On Townline Road on the south end of Orangeville, across the street from the old railway yard and station grounds, two plaques stand, telling the history of the doomed railway next to them.
The first plaque, a faded provincial marker, commemorates the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway, which arrived in Orangeville in 1871 and completed to Owen Sound in 1873. The TG&B was combined with the rival Credit Valley Railway by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Orangeville became the headquarters of a network of branch lines known as the CP Bruce Division. Passenger service to Owen Sound via Brampton and Orangeville continued until 1970.
The second marker, installed by the Town of Orangeville, commemorates the municipal takeover of the remnants of the Bruce Division, after CP abandoned all track west and north of Orangeville in the 1980s and 1990s. The plaque proudly boasts of a “successful passenger tourist operation” and how the new short line “enhanced opportunities for the long-term economic development of the region.”
The municipal plaque is sadly out of date. The Credit Valley Explorer tour train last operated in early 2018, and the Town of Orangeville lost interest in operating the railway, which was costing the municipality $450,000 a year. The last freight train departed Orangeville on Friday, December 17, 2021.
Together with Dr. Brian Doucet, Canada Research Chair in Urban Change and Social Inclusion at the University of Waterloo, I toured the line in its waning days. At TVO.org, Doucet and I argue that the corridor is worth preserving, even if the Town of Orangeville is no longer interested in paying for the railway. We note how the province is looking to build a new highway through the very same lands that the dying railway cuts across.
Additional photographs and videos of the once-proud Orangeville and Brampton Railway can be found below.
At Orangeville, the yard is mostly silent, with the station building, a scaled-down replica of the CP Orangeville Station built to serve Credit Valley Explorer tour train passengers, now used only as an office for the weekly train crew. (The CP station building, with its distinctive “witch’s hat” waiting room, was moved to Downtown Orangeville in the 1980s and continues to be used as a restaurant.)
Clorox (Glad), once the busiest customer of the Orangeville-Brampton Railway, reconfigured its property for truck shipments of plastic pellets and removed the train spur in November 2021. Though OBRY once had five customers in Orangeville and two in Brampton when it started, it had just three industries accepting freight cars in November 2021.
The former CP Owen Sound Sub crosses the busy CN Halton Sub mainline at a diamond in Downtown Brampton. An interchange track has been in disuse since the 1990s. OBRY trains crawl across the CN mainline on a specially built diamond that lifts the short line train’s wheels over the mainline track. This reduces noise and wear-and-tear by the dozens of daily CN freight, GO Transit, and VIA Rail trains that pass by daily at much higher speeds.
At McMurchy Avenue, southwest of Downtown Brampton, the crossing signals have been deactivated since at least September 2021. A crew member must descend from the locomotive, ensure that traffic is clear, then hop back on once the roadway is fully occupied. The slow speeds (in most places, trains were limited to just 15 miles per hour) and impending abandonment made repairs to the crossing unnecessary.