Kelso’s Kilns

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015

Near Kelso are several abandoned lime production facilities that preserve part of our industrial heritage regarding the extraction and processing of construction materials.  We decided to look for evidence of two of these plants that operated between the south side of the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) and the edge of the escarpment.  We parked on Kelso Road and set off to make our way to the foot of the escarpment with our eyes set on the vertical cliff face that shows up in archive photos of the kilns.

The area around Milton has always been known for aggregate extraction and the production of lime, limestone and bricks.  It was settled beginning in 1819 by Scottish immigrants to the extent that the area became known as the Scotch Block.  In 1844 Alexander Robertson settled in the area of Milton and began raising his 8 children.  His son, David, started Milton Pressed Brick and Sewer Company as seen in Pine Point Park.  Another son, Duncan started the Robertson Lime Company in the 1880’s on a strip of land between Kelso Road and the escarpment.  The company was operated by him and then his son Donald until 1929 when they sold the business to Gypsum Lime and Alabaster Limited.  Robertson built his company on the embankment along side the CVR (now CPR).  Original stone construction and later concrete additions and repairs remain near track level while the remains of kilns stand slightly uphill.

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Gypsum Lime and Alabaster Limited sold to Dominion Tar (Domtar) in 1959 and they closed the facility a few years later.  Two concrete silos stood on the west end of the structure joined by a bridge across the top.  Birch trees are growing in and around the structures, which look like a giant pair of sunglasses.  These were possibly used in the production of quick lime by adding water to the burnt lime from the kilns.

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The picture below is credited to Robert Sandusky and is from 1957.  It shows the Gypsum Lime and Alabaster Limited facility in the background.  The three lime kilns are in operation and one of the two silos can be seen on the right.  The location of this bridge on Sixteen Mile Creek is now lost under Lake Kelso.

1957 lime kilns

The view from near the foundations of the Robertson Lime Company.  Lake Kelso can be seen between here and the 401.  A dam and flood control facility for Sixteen Mile Creek created this lake in 1962.  It was a mostly cloudy day which gave way to light rain toward the end of our hike. There is still some colour left in the trees but mostly in the willows and oak trees.

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We ended up on the wrong side of the fence and had to walk down the tracks to Appleby Line. This isn’t recommended.  From here we made our way south and found an entrance behind the site of the Christie lime kilns.  David Christie built two draw kilns each 55 feet tall on the site. The first was completed in 1883 and the second in 1886.  The cover photo shows the view up inside one of these kilns.

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The picture below shows the furnace where the wood was burnt to provide heat to break down the limestone.  Temperatures in the oven could reach as high as 1800 degrees F.  The person who filled the furnace was known as a fireman and he made $1.00 per day.  He had to load about 8 cord of wood into the two kilns each day.  The four quarry workers each made $1.25 daily.  The foreman was paid $400 per year.  Workers got Sunday off and many of them attended the church building on the corner of the Christie Homestead.  It has since been converted into a house.

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Chunks of limestone were moved from the quarry behind the kilns to the kiln site.  From here they were dumped into the top of the kiln to be burnt into lime.  The picture below shows the top abutment for the bridge that carried the limestone to the kiln.  There are still pieces of the log supports in the holes in the side of the abutment.

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The archive photo below shows the Christie Kilns in 1911.  Notice the bridge running from the top of the kiln to the embankment behind. The supports and trusses for the bridge can be seen behind the kiln.

Christie Lime Kilns

A small tramway was installed to bring limestone to the kilns and it was opened in July 1922.  Rock could be brought from the quarry to the kiln in under 2 minutes via a steel rope half the size of the one we found on The Cox Property.  This was a marked improvement over the previous method using horses to haul the stone to the kiln.  The horses were suitably impressed too!

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Between the two draw kilns and slightly to the rear are the remains of a third kiln.  This kiln is shorter and of a different construction.  This set kiln was used by loading limestone in and packing firewood around it.  The method was slow and required a cool down period before the product could be removed.  This kiln was likely abandoned when the draw kilns were installed.

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There is a footbridge to get across the CPR tracks and so we took it back into the park.  From here we could see the vertical cliff face that we had been close to after exploring the Robertson Lime Company foundations.

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Growing along the side of Kelso Road are some wild grapes.  Care should be taken to ensure that you are in fact looking at wild grapes and not moonseed, which is poisonous.  One way to tell is to look at the seed shape which predictably looks like a moon in the moonseed plant.

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Google Maps Link: Kelso

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4 thoughts on “Kelso’s Kilns

  1. Pingback: Adam Alexander Homestead – Halton Region Museum | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: “Long” Weekend Hikes | Hiking the GTA

  3. Pingback: River and Ruin Side Trail | Hiking the GTA

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