Kilsyth's "Train Engine"
(of sorts!)

Kilsyth's Train Engine was one for the history books. It brought an evening of joy followed by disappointing news soon after.

In the early days of Grey County, the desire for a railway line was extremely important to area communities. 

In the early 1870s the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway built a narrow gauge line from Toronto to Orangeville to Owen Sound. 

But despite the presence of one rail line there was still interest in another line of steel being built to the area. Consequently, when it was announced in 1879 that another line was to be built from Palmerston to Owen Sound there was a lot of excitement in the area. 

One of the most unique celebrations occurred in the Derby Township community of Kilsyth. 

The communities along the route proposed by the Georgian Bay and Wellington Railway Company eagerly adopted bylaws enabling the issuing of grant money to the company. Palmerston, Mount Forest, and Durham each voted $15,000 bonuses to the company. Derby, Glenelg and Bentinck issued $20,000 grants each and Owen Sound voted to offer $40,000. 

The Township of Egremont seemed to be the most eager to have a line of steel through the area.  That municipality offered the company $60,000. 

On Feb. 3, 1879, the ratepayers of Derby Township voted to grant the company a bonus of $20,000. The final vote was 186 to 96 in favour of endorsing the bonus to the railway company. 

However, their enthusiasm for a railway did not end with the announcement that the bylaw had been passed! The citizens of the area had been so sure that the bylaw would be passed that they planned a parade to celebrate the passing of the bylaw. 

A train engine was built at the Kilsyth sawmill in the shape of two large hogsheads, one on the front bob and one on the hind bob of a lumber sleigh with a smoke stack and large headlight lantern on the top, near the front. The hogsheads were partly filled with wood and saturated with coal oil. A sleigh was behind the locomotive with passengers and a team of horses was attached to pull the “train engine". 

When Mr. Beaton, the Township Clerk, announced that the results of the vote three cheers were given for the Queen and another three cheers followed to salute the railway. 

Then the whistle at the saw mill was blown and the 'train engine" began to make its way through the streets of Kilsyth with smoke billowing from its "stacks". The first stop on the trip was the Kilsyth Hotel where passengers and onlookers all paused for refreshments. 

When the round of good cheer had been concluded, the conductor shouted, "All Aboard" and the "train engine" continued on its route about — a mile out of town. At that point it turned on a makeshift turntable and returned to the sawmill amidst a cheering throng of spectators. 

The day ended with great expectations for the future in Kilsyth and the rest of Derby Township with the arrival of a railway through the municipality. 

But as fate would have it, the 'train engine" that traveled through Kilsyth on February 3, 1879, would be the only train that would pass through the community. 

The railway company decided that a line to Wiarton, passing through Parkhead could serve the area and decided that the proposed line would end in Durham. 

The information used in this article came from files held in the Grey County Archives.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on October 6, 2000.

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