Schomberg & Aurora Railway


The Early History
The Legislation
Overview of the Toronto-based streetcar and radial systems
The Railway
The Route, Stops, Stations and other Structures
Operations - General
The Equipment
Remains of the Line
Acknowledgments, Sources and Recommendations for Further Reading


The nineteenth century was a general scramble by communities, large and small, to “get on the railway grid”. There was real foreboding that if one did not succeed, the hard-won place in the New World would wither and die, and indeed there are many places that never progressed from “cross-roads” hamlet; or, more poignantly, became ghost villages. Local citizens were prepared to shell out generous “bonuses” (subscriptions, inducements, bribes - whatever) to get onto that grid, as government support for the flood of railway proposals had dried to a trickle by the 1870s. Indeed, as it turned out, even for those communities who had successfully connected to “the railway grid”, their railway was in many cases doomed to wither and die, beginning for the most part during the 1930s Big Depression. The best that could be hoped for was that the hard-won railway connection had allowed the local place to grow beyond “cross roads” status by having its local economy take solid root, enabling it to continue to thrive in whatever new direction this rapidly-changing world would dictate.

The Early History

For some places, such as King City and Aurora, access to the railway grid came naturally as they happened to be in the path of a project with a larger object. For a place such as Schomberg that was “off the beaten path”, it was usually a matter of local initiative, taken by local government or members of its leading citizenry.  Schomberg was originally called Brownsville, after the founding Brown family from Pennsylvania, and it was a scion entrepreneur of this family who organized a provisional board of directors to apply for a federal charter in 1896.  The stimulus for this initiative was the extension of the (Toronto) Metropolitan Street Railway. Up to 1890, it had operated a horse car line on Yonge Street, north from the CPR station at Summerhill. It converted to electrically-operated streetcars, and then continued to push north, reaching Richmond Hill in 1897 and Newmarket in 1899. For Schomberg, a connection to the larger market place was now within reach.

The Metropolitan Railway terminus station in the electric era. Location near what is now the former CPR North Toronto station at Summerhill on Yonge Street. City of Toronto Archives

The Metropolitan Railway terminus station in the electric era. Location near what is now the former CPR North Toronto station at Summerhill on Yonge Street. City of Toronto Archives

The Legislation

Railway charters could be granted by either the (then) Dominion parliament, or the Ontario legislature, and this railway was unusual in that it received charters, permissions or amendments from both.

The original Dominion incorporation of the Schomberg and Aurora Ry. Co. in 1896 authorized it “to build from [a] point between King and Newmarket to Schomberg, via Kettleby …” Straightforward enough.

In the following year (1897), the Dominion charter was amended to provide for a subsidy “for 15 miles of the above line” [from Bond Lake to Schomberg the line was 14.42 miles long]. This provision was renewed in 1901.

Further, in 1900 the Dominion charter was amended to provide for a subsidy for an “extension to Bond’s [sic] Lake”; and also an “extension [of the] line to Shelburne, Glenelg, Durham and Oshawa”; and further permission for an “agreement with [the] Metropolitan Ry. Co. for lease or sale of [the] Schomberg and Aurora line”; and a time extension (an allowance of further time for whatever the charter has granted to be accomplished. If anything was not performed within the time granted by the charter, that permission, or the charter itself could lapse). The plot thickens.

In 1901 the Ontario Legislature granted permission for “aid to [the] railway company [the S&A] by [the] Township of King”, and further – significantly – that the “Metropolitan Ry. Co. may acquire the Schomberg and Aurora Railway”.

And in 1904, that the “Toronto Ry. Co. may acquire stock in [the] Schomberg and Aurora Ry. Co.” (The Toronto Railway Company, owned in partnership by civil engineer James Ross and railway entrepreneur and contractor William Mackenzie, was the franchisee owner of the streetcar system in Toronto between 1891 and 1921, and was the parent company of the Metropolitan Railway, which operated in the then distinct municipality of North Toronto.):

The Toronto Railway Company having acquired the lines and franchises of the Toronto and Mimico Ry., the Toronto and Scarborough Electric Ry., Light and Power Co., the Metropolitan Ry., the Schomberg and Aurora Ry., and the Toronto and York Radial Ry. Co. is beginning to take steps to have the lines connected up. [RSW July 1904]

An interesting side note here is: “A section of the old Belt Line, in the Don Valley, has been purchased by the James Bay Ry. and it is reported that the Schomberg and Aurora Ry., which was constructed by interests connected with the Metropolitan Ry., from near Bond Lake to Lloydtown, will be absorbed by the James Bay Railway.” [RSW December 1904] Obviously that did not come about. Railways then figured importantly in day-to-day news and politics, and rumours were always rife. So of course were changes in intention.

In 1906, the S&A’s Dominion charter was amended again to provide for another time extension, and authorized “branch lines to Collingwood, Bowmanville, Barrie and Sutton”.  It should be noted here that it was common for charters to be geographically far-ranging, thus to provide scope for promoters in future ambitions, or at least negotiations.

From 1906 to 1927, the charter record of the Metropolitan Railway, the Toronto and York Radial Railway and the Schomberg & Aurora Railway (as continuing legal entities) ran more or less in parallel, transferring ownership to the City of Toronto and operation to the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario in 1921, then in 1927 transferring operation back to the City of Toronto, for them to be administered by the Toronto Transportation Commission which had been formed in 1921 to take over the streetcar systems within city limits.

Overview of the Toronto-based streetcar and radial systems

This summary is offered for a better understanding of the somewhat complex nomenclature and interrelationships of the Toronto-area street railway and radial systems:

Toronto Street Railway Company 1861 to 1891
“Toronto” 4’10 7/8” gauge. 
Operated horsecar services within the then inner city limits ending on Yonge Street at the CPR station.

Toronto Railway Company 1891 to 1921
“Toronto” 4’10 7/8” gauge. 
Converted the horsecar services to electric cars, but retained operation within the original city boundaries.

Toronto Civic Railways 1911 to 1921
“Toronto” 4’10 7/8” gauge. Created to operate electric streetcar services in the newly-expanded city boundaries upon the refusal of the Toronto Railway Company to operate beyond the original city boundaries.
Note: This did not include Yonge Street north of the CPR in what was then the separate entity of North Toronto, which was not amalgamated into Toronto until 1912.

Metropolitan (Street) Railway (of Toronto) 1877 to 1904
“Toronto” 4’10 7/8” gauge until 1899, when it converted to the standard 4’8½” gauge. Originally operated horse cars between the Toronto North CPR station and Eglinton Avenue. Operated the first electric cars in 1890 and reached Glen Echo Road in 1892. 

In 1893, its Ontario charter permitted the Metropolitan Street Railway of Toronto to drop “of Toronto” from its legal name, it was then also empowered to have an “agreement with the County of York; extension to Richmond Hill; extension to Newmarket, Markham and Schomberg; electricity as motive power; lands; bonds, etc. etc. …”

In 1897 it reached Richmond Hill and dropped the word “Street” from its legal name, as the line was now more a radial line than a street railway. By 1899, it had reached Aurora and Newmarket. In 1901, it acquired the Schomberg & Aurora Railway. As the Metropolitan division of the T&Y Radial Railway, it reached Jackson’s Point in 1907 and its terminus Sutton two years later.

Toronto & York Radial Railway – Metropolitan Division 1904 to 1930
Standard 4’8½” gauge. In 1904, the Metropolitan Railway was integrated into the new corporate entity of the Toronto & York Radial Railway (itself a subsidiary of the Toronto Railway Company), under the ownership and management of the Mackenzie & Mann syndicate (William Mackenzie and Donald Mann) and was now its “Metropolitan Division” (along with the Scarboro and Mimico radials).

The T&Y was composed of four lines (divisions)*:

Line/Division Predecessor Company Extent of Line Opened Closed
Metropolitan Metropolitan Street Ry CPR mid-town Toronto to Sutton 1885 1930
Schomberg & Aurora** Schomberg & Aurora Ry Oak Ridges to Schomberg 1903 1927
Mimico Toronto and Mimico El Ry & Light Co. Sunnyside to Port Credit 1892 1935
Scarboro Toronto and Scarboro El Ry, Light & Power Co. Kingston Rd at Queen St. to West Hill 1893 1936

*The other Toronto area radial railway, the Toronto Suburban Railway, was not part of this network. The TSR emerged in 1894 from two earlier west-end streetcar lines and reached its zenith in 1917 with the opening of its interurban line to Guelph. Also owned by Mackenzie and Mann, it became part of the Canadian National Electric Railways and ceased operation in 1931.

** The S&A was not a separate division of the T&Y, but a branch of the Metropolitan division.

In 1921, upon the expiry of the Toronto Railway Company’s franchise, it (and hence the T&Y) was purchased by the City of Toronto, which established the Toronto Transportation Commission.

In 1922, management of the radial (including the T&Y) systems was contracted to the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission: “In connection with the Toronto clean up deal, the Toronto & York Radial Ry. lines have passed under the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario's control, and are now known as the Hydro Electric Railways, Toronto & York Division, and are under the jurisdiction of W. R. Robertson, General Superintendent of Railways, Hydro Electric Power Commission. Sir Wm. Mackenzie, heretofore President, and W. H. Moore, heretofore General Manager, T. & Y.R.Ry. have resigned, but no changes in officials have been made in the meantime, C. L. Wilson continuing as Assistant Manager, and F. S. Livingstone as Traffic Manager. T. & Y.R.Ry. cars on the Metropolitan Division, have ceased to run within the city limits, their new southern terminus being at the northern city limits, and the service on Yonge St. within the city is performed by the Toronto Transportation Commission. No changes have been made on the Mimico and Scarboro Divisions.” [CRMW December 1922]

In 1927, the Toronto Transportation Commission (which in 1954 became the Toronto Transit Commission, aka the “TTC” as it is today) took back the management of the radial systems, and proceeded to convert the Metropolitan and Mimico divisions to the 4’10 7/8” gauge. (The Scarboro division had always been on the “Toronto” 4’10 7/8” gauge. The Schomberg & Aurora Railway which was also on the 4’8½” gauge was by then defunct.)

In 1930, upon the abandonment of the T&Y Metropolitan division, North York Township, the village of Richmond Hill and the municipalities of Vaughan and Markham cobbled together an agreement to continue to operate the radial line as far as Richmond Hill as the North Yonge Railways. This lasted until 1948 when its operation fell victim to the prospective cost of replacing the ageing equipment, increasing competition from automobiles, buses and the need to widen Yonge Street.

The route of the S&A in King Township. Twp of King Heritage Committee

The route of the S&A in King Township. Twp of King Heritage Committee

The Railway
Back to the S&A. How the Schomberg Brown family’s application for a charter translated into the actual construction of the railway is a moot point, but since ownership had passed into the hands of Mackenzie and Mann by 1901 [CRMW Dec 1924], it is safe to speculate that this was accomplished with some mutual “coffee house” negotiations. (A charter amendment of the Metropolitan Railway as early as 1893 had included provision for “extension to Newmarket … and Schomberg; electricity as motive power”.)

It is not clear why the S&A was originally a steam road in the context of its emerging umbrella ownership by a radial electric system, but a possible explanation is that this may have been a “wait-and-see-how-it-turns-out” strategy. Be it noted though, that for instance, the London & Port Stanley was originally a steam operation, the Lake Erie & Northern had been planned as one, and the ill-fated Ontario West Shore, intended as an electric radial line, started out as a steam operation.

Summary Index:
Location of starting point and construction - 1901
Initial completion 1902
Removal of the GTR crossing - 1902
Renewed progress 1903
Excitement at Oak Ridges - the sink hole - 1903
Formal completion - 1903
Land claims and the Lloydtown litigation
The Mail
The 1904 winter storm
Installation of a junction with the GTR 1905:  
Winter storm trouble again in 1908
Electrification 1916
Decline and abandonment 1927

Location of starting point and construction - 1901:
As for the S&A, after some evident debate about the location of its starting point, construction began in the late summer of 1901:

The Schomberg and Aurora Ry. was originally projected to be constructed from Aurora, Ont., on the northern division of the G.T.R., to Schomberg, about 18 miles, and Ontario and Dominion subsidies were granted in aid of construction but nothing was done. The Metropolitan Ry. Co. acquired the charter and in 1900 obtained an act authorizing the operation of the line by electricity and varying the route. The new route connects with the Metropolitan Ry. (electric) at Bond Lake, 17 miles from Toronto, and runs in a north-westerly direction to Schomberg, about 15 miles. A contract was let to Mackenzie, Mann & Co. for construction, and work was started last year. Some difficulties in obtaining possession of the right of way have delayed construction. [RSW Feb 1902]

Of interest also is a letter to the editor of the Newmarket Era in 1900:

Dear Sir—Now that we have been called upon to pay the first installment of the bonus, there seems to be some hope of getting the railroad here. We will pay $12,000 cheerfully if we get the road built where it will be the most advantage to the people of Schomberg and this part of the township. The company showed their good judgment when they abandoned the former route from here to Bond's Lake, which would be but very little benefit to us and none financially to the company. Everyone in this part of the township has business at Newmarket or Aurora ten times for the once they have to Toronto; hence it would be more convenient all round if the road from here would connect with their line at a point between Newmarket and Aurora—say at Mulock's corners, which would be about the distance from here to Toronto by that way that it is by the route the Company abandoned last summer, with the advantage to the Company of having about seven miles of the road already built, which means an item of about $60,000, and to us the advantage of a road to those towns where High Schools, Courts, Banks, Registry Office and the Industrial Home are situated. Yours truly, E.C. Schomberg, Jan. 2nd, 1900.

Initial completion 1902:
Evidently, once begun, construction of the line was completed by 1902, although formal approval did not take place until a year later.

Schomberg: Last Friday [Aug. 29] was a notable day in the history of this thriving village, when the last spike of the Schomberg and Aurora Railway was driven by Mrs. Shelton, one of the oldest residents of the place, amidst general rejoicing. The school had a half holiday, and interested ones for miles around came to the village. The first train to arrive was composed of an engine and seven flat cars. Warden Normal of York, J. W. Moyes, and County Engineer McDougall made speeches. Everybody was invited to get on board and were given a free ride to Yonge St. and back. It is hoped that passenger cars will be running at once, reducing the time of travel to Toronto from 5 hours to 1½ hours. [NE September 5 1902]

Special reduced railway rates will be offered from all points to Schomberg during the great fair, Oct. 9 and 10. The train will land you within a stone's throw of the exhibition grounds. … The citizens of Schomberg, in pursuance of a largely signed petition declaring Thursday of last week as their civic holiday, took advantage of the same by accepting a free ride on the S. & A. Ry. to Yonge St., thence to the Toronto Exhibition. … the train left here at 7 a.m. sharp, and returned shortly after 10 p.m., thus allowing them twelve hours in the city. Although the service over the new road was not of the best, it was a marked improvement over the wearisome stage route, which made it almost necessary to sit up all night in order to catch the 9 o'clock train at Aurora. [NE Sep 26, 1902]

Removal of the GTR crossing 1902:
Immediately after this happy event, there was indeed a set-back:

Rails torn up. There is trouble between the Schomberg and Aurora Railway, which is a branch of the Metropolitan, and the G.T.R., a mile or two north of King City. The Schomberg people have to cross the G.T.R. tracks and some time ago laid down their rails. These were torn up by the G.T.R. people last week and now the Schomberg and Aurora Company has applied for an injunction to prevent interference with or obstruction of their crossing on the part of the steam railroad. They also want a mandatory order, obliging the G.T.R. to restore their track in the condition it was before it was torn up. The action of the G.T.R. prevents the Metropolitan from completing the ballasting of the track on Main. [NE October 17, 1902].

... the legal proceedings between the Schomberg & Aurora Railway and the G.T.R, respecting the tearing up of the crossing, near King Station, has resulted in a verdict favorable to the S. & A. Co. Chief Justice Moss said the action of the G.T.R. was a high-handed act, and ordered that company to replace the crossing as it was before Oct. 3rd. [NE October 24, 1902]

(A later report [NE October 30, 1903] noted that “this is not the first time that company has stood in our way, as they first refused to allow our railroad to cross their line, and as a result passengers had to cross it on foot for a time.” This is of interest because it suggests that motive power must have been available on both sides of the breach, and that this interruption contributed to a delay in the proper completion of the line by cutting off the provision of ballast and other materials.)

Renewed progress 1903:
With the GTR dispute apparently resolved, the Newmarket Era reported on June 19, 1903 that “the ballasting on the S. & A. Railway is progressing rapidly and the road seems to be nearing completion. It is now ballasted as far as the 7th line.”

Excitement at Oak Ridges - the sink hole - 1903
Sink holes were a far from uncommon experience in the construction of many early railways, and it seems that the doughty S&A also incurred this headache:

Engine sank to level of smokestack. Peculiar accident to construction engine near Bond Lake.

Residents in the neighborhood of Bond Lake have been given something to wonder at in the spectacle of a huge 45-ton locomotive occupying a most out of the way position deep down in the roadbed of its one time iron path. On Thursday afternoon of last week while a gravel train on the Aurora and Schomberg Railway was passing over a portion of the roadbed, a short distance from the intersection with the Metropolitan Railway, in sight of Curthis' hotel, the remarkable occurrence took place.

A gang of workmen were engaged in ballasting the roadway at this point, and had just finished unloading the gravel cars and were backing down to the gravel pit to reload when Jas. King, foreman of the construction gang, who was standing on a flat car, immediately in the rear of the tender, noticed that the roadway was rapidly sinking. He called to the driver, Norman Walton, apprising him of this danger. Walton instantly reversed the lever and together with the fireman, Wm. Obe, jumped from the engine. The point at which this remarkable incident has taken place, while always regarded as swampy, and the soil as soft and spongy, was never regarded as dangerous.

An Era reporter visited the spot on Friday, and the sight is truly a queer one. The monster engine has buried herself to a depth of fully 15 feet in sand and water, carrying the track along for a distance of probably 50 feet. In a lesser degree the track has subsided from 2 to 10 feet. Previous to the accident the roadway on either side was almost on a level with the railway tracks, but a most remarkable feature in connection with the sinking of the rolling stock and track is the effect produced on the roadway on either side. On the north side of the track, for a distance of probably 100 feet, a deep fissure was formed, which was subsequently refilled, and the whole elevated to a height of 10 feet. Some estimates may be formed of the situation from the fact that the smoke stack of the engine is on a lower level than the roadway.

With characteristic promptness and energy, J. W. Moyes, general manager, at once instituted plans for the release of the engine tender. A power traction engine, operating a rotary pump, was installed Friday, trenches for carrying off the water were dug, and every know appliance is being employed for the rapid prosecution of the work. Mr. Moyes said that in addition to the above machinery a 30 horse-power traction engine would be added on Saturday to the equipment, and the general manager hopes that the work of restoration will be completed by Saturday night.

As to the cause of the catastrophe opinions are rife, the generally accepted opinion being that quick sand is largely responsible. But for the iron rails the engine would probably sank out of sight. During Thursday night it went down 6 feet.

Later—The engine was got out Saturday night. [NE August 7 1903]

Formal completion 1903:
Despite this alarum and excursion, indeed by late 1903, the S&A was officially completed and approved:

Schomberg: Contractor Innis of Richmond Hill was in town on Monday engaged in the duty of measuring off the ground for the construction of the Schomberg depot. We understand the building is to be about seventy feet in length, including freight sheds, etc. and that work is to be commenced on it at once. The latest report is to the effect that we are to have a regular service by the opening of the Toronto Exhibition, but people have heard so many reports about this line that after this they will see before believing. [NE August 21 1903]

Schomberg: Some twenty-five men, engaged on the S. & A. railway, are now stationed in town and are busy putting the finishing touches on that line of railroad. The road has been graveled as far as Mr. Pearson's farm just outside Schomberg, the cattle guards have been erected and things seem to point to the early commencement of regular railroad traffic. The employees are engaged in extending the main line towards the depot, leaving the present terminus as a switch. The main line will leave the present track about two-hundred yards back and will run between the barn and house situated on the railroad property which formerly belonged to Mrs. Sloan. The house, which is a brick one, will be converted to a brick depot, and thus we will have a brick depot, something seldom seen in a small place. The barn will be used as a freight shed until it is convenient for the company to erect a regular shed. … As to there being a regular railroad service to and from Schomberg during Exhibition week we are not able to say. A turntable is also being erected here so as to be in operation by the time traffic opens. [NE September 11, 1903]

Schomberg: The Government Engineer took a trip over the S. & A. on Tuesday, it being his duty to inspect and see if it met the requirements of the law, as it was a new road. His report is very favorable as he found everything in the best of shape and the road meeting in every manner what is demanded by law.

The railroad service continues regularly now, and for the begging, the company is doing a fair business, in the passenger line. As soon as freight begins to come by rail, business on the line will be better. By a rush to the depot each time a train is due, it would be easy to tell that Schomberg is a new railroad village and that the people are not used to the coming and going of trains. [NE October 2, 1903]

A gang of men have commenced work at the depot here, to build a round house, and we understand will put in a turning table, the latter highly necessary as the engine will be unable to back in when the snow gets deep. [NE December 4, 1903]

And to top it all off, a very amusing spectacle it may have been, but it is doubtful that today’s Transportation Safety Board would have been very amused:

Schomberg: On Friday evening last when the last train was leaving for Toronto it was found that it was not large enough to hold the passengers. Fortunately a flat car was near at hand and was secured and board[ed] up to try to fill the bill. It was hardly sufficient to carry all even yet, as they were packed into it in every way imaginable, and as it moved out it presented a very amusing spectacle. [NE Oct 23 1903]

As a postscript to the events of 1903, we know that neither the “turning table” nor “the roundhouse” came about. It could have been a cub reporter’s enthusiasm or a grandiose plan, but whatever the truth, the lack of a turning facility at Schomberg remained a headache until eventual electrification of the line, and indeed must have been a factor in the decision to electrify it.

Land claims and the Lloydtown litigation:
In the meantime, the usual land claim disputes and requests for compensation were in progress:

The dispute between Mr. William Smith of King Township and the Schomberg & Aurora Electric Railway, which came before Mr. James A. Proctor for hearing, has been concluded. The dispute concerned one and three quarter acres of land appropriated by the new line. The award directs the railway to pay for the property $115, and for damages resulting from the railway passing through Mr. Smith's farm $500, with full costs of arbitration. Before the proceedings were taken the company offered $215 for full compensation. A number of property owners along the route are presenting similar claims before Judge Morgan. [NE November 28, 1902]

His Worship Judge Morgan, and a posse of solicitors, accompanied the officials and Engineer McDougall on a tour of inspection over the S. & A. railroad, with a view of arriving at some definite basis for valuating the farms affected by the passing thru of the road. A prompt and reasonable settlement will, no doubt, be made, as Judge Morgan has been appointed sole arbitrator on all points of dispute. [NE October 23, 1902]

A more significant dispute was a protracted action in 1903 by Lloydtown, a community around the corner from Schomberg:

An action is being heard at Toronto against the S. and A. Ry. Co., by shareholders of the Metropolitan Ry. who acquired the shares of Capt. Armstrong and other promoters of the line, for damages for breach of contract. The allegation is that the plans for the railway were changed in such a way that the line was not built to Lloydtown. An endeavour was made to effect a settlement, but it failed and evidence is being taken by Judge Winchester. [RSW Aug 1903]

It is said that the main line will be extended by the company, if they are compelled to do so across the exhibition grounds to Lloydtown. Whether the road will be extended to that village or not will be known on Saturday, as on that day the case will come up before Judge Winchester of Toronto. The decision of the Judge will be awaited with interest in this vicinity. [NE September 11, 1903]

A parallel report by the Newmarket Era is of particular interest, because it sheds light on the back room machinations behind the construction of any railway:

The proposed settlement of the Aurora and Schomberg arbitration, which seemed to be in sight a week ago, is further away than ever, and the fight is on again. The dispute is as to the location of the electric railway of that name, Captain Armstrong and others living in Lloydtown, who became shareholders because of the benefits they expected to accrue from its construction, objecting to the deviation which left Lloydtown to the side. Last Saturday engineers reported a compromise route for the line in accordance with the suggestion of Judge Winchester, but after consideration, the railway, which is now controlled by William Mackenzie, declined to adopt the course mapped out for it. Consequently the case went on today before his Honor. Mr. C. D. Warren, president of the Metropolitan Railway, was put in the box, and said the line would never have been built if his company had not taken over the charter from the Armstrongs, who had never received any bonus.

Mr. Warren deposed that he personally, and not the Metropolitan, had directed Manager Moyes to see the Armstrongs and secure the charters from them which they had obtained from the Government. Options were secured and Mr. Moyes was compensated for his work. He did not know that it was because the proposed line would be a convenience to the villages of Lloydtown and Schomberg that the Government granted the charter, but the extension of the charter was certainly opposed more or less vigorously. The next extension the Metropolitan now had under contemplation was from Schomberg to Meaford.

It was in February, 1901, that his control of the road passed over to William Mackenzie, and not to Mackenzie & Mann, as a letter written by him at the time stated. He relinquished control by an agreement by which, in order to keep good faith with Captain Armstrong and the people of Lloydtown, he insisted that Mr. Mackenzie, in buying the Metropolitan, should buy out his interest in the Schomberg line and build the extension to Lloydtown. When the line was diverted and did not run close to the Armstrong residence Captain Armstrong was very angry, claiming that faith with him had been broken. Witness did not think the railway was bound to any line, but that it would be allowed to deviate a mile at least either way.

Mr. Warren admitted to Captain Armstrong's counsel that the latter's company would have been entitled to $45,000 in bonuses from the Dominion Government, if they had built the line, or at the rate of $3,200 a mile. [NE September 11 1903]

The award of the arbitrator, Judge Winchester, in the action of Capt. Armstrong, of Lloydtown, against the S. and A. Ry. Co., is not likely to be given out for some time. The proceedings arise out of what Capt. Armstrong says is a breach of the agreement when the Metropolitan Ry. took over the S. and A. Ry. from the original promoters. This agreement stated that the line was to be constructed to Lloydtown or near thereto, but the line as constructed does not touch Lloydtown. The plaintiffs state that there is a practicable route to the village, and the company alleges that there is not. Evidence upon this point has been heard by the arbitrator at length.[RSW Oct 1903]

The arbitrator’s ruling is not to hand, but since the railway never did go beyond Schomberg, the outcome was obviously in favour of the railway, as no extension to Lloydtown occurred, but the petitioners may of course have obtained damages.

The mail:
To return to the “bread and butter” of all railways of the day, then there was the matter of the carrying of mail to be sorted (Yes, there is a pun there):

Schomberg: Tenders are now advertised for the carrying of the mail to Lloydtown and Schomberg post offices from the depot here and will be received until November 26th, when an appointment will be made. At present the contract is in the hands of Mr. Jas. McDougall who performs the above duties, twice each day. [NE Oct 23 1903]

Schomberg: Dr. Coulter, Deputy Postmaster-General of Canada, was in town on Thursday of last week and made arrangement by which the citizens of Schomberg could enjoy a regular railway mail service, something they had long desired. Morning and evening papers are now to be had in exchange for one mail a day, which came in between one and three o'clock. Morning and evening papers are to be had every day, while before we only received the morning papers, and now it is possible to write a letter in Schomberg and receive an answer the same day. Following is the time of the arrival and leaving of the mails—First mail leaves Schomberg at 7 a.m.; first mail arrives Schomberg at 8.45 a.m.; second mail leaves at 5.45 p.m., and second mail arrives in town at 7.45 p.m. This service is now a permanent one, and the public may be assured of the prompt and safe arrival and delivery of their mail by this means. The people of Lloydtown will also share in the benefits of a twice-a-day service, as under the mail contract now advertised the mail is to be carried to the post office, Schomberg, and to Lloydtown and back again twice a day. [NE Oct 28 1903]

The 1904 winter storm:
A major operating challenge throughout the short existence of this railway were winter snow storms, and the winter of 1904 was especially fierce:

Aurora: The engine on the Schomberg railway broke down last week and the mails for Kettleby, Lloydtown and Schomberg have for the past week been sent from here on sleighs. On Saturday evening a number of passengers came up to Oak Ridges to go out to Schomberg only to find there was no train and they had to remain at Oak Ridges over Sunday. The contract for carrying the mail to Kettleby, Schomberg and Lloydtown should not have been given to the railway company. It has disorganized the mail service and utterly destroyed the passenger traffic. The proprietors of the stage line between here and Schomberg were unable to continue the stage after losing the mail contract. The Post Office Department should cancel the contract with the Railway Company and restore it to the proprietors of the stage line.—Banner. [NE January 29, 1904]

A paragraph in a city evening paper states that the Aurora-Schomberg Railway, which, by the way, is not nearer than four miles [sic] of the town, is not a complete success. The one engine, which is named Annie Rooney, is run into winter quarters and the mail and passengers are carried from there in a sleigh. [NE February 5, 1904]

Such a storm. The thunder and lightning early Sunday morning was followed by the worst storm of the season on Monday afternoon. Roads were blocked in every direction. … The trolley was tied up for several days. It has been an awful winter for the railroad and electric lines. … In the surrounding country the roads were blocked in all directions and path-masters had to order the men out to do statute labor. In many beats the men shoveled snow all day. ... [NE Mar 4 1904]

Schomberg: [Ed note: Playfully tongue-in-cheek, but likely no humour without some truth:] The residents of Schomberg will be pleased to hear any information of the S. and A. Railway which disappeared about the middle of January. [NE Apr 8 1904]

[Ed. Note, more soberly:] Kettleby: Our railroad will soon be in operation again. [NE Apr 8 1904]

[Ed. Note: One might surmise that the Newmarket Era had its editorial nose out of joint with the S&A:] Aurora: The Schomberg Railway is again practically out of business. Some time ago the old locomotive on the line broke down and the company then installed a gasoline engine in an old Metropolitan coach. This arrangement worked all right to take the coach out but they could not run back and as they have no means of turning the car at either end of the line it had to be abandoned. The mail is now taken from here by a rig hired by the company. [NE August 5, 1904]

Nevertheless, the reference to this early gasoline engine in a motor coach “arrangement” is of interest. It does not seem to have been reported elsewhere, but is a precursor to an experiment that was conducted in 1912, and which was reported. [See below under Equipment.]

Installation of a junction with the GTR 1905:  
With the 1903 battle of the crossing itself resolved, an actual connection with the GTR at the crossing made obvious sense, at least from the perspective of the S&A, in facilitating traffic onto its line – in fairness, for the benefit of the customers it served as well as being in its own revenue interests. But the S&A was owned by Mackenzie and Mann of the Canadian Northern Railway, and that of course was a late-entrant competitor with the GTR. So:

Schomberg: The S. & A. Ry. Co. is again at war with the G.T.R., as the result of the refusal of the latter company to handle freight which would be afterwards carried to Schomberg by the S. & A. Ry. As is generally known, the only way to bring the freight for Schomberg to Bond's Lake, the beginning of the Schomberg line is by the G.T.R., and as the latter refuse to do this, we must still adhere to the old plan of having our freight teamed from Kleinburg, although a little is brought by rail at present. The promoters of the S. & A. line are making every effort to have the G.T.R. handle their freight and they have every prospect of being successful. … [NE Oct 30 1903]

Evidently the outcome was in favour of the S&A:

The Railway Commission have allowed the Schomberg and Aurora Railway Co. to cross the G. T. R. at the junction of these two lines between King and Aurora stations, and also given power to effect a junction with the latter. This carries the right of reciprocal traffic. [NE April 22, 1904]


Schomberg and Aurora Ry.—Arrangements are being completed for effecting a junction of the tracks with the S. and A. Ry. with those of the G.T.R. at King, Ont..) [RSW Feb 1905]

Arrangements have been made for a connection with the G.T.R. at King station, for dealing with through freight. [RSW Aug 1905]

The connecting loop was made in the southeasterly quadrant of the S&A’s intersection with the GTR.

Winter storm trouble again 1908:
The terrain of the S&A was hilly and windswept, and another fierce winter occurred in 1908:

Kettleby: After being closed five weeks with snow blockade, the Schomberg Railway was re-opened for traffic last week. [NE March 20, 1908]

Schomberg: With railway traffic resumed local business, which has been more or less seriously affected during the past few weeks, will resume its activity. [NE March 20, 1908]

Electrification 1916:
This was unquestionably the peak of the S&A’s existence. While the lead-in to the S&A’s charter had not referred as being for an electric line, that of the Metropolitan Railway charter amendment of 1893 in its early agreement with the County of York had included Schomberg as a destination with “electricity as motive power”. The trend of the day was towards an expansion of the radial railway system, not just around Toronto, but all across southern Ontario, with a myriad of proposed lines that never did get built.

The Schomberg and Aurora Ry., a subsidiary of the Toronto & York Radial Railway, is being electrified. It is 15 miles long, extending from Schomberg, Ont., to a junction with the T. & Y. at Yonge St., near Bond Lake, about four miles south of Aurora, and has been operated by steam power. The rolling stock consists of a steam locomotive, two passenger cars [Ed. Note: In actuality this may have been two steam locomotives and one passenger car] and 15 flat cars. … The electrification will be similar to that of the Toronto & York Radial Railway, for which it will form a feeder. … Power will be delivered to the line at the line voltage of 600 volts from the Bond Lake substation. Toronto & York Radial Railway rolling stock will be used. The work is being done by the Toronto & York Radial Railway line crew in its spare time, no extra forces being employed on the work. … Part of the material necessary for the purpose has been ordered. [CRMW July 1915]


Schomberg and Aurora Ry.—We are officially advised that this railway, extending from a junction with the Toronto and York Radial Railway's Metropolitan Division at Bond Lake to Schomberg, Ont., 14.42 miles, which has hitherto been operated by steam, has been electrified. … It is expected to start the electrical operation about Feb. 1. [CRMW Feb 1916]

Decline and Abandonment 1927:
Throughout its existence, the S&A had always been on the edge of financial viability. For instance, the Dominion of Canada Railway Statistics for the year ending June 1908 confirm that the S&A was struggling. Passenger revenue was $4,309, freight revenue $4,628, for a total of $8,937, but expenses were $13,722, for a net loss of $4,785.

Electrification in 1916 brought the S&A into the much larger Toronto & York Radial Railway. It is reasonable to suppose that either any continuing losses became a minor item in the much larger financial profile of the T&Y operation, or that electrification and the increasing popularity of the radial lines may have indeed put the S&A “into the black” for a few years before the ravages of the 1920s started to set in. With the advent of the automobile and the steady improvement of the road network, its future, along with that of the other radial railways was soon in doubt. Those “elephants in the room” were compounded with the vagaries of railway and hydro politics of the day. By 1924 the beginning of the end for the S&A was at hand.

First round:

Schomberg & Aurora Railway's future: The Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario, which operates the Toronto and York Radial Ry. lines, which were acquired by the City of Toronto in 1921, as part of the "clean up" deal of the Mackenzie interests, had under consideration, on Nov. 14, a recommendation by its engineers that the Metropolitan Division's Schomberg branch be abandoned; the track and overhead work, etc. be salvaged and the right of way sold. The Commission is stated to have received the report favorably and passed it on to the city council for discussion and decision. The city council considered it on Nov. 17, and it was decided to ask the Commission for a further report with reasons for the conclusions arrived at.

The report that the railway might be abandoned caused considerable alarm in the area served, and arrangements are reported to have been made for meetings to protest against the proposed action. York County Council will be asked to join with King Township Council in the protest. It is pointed out that the agreement between the City of Toronto and the Commission as to the operation of the lines, provides in sec. 11 that if at any time any one or more of the municipalities through which the line passes applies to the Commission for admission as a party to the agreement for the acquisition and operation of the railway or for the extension of the same through the territory of such municipality, the Commission shall arrange for a vote to be taken to authorize such municipalities to enter into an agreement, setting out terms, etc.

It is therefore open to King Township to take steps under this section to have an agreement drawn up under which the branch may be operated under municipal ownership. Before the line could be closed down and scrapped, application would have to be made to the Board of Railway Commissioners for a recommendation to the Governor General in council, and the municipality would be given an opportunity to appear in opposition. … [CRMW Dec 1924]

Second round:

Schomberg and Aurora Railway abandonment recommended. The Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario, which operates the Schomberg and Aurora Ry. as part of the Metropolitan Division, Toronto and York District, Ontario Hydro Electric Rys., for the City of Toronto, has under consideration a report from its Railways Department engineers recommending that the line be abandoned, and was asked by the city council to prepare a thorough report on the situation. The line came into Toronto's possession, along with the rest of the Metropolitan Division, in 1921. It extends northwesterly from Schomberg Jct., north of Toronto, to Schomberg, 14.42 miles, and lies wholly within King Township.

The report requested by the city council was submitted by Sir Adam Beck, Chairman, Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario, on Dec. 6, 1914. It traced the line's history, and said: "Total operating expenses and annual charges are estimated at $58,675, and annual revenue at $20,000, leaving a net annual loss of $38,675." It pointed out, however, that this sum would not be saved annually by abandoning the line, and said: "The discontinuance of the Schomberg line would reduce the earnings of the Metropolitan Division by $7,300 annually. The operating expenses for handling the business lost, would amount to $6,100 annually, making a net loss to the Metropolitan Division of $1,200. The value of the bonds outstanding on the Schomberg line is $225,000. It is estimated that $75,000 could be obtained in the salvage of the materials and equipment of the line. The difference between the outstanding bonds and the salvage value would have to be carried by the Metropolitan Division at an annual cost of $11,200, in addition to which the share of the administration and other operating charges, at present carried by the Schomberg line, would be assumed by the Metropolitan Division, to the extent of $4,000. The total loss occasioned the Metropolitan Division, therefore, by loss of net revenue, $1,200, assumption of fixed charges, $11,200, and assumption of administrative expense, etc., $4,000, would be $16,400. Subtract this from the operating loss on the Schomberg line, $38,675, and the apparatus saving, due to discontinuance of operation on the Schomberg line, would be $22,275 a year."

After pointing out that prospects of improved business are not evident, the report concluded: "After due consideration of all the surrounding circumstances, the Commission is prepared to recommend to your council that operation of this railway be discontinued and that the necessary authority for such be obtained." Accompanying it was statement of operating revenues, operating expenses, and deficits since 1905. Up to the time of writing (Dec. 18), the city council has taken no action on the report. Residents of Schomberg, and of King Tp., are agitating to have the line's operation continued. Toronto papers, in discussing the matter, have expressed the opinion that the municipalities interested could urge continuation of operation with more show of reason if they exercised their rights to buy an interest in the line, and share in the net earnings or deficits, as the case may be, instead of leaving Toronto in full ownership and under the necessity of absorbing all deficits." [CRMW Jan 1925].

Bromley notes in TTC '28 that "the S&AR was private right of way throughout its fourteen-odd miles, and boasted a private spur line owned by the Eaton family. The TTC called for tenders for removal of the line in 1928, but these were refused; it was hoped that the S&AR, which originated over 300 car loads of freight annually, might be sold to the CNR. The railroad [Ed. note, presumably the CNR], however, expressed no interest in the proposition".

As a footnote, by 1929, the whole of the Toronto & York Radial Railway (Metropolitan Division) was up for review, and a further report on its proposed abandonment noted that operation on the Schomberg branch had been abandoned on June 30, 1927. [CRMW Jul 1929].

The Schomberg and Aurora Railway Co. began this past Thursday to dismantle their tracks between Yonge St. and Schomberg. Those using the RoW for pasturage of cattle should arrange to keep them, from this time on, away from the railway grounds. [NE Nov 7, 1930}

Group photo at the arrival of the S&A at Schomberg in 1902. Note the lack of ballasting. Lots of flatcars. Inscription "Dismantled 1928. This was the first day Annie Rooney first ran into Schomberg". It is not clear whether 'Annie Rooney' was the nickname for the railway or the engine. Judging by the curve, this image was likely taken from the 9th Concession (Hwy 27) looking east. Len Appleyard Collection

Group photo at the arrival of the S&A at Schomberg in 1902. Note the lack of ballasting. Lots of flatcars. Inscription "Dismantled 1928. This was the first day Annie Rooney first ran into Schomberg". It is not clear whether 'Annie Rooney' was the nickname for the railway or the engine. Judging by the curve, this image was likely taken from the 9th Concession (Hwy 27) looking east. Len Appleyard Collection

Engine #39 with what appears to be car #302 at Schomberg Junction station. The overhead electrification has already been installed, so this dates the image at 1916, and confirms that  #39 may have replaced engine #14, possibly as early as 1905. Metro  Toronto Library Board.

Engine #39 with what appears to be car #302 at Schomberg Junction station. The overhead electrification has already been installed, so this dates the image at 1916, and confirms that #39 may have replaced engine #14, possibly as early as 1905. Metro Toronto Library Board.

Schomberg Junction, 1919. Looking north. The Schomberg branch is to the left, and the rear of the car appears to be that of 302. To the right is a T&Y radial motor with a cut of flatcars. Source unknown.

Schomberg Junction, 1919. Looking north. The Schomberg branch is to the left, and the rear of the car appears to be that of 302. To the right is a T&Y radial motor with a cut of flatcars. Source unknown.