The Railroad in Peel: Part One

In a country as vast as Canada, with scattered settlements and diverse seasonal changes, a reliable transportation network is a necessity to curb isolation and encourage economic development. During the 19th Century the condition of Canada’s transportation and communication network was very poor. In 1809 it took a month to mail a letter from York to England. This included a 16 day trip to get as far as Quebec City and often meant a 2 or 3 three day trip just to get to the nearest post office. There were only 19 post offices in all of Canada in 1816. Canada did have some advantages over other countries, however. The abundance of natural waterways meant that large amounts of goods could be moved from point to point with relative ease and rapidity. However, travel by water in Canada was hindered by the necessity of portaging around rapids and waterfalls while the few roads that existed were often only mud tracks and were not always passable.

Development of the railway in Canada was slowed by the Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837 and the unstable economic conditions that this created in the 1840s. However, in 1849 the Railway Act was passed. The Railway Act was meant to give incentive to railway promoters and encourage railway construction.

In February, 1871 a charter for the Credit Valley Railroad was secured from the provincial government for the construction of a railway between Toronto and St. Thomas where it would connect with the Michigan Central Railway. In addition, the line was to run north to Streetsville and Orangeville. There were also plans to build a branch line from Cataract to Elora.

The line was built in order to remedy an oversight in the construction of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Line. This railway bypassed much of the land that lies to the west of Toronto, consequently leaving that area without access to the railway. In order to remedy this mistake, several backers of the T.G&B decided that a second line was needed to provide access to a railway in this area. As a result plans were drawn up and the land surveyed for a route that would run from Toronto to Orangeville and St. Thomas. The construction was begun in 1875 with the lines to Orangeville and Elora being completed in 1879.

Upon its completion, the C.V.R began competing with the T.G.& B, which also may have hastened the upgrading of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce. Likewise, it was soon discovered that the Orangeville section of the line, from which the Credit Valley Railroad got its name, was not the most profitable section of the line. Rather, the railway’s bills were being paid by the St. Thomas line. Nevertheless, the Credit Valley and the Toronto, Grey and Bruce both did well enough to attract the interest of the Canadian Pacific Railway under the guise of the Ontario and Quebec railway, which offered to buy both lines from their respective owners. These two lines were purchased by C.P.R in 1883 and in 1884, the Credit Valley Railroad was extended so that it became a jumping off point for trains headed to southwestern Ontario and ultimately to the United States.

Brampton as the largest town in Peel Region stood to benefit greatly from the marked increase in rail traffic that the arrival of the C.P.R would bring with it.

Built in 1902 at Queen and Park Streets, Brampton’s Canadian Pacific train station is believed to be the last remaining brick railway station from the Owen Sound branch line and dates back to the glory days of passenger rail travel. The arrival of the railway in Brampton meant that Brampton became an important stop over on the way to Owen Sound, where many settlers boarded steamships that would take them to Western Canada.

The arrival of the railway in Brampton was a major stimulus for development and helped to make the city what it is today. Early in the 19th Century, Brampton was competing with other would-be towns, particularly Meadowvale and Churchill. In 1852, representatives of the Toronto and Guelph Railway approached the Township of Chinguacousy about building a railway line through Brampton. A meeting was held and the town councilors agreed to raise the 10,000 pounds necessary, in addition to rearranging the city streets in order to accommodate the railway. The decision to build the line through Brampton spelled the death of other small villages in Toronto Gore and Chinguacousy.

The immediate result of the railway coming to Brampton was that Brampton was incorporated as a village in 1853, around the same time that the railway plans were being finalized. Other results were that the Township of Chinguacousy received all of its money back before the line was even completed because the Toronto and Guelph Railroad was acquired by the Grand Trunk Railway, which would later become Canadian National. The completion of the Credit Valley Railroad, a few years later would lead to Brampton’s incorporation as a town.

 

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