50 years of loving trains
Historic Rail Tour
Bill started us off to the west of the former freight shed where the coaling tower was situated. There's nothing obvious to see unless you know what to look for. He had brought along a diomara of the coaling tower that he had built in HO scale and set it up on the grass. He had also marked off the actual dimensions on the grass with little flags. The building was huge. He explained to the group what was done here to feed the locomotives.
Our next stop was the site of the roundhouse to the east of the freight house. The footings for the building and the concrete wall of the turntable pit can still be seen. It is possible to count most of the 27 stalls and see where the rails and some of the inspection pits were. CN tended to use smaller engines so the turntable was only 70 feet. Track 17 was a run-through track for larger Mikados, Northerns and the like that were too long to be turned on the table.
Bill pointed out that the roundhouse didn't have a chimney over track 27 because that area was used as a lunchroom. There used to be a gigantic coal pile to the east of the roundhouse. No switching was done on Mondays because that was wash day. The women in the houses that lined the tracks hung out their washing on Monday. Bill also told us that any of the locals (practically everyone worked for the railroad) could come and pick up free coal as long as they didn't come with a motorized vehicle. A horse wagon qualified!
After boarding a bus we were driven to the new GO station at Barrie South. The station has the look and feel of a traditional passenger depot.
Our next stop was beside the Beeton sub line at the old Grand Trunk station called "Vine". This station was built in 1902 to replace an earlier one owned by the Hamilton & Northwestern. The station has passed through the hands of several owners since abandonment. The current owners, the Galton family, have gone to a lot of trouble to refurbish the station. They kindly allowed us to walk about on the property. The station was moved and turned to be sited at the present location. The rail line now passes beside the house.
Once we were back in the bus we headed west to Colwell Junction. The Hamlet of Colwell began in 1869. At one time this was a busy junction for the railroads.
This track is now operated for the jointly-owned Barrie-Collingwood Railway (BCRY) by Candu Construction of Calgary, Alberta.
The station road is still visible to the right of this road crossing where I was standing to take the picture. The station is long gone.
Back in the bus to Barrie and a walking tour around the Barrie-Allandale station. This area is undergoing total reconstruction and will house the rebuilt station and a retail complex to be known as Allandale Village.
The station is being rebuilt to look as it once did. Patterns have been made of some of the old wood embellishments. At one time there were stained glass windows along the top but no one has been able to locate one or even a picture. A construction company operated out of here for a number of years and a few freight doors were added. Much of the brickwork will be saved. A lot of effort is going into recapturing the spirit of the past. There was a fire at the west end of the building a few years ago. The Barrie fire department moved quickly to extinguish it. Fortunately, the main area of the station was saved.
The intention is to construct an underground tunnel to go from the station to the track to reach the GO trains. This originally was a very large yard with, I think, 13 tracks. The freight shed still exists, as does the YMCA building that served the needs of the railroaders.
Behind the YMCA building, Bill showed us the concrete footings for the gigantic water tower that served the yard. Steam engines used a tremendous amount of water. The footings, along with an old railway shed, still remain. Bill also showed us where the roadbed used to run throughout the downtown of Barrie. You can still imagine where the tracks ran through the triangular parks in this part of Barrie and even where the original Hamilton & Northwestern route went between the houses. He has recreated much of this on his model railroad, including the Allandale station and some of the factories that served the area. All in all a fascinating jounrey through the past. It's amazing what you can find if someone knows where to tell you to look. Bill had some great anecdotal stories from people who lived in the area and were associated in some way with the railroads, the land, or the businesses. Bill has his own website and loves to talk about the days of CN steam. (Just don't mention "diesels" to him).
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