A "Curvy" Route to Toronto

A Curvy Route to Toronto provided a rail connection between Owen Sound and Toronto, the curvy part was thrilling, but beautiful for the passengers and strenuous for the crew.

It's summer time, the kids are out of school, some of the area's industries are on their annual shut-down, and families are planning their vacation. 

In the early days of this region, summer was a time for working in the fields and leisure time was very limited. 

The lack of good transportation routes also made it difficult to travel to and from the area for any reason other than for business. 

However, by the mid 1870s when a rail line was built to connect this region with the rest of the province, the residents of Grey and Bruce had more time to spend on travel and leisure and a new transportation route made it easier to travel. 

The Toronto, Grey and Bruce Rail line between Owen Sound and Toronto provided an important link between the communities along its route. 

In 1914 the Toronto Star Weekly published an article about the importance of the Grey and Bruce Railroad to the area that it served. The article stated that: "The Toronto, Grey and Bruce was one of the most useful and interesting of the little lines which spread out from Toronto, ...Everybody between Toronto and Owen Sound knew the Toronto, Grey and Bruce, and most of its officials." 

The first section of the line, from Toronto to Orangeville was opened in July 1870 and within three years engines were chugging into Owen Sound with car loads of freight and passengers on a regular basis. 

The train travelled over a narrow-gauge line with the rails only three feet, six inches apart, which is 14 inches narrower than the conventional rail line. The rails weighed only 40 pounds each and were manufactured in England. 

The "Horseshoe Curve" on the Route to Toronto

The route to Toronto from Owen Sound was a test skill for the most experienced train engineers. However, most of the heavy grades and sharp curves paled in difficulty when compared with the line's most famous endurance test, the "Horseshoe Curve", on Caledon Mountain. 

Over the years the curve was reduced in its severity from when it was originally laid out. 

At one point on the "Horseshoe Curve" the engine was actually facing in a different direction from the rest of its train! 

The number of curves on the route to Toronto led local travellers to comment that when the Toronto, Grey and Bruce rail line was built, if the surveyors came to a log stump, rather than removing the obstacle, they built a curve around it! 

The "Horseshoe Curve" was not the only problem that Caledon Mountain presented to the crews of the T.G. & B. Railway. The steep incline required a lot of power from the engines to pull their loads. One former fireman on the line said that "Many’s the time I've sweated and got my hands full of slivers keeping up steam on the way up Caledon Mountain." 

The opening of the rail route to Toronto from Owen Sound  had a huge impact on the Grey and Bruce region. 

First of all, products could be shipped into and out of the region very quickly. As well, the merchants of the area could now more easily carry a larger number and a wider array of commodities in their shops. 

Also, local residents could now easily travel out of the Grey and Bruce region. The trip to Toronto aboard the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway became a "get away" for both business and leisure purposes and signaled the beginning of the end of the sense of isolation that area residents had felt since the first settlers arrived in the Grey and Bruce region. 

The information used in this column came from many sources. However, of primary importance were original newspaper columns from various newspapers in the Grey County Archives.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on July 14, 2000.

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