Saturday August 27, 2016
The Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) line was closed in 1931 but parts of it have been resurrected as the Guelph Radial Trail. Much of the trail runs on the old railway right of way but large parts are also on trails granted by local landowners. Hiking the GTA has crossed paths with the TSR several times during our wanderings in and around the GTA. The TSR schedule shown below illustrates the two hour trip from Guelph to Toronto.
Access to the trail can be made off of the corner of 25 and 25 just south of the town of Acton. Side Road 25 has some parking just before the intersection with Regional Road 25. A previous hike starting on Mill Street in Acton led onto the Guelph Radial Trail and ended at 25 and 25 and so a continuation east from there seemed to be in order.
The trail follows the fence line east across the field. The wild grapes are ripening in clusters where the vines are taking over the bushes and trees. Wild grape, unlike moonseed, has climbing tendrils. They can be seen in the picture below wrapped around one of the branches to the left of the cluster. If in doubt on the identification of wild grapes versus the poisonous moonseed you should eat a leaf. Grape leaves will taste like grapes.
At the back corner of the field the trail turns and enters the woods. There is some kind of a hunter’s blind built into the trees where it can look into two fields. It is not uncommon to find some sort of fort or tree house on an exploration but this time there was far more wooden structures than is normal. There were two of these blinds in different fields.
At the foot of this one is an old rectangular structure made of concrete. Livestock needed water and farmers had to provide large amounts for cows and horses. They had several options, including creating a pond by damming a creek on the property. Some landowners were lucky enough to have a spring which could feed into a watering trough. Others would install windmills to drive the pump needed to bring water from a well to a trough. There are a couple of pipes on the ground beside this abandoned trough that brought water from somewhere else on the farm.
The trail leads through an area of young growth trees. The forest floor through here is covered with large stumps of burnt trees. Canada has about 10 percent of the world’s forest cover. Each year in Canada about 8,300 fires burn and they consume an average of 2.3 million hectares annually. These fires are essential to forest renewal because they release nutrients that are trapped in the plant matter on the forest floor. They also open up the forest canopy so that light reaches the floor and gives new growth an opportunity to get started. Older, often diseased, trees are cleared out giving the forest a chance to grow new healthy ones. The cones of the jack pine tree don’t open and release their seeds until they are heated in a fire. They actually require a fire to reproduce, and the older ones get out of the way!
Crown Coral fungus is a member of a group of fungi species which, though not related, are grouped together as coral fungi. The crown coral, or crown-tipped coral, is distinguished by the little crown shaped tips on the end of the fruit bodies. They tend to grow on decaying wood and have a peppery taste that disappears when cooked.
A hand-painted sign announced that we had found a tree fort but it’s possible we would have identified it even without the sign. This two story tree fort had been covered with tarps but they have since started to come loose. The steps to climb up into the fort, as well as the height of the rooms suggest that this was not built to be used by children but rather by teenagers.
The trail runs along the south side of a small creek until it meets up with the abandoned rail line. The trail follows the railway corridor to the right but it needed to be investigated a short ways to the left. The berm is very obvious even though it has been covered with forest on both sides. The berm rises above the surrounding fields which are also over grown with forest through here.
The railway crossed the creek on a short trestle which has been replaced with an improvised foot bridge in the bottom of the creek ravine. Just beyond the creek crossing the berm runs through an open field and is clearly visible in Google Earth shots.
After following the railway for a short distance it was time to return to the trail and follow it out to where it intersects with the third line. Along the side of the trail is the most fully realized tree house I have ever seen. It has several rooms some with sitting or sleeping provisions. It can be seen from the rail berm and is featured in the cover photo. It even includes a library, complete with Ghost Rider, a book by Rush drummer Neil Peart. A note welcomes everyone to use the place provided they take care of it.
At the third line the abandoned railway ran parallel to the active line and a short distance in from the road lies what appears to be an old railroad sign.
The Guelph Radial Trail runs for 33 kilometers and is best enjoyed with two vehicles parked on different sideroads. This allows you to go twice as far because you don’t have to back track like was done here.
Artifacts from the Toronto Suburban Railway that have been featured in previous posts include:
- The trestle pilings that remain in the mill pond in Limehouse.
- The decaying concrete abutments across the tail race for Silverthorne’s Mill in Meadowvale.
- The rail berm and tracks in Eldorado Park.
Google Maps Link: Acton
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