In 1895 William Mackenzie and Donald Mann acquired a railway charter in Manitoba, with plans to create another
transcontinental rail link in Canada, by acquiring small lines and unused charters and building new lines. When the Canadian Northern expanded into Ontario, there were very few independent lines or systems left to acquire. Most major lines had been acquired
by the Grand Trunk or the Canadian Pacific, as feeders into their vast networks in the industrial heartland of Canada. In 1906 the Canadian
Northern began constructing a line south from Perry Sound to Toronto (completed in 1906) and North to Capreol. In 1910, the company began their line from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal, from the junction on the Port Perry line in the Don Valley, near Don Mills Road.
Since the Grand trunk line already had the prime locations close to the shore of Lake Ontario, the Canadian Northern line had to be built well north of the lake, it never came close to the lake until Port Hope, and had no access to the ports along the north shore of Lake Ontario.
The new construction in 1911, comprised 105 miles of line, between Todmorden (Toronto), on the west and Trenton on the east.
On October 9, 1911 the Canadian Northern (Ontario) Railway opened passenger service. About 1500 people took the free trip from Trenton to Toronto at 7 a.m. with three well-filled coaches. Six more were added later, plus two at Cobourg, two at Port Hope, and two at Orono so that when the train arrived in Toronto the engine was pulling 15 coaches.
By 1918 the Canadian Northern Railway was bankrupt. In 1918 the government owned Canadian National Railway was created,
Canadian National came to own many redundant and failing rail lines like the Canadian Northern and more profitable
ones like the Grand Trunk,
which had already acquired Port Hope's Midland Railway.
Much of the Canadian Northern track bed is still visible, a small section can be easily seen from the 4th line starting just west
of County Road 10, near Canton, it crosses the 4th line west of County Road 10 and in many other spots in the former Hope Township. The bed is visible in Port Hope at the south end of Choate Road and can be followed north almost to Dale Road. The Station at Osaca no longer exists, the station at Port Hope is still
standing as a Provincial Government building (a similar station was constructed in Cobourg). The abutments for the viaduct crossing over the Ganaraska River in Port Hope also still remain. (see photos below)
Ontario Street bridge over the Canadian Northern railway, 1911
from The Evening Guide, February 7, 1911 - page 1. FIRST TRAIN Pulled into CNR Station Monday; a very Busy Place.
Tracks Laid to the station and to Canton from the West.
The first train on the CNR line arrived at the station yesterday morning, but owing to the very inclement weather there were not many present to witness it. It was a construction train which is engaged to-day in
putting in a switch for the steam shovel. The corner of Hope and Ontario streets is a very busy center, and the residents feel quite proud of the new railroad.
The tracks have been laid as far west as the station and east to Canton. The bridge at Gage's Creek is completed and a temporary track laid there, so that
the steel for the Port Hope viaduct can be brought in.
from The Evening Guide, February 7, 1911 - page 4. CONTRACT FINISHED. Mr Sinclair, the contractor on the CNR between Cobourg and Port Hope has completed his cement work, and on Monday a number of men and teams were sent east to Shannonville, where many bridges and culverts are to be constructed.
from The Evening Guide, February 14, 1911 - page 1. CNR Work At a Standstill Here.
Various Reasons Given For Delay.
Work by steam shovel on the CNR here has ceased for the present. Various reasons are assigned: the men refusing to work in the cold, the slow progress owing to deep frost and necessity for blasting, and last but not least, a dispute alleged to be on between the
Contractor and the chief engineer about allowances for overhaul, from the excavation to the dump at the east end of the viaduct, may have something to do with it. Whatever may be the cause of the stoppage the
delay is complete for the steel of the viaduct cannot, we understand be handled until the embankment east of the viaduct is complete. The steel erectors will not trust the temporary trestle to carry the weight of the girders add other heavy steel as well as their erecting equipment.
It looks as though this will be the very last spot to finish on the Toronto Ottawa Line of the
from The Evening Guide, February 22, 1911 - page 2. Hope Council.
Mr. W A Walker addressed the council re the opening of road west of Osaca station. He suggested to at least spending enough money at the earliest opportunity to open the road for public travel.
Moved by Messrs. Edwards and Caldwell, that the Clerk notify the CNR authorities that the Council intend opening the road between lots 30 and 31, between the 4th and 5th concession, and we request that a proper road crossing be put in on this road west of Osaca station forthwith. The Council have also decided to open for public travel the 5th
concession line and they request a similar road crossing at this place.
from The Evening Guide, April 7, 1911 - page 1. CNR NEWS. Girders for New Viaduct Could Not Pass Under Overhead Bridge.
The steel girders for the CNR viaduct have arrived and being too high to pass under the overhead bridge on Ontario street, the track at this point had to be deepened, This was at the same place where an engine the other day, while passing under the bridge almost lost its whistle.
The steam shovel work is progressing rapidly, and the fill-in at the east end of the viaduct is almost completed.
A section of C N R Port Hope property plan 1946, showing the location of the former Canadian Northern viaduct.
See entire CNR Property Plan
There are but three gaps remaining in the CNR track laying between Toronto and Trenton. One of those is at the crossing of the
GTR tracks this side of Brighton. Another a two mile stretch between Port Hope and Bowmanville and a short stretch at Cobourg. Yesterday 16 teams of the CNR track laying gang and 30 men passed
through town, stopping at the Union Hotel. They are returning from Belleville and are bound for Cobourg to finish up the remaining gaps.
- Trenton Courier.
from The Evening Guide, April 18, 1911 - page 2. Direct by CNR To Union Station, Toronto.
Steel is now laid continuously from Canton crossing to Toronto, so that trains may run on the CNR from that point to the Union Station. A force of some 300 men and teams are busy ballasting the track west of here.
The Dominion Bridge Company started to place the first girder in position this Tuesday morning when the embankment began to settle under the heavy weight.
The fill was made with clay, a great proportion of which contained frost, consequently it is not as solid as it will be later, but in order to make it more secure, extra long and heavy ties are being placed on the new embankment. The steel for the entire viaduct is expected to be erected within about a month.
There remains some grading to finish at the west end of the viaduct, on the Howard contract..
Mr McNaughton is doing some draining and preparing the cutting so that it can be worked. The steam shovel which was working near the
station has been moved to the east end of the cut.
The repairs and furnishing of the Station here is progressing.
from The Evening Guide, May 13, 1911 - page 1. LAST SPAN OF CNR VIADUCT PLACED IN POSITION.
Rails Will Soon be Laid from Port Hope to Toronto.
The last girder of the new Canadian Northern Railway viaduct at Port Hope dropped gently into place Friday morning. The east and west sections are now connected, and it will be but a short time before the rails are completed from Port Hope station to the Union Station at Toronto.
The steel work here has progressed very satisfactorily, not a man being injured seriously on the whole job. Some of the bracing beams have still to be placed, and the
entire structure has to be riveted before it is complete. It is at present held in place by numerous bolts, which will be taken out as the riveting proceeds. The ties are laid and the rails on, so that the work trains may go over the structure.
The Guide had the honor of being the first foot passenger over the new structure.
Two steam shovels are now at work on the cuttings east of the station, and a one track section is expected to be through in about two weeks.
Several trains are steadily drawing gravel and ballasting is proceeding rapidly west of Port Hope.
The Grand Trunk work train is busy filling in the settled part of the viaduct embankment begun last year.
Constructing the Canadian Northern viaduct over the Ganaraska River, (looking east), 1911.
Constructing the Canadian Northern viaduct over the Ganaraska River, (looking west), 1911.
from The Evening Guide, May 30, 1911 - page 1. FIRST TRAIN ON CNR.
A double header pulled out from the CNR station here last Monday evening at 5 sharp, the first through train from here to the west over the new line. It consisted of regular CNR engine, a work engine, dump cars, the small steam shovel, flat cars with the household effects of the "habitants" who have been
working on the job. The destination is Scarboro where the outfit will work on widening the cut.
The two shovels rubbed noses through the big cut east of the station on Saturday night. The big "50 Marion" Shovel will remain here, widening the cut and the rails joined on grade to the east section today. This has been hard digging through heavy clay and hard pan. The station grounds are being graded and the approaches to the overhead bridge filled in where the settling occurred.
W R Chislett and men are at work putting in the finishing on station buildings.
Three riveting gangs (about 60 men) are at work under bridge foreman P C Joyce and it is expected that part of the work will be completed in about three weeks. Possibly more men will be added as the air compressor
is ample, and no doubt every effort will be made to complete the job in record time, now that the strike is settled.
It is predicted that passenger trains may run by July 1st as nearly all the road from here to Toronto is ballasted.
Ballasting on the CNR from west of Bowmanville to Cobourg is now about completed, and another week is expected to finish the trimming, after which the shovel will be removed to Trenton. All the ballasting gravel for this stretch of road bed has been taken from the Waddell pit. Fifteen coaches and a number of box cars are under construction at the Crossen Works, Cobourg, and a number of cars will be brought from Sudbury. Regular passenger
service will begin about August 15th, morning and evening train, until the road is completed to Ottawa.
- Orono News.
from The Evening Guide, October 10, 1911 - page 1. ENJOYABLE TRIP Over The CNR.
More than 1200 People Took in the Ride.
An innovation in railway traffic was carried out by the CNR on Monday when the opening of the new line between Toronto and Trenton was marked by a complimentary trip. The train when it left Trenton consisted of only two passenger cars, but when it steamed in here there was nine cars and it was found necessary to add two more for the Port Hope contingent. The Mayor and
council and town officials were among the guests. More cars were added along the line and when Toronto was reached the train had fifteen passenger coaches and all were well filled. The trip went along without a single hitch, and the picturesque country through which this new line passed proved very interesting and enjoyable for the passengers.
The CNR officials accorded their guests the most courteous treatment and the party pronounced the outing one of the
most enjoyable of the season.
Following are the stations passed through, Port Hope, Osaca, Starkville, Orono, Bowmanville, Oshawa, Brooklin, Greenburn, Cherrywood, Malvern, Rosedale, Queen street east, Toronto.
Constructing the Canadian Northern viaduct over the Ganaraska River, (looking north east), 1911.
The CNR have closed Osaca and Brooklin stations, and in order to curtail expenses of opening the
road, until such times as trade picks up have laid off agents assistants at a number of points, including Orono, Port Hope and Cobourg.
- Orono News.
CNoR Workers In Port Hope during the 1911 Census.
Canadian Northern construction workers 1910/11.
The Canadian Northern line was under construction in Port Hope during the 1911 Census, the names of the CNR workers listed on the census as being in Port Hope at that time are displayed below. It appears from the census that most of the CNR workers
stayed at a camp set up by the railway company at Ontario Street, those with better paying
jobs either stayed in hotels, or lodged with local families, some appear to have lived in Port Hope.
CNR worker 1911
Workers aboard the Marion steam shovel, 1911. (Angus Sinclair contractor]
from The Evening Guide, September 29, 1925 - page 1. Work Started on Viaduct
- Mr E Brown, of the John A Steele outfit, informed the Guide that they have commenced tearing down the viaduct on
the old Northern CNR and are also busy grading and making the necessary "cut-off." The "cut-off" is from mileage 65, on the old Northern line, to mile 2 on the Midland line.
This means that there will be two extra daily trains on the Midland track. One section of the viaduct is going to Wolfe River, another to Queen
Street Toronto and the remainder to Cobourg yard for further use.
from The Evening Guide, October 6, 1925 - page 4. THE NEW SPUR LINE.
Work on the new spur line connecting the old Northern Railway with the Midland Track is being pushed with vigor. Today the steam shovel and work train began operations, and about twenty-five men have arrived to work on the grading. It is expected that work will be completed and trains running over the new connection into Port Hope by November 15th.
Messrs F L C Bond, General Superintendent, Montreal; D McCoo, General Supervisor of tracks Montreal; F A Rutherford, Montreal; D J McMillan, Superintendent of Central Division, Belleville and R E Orr, Assist Superintendent, Lindsay were here overlooking the work.
from The Evening Guide, November 2, 1925 - page 1. NEW JUNCTION IS NAMED.
It will be called Ronnac.
Commencing on Monday next, a new train service will be inaugurated on the old Canadian Northern Railway, but the time of trains have
not yet been announced. A large gang of men have been tearing up part of the old track and making a junction near Choate's woods, so that the trains will now come into Port Hope instead of at the northern station. The new junction, without a station will be called Ronnac --
Can Nor spelled backwards. A new time table
will be published at once.
from The Evening Guide, November 19, 1925 - page 1. FIRST SPAN TAKEN UP.
The old Canadian Northern Viaduct Now Being Torn Down
If you want to see one of Port Hope's landmarks before it is removed you had better take a walk out Cavan Street to the old Canadian Northern viaduct, because it will soon be in the
category of the "has been's"
This afternoon the north girder of the most westerly span was removed and the present indications are that it won't be long until the long armed crane has completely dismantled the bridge.
from The Evening Guide, November 21, 1925 - page 2. HEARD ON THE STREET.
The long span of the Canadian Northern viaduct across Cavan Street and the Midland tracks, will be lowered tomorrow, so as not to obstruct the traffic on the
railway it is reported.
Citizens who saw the span swung into place never expected to live to see the day when it would come down.
from The Evening Guide, November 23, 1925 - page 1. TWO CRANES LIFTED SPAN.
Two Huge Girders of CNR Viaduct Placed on Three Flat Cars Without Mishap.
Sunday morning the bridge gang were early at the work of removing the long span which crossed the Midland tracks and Cavan street, on the old Canadian National Railways, which is being taken down to be used elsewhere. Five spans and towers, we understand are to be used at Pembroke and the rest near
Cochrane. A large number of people were there to see the span lifted down, many of them having seen it put there, and thought at that time that they wouldn't live to see the day when the viaduct was taken down.
The work of lifting was done by two long armed cranes, one worked from the viaduct and the other from the Midland tracks.
The crane working from below had an arm long enough to be above the girder, over fifty feet above its own track level. With a crane hooked to either end the girders were raised three or four feet then swung gradually at right angles to be parallel with the tracks below, and gradually lowered to the ground. Then a fresh grip was taken and each was hoisted high enough for three flat cars to be run beneath them and carefully lowered onto them, where they were secured to each other and the cars so that they will not move in transit. The girder on the north side was lowered in the forenoon and the other was lifted from its place shortly after one o'clock.
They were both placed on the cars without a single hitch or mishap, showing the skill of those in charge and the men doing the work. The work was completed by three o'clock and no further work was done. It had to be done on Sunday as traffic could not be held up on a week day.
The remainder of the viaduct will be taken up by cranes working from the viaduct, removing everything as they retire and the steel will be taken to Cobourg where the track joins the main line.
Many people deplore the fact that this landmark is being taken down, but the deplorable thing was the building of the line in the first place. It is a good thing that the bridge can be utilized in other localities and that the C N R is doing away with the
line east of here, which parallels their double track main line and is really only an unnecessary expense to be maintained. We are sorry to see it go, but believe it better for the country, taking something for the losses of our National railways and thus bring their system closer to the time when it will be a profit to the country.
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