Saturday Aug. 6, 2016
The Waterfront Trail on the lake shore in Mississauga runs through The Arsenal Lands. Many of the users who pass between the 106 year old military testing range and the remnants of a small arms manufacturing site have no idea what the structures they see really are. There is parking at Marie Curtis Park with access to the Waterfront Trail. The water tower in the cover photo was near the heart of the factory complex while the wooden baffle in the foreground was on the testing range.
The picture below looks from Marie Curtis Park looking east to the water tower. It was built in 1941 to provide water for the arms factories. Notice the platform just below the tank that runs from the ladder on the leg to the standpipe in the middle. Ascending, where the ladder passes the walkway around the outside of the tank you have to lean out, climb up and over. This will happen again if you were to climb onto the roof. Graffiti at the top shows that some one has been up there.
In 1868 the Ontario Rifle Association was formed for the training of militia to help defend our newly founded country. They used the garrison common at Fort York until 1891 but the increase in the use of the CNE grounds and the addition of a passenger wharf at the foot of Dufferin Street made firing rifles at the fort increasingly unsafe. A property on the west side of Etobicoke Creek was purchased and used as the Long Branch Rifle Ranges. Much of the wooden crib around the central water pipes on the water tower has started to fall off since the bands have broken away. The ladder that was used to access the very top of the tower can be seen rising up the leg on the left
After serving as Canada’s first Aerodrome it was purchased by the Department of National Defence in 1935 and a small arms factory was opened in 1940. World War Two ended in 1945 and war-time production was completed in December with over 900,000 rifles and 126,000 machine guns having been produced. Various military parts were produced in the facility from then until it closed for good in 1974.
In 1910 Canada’s Department of Militia and Defense (renamed the Department of National Defense in 1922) acquired the property and built the wooden baffles that remain in place today. On the short rifle range there are 16 remaining baffles after 105 years exposed to the elements. Originally there were 30 of these which were hollow and filled with sand and soil. They were intended to stop any stray bullets from leaving the range but also served to provide sound barriers for the adjacent small arms factory. They are the oldest surviving military baffles of their kind in Ontario.
The inside of one of the baffles showing the sand that filled them.
At the back end of the rifle range is a fifteen foot high and thirty-five foot wide concrete backstop which was constructed around 1925. It’s surface is dotted with the impacts of hundreds of bullets from over the years.
The end view of the backstop showing how thick the concrete is. The three electrical insulators at the top give an idea of the scale.
The trail winds back out of the testing range between the historical baffles.
I believe that this is one site where the city should consider putting up a few interpretive plaques to let the many trail users appreciate the history they’re passing through. A more detailed story can be found in a previous post called The Arsenal Lands that was photographed in the winter of 2015.
Google Maps link: Marie Curtis Park
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