Tag Archives: Toronto Grey & Bruce

Melville

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Caledon Township was surveyed between 1819 and 1820 with settlements beginning shortly after.  The town of Melville was founded in 1831 but was originally known as West Caledon after the church that was located on the southwest corner of Highpoint Sideroad (25th s.r.) and Willoughby Road (1st line west).

Jesse Ketchum Jr. saw the possibility for a mill and a town was born.  He built a dam on his property creating the mill pond that still exists today.  The concrete dam in the cover photo replaces an earlier wood structure that would have required constant maintenance. His father, Jesse Ketchum, had been a tanner in Toronto and had gotten rich selling leather to the government, whom he silently opposed in the rebellion of 1837.  In 1831 he had donated property for a school and a park in Yorkville, both named in his honour.  Jesse Jr. laid out the north part of Orangeville on lands owned by the family in 1856.  Then in 1859 he laid out an ambitious town plan for Melville on his property there.  Soon there was a tannery, possibly connected to the Ketchums, as well as a saw mill and an oat mill.  The town never grew the way Ketchum Jr. envisioned and eventually the tannery and mills all closed.

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There is an Upper Credit Conservation Parking lot on Porterfield Road (2nd line west) south of town, near the train tracks.  From here a trail leads east following the Credit River.  A footbridge is provided to cross the river and then the trail divides but we followed it to the north, toward Melville.  As we made our way along the trail we could hear the approach of the Credit Valley Explorer as it was making a short run through Melville.  The picture below shows the engine as it is emerging from behind a small ridge.  The Explorer runs on the old Credit Valley Railway (CVR) right of way south of town.

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To the early settlers a fence had no practical value.  Pigs and cows were left to forage all summer and were slaughtered in the fall.  By the middle of the 19th century farms were opened up enough that property lines needed to be marked and cedar rails were used, often in a zig-zag pattern.  These snaking fence lines wasted a lot of productive land and eventually they were replaced with straight fences. Fence wire was introduced in the 1890’s and steel poles came after WWII.  Snaking fences had one major advantage that kept them in use even after more advanced methods became available.  They were the only truly portable fences and farmers could move them to reconfigure their fields to meet changing needs.

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Following the trail east along the river, you will come to a new fence where the trail loops back around.  This fence is running along the top of a berm in the field.  This berm is the former right of way for the Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway (TG&B) that ran through Melville starting in 1871.  This section of the line has been closed for nearly a century but the berm is still visible from Google Earth.  There isn’t much to see other than an obviously man-made hill in the field.  There are interpretive signs in the park but none about the railway. Yet, one can stand here and almost see the steam engines rolling into town.  The farmer has created a stone fence along the edge of his field where he sold a strip of land for the railway.  Every spring the frost lifts a new crop of stones to the surface of the fields so that the farmers have to clear the rocks before planting.  Stone fence lines across Ontario are the result of needing to dispose of these stones.

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The CVR came into town in 1879 and it intersected with the TG&B just south of Highpoint Sideroad.  Known as Melville Junction it contained the station and freight buildings.  Today the junction has reverted to a farmer’s field and the old right of way for the TG&B is being kept open by a lawn mower.

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In 1932 the CPR closed the section of TG&B line from Bolton to Melville.  A little south of Melville is the site of the Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster where a train left the tracks in 1907 killing 7 and injuring 114.  From there the line passed through Cardwell Junction.  The portion of track between Melville Junction and Orangeville is still in use as part of the CPR line through town.  Between Highpoint Sideroad and Willoughby Road the tracks cross the Credit River on a bridge that replaced the original trestle.

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This one and a half story cottage is the oldest remaining home in the village.  It was built around 1850 in what is known as the Georgian Style.  The 2 over 2 windows are likely replacements as most of the homes in this era had 6 over 6 windows.  The smaller panes of glass were easier to produce and transport without breakage.

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Like all small towns, Melville had at least one hotel.  The large building on the northeast corner of town was also the post office.

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According to the date stone, Caledon School Section 12 in Melville got a new building in 1871. Melville’s saw mill was doing a good business in decorative brackets for eaves and the local tradesmen liked to use them in pairs.

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Italianate architecture was popular in Ontario between 1840 and 1890.  This style also tends to have the round headed windows and doors that can be seen in this example below from 1875.  Like many Italianate houses,  George Hillock’s home has heavy bracketing under the eaves with the ornamentation being paired.  Another interesting feature of the style is the Widow’s Walk.  This platform on the rooftop was often railed with highly detailed wrought iron.  The name comes from their frequent location on homes built near water and the suggestion that women would walk there looking out for their husbands to return from sea.  The fact that they often didn’t return made them widows.  It is, in fact, a variation on the cupola which is common to the Italianate style.

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At the intersection of highway 10 and Highpoint Sideroad stands an abandoned house (red arrow on map). The preceding two buildings from the 1870’s were made of red brick with buff trim.  Typical of many homes in the 1850’s, this one is buff with red trim.  This farmhouse was built in 1859 by David Watson and has been covered in greater detail in a separate post which can be found here.

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Google Maps link:  Melville

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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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