Lake Simcoe Junction Railway

Triumphal arrival of the LSJR in Sutton in 1877. The band is playing on the festooned arch and everyone has the day off to celebrate. The track is still unballasted, but that will be attended to. The engine is Toronto & Nipissing #6 "Uxbridge" doing the honours. Hubert Brooks Collection

Triumphal arrival of the LSJR in Sutton in 1877. The band is playing on the festooned arch and everyone has the day off to celebrate. The track is still unballasted, but that will be attended to. The engine is Toronto & Nipissing #6 "Uxbridge" doing the honours. Hubert Brooks Collection

The History and Legislation

Not to be confused with the South Simcoe Junction Railway, a contemporary proposal by the Northern Railway of Canada to build from King via Angus to Penetanguishene to ward off prospective competition by the Hamilton & Northwestern Railway. It was never built.

The Lake Simcoe Junction Railway (LSJR) was a branchline that connected the east of York County from the shoreline of Lake Simcoe at Jackson’s Point through Sutton and Mount Albert to the former Toronto & Nipissing Railway at Stouffville.

Like many pioneer lines of the day, it was promoted by businessmen and local communities to be connected to the growing railway network of the nineteenth century. The communities along what is now Highway 48 between Ballantrae and Sutton naturally wished to take advantage of an opportunity to make a convenient connection with Toronto.

This wish was reciprocated by the narrow-gauge Toronto & Nipissing Railway (T&N) that had struck out in the direction of Coboconk with the aim of eventually reaching Lake Nipissing, and a connection to the prospective national transcontinental railway that was emerging into the planning stage.

The attraction of the LSJR for the T&N was the prospect of being able to tap Lake Simcoe at Jackson's Point just as the Northern Railway of Canada was doing at Belle Ewart.

As early as March 1872, a preliminary discussion was held between representatives for the branch line and the T&N. The townships involved were to contribute $100,000 in bonuses, with the hope of the usual government grant of $2,000 a mile, which would net something just over $50,000. The principal “mover and shaker” of the LSJR was Robert McCormack, born in 1818 in New York State of United Empire Loyalist stock. He had established himself as a millwright and in 1852 had become a lumber man in the north-easterly section of Whitchurch. He, along with a number of other local businessmen and landowners, including J.R. Stephenson, ].N. Blake, J.R. Bourchier, John Ramsden, R.A. Riddell, Donald MacDonald, William H. Summerfeldt, Angus Ego, Robert Rowland and David Baker formed the provisional directorship which in turn elected A.G.P. Dodge, M.P. to be president and Robert McCormack to be vice-president.

The (Ontario) charter had been approved on March 29, 1873 (36 Vic. Cap. 75), with full power to lay track, construct piers, wharves, etc. on Lake Simcoe; to construct, purchase, charter and navigate boats or vessels on Lake Simcoe "and the waters adjacent thereto"; to enter into a leasing agreement and to take out gravel for ballasting. The charter required the road to be completed in five years and it also had a three cent cordwood clause. (The transportation of cordwood was contentious. A “cordwood clause” required the railway to carry cordwood, in this case at 3 cents per cord per mile.)

The Government of Ontario duly came across with $53,000 and the townships contributed cheerfully  -- everyone wanted the railway:

The County of York

$ 45,000

North Gwillimbury Township

$ 20,000

Georgina Township

$ 20,000

Whitchurch Township

$ 15,000

 

$100,000

                                 
At the 1873 LSJR annual meeting, the directors authorized negotiation with the T&N for a lease in return for 25 per cent of the gross receipts and a T&N guarantee of the bonds to the extent of $150,000 (approximately 25% of the total issue), for an exchange of free passes and an agreement to carry freight at the same rates as the T&N over T&N tracks. All of this turned out to be a protracted and at times acrimonious affair, but the line did get built and was opened for traffic on October 1, 1877 on the same 3’6” gauge as the T&N.

Altitudes in Canada. 2nd ed. James White

Altitudes in Canada. 2nd ed. James White

Stouffville Junction, looking north, ca 1910-15. Ross Gray Collection

Stouffville Junction, looking north, ca 1910-15. Ross Gray Collection

The branch section gang at Stouffville. Note the light rail. (56lb?) Ivan Harris Collection

The branch section gang at Stouffville. Note the light rail. (56lb?) Ivan Harris Collection

The abandoned branch roadbed curves to the left, to the left of the switchstand. 1979.

The abandoned branch roadbed curves to the left, to the left of the switchstand. 1979.

Engineering details - Sidings and Structures
Early
On December 4, 1877, Mr. D. McKenzie, resident engineer of the LSJR reported to his boss Mr. J.C. Bailey, the chief engineer of the LSJR:

"Messrs. Naismith and Newman are at work doing the things called for in the report. … The following are the sidings built: Stouffville 2,049ft, Ballantrae 610ft, Vivian 1,271ft, Mount Albert 1,272ft, Ravenshoe 1,166ft, Sutton 2,076ft, for a total of 8,444ft. This leaves 2,116ft of siding to make up the two miles required by contract. The position of the frog at Jackson's Point will give a length of 850' of siding at that place when it is completed to the outside of the wharf, which will leave 1,266ft to be used as you may see fit. … the length of 850ft at Jackson's Point will give ample siding room for years to come. … "

Another report* provides other engineering specifications, including those for the stations.

There was to be a water tank, water closet, engine house and turntable at Sutton; a water closet at Blake Station (Ravenshoe/Brown Hill); a water tank and a water closet at Mount Albert, a water closet at Vivian and an engine house and a turntable at Stouffville.

The station houses at Sutton and Mount Albert were to be equal to Stouffville; the station house at Blake/Ravenshoe/Brown Hill was to be equal to Kirkfield, Vivian was to be similar to Eldon, Ballantrae similar to Milliken, the engine houses at Stouffville and Sutton were to have two stalls, the tanks and tank houses at Sutton and Mount Albert were to be similar to those at Cannington and the turntables at Sutton and Stouffville were to be the T&N standard pattern. The dock at Jackson's Point was to be built on piles and to be large enough to hold four 8-wheeled freight cars.

*Archives of Ontario Shanly Papers (reference MU2689A24d Box 26)

Later
The 1907 GTR Bridges and Buildings Inventory records:

a) At Stouffville and Sutton, the engine sheds as one-stall, both built in 1878, of frame construction, with gravel roofs, and in “poor” condition. (As it is evident from the timetables that the daily "mixed" service began and ended at Sutton, it is likely that the Stouffville engine shed was only used on an “as required’ basis. It was not within local memory as of 1980. There is no information as to the fate of the Sutton engine house, but it seems probable that it would not have lasted later than 1928. 

b) At Stouffville and Sutton, the turntables as 49’4½” and 49’8” long respectively, wrought iron and cast iron respectively, both with a capacity of 45 tons. At Stouffville, the turntable did remain in its stockade on the west side of the main line until abandonment of the branch. At Sutton, the turntable reportedly remained until the early 1940s, when it was replaced by a wye.

c) At Stouffville and Sutton, “water stations”, with water sources from creek and well respectively.

d) At Jackson’s point, no ice houses (owned by the GTR), but a dock “piles planked”, built in 1901, in good condition.  

e) Stations:

Location & miles

Dimension in ft

Built

Condition

Agency and notes

  0.00 Stouffville

25X31, 17½ high

1886

good

agency

  5.90 Ballantrae

20X40, 13 h

1878

fair

station and section dwelling, no agent

  8.56 Vivian

20X40, 13 h

1878

good

Station and section house, no agent

12.68 Mount Albert

25X60, 14 h

1878

fair

agency

16.36 Zephyr

platform

 

 

 

19.04 Brown Hill

21½X21½,15½ h

1878

good

Remodelled 1906. Agency

22.03 Baldwins

platform

 

 

 

25.22 Sutton

25X60, 13h

1878

good

Remodelled 1901. Agency

26.52 Jackson’s Point

waiting & baggage room

1893

good

Remodelled 1901. Also two baggage shelters 12X30, 11 high

Taking up the Ballantrae Spur track near the 9th Concession. Ca 1930. Eugene Lemon photo

Taking up the Ballantrae Spur track near the 9th Concession. Ca 1930. Eugene Lemon photo

Looking along the roadbed southeast to Stouffville at the Bloomington Sideroad. 1978

Looking along the roadbed southeast to Stouffville at the Bloomington Sideroad. 1978

Ballantrae station ca 1925. This was a combination waiting room and section dwelling. L Bert Bates, section man, R Dan Baker, section foreman. Markham District Historical Museum

Ballantrae station ca 1925. This was a combination waiting room and section dwelling. L Bert Bates, section man, R Dan Baker, section foreman. Markham District Historical Museum

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