Victoria Junction, Lindsay, Ont.
Before the Railway Age, travel and the movement of goods in Upper Canada were primarily dependent on waterways, and to some extent on such trails and crude strips of dust or quagmire that passed for roads. Both of these traditional modes of transportation relied very much on the seasons and the weather. Agitation for a more efficient mode of transportation had started to build with the news of the new-fangled railroad, but the economic depression of 1837 and the years following were bad years for Upper Canada and for railway development, especially in view of the unsettled economic and political conditions in England, on whose financial houses railway investment ventures depended.
However, in 1849 the Province of Canada passed the Railway Guarantee Act which guaranteed the interest on loans for the construction of railways not less than 75 miles in length. It was this legislation that triggered Canada's railway building boom.
THE JUNCTION (1875 - 1907)
For the years of its duration, Victoria Junction played a pivotal role in Victoria County railway history. The first railway to reach Lindsay was the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railway (PHL&B). The first train arrived at the original Lindsay station at St. Paul and King Streets on the east side of the Scugog River on October 16, 1857. In 1871, this railway (by then the Midland Railway) was extended to Beaverton, reached Waubaushene in 1875 and arrived in Midland in 1879. It continued from its station beside the Scugog to cross it by means of a swing bridge, gained height along what is now the Rivermill condominium property and then curved west across what is now William Street at Orchard Park Road, and from there proceeded west across what is now the Lindsay airport. So far, no junction yet.
The first railway to reach "downtown" Lindsay was a struggling line that had begun as the Port Whitby & Port Perry Railway, reaching Port Perry in 1871. In 1876 it was extended to Lindsay, reaching Albert Street on June 15, 1877, becoming the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway (WPP&L).
Enter George Laidlaw, a wheat merchant and railway promoter who had plans to tap the natural resources in the Haliburton Highlands. The project began modestly as the Fenelon Falls Railway in 1871. When this did not find financing favour, the railway broadened its scope with plans to extract timber and minerals from Haliburton County and what is now Algonquin Park, and in the next year it became the Lindsay, Fenelon Falls & Ottawa River Valley Railway.
To improve its promotional prospects, its name was changed in 1873 to the Victoria Railway. The first sod was turned in Lindsay (presumably in the vicinity of what became Victoria Junction) on August 5, 1874, by the Hon. C.F. Fraser, Commissioner of Public Works, in the presence of the Attorney-General of Ontario, the Hon. Oliver Mowat. Kinmount was reached after many vicissitudes in 1876, and the line reached and terminated for good at Haliburton in 1878.
At its Lindsay end, the Victoria Railway connected with the Midland Railway at the top of William Street North at "Victoria Junction" (also "Midland Junction"). Its track connected with the existing Midland line as a wye formation, permitting direct traffic both with Port Hope (through Lindsay along the Scugog) and Beaverton. Now there was a junction, and it remained very central to Lindsay's early railway operations for three decades of the booming Railway Age.
These are the three phases of Victoria Junction's development and change:
Diagrams by Taylor Wilkins, author of Haliburton By Rail and the I.B.&O.
With the arrival of the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway in Lindsay, the Victoria Railway applied to the Town of Lindsay for permission to connect its railway straight down Victoria Avenue to Glenelg Street to connect up with the WPP&L. This was approved on May 7, 1877
By 1883, the Midland Railway had acquired both the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay and the Victoria Railways (among others) and as a result was reorganizing its routes. A consequent major change was the realignment of its line from Port Hope through Lindsay along Durham Street. A new bridge was built over the Scugog River at the east end of Durham Street, and the main line now came along just south of Durham Street to Cambridge Street, where it curved north to connect with the former Victoria Railway track on Victoria Avenue.
A new station was built at the south end of William Street in 1883, at which time the King at St. Paul Street station and the former line across the Scugog were abandoned. As traffic for Midland now went up Victoria Avenue, a westbound switch was put in at Victoria Junction south of the diamond crossing between Pottinger and Eglington Streets to connect back up with the Beaverton line. The crossing was then removed, with the result that the triangle of the wye now pointed west instead of north. The former main line down through the present Rivermill condominium property was retained as a spur with two branches, one to serve the Carew Planing Mill at riverside, and the other crossed the end of Colborne St. W. to serve Horn Bros. Blankets, a factory facing William St., now an apartment building. Similarly, the remaining spur on the east bank of the Scugog continued to serve local factories, and eventually also became an exchange faciltiy with the CPR when that railway arrived around 1904.
(Note: The station built at the south end of William Street in 1883 was a modest structure and burned down in 1885, whereupon the 1879 union station was taken back into use until another station was built in 1890 - the two-storey station that lasted until 1963 when it was dismantled.)
At Victoria Junction itself, one of the first sets of telephones installed in Canada was between Victoria Junction and the station built at the south end of William Street in 1890. Trains to and from Haliburton and the Midland passenger trains moved according to schedule, but "extra" (non-timetable) trains were required to use the telephone to contact the station to obtain clearance to proceed south on Victoria Avenue. A small hut (ducket or ducat) was recorded by the successor Grand Trunk Railway as having been built in 1890, presumably to protect the telephone (it is also likely that some kind of shelter existed before then). There is however no record of any kind of station, signal system, platform or flag stop.
By 1907, the volume of grain traffic from Midland was such that the Victoria Avenue route was no longer acceptable as a main artery, and a new line was built by the successor (1893) Grand Trunk Railway west out of Durham St. to cross Kent and Colborne Sts. West to join the former line just west of Monarch Road. Victoria Avenue continued to be used for the Haliburton traffic, but Victoria Junction was now no longer a junction.
The west bank spur down to the river survived until the 1950s to serve successive industries of the day. Just to the north of the former Victoria Junction, the Haliburton line was joined by a rail connection from the Canadian Industrial Alcohol Company, whose site was in the north east quadrant of Eglington St. and Lindsay St. North
A little further north still, roughly in line with the Springdale Gardens development are "the pillars" – the abutments of a bridge that carried the former CPR-sponsored Georgian Bay & Seaboard Railway, also known as the CPR's Port McNicholl branch, to avoid the delays and the additional distance of shipping grain through Toronto. This railway was opened in 1912 by building a line from the newly deepened Victoria Harbour, across country to Lindsay, and thence to Bethany Junction, or Dranoel (east of Pontypool) on the CPR's then main line to Montreal. This road was abandoned from Orillia through to Lindsay in 1937.
The Canadian National Railways, who succeeded the Grand Trunk Railway in 1923, abandoned its Haliburton branch in 1981, and at that point the former Victoria Junction faded into history altogether.
Today, Victoria Junction is commemorated by a kiosk that provides information about the local railways and the present-day rail trail. It is located on the east side of William St. North beside the trail. It was erected in 2009 by the custodians of the trail, the Kawartha Lakes Green Trails Association. There are plans to enhance the kiosk area with suitable railway motifs and landscaping.
For a one-page summary of the history of Victoria Junction, please click here.
For a two-page summary of Lindsay's railway history, please click here.
For a two-page summary of the railway history of Victoria County, please click here.
For a two-page summary of the Midland Railway history, please click here.
For a map of the tracks in Lindsay at the height of the railway era, please click here.
For a video presentation of Lindsay and Victoria County railway history, please click here.
Sources and recommendations for further reading:
Grand Trunk Railway, Building and Structures Inventory, Montreal, Que., 1907
Hansen, Keith: Last Trains Out of Lindsay, Sandy Flats Publications, Roseneath, Ont. 1997
Heels, Charles H.: Railroad Recollections, Museum Restoration Service, Bloomfield, Ont. 1980
Stevens, G.R.: Canadian National Railways, Volume I, Clarke Irwin, Toronto, Ont., 1960
Wilkins, Taylor, Haliburton By Rail and the I.B. &O., self-published, Haliburton, Ont. 1992
© Charles Cooper 2007. All rights reserved.