A few weekends ago, on Simcoe Day (Civic Holiday), I cycled a new route, taking 90 kilometre ride between Georgetown and Newmarket. Just over half of the roue took me on the Caledon Trailway, a beautifully-maintained rail trail between Terra Cotta and Tottenham. From Georgetown to Terra Cotta and between Tottenham and Newmarket, I mostly used quiet, country roads. It was a very rewarding trip, one that I will likely redo in the future.
The Caledon Trailway is one of the most-used rail trails in Ontario, and I encountered many fellow cyclists and pedestrians along the path. For those with cars, there are several convenient parking areas along the route.
I took the GO Transit bus on Monday, August 3 from Union Station to Georgetown, taking advantage of the bike racks installed on all of that regional transit agency’s buses. From Newmarket, I took a special summer GO Train that operates between Barrie (Allandale Waterfront Station) and Union Station. Like all non-rush hour GO trains, bicycles are welcomed aboard as well.
My route between Georgetown and Newmarket
A few photos and observations follow.
My starting point, Georgetown GO/VIA Station. The building was completed in 1858 by the Grand Trunk Railway, expanded in the 1890s, and is still in use today. It is the oldest station on GO Transit’s network still in use, though GO serves nine other heritage railway stations across the GTHA, from Hamilton to Markham.
I enjoyed a car-free Winston Churchill Boulevard into Terra Cotta, arriving just in time to watch part of the Tour de Terra Cotta road race. I’d never be able to keep up, but glad I enjoyed the closed road (I was allowed through as long as I didn’t interfere with the race) to make it through this busier section.
The old Cheltenham Brick Works is one of the most striking landmarks along the Caledon Trailway, part of an old CN railway line that ran between Hamilton and Barrie built by the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway in the 1870s and abandoned a century later. The old brick works are kept in a state of splendid ruin, while clay is still extracted here by Brampton Brick, whose modern facilities are a few kilometres away.
The railway bridge over the Credit River near Inglewood was re-decked and remains in use by pedestrians, cyclists and horseback riders.
One abandoned railway meets another at Cardwell Junction, not far from Caledon East. The Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway’s line between Toronto, Orangeville, and Owen Sound passed over a bridge here until 1933, when Canadian Pacific opted to operate all its trains via the old Credit Valley Railway alignment via Brampton. The TG&B track included the famous (and dangerous) Horseshoe Curve.
The Caledon Trailway continues under Highway 9 and into the Town of New Tecumseh towards Tottenham. Here, it closely follows the Canadian Pacific mainline to Sudbury and Western Canada.
At Tottenham, the rail trail gives way to rails. This is the South Simcoe Railway, which operates steam train excursions on the former Hamilton &Northwestern track to nearby Beeton. Locomotive 136 was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, and once operated on the famous transcontinental line.
The Holland Marsh was named for the Holland River, which was named for Samuel (Johannes) Holland, the first Surveyor General of British North America. But the flat land, punctured by drainage canals, has more in common with the Netherlands than the coincidental name and resemblance; Dutch settlers were lured here by the Ontario Government to farm the drained wetlands. Today, it’s a prosperous vegetable-growing region.
Holland Marsh’s Dutch heritage is displayed at this house on Canal Road.
Between Bradford and Newmarket, there are several disused locks and dams built for a canal that was never completed. The canal would have linked Newmarket with Lake Simcoe and the Trent-Severn Waterway; work started in 1906. In every sense, the Newmarket Canal was a folly; there was never enough water upstream to feed the canal in order to make it navigable, water would have had to be piped up to make it work. The canal, championed by local Liberal MP William Mulock, was wisely cancelled in 1912 when the Conservatives, led by Robert Borden, formed government.
In Newmarket, there’s another interesting transportation ruin, the Newmarket Radial Arch. It is the most visible remnant of the former Toronto & York Radial Railway, an electric line that ran from Toronto to Lake Simcoe until 1930. The arch spans the East Holland River, part of a longer structure that once carried radial cars over the river and the nearby Northern/CN railway line, today used by GO Transit’s Barrie Corridor trains.