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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Archives > Early Railways in Simcoe County

Early Railways in Simcoe County

Blog originally posted June 13, 2018

The arrival of the railways in Simcoe County connected the County to the rest of Canada, socially, economically and politically. It allowed for townspeople to trade information and goods at speeds never seen before.

Norbert Moran's Scrapbook, 1944  
981-99      Norbert Moran's Scrapbook, 1944    Copyright: Simcoe County Archives

 The first rails to be built in the area belonged to the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway (1849), Toronto, Simcoe and Muskoka Junction Railway (1872), North Simcoe Railway (1878) and Hamilton and North Western Railway (1879) all of which either soon became or already were a part of the Northern Railway by the 1880s. After them came the Midland Railway of Canada (1879), Grand Trunk Railway (1911) which merged into the Canadian National Railway in 1923, and Georgian Bay and Seaboard Railway, which was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (1912). Along these rails sprung up beautiful feats of architecture and from these railroads came a new way of life, new economic growth and a new committee of County Council.

Michael J. Polly Conductor GTR and CNR, Taken at Collingwood Station, 1945
979-94     Michael J. Polly Conductor GTR and CNR, Taken at Collingwood Station, 1945     Copyright: Public Domain

 Allandale Station

Allandale Station ca. 1900      

991-29    Allandale Station ca. 1900     Copyright: Public Domain

The Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railway rolled into Allandale in the mid-1850s, only to change its name to the Northern Railway of Canada in 1859. In 1890, the first of three buildings at Allandale station was constructed. The train station served as an economic hub for the region, exporting goods from surrounding areas like Beeton and Kempenfelt Bay, along with bringing in the first real wave of cottagers to kick start Simcoe County's tourism industry.

Six women picnicking ca. 1890 
983-16     Six women picnicking ca. 1890     Copyright: Public Domain

Gidley Collection, ca. 1909
984-04     Gidley Collection, ca. 1909     Copyright: Public Domain

While there were many stations along the rail lines within the County, Allandale served as the main attraction, with its fashionable Italianate Villa architecture that survives as a beauty to this day. The station was closed in the 1980's due to diminished rail services. It has since been named a Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.  

Allandale Railway Station looking East, 1905 

997-124     Allandale Railway Station looking East, 1905     Copyright: Public Domain

As of 2018, the Allandale Train Station and its surrounding lands have been the site of a Stage 4 archeaological study launched by the City of Barrie, in consultation with representatives for Huron-Wendat and various Williams Treaty First Nations communities. The study was undertaken to determine the archeological significance of the site, following the discovery of human remains and a potential burial ground.


Midhurst Station, 1978    

981-99     Norbert Moran’s Scrapbook, Midhurst Train Station, 1978  
Copyright: Simcoe County Archive

Midhurst station was opened by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth passed through Midhurst on their royal tour across Canada in 1939. Rumor had spread that the King and Queen would stop in Midhurst and 25,000 people waited in attendance to welcome them. Children from miles around had been transported there to meet them, Mr. Henry Lay, brother-in-law to then Prime Minister Mackenzie King, was planning to present the Queen with flowers and welcome her to the village. The train did not even stop but carried on at 60 miles an hour.

Royal Visit at Midhurst Train Station, 1939 

2018-08     Royal Visit at Midhurst Train Station, 1939      Copyright: Public Domain


Railway Station, Collingwood, ca. 1920  

999-47     Railway Station, Collingwood, ca. 1920     Copyright: Public Domain

Part of the Meaford Subdivision, the Collingwood Terminal was at the heart of industrial activity in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It served as a representative of two forces of industry; agriculture and shipbuilding.

978-45     H.M.C.S. Collingwood, July 27, 1940     Copyright: Public Domain

The Northern Railway terminus is also home to massive grain elevators, 100 feet high and 22-feet in diameter and capable of housing two million bushels of grain. The Collingwood Town saw the need for the elevators in 1899 but construction was continually postponed due to low water levels. The grain elevators were finally completed and opened one month before the stock market crashed in 1929. The terminal was also home to a successful ship yard, which began at a small scale in the 1850s but eventually grew into the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company in 1900, ushering in the age of steel hull construction that occurred in Georgian Bay.  

Collingwood Station, May 12 1912
    974-92     Collingwood Station, May 12 1912       Copyright: Public Domain

Between the shipyard, the grain elevators and the train station, the Terminal served as the industrial hub. The terminal only closed its gates in 1993 after 64 years of operation.

Simcoe County Council 

Probably at Allandale Station Shay Locomotive, 1923 
988-46     Likely Allandale Station Shay Locomotive, 1923    
Copyright: Public Domain

 The importance of the railroads is reflected in the Simcoe County Council minutes held at the Simcoe County Archives. Issues and interests related to railways were represented by a designated committee of council. The Railways Committee was established in the late 1800s. It was later changed to the Railways and Canals Committee. One of the responsibilities of the committee was ensuring the safety of civilians. We can see the committee's interests in protecting the well-being of civilians in the minutes gathered from 1876-1899 and 1903-1944. In those minutes we find several accounts related to unsafe rail crossings. In one account in 1882, because the crossing at Allandale was deemed unsafe, the committee decreed that a man with a flag would stand by the crossing until modifications could be made to make it safer. Hopefully, they paid him well. Another account in 1880 was concerned that the railway companies failed to put up proper fences along the railway. As a result of improper fencing, large quantities of livestock were dying on a daily bases due to being hit by the trains with no compensation for the farmers. With the council's assistance through strong recommendations sent to the railway companies, the fences were put in place by the railroads in the interests of local farmers.

Mileage 11.8 Huntsville Sub. Protected by Old Style Board Fence, 1943
987-22     Mileage 11.8 Huntsville Sub. Protected by Old Style Board Fence, 1943          Copyright: Public Domain

At the midpoint of the nineteenth century, the railways came to the County of Simcoe and with them came beautiful feats of architecture, each with an unique history. It brought an industrial boom, tourism, royalty, and connected us to the rest of Canada in a way we hadn’t been before. It also brought forth a committee dedicated to the protection of regular people and their livelihoods.   

By Samantha Mills, Student Archives Assistant
Posted: 2018/06/01


Works Consulted