Tag Archives: Credit Valley Railroad

Forks Of The Credit – The Stonecutter’s Dam

Saturday July 18, 2015

It was the hottest, stickiest day so far this year.  It was already 22 degrees, feeling like 30 at 9:00 in the morning.  By the time we got back to the car the humidity was making it feel like 39 degrees.  You need to carry a lot of water on days like this to avoid dehydration and possible heat stroke.

Peel County was surveyed in 1818-1819 with settlement starting the following year.  Settlers found a rugged terrain that was difficult to farm.  Lot 9 concession 4 was typical of the area and included a stretch of the escarpment where the Credit River cascades through a ravine.  The property didn’t suit farming but there was plenty of Queenston shale and limestone as well as gravel deposits.  It would be used for quarry purposes from the mid 1800’s until the 1930’s.  In 1986 the Ontario Heritage Foundation acquired the property in a combined purchase and donation from Bert Willoughby. Now known as the Willboughby Property it is west of the Devil’s Pulpit which we visited last week. Historical research conducted in 1988 identified several items of cultural heritage significance, a few of which are presented below.

We parked on the end of Scott street and entered the park near the old gravel pit.  As we entered the laneway to the former caretaker’s house we found a single yellow daylily.  These plants usually grow in small clusters so finding a single flower is unusual.  They get their name from the fact that the flowers only last for a single day.  They bloom overnight or in the morning and wither up the following night.  A new flower may grow on the same stem and if the flower is cut off it will continue to bloom for several days.  They come in many brilliant colours with this one having brown stamen which are the male parts and a yellow carpel, or female part.  This example is known as a lemon lily.

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At the west end of the property a  gravel pit operated until the 1930’s.  Nearby stood a barn and workshop as well as the caretaker’s house and a windmill.  The gravel pit has started to grow over with trees as can be seen in the picture below.  We found evidence of the other structures but they appear to have all been removed.

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As you follow the trail along you will come to the Crow’s Nest side trail.  To the left this trail runs past the Hillis Quarry overlooking the Forks road.  To the right it runs past Crows Nest Quarry and several smaller pits where limestone and sandstone were cut from the hill side.  We took the side of the trail along the Hillis Quarry which eventually loops back toward the river.  Along here an old pump house stands.

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Behind the pump house stand two old bridge abutments made from blocks of cut stone.  These supported a siding from the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) that ran to the quarries.  The cut stone from these quarries was used to build some of the grandest buildings in Ontario in the late 1800’s.

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What we call Old City Hall in Toronto was actually the third city hall.  It was completed in 1899 using 1,360 train car loads of cut stone.  The grey stone came from the Credit River Valley and may have crossed the bridge shown in the previous picture.  The brown stone was brought from New Brunswick.  The picture below shows the water colour that was created to promote the idea of building a new city hall.

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The CVR retaining wall along the siding is part of the built or human heritage on the property. With the rails pulled up and trees growing on the former rail bed this almost appears to be a random wall built in the woods.  The retaining wall is yet another example of the use of cut stone on the property.

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The rail siding to the quarries on the Willoughby property joined the CVR near the train station. The train station sat in the clearing at the hairpin turn on the Forks of the Credit road.

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The Willoughby dam is about 100 metres upstream from the Forks of the Credit road along a Bruce Trail blue side trail in the bottom of the valley.  With a rise of 1.5 metres it is a migratory obstacle to all but jumping species of fish such as salmon and trout.

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Along the side of the river we found a recently hatched nest of Eastern Snapping Turtle eggs. This turtle is considered to be of Special Concern in Canada.  The empty shells look like little curled up strips of paper running down into the hole.

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Up river from the concrete dam is a mid 1800’s structure made of blocks of cut stone.  The stonecutter’s dam has a unique stone penstock that can be seen in the cover photo.  The penstock is a stone tunnel extending from the downstream side of the dam.  The intake in the wall of the dam was higher than the exit causing the water to fall through the penstock to deliver energy to turn a turbine or water wheel.  The picture below shows the back side of the dam where a large amount of wood has been washed up over the years.  Many dams were washed out in the major floods of 1878 and 1954 but the stonecutter’s dam has survived. When the Willoughby property was acquired and a conservation plan was developed the restoration of this dam and it’s associated mill structures was reviewed but unfortunately dismissed.

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The mill pond behind the stonecutter’s dam is filling up with silt and weeds.  The dam was considered to be impassable to migratory fish but a single salmon was recently caught upstream and this suggests that some can go through (or get tossed over by fishermen).

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If you follow the trail past the dam you will have to continue into Belfountain. The Willoughby property has been used for farming, quarrying and has now been turned into a park that hides it’s abundant history among the new growth forest.

The Black-Crowned Heron in the picture below was photographed a couple of days earlier but this bird was auditioning for a spot in the blog by posing for pictures.  This stocky little heron stands up to two feet tall and can weight two pounds.  Unlike the great blue heron, night herons do not have long necks and legs.

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The Forks of the Credit contains ample space for future explorations of it’s natural beauty and historical artifacts.

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The Devil’s Pulpit

Saturday July 11, 2015

It was 23 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky.  We parked along the side of the Credit River just before Dominion Road.  The cover photo shows the area of the Forks of the Credit trestle around 1900.  We set out to investigate the remnants of several elements of this picture. We visited the trestle, the kilns where the chimney is and the white rock face on the cliff wall above and to the left of the kiln known as The Devil’s Pulpit.

This area was surveyed in 1819-1820 with the earliest settlement being at the site of present day Belfountain at the top of the escarpment.  With the coming of the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) the area of the Forks of the Credit became an industrial hub focused on the quarry industry.

At its peak Forks of the Credit had 33 houses, a store, a hotel and a brick school with a Mechanic’s Institute.  Mechanic’s Institutes were places where adults could access the use of books.  Often funded by industrialists with the intention of having better access to educated employees these preceded and often turned into public libraries.  The school still stands on Chisholme Street which is roughly where the third line would have passed had the hill not been so steep.  The picture below shows the date stone indicating that this was Caledon School Section 19 and it was built in 1884.  The date stone also reads Pro Bono Publico or For The Public Good.

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Medina or Whirlpool sandstone was noted in an 1863 geological survey however there was no easy way to get it from quarry to potential market.  The CVR was established in 1872 and one of the key objectives in it’s charter was to provide a link between the aggregate resources in the Credit Valley and the markets in Toronto and Hamilton.  It came through the area in 1879 and ignited an industry that would prosper for 20 years.  The CVR built a 1,146 foot wooden trestle, 85 feet high to cross the valley.  At the time it was the longest curved trestle in Ontario but safety concerns led to much of it being filled in by dumping gravel through the trestle.  The archive photo below shows the trestle before being filled in with the Devil’s Pulpit in the background.  Compare this with the cover photo after infilling.

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Only three spans over the Credit River and the Forks of the Credit Road remain open with the balance of the old wooden structure now hidden below a berm of gravel.

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The original wooden trestle was replaced with concrete support and three steel spans in the early 1900’s. The centre span has steel truss work as can be seen in the picture below, taken from the south abutment, and is also seen in the cover photo.

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Portions of the original round wood trestle still support the tracks on both abutments.

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Vipers Bugloss or Blueweed grows in barren places and we found a few plants growing in the rocks beside the trestle.  The leaves, especially those closest to the root, can be infused in a tea. This tea is reported to alleviate headaches, fevers and inflammatory pains.  it is also said to give a general feeling of well being, relieving melancholy.

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Turkey Vultures are carrion eaters and are the most common of North American vultures.  Like other North American vultures they are not closely related to the European vultures they resemble.  Convergent evolution is the term used to explain two series of random mutations that come out with the same results.  A hundred or more turkey vultures were riding the air currents above the river and the picture below shows just a few of them.

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Between the trestle and the top of Chisholme street a siding used to run from the main CVR line to the Hoffman lime kilns.  Twelve draw kilns were built in a ring 30 metres long and 15 metres wide.  The whole set-up was enclosed in a sheltering building.  Several quarries operated in the Forks of the Credit in the late 1800’s supplying cut stone for buildings such as the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building at Queens Park in Toronto.  A layer of Dolostone covered this sandstone and Hoffman built the lime kilns in 1896 to take advantage of this resource.  Moss covers the walls of the pathway between the stone kilns.

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Each of the 12 draw kilns were loaded and burned individually and with separate heat control. The kilns were started in a sequence such that there were always some being loaded, some in mid cycle and some being emptied of cooled down lime. The picture below shows inside of one kilns with it’s fire brick lining.  Similar kilns can be found at Limehouse.

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The chimney stood 30 metres tall to exhaust the smoke and heat from the kilns but only the lower few metres remain standing.

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The Bruce Trail works its way up the side of the escarpment past discarded boulders and small run off streams.  After climbing a little farther you come to an open quarry face of what was known as The Forks Quarries and now is referred to as The Devil’s Pulpit.

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As you reach the upper portion of the 100 meter climb a series of stone and wooden stairs have been provided.  A steel cable is anchored into the rocks for added safety.

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The view from atop the Devil’s Pulpit is quite spectacular at any time of the year but especially so in the fall when the leaves are changing.  A small white strip near the centre of the picture below, and about a third of the way up, is the railway and is almost lost in the valley below but gives perspective to the distance that can be seen from up here.  It can be seen when the picture is expanded.

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The climb to the top of the escarpment is a lot of work but it is well worth it.  The Bruce Trail continues out along the right of way for the third line but we went back down the hill.  The descent is easier and quicker than the ascent but be sure to watch your footing.  You don’t want to get back down too quickly!

Google Maps Link: Forks of the Credit

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