Saturday, July 20, 2024

Amid lakes and skyscrapers. The history of Toronto’s first railway

Thanks to the constant development of road infrastructure, Toronto has become a huge metropolis. That’s how this city looks for thousands of local residents and tourists. However, everything used to be different. In the 17th century, there were only uninhabited areas of land and lakes, which is why it was called “the place in the water where the trees are standing”. Then Europeans began to come here and connected Toronto with other cities with the first railway. Learn more at toronto-future

Designing the first railway in Toronto 

In the second half of the 17th century, emigrants from other countries began to settle the territory of the modern metropolis. Soon, the first city of York appeared here, which was later renamed Toronto. It was washed by lakes Ontario, Simcoe and Huron. When houses were built next to them, there was a need to create a transport junction to ensure convenient transport connections between parts of the land, which were separated by the lakes. 

Therefore, Torontonians designed the railway to connect the three lakes, after which it was named. It was decided to place it in the western part of the city centre, next to the first built houses near the limits of Toronto. In just a few months, local residents could travel quickly outside the city by train. 

The first railway was designed by engineers and architects of the OS&H company. They created a project for the construction of the railway that would pass throughout the entire city. According to historical data, before the emergence of the railway in the city, all the connections with other cities took place only with the help of water vessels that transported cargo and local residents. 

Construction of railway tracks in the 80s 

When the first city of York was founded, locals made several attempts to lay a railway across Lakes Ontario, Simcoe and Huron. It was the idea of a group of entrepreneurs, but their efforts were unsuccessful due to the lack of constant funding and a sufficient number of engineering solutions. 

British entrepreneur Frederick Chase Capreol, a Toronto businessman of British origin, decided to help them. He founded the construction company OS&H. It is interesting that the War of 1812 became an important impetus for its appearance. In order to prevent the Americans from invading their territories, Toronto entrepreneurs and government officials decided to build a broad-gauge railway (5’6″) instead of the standard gauge (4’8½”) near the American border. Thus, that difference was supposed to prevent a quick invasion of the enemy and capture of sovereign territories. 

Before starting the construction of the first railway, the company’s employees created a plan for its construction and chose the most optimal route for trips outside the city. In the 18th century, the central streets were already built up with houses, so it was decided to lay the railway in the western part, which was later called Queens Quay. A group of builders and engineers continued the construction of the railway for several years. Meanwhile, the first model of trains and a passenger rail system appeared in Toronto. A wooden train station was also created near the Front Street entrance to Union Station. 

Opening of the first railway 

The completion of the railway construction became a real celebration for the residents of Toronto. They even held an event to honour it on October 15, 1851. People gathered at the intersection of Front and Jarvis Streets. Representatives of the company and the city authorities, who were involved in the construction of the railway, delivered public speeches. In the evening, the event ended with a concert in St. Lawrence Hall. 

Over the next few years, several other railway companies were opened here. They bought up large areas of shoreland for the construction of railway stations, road tracks, houses and service facilities. Thus, the Toronto railway network began to expand.

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