Post date: Oct 13, 2009 12:34:09 AM
Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway, Baldwin Locomotive Company 2-8-0, No. 16 Orangeville 1874
Early development of railways in the Province of Canada, which consisted of Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario), was delayed by lack of capital and industrial infrastructure. The first major national railway development was the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada on a gauge of 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) from Portland, Maine to Sarnia, Canada West via Montreal and Toronto, with a branch from Richmond to Levis near Quebec City. Investment funds for railways were scarce in the Dominion of Canada because the economy was mainly agricultural, and most capital was tied up in land. The line was constructed by the English contractors Peto, Brassey and Betts, who undertook to raise the capital required in London if they obtained the contract. As a result of the exorbitant cost of land and charters, overbuilding stone bridges and stations to English standards, and initial lack of traffic to support the capital cost....the line was soon insolvent. This failure together with a severe recession, and the US Civil War meant that no more capital could be raised and almost no railways were built in Canada during the 1860s.
There was a return of confidence with the Confederation of the British North American colonies into the Dominion of Canada in 1867, and the political promise of a transcontinental railway to the Pacific. Merchants, industrialists, and politicians of Toronto, Ontario and surrounding counties began to look for ways of opening up the back country 'bush' north of the city to settlement and trade. Lakes and rivers had been the principal means of transportation but they were frozen and unusable for 4–5 months of the year. Road construction was primitive, trees were cut down and laid side by side in swamps to form 'corduroy' roads. Most roads were passable in Winter (hard frozen) and Summer (hard baked) but impassable mud troughs in Spring and Fall. Railways were essential, but how were they to be built cheaply enough to serve such wild unsettled country?