Tag Archives: Toronto & York Radial Railway

Georgina

August 29, 2021

The Town of Georgina is the northern most community in the Township of York. It’s made up of the three little towns of Keswick, Sutton and Jackson’s Point and several smaller communities. At the turn of the last century it was a tourist attraction and served as cottage country for people from Toronto. In the early 20th century it was serviced by the Toronto & York Radial Railway which ran as far as Sutton. One of the objectives of the grand tour presented below was the photographing of two more relics from the old railway.

As the Toronto & York Radial Railway expanded north in 1899 it built power stations at Bond Lake and Lake Simcoe. The Bond Lake power house has been left abandoned and now is in a poor state of repair. The one at Lake Simcoe was located at Kennedy Road and Metro Road and is now in use as a private residence.

The York Regional Forest covers 2,300 hectares of land that is protected and yet available for public use. It is comprised of 18 different forested properties that have a total of over 120 kilometers of trails. The Metro Road Tract is near Jackson’s Point and has a 2.6 kilometer trail in it, although most of the property is left without formal trails.

Jackson’s Point was a beach resort for those who arrived by the radial railway to escape the city for the day. However, when cars started to become more popular its importance started to fade because other places became accessible to the family. Today, most of the beach is private property and parking is restricted to a few parking lots. Even so, Lake Drive East has plenty of great views out over the lake.

Until 2018 the harbour at Jackson’s Point had a day marker to guide boaters away from the rocks at the harbour entrance. That year, the Town Council authorized a local resident to begin work on designing a lighthouse for the harbour that would celebrate Jackson’s Point as a destination on Lake Simcoe. Daryl Urquhart has put up the $160,000 for the lighthouse himself and construction was completed in 2019. It stands 30 feet tall and has an LED light that is programmable and can be seen for up to 5 nautical miles.

In the 1830s Jackson’s Point was a destination for steamships that visited for trade, and later, for tourism. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 the bandshell was built as a shelter on the end of the government wharf. In 1977 it was dismantled and moved to the present site at the Georgina Pioneer Village and Archives. Here it was fully restored and added to the collection of historic buildings. We’ll look at a few other buildings from Pioneer Village a little later in this post.

The Toronto & York Radial Railway built its terminus in Sutton in 1908. The station master and his family lived on the upper floor while the lower one served as the station. Radial service began in Sutton on January 1, 1909 and continued until March 16, 1930. The building was then purchased by the Hydro Electric Power Commission who used it as an office until 1970. It currently serves as home to a real estate brokerage. The beautiful brickwork has been covered over with bland siding but otherwise it remains in good shape with a bay window that no longer looks out over railway tracks.

In 1819 the first grist mill was opened on the Black River where Sutton would eventually be founded. By 1830 it had been converted to a board and batten construction which is now covered over with aluminum sheeting. The mill was operated under several different millers until the 1950’s when milling operations were shut down. For a period of time starting in the 1880s it also supplied surplus electrical power to the community. The mill dam still exists on the opposite side of High Street and the tail race where water was returned to the river is still open on the side of the building.

Georgina Pioneer Village & Archives were officially opened on Thanksgiving Day 1975 and the 10 acre site has become home to quite a few buildings that were constructed in the area between 1850 and 1920. One of these buildings is the Noble House which was built in the mid 1850s and moved from High Street in Sutton in 1986. During its prime it was home to three generations of doctors.

The first Sutton train station was built in 1871 for the Lake Simcoe Junction Railway. When it burned down in 1900 the railway was under the ownership of The Grand Trunk Railway who replaced it with one in their typical style of the era. This station was also lost to fire in 1920 and was replaced in 1924. When the station was no longer in service the Georgina Historical Society was able to purchase it for $2.00, moving it to the village in 1977.

The Smallwood Family built a log house in Elm Grove around 1866. After standing empty from 1966 until 1974 it was acquired by the Georgina Historical Society and relocated to the village.

Roche’s Point kept applying for a post office and was finally granted one in 1870. Most post offices were opened by the proprietors of the local general store. In Roche’s Point it is believed that the local boot and shoe retailer used his store as the post office until 1921. Following the death of the post master, the post office was moved to an alternate location in town. The former post office and shoe store was moved to the Pioneer Village in 1999.

Prior to 1884, there were several Methodist Denominations that competed for the same adherents. The Primitive, Wesleyan, Episcopalian, and New Connexion all united as simply The Methodist Church leaving only the Free Methodists as a separate denomination. The Methodist Church in the Pioneer Village is believed to have started life as a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Elm Grove around 1871. When it closed, the Free Methodists bought the building and moved it across the street. They met there from 1887 until 1925 when they joined with the newly created United Church of Canada. The oldest continually serving Free Methodist Church in Canada continues to hold services in Armadale. You can read about it in our feature Armadale Free Methodist Church.

Just north of the Pioneer Village on Civic Centre Drive is the Georgina Animal Shelter. As I was driving past the laneway I saw a very skinny fox which was likely suffering from mange. It was running along the side of the road and looked very ill and terribly skinny. Its eyes were almost crusted closed and it looked like it would have a hard time capturing food. I was able to alert the animal shelter of the fox and hopefully they were able to have it caught and treated.

There’s no doubt that this is just a teaser of all the things to be seen in the Town of Georgina. It’s well worth planning a day trip to enjoy the area for yourself.

Also see our post: Toronto & York Radial Railway and Armadale Free Methodist Church

Google Maps Link: Georgina Pioneer Village

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The Stone Cottage at Bond Lake

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Bond Lake has an extensive history and in earlier blogs we touched on some of the electric railway uses of the area. Returning, we set out to discover what else remained to be seen at Bond Lake.

The original land grant had been given to William Bond who briefly settled in there in 1793 constructing homes and building 8 miles of Yonge Street in the area. By 1795 he had already sold the land but had left his name on the lake. The county atlas below shows the area in 1877 when it consisted of several small farms including that of the Thompson family. Moses Gamble and his heirs would own all of this land by the middle of the 20th century and today it has been over-run with single family homes. The story of Bond Lake and the years in between can be found in our feature Bond Lake.

The Thompsons ran their farm until 1908 when the General Manager of the Merchant’s Life insurance Company of Toronto, a man named John H. C. Durham, bought the place. He turned it into his country estate and in 1912 had the old farm house remodeled to suit himself. Then in 1915, he had a cobblestone cottage built to house the farm manager and his family.

The cottage is square with a stone chimney on both the east and west walls. The roof is hipped with the four sides meeting in the middle. Rounded river stones face the building with larger ones used to form rough quoins on the corners. Above the windows are wedge shaped stones that form a rough arch. These are known by their French name of “voussoirs”.

The south wall has had a frame addition at some point over the years. Records show that the original stone building had double hung, 6 over 6 windows while the addition was 3 over 2. This building is on the heritage list and has had an earlier attempt to preserve it by adding a tarp over the holes in the roof. That appears to have been done quite some time ago. The home itself and the land around it was sold in 1940 to the Gamble family who were increasing their hold on the area around Bond Lake.

One of the many little buildings that once surrounded the lake, this one has seen its best days. Outside it has a lazy kind of lean to it but inside it has been semi-demolished.

Inside this building has been trashed which is a pure shame. I understand that people like to get together with friends and have a drink and smoke something and they may not be able to do it at home. Buildings like this provide some shelter from the weather and perhaps some discretion as well. However, I don’t understand why people can’t stop by for a party and enjoy themselves without having to ruin the place. It seems to be self-defeating behaviour as far as I can tell.

We found the remnants of several old cars, or at least the chassis of them. This one was a green truck and had more of the body still remaining. Most likely this was some kind of 1970’s G.M. pick up truck.

Sets of cut stone blocks form the mounting pads for the old steam generators for the Toronto & York Radial Railway. These also contain the old fire places where the coal was burned to create the heat for the generators. In this shot the maintenance shed can be seen in the background. It is still in quite good shape considering the number of years since it was last used to service electric railway cars and equipment.

The substation at the Electric Railway Generating Plant is in worse condition every time we visit the area. Having suffered a fire, and with major holes in the back roof, it seems that this historic building may soon be history.

Bond Lake was still, and with the light fluffy clouds reflected off the surface of the water, it was quite calming to relax for a minute and just observe.

Tamarack is also known as Larch and is a coniferous deciduous tree. This means that it bears cones like an evergreen but loses its leaves like a Maple or Oak tree. On the south east side of Bond Lake several extensive patches of Tamarack have been planted and since they turn colour later than the broad leaved trees, they provide a late season splash of yellow to the woods.

This canoe was one of two small craft that we found in the edge of the woods. The area has been home to many forms of recreation over the years including reportedly being used as a home for motorcycle gangs. I wonder if there’s a classic bike hiding around here somewhere?

I suspect that only a few of the local dog walkers have the true picture of everything that awaits the thorough explorer at Bond Lake.

Associated blogs: Bond Lake, Electric Railway Generating Plant, and the Toronto and York Radial Railway

Google Maps Link: Bond Lake

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Bond Lake

Sunday September 4, 2016

Bond Lake is a 55 acre, spring fed lake, just north of Richmond Hill on Yonge Street.  Perhaps it’s location has been the key to the various uses the lake and surrounding lands have had over the years.  I decided to explore the lake and surrounding trails and so I parked at the end of  Trish Drive where a pathway leads to the Oak Ridges Trail.  This trail extends the length of the moraine and is listed at 260 kilometers long.  The 1877 county atlas below has been marked in brown to show approximately where Old Colony Road and Trish Drive are today.  The route of the hike around the lake is shown in red.

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Before I had walked very far along the trail I came to a large stand of sumac trees.  Experience has shown that these often hide signs of habitation and this was no exception.  The foundations for a barn can be found in this bush.  This is likely the barn from the Walker Estate seen on the map above although the Whitney & Morton barn should also be in the same area.

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From the earliest days Bond Lake was used for recreational purposes and the first settlers in the area used the lake for fishing, swimming and boating in the summer and curling in the winter.  The Metropolitan Railway extended north from Richmond Hill in 1899 and built an electric generating station at Bond Lake to supply the line north of there with power.  The fact that the lake was already in use for leisure activities led the Metropolitan Street Railway to buy the 200 acre farm around the lake from William Bell.  Along with landscaping the grounds they also set about building the railway sidings and platforms for the tourists they hoped to carry to the lake.  The picture below from the Toronto Reference Library shows people arriving at stop 35, Bond Lake, on June 20, 1924.

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The park proved to be a real money maker for the railway when 60,000 people went through the gates in 1901 alone.  The vast majority of these also paid fare on the railway to get there.  It was a popular spot for couples to go for romantic dates and more than once an engagement would take place at the pavilion in the park.  Church and company groups as well as families flocked to the park for it’s clean water.  The railway advertised the health benefits of the lake, claiming that it was cleaner than Lake Ontario because it was 720 feet above the level of the larger lake.  No doubt at the start of the 20th century Lake Ontario around Toronto was pretty dirty with raw sewage.  Another odd claim in the railway literature is that the lake’s cool breezes meant that guests didn’t need to worry about mosquitoes.  The trail continues for about 2 kilometers until it reaches Yonge Street.  The fields throughout here have been replanted with rows of young trees.  Before too long this area will all be a new forest.  Signs of the fall are in the fields and trees where the bright greens of summer are giving way to yellows and reds of fall.  Rows of newly planted trees can be seen in the background of the picture below.

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After the success of the  1901 season the company invested in a concert pavilion and baseball fields.  They kept a boat called The Gypsy to carry passengers around the lake, delivering them to various wharves.  Row boats could be rented for those who wanted to casually explore the lake.    The remains of the electric power generating station are close to Yonge Street and both the substation and the foundations for the generating building have been presented in two previous posts.  The Toronto & York Radial Railway and the Electric Railway Generating Plant describe this site in greater detail and with many pictures.  The foundations for the power house remain but the building itself has been removed.  The archive photo below shows how the power house looked.  Today, just the cut stone blocks of the foundation remain and they are being taken over by the forest.

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A car repair barn was constructed near the generating facility but not much remains other than the corner of two walls.

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Sticking to the side of the lake the trail becomes little more than a footpath after leaving the formal trail.  Along this little pathway, not far from the substation, is an old pump house.

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The park was the first “electric park” in Ontario meaning that it was the first one to have electric lighting and later a merry-go-round.  The foundations for the gatehouse and station can still be seen along the trail.

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Hopefully you won’t be needing the washrooms as they look like they need a serious cleaning.

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In 1936 Robert Clifford and Edith Gamble built a cottage on the lake.  It has been abandoned and is starting to decay.  There was a front porch but it has since collapsed.  It is just one of many buildings that were along the lake shore.  Bond Lake Inn and Stables are also now long gone.  The first pavilion, wading pool and merry go round have also all disappeared.  The second pavilion has been moved and is now in use as a three-car garage.

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The construction of this log cabin illustrates a skill in dovetailing.  This woodworking technique likely predates recorded history as examples have been found in First Dynasty Egyptian tombs (around 3000 B.C.) and in ancient Chinese Emperor’s tombs.  A series of trapezoid pins on one part match with tails cut on the mating part.  Once set, a dovetail joint has a very high tensile strength, or resistance to being pulled apart, and requires no mechanical fasteners.  Pioneers created log homes with dovetail corners that are still standing 200 years later.

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Another sure sign of the coming of autumn is the yellow of goldenrod in the meadows.  There are about 120 species of this plant and they are often blamed for hay fever.  In reality the pollen is very heavy and sticky and isn’t windblown.  Ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the normal problem for most people.  The young leaves can be eaten and goldenrod is used in herbal tea.  The plant is a prime source of nectar for bees, flies, wasps and butterflies.

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There are many other foundations and ruins at Bond Lake but it appears that more time should be spent when there are no leaves on the trees.  This is a very interesting place to explore.

Google Maps link: Bond Lake

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Toronto & York Radial Railway

Sunday Sept. 4, 2016

The Metropolitan Street Railway Company of Toronto was incorporated on March 2, 1877 and began service with animals pulling railcars up Yonge Street in 1885.  On Sep. 1, 1890 electrical power was used for the first time, however, this didn’t last.  Animal power was re-instituted within a few weeks and left in use until May 1891 when the electric service was resumed.  In 1893 the name was simplified to Metropolitan Street Railway Company and then in 1897 to simply Metropolitan Railway Company.  On October 26, 1896 the contract to build the 16 kilometer line from Hoggs Hollow to Richmond Hill was given to a Pittsburgh company who had only 24 days to complete the task.  Three hundred men worked in 3 crews and finished with three hours to spare.  The first train rolled into Richmond Hill on November 19th with the official opening coming on January 27, 1897.  Service was extended to Aurora and Newmarket by 1899 and the Metropolitan continued until Nov. 1, 1904.

On Nov. 1, 1904 the Toronto Railway Company acquired the line and it became the Toronto & York Radial Railway.  The City of Toronto bought the line in August 1922 and between January 1927 and March 16, 1930 it was operated by the TTC.  When service was suspended the municipalities got involved and contracted the TTC to run it for them.  On October 9, 1948 they were finally forced to admit that the service had been made obsolete by the personal automobile.

To accommodate passengers and freight the railway created a series of stops and constructed a variety of waiting rooms and stations.  The picture below shows one of the simple waiting rooms, this one originally on the west side of Yonge Street at Royal Orchard Boulevard in Thornhill.  It has been restored and moved just south to Cricklewood Park.  Other, more substantial stations survive, having been converted to other uses.  Queensville and Willow Beach Stations are now private residences.  Keswick is a law office while Sutton has been converted to use as a real estate office.

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The railway expanded north from Richmond Hill and in 1899 it built a generating station at Bond Lake.  The stonework for the boilers and furnaces remains on site but they are getting overgrown and there are well established trees in the rows between the furnaces.  The substation was built from brick but by the mid 1950’s it had been covered over with aluminum siding and was in use as a private residence.  It has since been abandoned and has two large holes in the roof.  Unlike other artifacts from the rail line there appears to be no interest in preserving this one.  There are many more pictures of this site that were presented in a pictorial called Electric Railway Generating Plant.

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A former bridge abutment in Aurora marks the original route of the railway into town.  It is located just east of Yonge Street off of Industrial Parkway.  It was built in 1899 to support a trestle across the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).  The 9 foot column of limestone blocks was abandoned in 1922 when the trestle was removed.  The radial line was relocated next to the Yonge Street underpass for the GTR.

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Newmarket was becoming the economic centre for a large area and in 1883 they decided to build a new town hall.  The Italianate Style building housed a successful farmer’s market on the first floor and  the town offices on the upper one.  The train entered Newmarket along the side of the town hall and had it’s station and freight sheds where the parking lot is across the street.

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The railway made it’s way north toward Queen Street via Raglan but it’s not possible to walk through there anymore.  You can go to Church Street where you will see the house pictured below.  The Newmarket Historical Society has done a great job of identifying homes in the old town core and placing a plaque showing the original owner, their occupation and the date of the home.  This Late Victorian home was built in 1894 for a painter named Ernest E. Groome.

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The tracks followed Queen Street across Main Street to the GTR tracks where it departed from the street on it’s own trestle.  The abutment still remains on the side of the tracks along with a smaller one that can be seen through the arch.

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In 1909 the railway built the parabolic arch bridge that still spans the Holland River.  It was one of the first concrete arches built in Canada and supported the trestle that crossed the river here and the GTR tracks above.  It spans the river at 15 meters wide and rises 7 meters above it.  Newmarket also has the very unique remains of an abandoned canal that proposed to connect the city with Lake Simcoe using the Holland River.  When this portion of the railway was abandoned in 1930 the trestle was demolished.  The arch has been recognized for it’s historic value and is being preserved by the city and the South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority giving the city a second unique piece of transportation history.  The arch is also featured in the cover photo.

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By 1850 there were over 9,000 miles of railway track in the United States and only 60 in Canada.  On October 15, 1851 a sod turning ceremony was held in Toronto to mark the start of the city’s railway era.  The Ontario, Simcoe and Lake Huron Union Company made it’s first business run on May 16, 1853 going as far as Machell’s Corners (Aurora), 30 miles north of the city.  Construction continued north in 1853 reaching Allendale later that year.  After a series of mergers the GTR acquired this line in 1888.  By 1900 passenger and freight traffic was still increasing and so a new station was built.  It is a simple one story wood frame structure with wood cladding.  The style is Queen Anne Revival that was popular between 1880 and 1910.

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The North York Registry Office was built in Newmarket in 1884 to replace an 1863 building that sat on the lot to the immediate south.  The building was designed to house the records of land titles, births, deaths and marriages in the County of York, except for the Toronto jurisdiction.  It was intended to hold the county records for a period of 50 years.  In the end it served until 1980, just shy of a century.  It was built in a style that was mandated by the Ontario Department of Public Works in 1868.  Today it houses a museum.

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Feb. 14, 2017

A fire at Yonge and St. Clair destroyed the Badminton and Racquet Club building in one of the biggest fires in recent history.  Until 1920 this had been the site of the car barns for the railway.  The TTC was consolidating assets and the building was found to be redundant. There were seven courts laid out in the old car barns and it is said that tracks could still be seen buried in the floor of the racquet club.

October 14, 2021

Another generating station was located at the corner of Kennedy Road and Metro Road. It has since been converted into a private residence.

The Toronto & York Radial Railway built its terminus in Sutton in 1908. The station master and his family lived on the upper floor while the lower one served as the station. Radial service began in Sutton on January 1, 1909 and continued until March 16, 1930. The building was then purchased by the Hydro Electric Power Commission who used it as an office until 1970. It currently serves as home to a real estate brokerage. The beautiful brickwork has been covered over with bland siding but otherwise it remains in good shape with a bay window that no longer looks out over railway tracks.

There are still a couple of artifacts from the railway line that have not been documented. These include the Queensville Station which survives as a private residence.

Here is the link again for the Bond Lake Generating Station.

Google Maps link: Newmarket Radial Arch near Queen Street and Wellington.

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Electric Railway Generating Plant

Tuesday Sept. 6, 2016

An electric railway extended up Yonge Street all the way to Lake Simcoe and then on to Sutton.  Electric railways had to have a continuous supply of electricity and so they built generating stations along their route.  The Toronto & York Radial Railway reached Aurora and Newmarket by 1899 and they built a power generating station at Bond Lake just north of Richmond Hill.  The railway was abandoned in 1930 but soon resurrected until October 1948 when it was finally closed for good.  The need to generate power had ended years before and the facility was no longer needed for it’s original purpose.  The Toronto Public Library has the following picture from April 13, 1955 which shows the substation in relation to the foundations of the steam generating plant in the foreground.  The foundations include the furnace section to the right.  A transmission pole stands near the foundations.  Bond Lake can be seen in the background.  This picture was likely taken from Yonge Street.  The substation is in use as a private residence at this time.

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The front of the substation as it exits in 2016.  The siding is peeling off showing the original brickwork.  The front porch is missing as are all the add on sections to the right in the picture above.  It has been some time since this building served as a home.

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From the rear the old steel substation roof can be seen under the shingles that were not present in 1955.  Two gaping holes in the roof suggest that there isn’t much time left for the historic structure if no one intervenes.

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Notice in the archive picture how the entire area was sparsely treed in 1955.  Now the forest has regenerated around the substation.

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This photo shows Bond Lake as seen from behind the generating station.  A pipe still extends out into the lake.

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The foundations of the steam generating station are seen in this second 1955 photo from the library.

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A similar picture today shows the advance of nature on the station over the past 60 years.  Trees are growing between each of the chambers and it is only a matter of time before they will begin to slowly topple the remaining structures.

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The entrance to one of the furnaces in the steam generating plant can be seen in the following photo.

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The structure is mostly made from cut blocks of limestone as was common for the railway just before the turn of the last century.

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The foundations to the left in the picture of the full site were clear of any trees.  Today there is a young forest around them and they are overgrown with vines.

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This set of wires and poles lays beside the generating plant.

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In 1912 the town of Richmond Hill made a contract with the Toronto & York Radial Railway to buy excess power that they were generating at their Bond Lake plant.  On December 30, 1912 the electric streetlights came on in Richmond Hill for the first time.  Commercial use in stores and homes began at the same time.  A lone transmission pole stands near the generating station.

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In 1899 The Metropolitain Railway purchased the property of William Bell to create a park on the shores of the lake.  It was Ontario’s first electric park with the power being supplied by the railway generating station.  Later, Eldorado Park would build upon the same model.

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More pictures and details of the Toronto & York Radial Railway as well as Bond Lake will be featured in upcoming posts.

Google Maps Link: Bond Lake

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