Tag Archives: Middle Road

Hog’s Back Park – Oakville

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A hog’s back is a narrow ridge of steeply inclined rock strata that is resistant to erosion. In Oakville, the Sixteen Mile Creek forms a hog’s back at St. Mary’s Pioneer Cemetery. The Google Earth picture below shows how the hog’s back is surrounded on three sides by water (blue).  Following a story last year on the east side of Sixteen Mile Creek we received a tip about an artifact on the other side.  The entrance to a tunnel that used to run under the hog’s back aparently still remained on the west side of the creek across from St. Mary’s Cemetery. Initially, it was used to carry a wooden flume which supplied water to power the first mills in Oakville.  There is limited parking in the area and in some places, you risk towing.  We found limited free street parking on Kerr Street south of the 403. Access to the bottom of the ravine can be gained off of Kerr Street adjacent to the highway bridge.

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The bridge replaces an earlier crossing at river level.  Today’s Kerr Street used to have a switchback that led down to the ravine floor and this was eliminated when the high-level bridge was installed in the 1930’s.  There is still an obvious roadway that has been cut down the side of the ravine although it is becoming overgrown with hawthorn and other first generation growth.  There were signs that going down this way wasn’t a good idea, due to trees that had fallen across the roadway and so we returned and descended beside the bridge.

Two types of bridge construction can be seen from the ravine floor.  In the foreground are the graceful arches of the earlier bridge of the Middle Road Highway.  When it opened in 1937 between Toronto and Burlington it was the first inter-city divided highway in North America.  The lamp posts featured “ER” in wrought iron for Elizabeth Regina or Queen Elizabeth, giving the highway the longest stretch of illumination in the world at the time. The second bridge, on straight pillars in the background, was opened in 2011 when the addition of HOV lanes required that a second structure was built to cross the creek. Notice how the new construction was built with room for another expansion in the future.

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The west creek bank has an open floodplain until you reach the major curve in the river near the railway tracks.  At this point, the creek edges up against the ravine wall.  Before the curve extensive work has been done on the embankment with shale.  We found the opening with its crude arch that can be seen in the photo below.  The embankment is shored up with additional shale to support the entrance to a tunnel which has recently been filled in.  The bottom of a wheelbarrow remains in the opening to attest to the deed and give an indication of scale.

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On the top of the ravine above this inlet are the remains of some extensive stonework. Arches and columns support other arches and these, in turn, support the deck of a more modern house.  Following the creek ceases to be an option at this point and you are forced to retreat or climb the side of the ravine.

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Stonehooking was performed between about 1830 and World War 1.  Shale was collected from the lake bottom and used in construction projects.  Two examples of this kind of construction formerly stood on Kerr Street just south of the railway tracks.  They have since been moved onto Shepherd Road to make space for the highrise building that can be seen in the corner of the picture below.  The two houses were built in 1911 and 1930 respectively.  Three triangular dormers grace the two-story 1911 home which has been restored with new cedar shingles.  The story-and-a-half 1930 home can be seen on the left in this photo.  Their location has been marked with a red asterisk on the Google Earth picture above where they sit in the shadow of the building that they were moved to accommodate.

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At the end of Shepherd Road is a small park that has a sign welcoming you to West River Community.  Here, contrary to trespass laws, an obvious trail leads across a triple-tracked and very active railway line.  This trail leads out onto the top of the hog’s back.  In an effort to fully explore this section of the creek we had to descend back to creek level.

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Backtracking upstream, it was confirmed that there is just a short section along the base of the railway line that cannot be traversed safely at water level.  The view south from here reveals the layers of shale that make up the hog’s back.  Extensive talus slopes at water level contain the loose clay, sand and shale that has fallen from the cliff face.  A thin strip of vegetation along the edge of the water gives a faint hope of being able to get past.

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It turns out that there were sufficient places to step to allow us to slowly work past all the talus. Rapidly changing water levels could make this quite dangerous at times.

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At the end of the hog’s back we found a camp site.  We are either very early or much too late for breakfast.

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Once around the tip of the hog’s back, we saw two GO trains pass each other in opposite directions on the rail bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek.  The 1877 county atlas shows the rail line (yellow below) passing through Oakville as the H & T Branch of the Great Western Railway (GWR).  In 1834 the GWR was the first railway in Canada West (Ontario) to receive a charter, as the London and Gore Railway.  It was rechartered in 1845 as the GWR.  When it opened in 1853 it connected Niagara Falls with Windsor.  In 1855 the line was extended with the Hamilton & Toronto (H&T) branch.  The rail bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek was built of cut blocks of limestone.  When it was triple-tracked the new section was made of poured concrete with a pattern that mimics the cut stone blocks beside it.

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The historical atlas below shows the journey starting at the parking spot which is marked with a star.  The trail is marked in red and the end is marked with a diamond.  Having hiked all the way around the hog’s back at creek level we are forced to conclude that the shale structure featured in the cover photo is the only candidate to be the remains of the mill flume intake tunnel.

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Google Maps link: Hog’s Back Park

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Middle Road Bridge

Saturday August 16, 2014

It was 15 degrees and perfect for a hike.  We parked on 43rd street beside the Etobicoke creek.  43rd Street is only a short stub north of Lakeshore today.  In 1954 it extended to the lake and, along with Island rd., contained houses on both sides of the creek near the lake.  A trailer park existed at the time on the west bank of the river between Lakeshore Road and the railroad tracks.  Seven people were killed and numerous houses washed into lake in October 1954 when hurricane Hazel hit Toronto.

Visible from Lakeshore are a triple set of tracks, now used by GO Transit as well as many CN freight trains.  When the Grand Trunk Railroad (GT) was built in the 1850’s it was two tracks wide.  The bridge in the photo below was built in 1856.  When the GT was incorporated into the Canadian National (CN) in 1923 a third track was added.  In the photo below the older track is sitting on the large cut stone blocks while the newer addition on the left is constructed on poured concrete which had become popular around 1900.

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Coca Cola was invented in 1886 in Atlanta by a pharmacist, Dr. John Pemberton. Originally it was sold as a syrup that was mixed in the pharmacy and sold at the counter by the glass.  in 1915 the distinctive “hobble-skirt” bottle was created.  Selling for 5 cents it contained a 6 oz serving.  Pepsi was created in 1893 and stole a share of the market by selling 12 oz bottles also for 5 cents.  The coke bottle below was made in 1959.

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A brickyard was opened in Port Credit in 1891 on the west side of the Credit River.  The business expanded and soon a scarcity of labour resulted in the use of immigrants to work in the brick yard.  Bunk houses were built to provide homes for the workers.  By the 1920’s the business was operating at a loss and it was closed down.  That means that the brick in the picture below is likely over 100 years old.

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The brick yards as they looked in 1907.

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When hiking in the woods in August it is necessary to carry a small stick in front of your face to keep from eating spider webs.  The Cross Orbweaver is one of the more common ones, although it is not native to North America.  Females wrap their eggs in a protective sac of silk.  There are between 100 and 800 eggs in a single egg sac.  We found an egg sac that had just hatched.  The picture below shows a “daddy-long-legs” spider which has been captured and left for food for the little babies.  Note the tiny dots below the egg sac which are the emerging young.

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Just north of the tracks is the first old dam on the creek.  This dam has retaining walls which extend all the way to the edge of the ravine on both sides of the creek.  This is a good example of an old dam as you can clearly see the slots in the river bottom to hold the boards that would retain the water for the mill pond.

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Delco radios are standard on GM products.  In the 1960’s it was common to have only an AM radio in your new vehicle.  FM radio, CD players and MP3 inputs were all many years in the future.  We found an old AM radio with 5 preset channel function.  Having 5 preset stations was a luxury at the time as you didn’t have to try to tune the dial while driving (let alone dial your cell phone).

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The Etobicoke creek was calm and clear.  The west bank of the creek is a shale cliff which is slowly being eroded away from below.  Shale is formed from fine particles of sand that is deposited in slow moving water.

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The second dam across the Etobicoke creek.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found much information about the early miller families on the creek.

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Today was a day for hot water tanks.  We found two of them along the way.  One would wonder why someone would carry one of these out here to dispose of it.  Most likely these are remnants of the mess left when Hurricane Hazel ripped homes apart and washed them away.

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Along the way we noticed that there was a white line on the pathway.  Walking trails normally don’t have divider lines and so we suspected that this may have been used as a road at one time.  A few minutes later the roadway was lined with the remnants of a old parking lot on either side of the road.

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A couple of minutes later we saw the arch of an old bridge poking through the trees.  It turns out that this is called Middle Road Bridge and it was built in 1909.  It stands on the foundations of an older bridge.  Originally designed to carry people and horses it quickly became too small in the days of the automobile as it was 1 lane only.  It is the first example in Canada and only the second in North America of a reinforced concrete arch bridge.  The Middle Road was a major connection between York and Peel counties. Middle Road got it’s name from the fact that it ran in the middle between Lakeshore Blvd and Dundas Street. Prior to the Queen Elizabeth Way being completed in the late 1930’s this was a major 4 lane road running as far as Hamilton.  The portion of the old road which we had seen south of the bridge has been re-named Sherway Drive but it appears to be suffering from neglect as well.  The bridge is protected by two historical societies.  One end by Toronto and the other by Mississauga.  The cover photo shows the bridge from the western elevation.

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