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. The original railway bridge still swings closed each fall for the snowmobile club and open in the spring for boaters.
Bridge Master's House
The Railway cut through the ancient oak grove bisecting James Wallis' former estate, Maryboro Lodge. Beside the bridge, there was a shelter for the bridge operator. Today where it once stood there is a butterfly bench providing a nice vantage to view Cameron Lake in front of Maryboro Lodge Museum. The ancient oak grove continues to be a popular community social space.
The portion of the oak grove west of the railway soon became Fenelon Falls’ Tourist Camp. When automobiles became the norm, visitors would drive right up on the grass to pitch their tent (hence the need a few decades later to install bollards to keep cars off the grass). Today, overnight camping is no longer allowed, but it remains part of the area’s most popular greenspace.
Garnet Graham Park
The waterfront was once Fenelon Falls’ industrial section, at various times home to a sawmill, pulp mill and chemical factory. The last industry to leave was the railway in 1981. A generation ago, local kids spent their summers swimming at Sawdust Bottom, as the mill residue continued to circulate under foot. In the original photograph, Garnet Graham poses on the handcar being used to take up the rails to create the beach park that was soon named in his honour. As the years have passed the area has naturalized and Sawdust Bottom is no more.
Fell's Station, built in 1889, was a two storey building with waiting room on the first floor and quarters for the section foreman on the second. It had a siding, and stand for cream cans. It was named for the Fell family, original settlers in the area, and part owners of the mill just down the line at Fenelon Falls Beach Park (Sawdust Bottom). In the original photograph, local residents are waiting to travel to Fenelon Falls for the Orange Parade. Today the site has regrown.
Dating back at least to the 1930s, Log Chateau has been a popular vacation destination on the Burnt River. A water tower for refilling the boilers on steam locomotives still stands on site. Since 1967 the Lowell family has operated the 200-acre woodland campground.
Burnt River Bridge
Just north of III Concession Somerville, a 133-foot Howe Truss Bridge spanned the Burnt River. In 1948 it was replaced with a new bridge that had been designed to ship to China, but due to the Civil War there, it ended up on the Victoria Railway instead. While the bridge was being replaced, a temporary wooden foot bridge was built and trains would stop either end of the expanse. Passengers would walk across as the crew carried freight. Today it a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy the Burnt River.
Burnt River Station was on the main street. Freight was at the end adjacent to the street, while passengers waited on benches at the far end, beside the wicket and agent's office. Maryboro Lodge exhibits the pot-bellied stove from this station. Burnt River had two sidings and a coal shed. Just south of town a stone quarry operated until the 1930s, shipping up to five cars a day. (Credit: In and Around Burnt River)
About halfway between Burnt River and Kinmount, Watson's Siding was named for one of the original settlers in the neighbourhood. The siding was mostly used for forest produce like logs, cedar posts, cordwood and tan bark. It also had a small waiting room for passengers.
Just north of XI Concession Somerville, an old wooden trestle over Crego's Creek still stands, affording a glimpse of the Burnt River through the trees.
Little Falls is within walking distance of Kinmount’s Austin Sawmill Heritage Park and has been an interesting spot to see the Burnt River for generations.
Austin Sawmill Park
John Hunter built the original Kinmount sawmill on the east bank of the river in 1858, then sixteen years later Fenelon Falls’ W.H. Greene built a competing mill on the other side of the dam. In 1891 and 1893 respectively, William Craig and John Austin bought both mills, and almost immediately discontinued use of the older mill. In 1900 they made 3,000,000 feet of lumber, 15,000 rail ties, 5,000,000 shingles, and a large quantity of tan bark. Much of this cut was hardwood, largely maple and ash, part of which he exported to the United States. The mill burned in 1908, and started the Great Fire of Kinmount in 1942 that levelled much of the downtown. Austin's descendants continue to run the Kinmount’s Castle Building Centre to this day, and their final sawmill has been restored as part of the heritage park.
Kinmount has endured many conflagrations and a great flood, but somehow the rail station has managed to survive them all. The south half of the building is original to 1876, the baggage room at the north was added later. For many years it was a focal point of commercial activity, being one of the primary locations to load forest produce on the railway, and to cadge men and supplies to the woods. Today the site hosts many community activities, features a playground and part of the railway station is now a Heritage Centre. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Jack Train, posing on the velocipede, was a commercial contractor. He built bridges, barns, and much of Kinmount’s main street, twice over (the town had many great fires). The velocipede or hand car was a convenient way to travel up and down the railway. When it needed to be removed, one wheel folded to the side and cost just $40. The original photo was taken between 1900 and 1917. The blacksmith shop behind Jack is now the cenotaph, and the old wooden bridge has been replaced. Mansfield house, which is prominent on the hill is now a bed and breakfast, though obscured by trees in this present-day view. The original photograph was wide angle, which is why the centre of the picture looks so much closer than in the modern image. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Every once in a while rail cars slipped off the track, whether it was because of an object finding its way onto the line, a mechanical failure or a mistake. This derailment, just north of Kinmount was not particularly serious. (Credit: Guy Scott)
About a mile north of Kinmount a precipitous stone extended almost down to the water, causing the line to ice and eventually making a rock cut necessary. The Bobcaygeon Road property had been granted to the Black family, a pensioner from the British military. For years a tourist attraction and is beautiful stop on the Burnt River. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Howland Junction was once a happening place. In the 1870s, a speculative boom attracted the attention of many major American Iron Works when ore was found in the area. In 1879, William Myles built a railway to serve the mines for which Irondale is named. When the material proved disappointing, he sold out to Charles Pusey, owner of a major American firm. Pusey found better deposits than his predecessor, and completed the railway through to Irondale. He bought the smelter that was the namesake of Furnace Falls, in time for it to be levelled by a huge forest fire in 1887. Having realized that none of the ore was of much value, he pursued government railway subsidies instead of rebuilding, and with H.S. Howland, completed the I.B. & O. Railway to Bancroft in 1910. Howland Junction (originally Kendrick’s after a neighbourhood family) handled the traffic from the tributary line. The original station burned in 1917, but the remains of its replacement (original photograph) are on site. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Just north of the station at Howland Junction, a turntable served the locomotives travelling the I.B. & O. line. Today, its remains can still be seen in the woods. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Built before there was earth moving machinery, the original High Trestle was 500 feet long and stood 50 feet above the River, making it one of the most exciting points on the line for passengers. Shortened in the 1890s when it had become more practical to fill the ends, it remains one of the prettiest vistas on the line. The original image shows a work party on the bridge. (Credit: Taylor Wilkins, Haliburton by Rail and the I.B. & O.)
In the 1950s William and Peggy Dahl pieced together 500 acres just south of the Victoria Railway, between Howland Junction and Gelert. These farms had been rough pasture, but the Dahl family rolled up the wire fences and planted 110,000 trees, creating ‘Dahl Forest Farms.’ From the time that this 1957 planting day was photographed until Pat Burchell’s mushroom hike, the site has changed immensely. Today, this conservation reserve is a beautiful place for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and appreciating its unique ecosystem.
Originally named Ireland, the community rechristened as Minden Station when the railway made it the closest access point for the nearby town. The station was 77 feet long and 22 feet wide, with freight at the south end, waiting room and ticket office in the middle, and living quarters at the north end. A siding east of the main line was complete with livestock pens. Livestock would be driven along a trail from Minden to reach the railway. Other supplies were taken by horse and wagon, teams being able to make at most two trips per day. It was a strenuous journey for the horses given the terrain on the way to Minden. Today, it is a quiet field near Gelert Cemetery. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Drag River Bridge
Ruby (Hanthorn) Francis and Bertha Brandon pose on the bridge over the Drag River around 1925. In the next decade this bridge was replaced, and to this day provides a beautiful view of the river below. (Credit: Taylor Wilkins, Haliburton by Rail and the I.B. & O.)
Ritchie’s Falls was one of the many cataracts that log drivers had to find a way to navigate with their logs. It was one of the few that were served by a natural stone timber slide, constructed by John Sedgewick in 1887 for $45. William Ritchie, its namesake, was a well-known shanty foreman for Mossom Boyd. The waterfall has easy road access.
A train from Haliburton passes the Ritchie's Falls Rock cut in the 1920s and the same site today. (Credit: Taylor Wilkins, Haliburton by Rail and the I.B. & O.)
The hamlet of Lochlin had a siding and freight shed with a waiting room right beside it, complete with one the pot-bellied stoves that travellers expected to see at a rail station. Given the limited amount of traffic, the agent would arrive just before the train to care for passengers and cargo. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Donald was the next stop up the line, which also had siding, freight shed and waiting room. The community is named for R.A. Donald, who operated community’s Chemical Plant. (Credit: Guy Scott)
Donald's Chemical Plant
R.A. Donald contracted with Westinghouse to built a huge charcoal plant at the site named in his honour. Completed in 1908, it cost $1,000,000, a stupendous sum at the time, but he hoped to profit because great quantities of fuel were needed to smelt iron and he now owned the largest plant in the province. The structures included many unique engineering feats, having chain-reinforced roofs, and North America’s first raised concrete water tower. It was ideally situated, having plenty of maple woods nearby, and all the water that would be needed. The original factory had a boiler house, still house, charcoal shed, and an oven house. The by-products, wood alcohol and acetate of lime were also marketable. Donald’s plant was not profitable, and he sold his interest for $1. It was soon leased to the Standard Chemical Company, who had recently lost their Fenelon Falls still to fire. Acetate was needed to produce munitions, which carried the plant through to the end of the Second World War. But with the advent of petrochemicals, it was abandoned, the barracks burned in 1951 and the today the forests are taking over the remains of the plant.
Barnum Creek Nature Reserve
From the 1860s, farm families in the vicinity of Haliburton worked tirelessly, trying to eke out a living on shallow stony soils. The original photograph of a team bringing in loose hay, to be forked into a mow, contrasts with the enjoyment of Pat Burchell’s mushroom hike at Barnum Creek Nature Reserve. The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust offers a variety of trails for hiking, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. (Credit: Murray Cowen, Haliburton Highlands Land Trust)
Welcome to Haliburton
Just over 55 miles from Lindsay, 3 hours and 50 minutes by train, as locomotives curved around Head Lake the end of the line came into sight. Like so many other stations along the line, the field between the station and lake was once filled with lumber, logs and many other kinds of freight waiting to be shipped. Today the old rail line leads visitors from the parking lot to Rotary Head Lake Beach.
Rails End Gallery
Though the Victoria Railway had been originally promoted as a connection via Opeongo Lake (now in Algonquin Park) to the Canadian Pacific Railway at Mattawa, there was little that would justify the stupendous expenses of construction between Haliburton and Mattawa. So Haliburton Station became the end of the line. 97 feet long and 22 feet wide, it had five sidings and water tank beside the tracks to refill the locomotives’ steam boilers. At the end of the tracks there was a shed to store the locomotive over night, so it would be ready to head out for Lindsay in the morning. Regular passenger service continued to Haliburton until 1962, and freight ten years longer. Freight was carried on demand until 1978, but a washout north of Howland Junction brought the end for the northern tip. When the bridge over McLaren’s Creek burned two years later, it was not worth rebuilding, so the tracks were taken up. Today Haliburton Station is home to the Rails End Gallery which features inspiring exhibitions by local artists and hosts the Haliburton Art and Craft Festival.