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50 years of loving trains

Historic Rail Tour
Of Barrie-Allandale Rail Facilities.

Bill Bradford of the Central Ontario Chapter, Canadian Association of Railway Modellers (CARM), hosted an historic tour of the Allandale railyard facili

ties on April 24, 2010. This was both a bus and walking tour of the old rail lines in and about Barrie, Ontario, Canada. In the age of steam Barrie was a very important rail town. It was first served by the Hamilton and Northwestern Railroad in 1877, abandonned in 1879 when it failed to acquire connection to the Northern Railroad. The Northern was absorbed into the Canadian National Railway. Barrie was a hub serving the farm communities around Lake Simcoe and was an important transfer hub for grain from the West and coal moving throughout the region. The CNR competed with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for freight and passengers.

Bill is extremely knowledgeable about the railway history in and around Barrie. His home HO layout is based on the Allandale yards. He has a wealth of photos and archival material from the last century and has interviewed many residents who were connected with the railway and the Barrie community through the years. 38 of us from CARM and the Barrie and Simcoe Historical Societies spent a fascinating afternoon exploring the area. I've tried to capture the essence of the tour here.

We gathered for departure on Lakeshore Boulevard across the road from where the GO trains are parked between runs. This is now parkland with a glorious view of Lake Simcoe. In the first half of the twentieth century it was an extensive, bustling, coal-dust dirty railyard.

Bill Bradford introduces the group to the historic rail tour
Barrie-Allandale rail tour
Across the road the GO trains wait for Monday's rush hour schedule to Toronto.
GO train coaches ready for Monday's rush hour schedule
GO train coaches

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.

Bill's accurate model of the coaling facility.
Some of the flags marking the actual dimensions
can be seen in the grass.
Allandale coaling tower

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.

Remains of the run-through track 17
at the roundhouse
roundhouse track 17

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.

The new Barrie South GO station.
Barrie South GO station

Trains leave from Barrie South to Bradford, Newmarket and on south to Toronto from this station until the Allandale Station is rebuilt near downtown Barrie.

The station track at Barrie South.
Barrie South station track

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.

Vine station
Vine station front

The station is very pretty. There's a handcar sitting on rails in the front yard. The building to the right attached by a deck was added to the station after is was acquired as a property for living in as a residence.
Another view of Vine station
Vine station

Closeup of the side doors
side view of Vine station
The rear view of the station
rear view of Vine station

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.

Barrie-Collingwood (BCRY) track
at Colwell Junction
BCRY at Colwell Jct

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.

Colwell Junction looking south on the CP line.
There was a derailment here a few years ago.
BCRY at Colwell Jct

A closer look at Colwell Junction
wye at Colwell Jct
The CP mainline crosses the BCRY at this junction and there is a connection. The BCRY shops and diesel shed are here. This is just east of Utopia.
Colwell Junction looking east along BCRY trackage.
BCRY wye at Colwell Jct
Closeup of the crossing.
BCRY shops are just visible in the upper right.
BCRY crossing

Damage from dragging equipment?
crossing timbers

The BCRY shops near the wye track
BCRY shops

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.

Allandale Village signage
Allandale Village

Track side of the station.
The fire was set at the left end.
Allandale station trackside

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.

East end of Allandale station
Allandale station east end

Front of Allandale station.
Allandale Village

Looking east to where the GO trains are currently parked.
Allandale station looking east

BCRY trackage, originally part of the
Hamilton & Northwestern roadbed.
BCRY Barrie

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.

The former freight shed near Essa Road
that was used by the railway.
Allandale freight shed

The YMCA building.
Allandale YMCA

The sign by the door.
YMCA sign

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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