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Whitby and Lindsay Railway, Ontario, Canada
In 1868, a charter was granted to a Whitby and Port Perry Railway
Company, with permission to build from Port Whitby, on Lake Ontario,
to Port Perry on Lake Scugog. The company was very weak financially,
but, after enduring many vicissitudes of fortune, it succeeded in
running trains over the road by the spring of 1872. In May, 1873,
the road was bought up by Messrs. Austin, Fulton, Michie, and
An extension to Lindsay now seemed desirable, and in the autumn of
1875 the company succeeded, through a series of public meetings, in
obtaining a vote of $85,000 from the group of municipalities about
and including Lindsay.. In a crucial campaign meeting at Downeyville,
Sir William Mulock, then solicitor for the railway, found argument
of no avail ,but carried the by-law by giving North Emily three
jokes, two songs, and a Irish clog dance. A grant of $2000 per mile
from the government was also engineered.
Work began in the summer of 1876. The surveyor was a Mr. Manning, of
Uxbridge; the consulting engineer was Frank Shanly, of Toronto; and
the contractors were Messrs. Gibson and Dixon. By noon on June 15,
1877, the track laying gang had reached Albert Street, Lindsay. In
honor of the event, Veitch's Hotel presented them with a whole
barrel of booze, which inspired them to hold a "navy parade" around
the streets of the town. The inaugural trip over the new line was
made on July 31, 1877. The distance from Whitby to Port Perry had
been 20 miles, and from Port Perry to Lindsay 25 miles.
A fourth road, "The Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Ottawa River
Railway," was chartered in 1872. It was to be a narrow gauge line,
running north from Lindsay through the back townships of Victoria
and Peterborough counties and on to join the prospected line of the
Canadian Pacific Railway near Mattawa.
The name was soon changed to "The Victoria Railway" and the gauge to
the American standard.
Strenuous opposition to the road was raised by the town of
Peterborough, the southern townships of Peterborough county, and the
township of Fenelon; while Lindsay, the unincorporated village of
Fenelon Falls, and the northern townships of Peterborough county
gave the project their enthusiastic support. Municipal blockades
against bonus granting were removed in 1874 by making Fenelon Falls
an incorporated village and incorporating 23 northern townships (20
from Peterborough county and 3 from Victoria county) as the
Provisional County of Haliburton. Bonuses were then forthcoming, and
the first sod of the railway was turned at Lindsay, on August 5,
1874, by the Hon. C. F. Fraser, Commissioner of Public Works.
The president and dominant spirit of the company was George Laidlaw,
later of Bexley; the vice-president was C. J. Campbell; and the
chief engineer was James Ross, later a Montreal millionaire. The
directors were W. W. Copp, C. W. Bunting, J. C. Fitch, R. Barber,
Wm. Thomson, George Stephen and H. P. Dwight.
The section from Lindsay to Kinmount was undertaken first. Here
perhaps the chief difficulty lay in grubbing out huge pine stumps.
Specifications called for a 200-ft. bridge over the Old Distillery
Creek; a 500-foot bridge and a 3000-foot fill at McLaren's Creek; a
$20,000 bridge over the Fenelon River; and a 133-foot single span
Howe truss bridge over the Burnt River. Rock cuttings were heavy
near Fenelon Falls and for the last four miles into Kinmount.
Work was twice interrupted during the general financial depression
of 1875. A colony of Icelanders, some 300 men, women and children in
all, had been brought in and settled at Kinmount in 1874 in order to
help along the construction work. Dysentery demoralized their
efforts for a time; various difficulties arose; and they finally
migrated to Manitoba in a body in September 1875.
Steel reached Kinmount in October 1876; Further railway building was
held up for a time through lack of funds but in 1877 Laidlaw secured
a grant of $8000 per mile from the provincial government and a bonus
of $3000 per mile from the Canada Land and Emigration Company, which
controlled a large part of Haliburton county.
The chief obstacles encountered in the remaining 22 miles were heavy
rock cuttings and a morass or "sink hole," four miles north of
Kinmount, which swallowed up thousands of carloads of ties, trees,
and earth before it was finally bridged. The 56 miles of railroad
from Lindsay to Haliburton village were opened for traffic on
November 26, 1878.
At its Lindsay terminus the road first merely branched off from the
Midland Railway at a "Victoria Junction" (still marked on government
topographical maps, though vanished long since from the earth) at
the head of William Street North. An extension was later built down
Victoria Avenue and a station built on that thoroughfare near its
intersection with Glenelg Street. The first agent was the late James
C. Leonard, who was later enthroned in the hierarchy of the C.P.R.
Numerous attempts have been made to carry the Victoria Railway
beyond Haliburton, but none have succeeded.