Monthly Archives: June 2016

East Point Park

Sunday June 19, 2016

East Point Park is sandwiched between a water and a sewage treatment plant.  The park has an upper meadow, wetlands, a segment of the Scarborough Bluffs and a lengthy beach.  There is a parking lot at the end of Beechgrove Drive where there is free parking.

At 55 acres this is one of Toronto’s largest waterfront parks.  This post is the fourth one by Hiking the GTA that covers parts of the Scarborough Bluffs.  To avoid a lot of repetition a link will be provided to other posts that contain further details.  The park itself is on the former land grant of William Bennett. John Bennett was a 26 year old farmer in Scarborough township in 1890 when he married Eunice Davis. He carried on with the family farm.  In the 1950’s Scarborough was transformed from farmland to urban centre and this piece of land remained undeveloped.  A water filtration plant named F. J. Horgan Filtration Plant was built on the west end in 1979 and the Highland Creek Sewage Plant was built on the east end in 1956.  Fom the parking area the trail leads past a pond and wetland then east along the bluffs.


Dog strangling vine has become a real problem in many of our hiking areas.  The plant is related to the milkweed plant.  It is actually two plants who are related and are given the same common name.  Black Swallowwort and Pale Swallowwart are native to Eurasia and were brought to the Northern United States in the mid-1800’s for use in gardens.  Like many garden plants they escape and this one can produce up to 28,000 seeds per square metre infested.  In the fall the seed pods pop and the seeds are spread by wind and animal.  Hikers and cyclists need to be diligent at this time to be sure you don’t carry seeds on your clothing or especially in your bike tires.  The dense mats of tangled vines choke out native vegetation and prevent forest regeneration.  Since they cover vast areas and are not eaten by deer they put added pressure on other sources of food.


Milkweed is related to the Dog Strangling Vine above but we are much happier to see it.  Environmentalists like David Suzuki encourage people to plant this one in their gardens.  Why should two related plants have such different attitudes when it comes to gardens? It has to do with the Monarch Butterfly.  The butterfly lays it’s eggs on the milkweed and it is the only plant on which they can complete their life cycle.  Monarch’s have also been seen laying eggs on dog strangling vines.  Unfortunately, the larvae cannot eat the plant and they all die off.  The milkweed in the picture below is in flower but is surrounded by it’s invasive cousin.  Chances are that it will be strangled and die off itself.


The Monarch butterfly pictured below was just drying it’s wings after recently hatching.  There are four generations of monarchs born each year in Ontario.  This is the second generation this season and this butterfly will live between 2 and 6 weeks if it avoids being eaten first.  It’s offspring will be born in July or August and will also live up to 6 weeks.  It’s grandchildren will be born in September or October and they will live for six to eight months.  That will be the generation that flies to Mexico and returns next spring to start the cycle over again.  East Point Park is a staging area for monarchs heading south but the invasion of dog strangling vines may put this at risk.


The trail continues west along the top of the bluffs but is fenced to keep you a safe distance from the edge.  Older portions of the trail run right along the edge of the bluffs but are quite unsafe because erosion as detailed in our Cathedral Bluffs post has undercut the cliff edge and the sand could collapse at any time. Unfortunately, some of the best shots require getting closer to the edge.  Toward the west end of the park there is a small, informal trail that leads down the bluffs.  It is hard packed and has good foot holds but looks like it could be a hazard when wet or icy.  Using this trail you can descend to the beach.  This will let you turn the walk into a loop so you don’t have to double back.


When you reach the bottom of the path you’ll find sandy beach running off in both directions.  Be careful which one you choose because turning to your right and heading west will bring you to an unposted nude beach.



Just to your right at the bottom of the bluffs is a large shelter constructed out of branches lashed together.  One section has been covered with a tarp to provide shelter when the rain begins.


This collapsing tower of sand is the same one seen from the top of the bluffs in the cover photo.


In several places there are large boulders in the sand part way down the embankment.  These are inconsistent with the formation of the sand bluffs as described in Sand Castles.  Sand laid down in an inland sea shouldn’t have boulders in it.  These boulders are formally referred to as glacial erratic.  Erratics are stones of various sizes that are different in composition from the stone in the area in which they are found.  These stones have been picked up by glaciers and are often carried great distances before they are deposited by retreating ice.  This is commonly seen in river beds which flow through shale but contain granite boulders.  The boulders along the bluffs are only found in the soil layer on top of the sand and they make their way to the bottom as the sand erodes away underneath of them.  There are plenty of these boulders of various sizes along the beach as seen in the picture below.


Above the sand is a layer of soil which is full of various plants that grow in the meadows of the formerly cleared fields that were once settlers land grants.  The roots of these plants hold the soil together and provide a little mat that sticks out over the edge of the bluffs where the sand has eroded away beneath it.  This has become home to a colony of swallows whose nesting holes dot the edge of the bluffs.


Following the beach will bring you back to where there is a pathway that leads back up through a small ravine to the meadow at the top of the hill.


East Point park marks the eastern end of the Scarborough Bluffs which run from Highland Creek to Victoria Park Avenue, a span of 15 kilometers.

Google Maps: East Point Park

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Erindale Powerhouse

Saturday June 18, 2016

The Erindale Powerhouse was opened in 1910 and operated until power was delivered from Niagara Falls in 1923.  The building was closed and sat abandoned until 1977 when it was demolished.  Today, the site is only accessible by water.  The archive photo below shows the powerhouse shortly after construction.


Hiking the GTA visited The Erindale Hydro Electric Dam in October 2014 at which time we looked at the power structures on the north side of Dundas Street.  The intake system that drew water from Lake Erindale and brought it to the powerhouse was described along with photographs.  Water was fed through a pipe under Dundas Street to the power generation buildings on the south side of town.  The pipe, or penstock, is open on the north end and led to the question “What is on the other end?”


Our Credit River at Erindale post began as an attempt to follow the river south to locate the remains of the old powerhouse.  This trip was called off due to ice on the shale but a later trial was to prove that access from the west wasn’t possible.  The east end is fenced off by the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club.  It looked like access would be from the river on a nice day, if at all.  The shale cliff pictured below leads to the golf club and is on the same side of the river as the powerhouse remains.


In 1902 Erindale Light and Power Company was formed to construct an hydro electric generating plant on the Credit River at Erindale.  It took 8 years to complete the construction which included a tunnel under Dundas Street.   A natural crook in the river was used to bring the water through the shortest possible tunnel.  The powerhouse was built near the end of Proudfoot Street.  Erindale and New Toronto got their power from the plant until 1923 when supply came to the area from Niagara Falls.  The 1960 aerial photograph below shows the power generating station 37 years after it went out of service.


A small ravine is cut through the shale and initially it looked like a good possibility to be the tail race from the power station.  It is laid from top to bottom with old pipes that in many places are rusted through.


Buried in the hillside are the remains of a pump dated July 19, 1921.  This 95 year old pump was manufactured by F. E. Meyers of Ashland Ohio who were a major manufacturer of farm equipment.  Founded in 1870 they invented the double action pump which could deliver a steady stream instead of just spurts of liquid.  In 1910 they created the pump and spray system that allowed the Panama Canal zone to be sprayed for mosquitos.  This saved thousands of people from getting malaria and allowed construction of the canal to be completed.  The pumping system and pipes run directly toward the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club.  The first 6 holes of which were developed in 1930 for W. D. Ross who was Lieutenant Governor of Ontario at the time.  In 1934 the course was leased from Ross and opened to the public.  Since then it has been expanded several times including 5 holes in 1954 on the west side of the river to bring it up to a full 18 holes.  The pumping system in the ravine predates the golf course by a decade but is contemporary with the final days of the electrical powerhouse operation in the valley.  It supplied water to the orchards that formerly stood on the golf course property.  A similar pumping system is located on Loyalist Creek as seen in the post Erindale Orchards.


By 1916 the Erindale Powerhouse was in financial trouble and was bought out by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.  They continued to operate it until 1923 when power from Niagara Falls rendered it obsolete.  Demolished nearly 40 years ago, the woods are quickly taking over the site.


There are pieces of old walls and plenty of steel left along the ravine side.  The cover photo shows one of the steel plates from the old structure.


The old access road still runs along the side of the embankment.  It appears to be still maintained as there are no fallen branches on it and the tire tracks are free of plant growth.  There is a large open area at the bottom of the roadway that is being used as an amazing back yard by a home at the top of the ravine.


Purple Flowering Raspberry is a member of the rose family and it blooms from early in the spring until early fall.  It is often grown for decoration because of it’s long season and bright flowers.  The fruit is made of many drupelets and is furry compared to a raspberry.  The berry is a little tart to the taste but can be eaten and is part of the diet of squirrels and birds.


At the top of the access road are the old stone gate posts that marked the entrance to the facility.  Also located here is the “No Trespassing” sign that marked the beginning of the return journey.


This tree has grown around these two stones and lifted them two feet off the ground.  They’ll continue to rise as the tree grows until it eventually falls and rots leaving them a couple of feet away from where they started.  It’s a good thing they have all the time in the world because it’ll take them forever to walk into town at this pace.


This was an interesting trip but there is very little left of the old powerhouse.

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Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster

Sunday June 12, 2016

When the train left Markdale on Sep. 3, 1907 making a special run to the Exhibition in Toronto everyone anticipated a day of fun and not the horror that would leave 7 dead and 114 injured.

Railway construction in Canada in the 1850’s was expensive due to grand stone bridges and stations built to elegant standards. However, traffic was light and many early railways struggled to stay in business.  A recession and the American Civil War meant that there was almost no railway construction in the 1860’s.  After Confederation in 1867 a desire to open up the northern counties led to a plan to build cheap railways into the interior of the province of Ontario.  The Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway was  chartered in 1868 to build a line from Toronto to Grey and Bruce counties.  To keep costs down a narrow gauge track was built.  It was opened to Orangeville in 1871 and ran 3 trains daily.  When extended to Owen Sound it would run only 2 that far each day.  Construction required 3 major bridges over the Humber River, the Grand River and the Saugeen River.  Another major obstacle was the ascent of the Niagara Escarpment near Caledon.  This was accomplished by means of an 11 and 12 degree curve with a 462 foot radius known as The Horseshoe Curve just north of Cardwell.  Unfortunately, the choice of a narrow gauge made freight transport uneconomical because cars couldn’t be switched between tracks and had to be off loaded and reloaded onto other cars for further transport.  The line was in trouble from the beginning being unable to cope with the freight load.  The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) bought them in 1881 and converted the track to a standard gauge.  The GTR couldn’t finance the gauge conversion and lost control to the Ontario & Quebec Railway (CPR) in 1883.

The Toronto Industrial Exhibition opened in 1879 as an annual fair to showcase industry and agriculture.  The fair changed it’s name to the Canadian National Exhibition in 1912 to reflect the national scale of the exhibition.  Railways were always looking for new ways to generate revenue and providing transportation to entertainment sites such as Eldorado Park was part of their marketing strategy.  Five different rail lines offered special rates and added services to bring people to the Exhibition.  One of these excursions left Markdale at 7:34 am on Tuesday September 3, 1907 with a return fare of just $1.55.  Engine 555 had spent the night in Owen Sound where the crew had gone to use the turntable to turn the train around for the return trip to Toronto.  The big Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) left Owen Sound at 3:20 am arriving in Shelburne at 8:25, nearly an hour and a half behind schedule.  The crew appear to have been trying to make up time because when they reached Orangeville 2 men got off saying they worried the train would be wrecked because of the speed it was going.


It was standing room only in the five coaches and so two more were added in Orangeville before it left there at 9:00 am with about 600 people on board.  South of Caledon the train started it’s descent of the escarpment, known locally as Caledon Mountain, where it passed a Slow Board with a speed limit of 25 mph posted for the upcoming curve.  Twenty-three year old George Hodge was at the helm and he claimed he never saw the sign.  Perhaps that is because he was driving at up to 60 mph and the sign was a blur to him.  The rail line can be seen on the map above as it leaves the town of Caledon.  The rail line runs along the west side of modern Heart Lake Road.  In the picture below it can be seen as a berm in the field.  I’ve marked it with red arrows for clarity.


This is the view of the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway line looking north from Escarpment Sideroad.


The 1950 archive photo below shows the same vantage point 66 years ago.  Steam railways kept the trees and vegetation trimmed for the full width of the right-of-way to help prevent sparks from starting fires.


The wooden crib that supports the embankment has been almost lost behind a new growth of vegetation.

Horseshoe rail

The rail line has been abandoned since 1932 and the rails were removed for use during World War 2.  The ravine where the tracks crossed Escarpment Sideroad has been filled in to reduce the grade for cars on the road but the rail corridor continues on the south side.  Most of the ties have also been removed but there are still some where the line curved to head east toward the Horseshoe Curve.


The Horseshoe was designed to allow the locomotives to climb or descend the escarpment.  Between mile 38 and mile 37 on the line the elevation drops from 1050 feet to 965 feet in a grade of 2%.  That morning as the passenger train entered the curve on the horseshoe, which can be seen in the cover photo, it left the tracks.  Five of the seven coaches ended up in the ditch and four of them were destroyed.  Seven people were killed and 114 injured in the worst rail disaster in this part of the province.  The picture below shows the wreckage with Horseshoe Hill Road in the background.


The passengers never completed their excursion to the Exhibition that day because they didn’t make it safely down off of the Niagara Escarpment.  The view from beside the Horseshoe Curve allows you to see the CN Tower on a clear day.  The Exhibition is located near the base of the CN Tower.


Helmsman George Hodge and Conductor Matthew Grimes were arrested and charged with criminal negligence.  At the trial Hodge claimed to have been doing only 15 miles per hour.  It turned out that Hodge had driven his first passenger train the day before when he left Parkdale in Toronto with this very train.  Speculation included hungover or sleeping crew members but in the end they were found not guilty.  The CPR was found guilty of not providing competent crew members and they ended up paying off the survivors for years afterward.  Canada Hawkweed, pictured below, has flowers which are similar to common dandelion.  The leaves have toothed margins and can almost appear to be hooked over.


The Horseshoe Curve is still visible in this Google Maps image.


The former Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway can be seen from the Bruce Trail where the Bruce follows Escarpment Sideroad.

Google Map link: Horseshoe Hill Curve

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Eglinton – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday June 4, 2016

The former village of Eglinton isn’t a ghost town in the classical sense because there are more people living there than ever.  The little village of Eglinton has been replaced by Yonge and Eglinton, the third busiest intersection in the city.  The ghost of the old village still remains lightly stamped on the intersection but in danger of fading away forever in spite of it’s role in the Rebellion of 1837.

The intersection of Yonge and Eglinton was originally the starting point for the survey of the townships in the GTA.  Lot 1 on the west side of Eglinton was part of a large grant given to Baron de Hoen for his service to the British in the American Revolutionary War.  The Baron lost his fortune and began selling some of his property and in 1830 he sold lot 1 to John Montgomery who had been a partner in the Bird in Hand, a tavern at Yonge and Finch.  The village of Eglinton was centred just north of the main intersection at Montgomery Street.  This is the highest point on John Montgomery’s property along Yonge Street.  This is where he chose to build a hotel he called Montgomery’s Tavern.  It became a favourite watering hole along Yonge Street for both men and horses.  Short-lived, it became legendary because it would be burnt down just five years later in the Rebellion of 1837.  The county atlas map below shows Eglinton  as it existed in 1877.

Eglinton (2)

As early as 1824 John Montgomery was associated with a rebel movement which was intent on taking control of the government away from the Family Compact.  By 1837 William Lyon Mackenzie had 400 to 500 rebels stirred up for open rebellion.  The meeting place for the rebels was to be Montgomery’s Tavern.  When the rebellion was crushed the tavern was burned in retaliation for Montgomery’s part in the plot.  John was arrested and convicted of high treason.  He was sentenced to death but it was commuted to life banishment in Tasmania.  Montgomery escaped and went to the US where he stayed until he was pardoned in 1843.  At his trial Montgomery claimed he was convicted by perjurers and that the judge and witnesses would all be dead and he would still be living on Yonge Street.  He built a new hotel on the site of the first one and  outlived everyone at the trial.  By the 1890’s there was still a hotel here but now it was known as Oulcott’s Hotel as seen in the picture below.

North Toronto Postal Service Station K, Yonge Street. - [between 1912 and 1920]

The hotel was used as the post office until 1932 when it was torn down and replaced with Postal Station K.  The site is currently under development as Montgomery Square, a much needed condo project, but the old post office is being preserved.  That is good because it is a rare example of a government building that bears the emblem for Edward VIII who abdicated the throne.


On the north side on Montgomery Street a Masonic Hall was built in 1874.  When it burned down in 1881 the town bought the lot and built a town hall.  The town hall stood until the make work projects of the Depression Era led to the building being demolished and replaced with Police Station 53.  The building currently serves as the Anne Johnston Health Station.


Behind the former police station stands the fire hall built in 1932.


The biggest industry in Eglinton was the Pears Brick yards.  In 1885 the Pears brothers were looking for  new source of clay for their brick industry because their yards opposite the Rosedale Subway station were exhausted.  John Montgomery’s former property on lot 1 contained a large deposit of clay beside a 40 meter tall, 1 kilometer long drumlin. Avenue road runs up the drumlin, which is a glacial deposit.  By 1891 they had a crew of 50 men making 3 million bricks per year.  Pears produced both red and yellow bricks as two coloured brick construction was popular in Ontario at that time.  They operated the brick yard until 1926 when it was sold to the city as a park.  Often remembered as Pears Park it is officially known as Eglinton Park.  This view from the west side of the park gives some idea of the amount of clay that was removed from the brick yards.


The first school in Eglinton was a one room log building on Yonge Street built in 1842.  By the 1890’s it had been replaced with a two story brick school on Erskine Avenue.  In 1912 a new school was built on the corner of Mount Pleasant and Eglinton and the school on Erskine became the John Fisher School. The original brick building remains hidden behind multiple additions and can still be seen from the east side of the building.  The windows in the picture below are part of that original structure.


The first street in Eglinton, other than the concession roads, was Victoria Street.  In 1857 a plan was put forward for the first subdivision in the town on a piece of property belonging to Jessie Ketchum.  Part of the arrangement was that a given road would be constructed to connect Yonge Street with the 1st line east (Bayview).  On the east side of Yonge Street Blythwood has been continued onto lot 3 which formerly belonged to two Snider families and is known today as Lytton Boulevard.  The house marked on the map as E&W Snider (just to the left of the red arrow) was built in 1828 and is the oldest remaining building from the village of Eglinton.  It is featured in the cover photo.  Eglinton was merged with Davisville in 1890 to create North Toronto.  When the North Toronto was annexed to Toronto in 1912 the street was renamed Blythwood to avoid confusion with Victoria Street downtown.  The bridge over Burke Brook is seen in this 1915 archive photo.


Zion Baptist Church stood on Yonge Street just north of Castlefield  but even 100 years ago property taxes were higher on Yonge Street and so the church was moved around the corner.  The church was braced with a tensioning wire that still runs across the auditorium.  It has had a couple of expansions that can be seen in the picture below.  The lighter brick tower, and some offices were added in 1938 but by 1955 the church had outgrown the building again.  A new church building was erected and the congregation moved into Blythwood Baptist Church the next year.  The front addition was made in the last few years under the ownership of Castlefield Community Church.


The Capital Theatre was built on the north west corner of Castlefield and Yonge Street in 1922.  It was built about 10 meters back from the street because a little shop occupied the corner.  In 1924 the 3 story Capital Building was erected in front with the little shop enclosed inside.  The side of the building shows the line where the more ornate Capital Building starts.  This site has recently been sold to a developer and a condo proposal is expected soon.


When Toronto got it’s first subway line in 1954 the northern terminal was at Eglinton.  This forever changed the intersection and transformed it into a major hub in the city.  Now it is one of the fastest growing communities and with the coming Eglinton LRT this is only going to increase.  The bus terminal on the south west corner has been abandoned since 2004 and is waiting to see what it’s fate will be.  One proposal has several buildings including an 80 story hotel.  They are still trying to replace Montgomery’s Tavern I guess.


The Rebellion of 1837 which started and finished on Lot 1 led to government reform and the democratic system we have today.

Google maps link: Eglinton

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