THE CREDIT VALLEY/CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY
The following article is an excerpt from the book “Our Home and Native Land, Community in Puslinch Township, Wellington County, Ontario”, Published in 2005. This content was graciously provided by Marjorie Clark, the author of the book.
The influence of railways upon Puslinch Township was secondary in significance only to that of roads. Their construction meant that farmers could ship produce and livestock, not only to markets in towns and cities close by but to other provinces and to the United States, as well as bringing in goods from far. Two railway lines traverse Puslinch Township. The Credit Valley Railway opened in 1879 and the Guelph Junction Railway opened in 1888.
A letter to the Hamilton Spectator in March 1874 read:
“The Credit Valley Railway Company are pushing their interests through this township with vigour and enterprise, they being the first to enter Puslinch for the purpose of asking aid for railway building. On Tuesday, the 3rd, a large and influential meeting was held in the Town Hall in Morriston, in the interest of the Credit Valley Company, which was addressed by two of the directors, giving statements of the progress and intention of the company to push forward the road in early spring to completion. The line being already run through the township, they asked a bonus in aid of said road, which was very favourably entertained by the meeting and no doubt will be carried, when the by-law is submitted to the ratepayers, unless the long talked of through railway from Hamilton to Guelph be taken up at once and promptly brought before the people.”
By 1870, in Ontario, due to the lack of efficient transportation, settlers in the north-west of the province were, as those in southern Ontario had done before, burning the trees that they cut to clear land to farm, as a way of being rid of them. At the same time, the city dwellers of Toronto were paying high rates for firewood. This situation was thought to be the result of the Grand Trunk and Northern Railways holding a monopoly on transport. The sentiment was that competition was required.
George Laidlaw was a Highland Scotsman, born in Sutherlandshire on Feb. 28, 1828. He emigrated to Canada in 1855, married Ann Middleton of Toronto in June 1858 and had five sons and three daughters. In Toronto, he found employment as a wheat buyer for Gooderham and Worts, grain merchants and distillers. It was through this position, that he became aware of the transportation problems in the province and he became an advocate for new railways.
The Credit Valley Railway was one of his plans, incorporated in February 1871. It was to run from Toronto to St. Thomas, with branches running through the Credit River valley to Orangeville and Elora. Unlike his other railway projects, George Laidlaw remained with this enterprise through its construction phase and was president for ten years. In the mid-1870’s, he personally carried on fund-raising campaigns in the countryside and lobbied in Ottawa and London, England. More information on this remarkable man can be found at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, from which these facts have been extracted.
Not all the farmers in Puslinch, whose land was to be bisected by or bordered the planned rail line were enthusiastic. Some were legitimately concerned that the engines, belching sparks, would set fire to their buildings and/or crops and fire was always an entity to be feared in those early days of limited fire-fighting ability. The Crieff correspondent wrote on Aug. 4, 1913: “The air has been polluted with the smoke from the fires along the railroad. Several fires have started, burning large pieces of fences and swamp.” The Killean columnist noted on August 12, 1913 that, “…the danger of fire along the C.P.R. tracks will be lessened, which was very dangerous before the rain fell”. Some were concerned about the safety of their stock and some about accessing land, which would be isolated on the far side of the line.
The original settler on the land and postmaster at Puslinch village, William Leslie, gave the Credit Valley Railway free land and right-of-way through his property on the promise, that the station to be established here would be named Leslie Station. As it happened however, the Company got its stations mixed up and named the next stop west, in Killean, Leslie Station and the one at Puslinch village, Schaw Station.
Surveying was done in 1873. Puslinch Profiles, 1850-2000 states that land purchase through the Gore took place in 1874. Following this, grading began immediately in 1874 and track laying in 1876. However, the construction was fraught with difficulty. As a cost saving measure, George Laidlaw had espoused the use of narrow-gauge lines. In 1874, the Ontario Government decided that a larger gauge should be standard and that only those companies using it would be eligible for financial assistance. This increased the cost of his railway, making it all but impossible for local contractors to take on the large contracts. There was a necessity to raise more money and fund-raising drives were held in rural areas along the proposed line. At the annual general meeting, held in Toronto on Oct. 26, 1876, George Laidlaw reported that, as a result of this problem, the whole construction season of 1876 was lost.
The Chief Engineer’s Report of 1876 stated that grading was completed from the outskirts of Toronto to Milton and from Milton to the Brock Road in Puslinch, with the exception of 4½ miles, for which the right of way had not been obtained and about 1½ miles near Campbellville. Nothing had been done from the Brock Road to North Dumfries, as no municipal aid had been received. From North Dumfries to Ingersoll, the grading was complete. All bridges, trestles and fences had been built between the outskirts of Toronto and Milton, with the exception of two small trestles near Cheltenham. Between the outskirts of Toronto and Ingersoll, 160 culverts and 63 pair of cattle guards had been built.
Funds were raised and work did proceed. The Credit Valley Railway received support from the province of Ontario and twelve cities, towns, villages and counties.
The following report appeared in the Guelph Daily Mercury of Wednesday, June 4, 1879:
“ROW AT MORRISTON – From a gentleman who was in Morriston on Saturday evening last, it is learned that a number of the Credit Valley Railway employees became very quarrelsome after having indulged pretty freely in the early part of the evening. For a considerable length of time, the village was kept in a great state of excitement by a succession of wordy wars and hitting from the shoulder on the part of the railway men.”
According to Annals of Puslinch 1850-1950, many workmen boarded at the Crieff Hotel, while the railway was under construction. The hotel burned down in 1878 and was not rebuilt.
An article of July 18, 1879 detailed the continuing work:
“FROM CRIEFF – Considerable progress is being made in the construction of the Credit Valley Railroad in the south of Puslinch, in the way of cutting through hills, excavating rock and grading. Two squads of men have been at work for about a month making a way through a solid bed of rock in the part known in local vernacular as “Egypt”. Operations on the rock will likely be finished this week. The debris resulting from blasting is deposited in a swampy part of the road, forming a solid foundation for the track. The contractor for this part is vigorously prosecuting the work, having engaged about two hundred men and a large number of teams and will likely have the road graded, ready for laying of rails, by the middle or end of August. Hands are paid a dollar a day and are apparently hard to get and men and teams receive about three dollars per diem. Quite a quantity of growing grain is being destroyed on the line but possessors are remunerated at the rates of about $20. per acre. When work commenced here the population of the village was materially increased.”
The reference to “Egypt” is to lot 29 of the Gore of Puslinch, a section of land, particularly rocky on the rear of the lot and swampy on the front, completely unsuitable for farming. The Highland Scottish people, making a Biblical allusion, equated the inhospitable land with the unhappy spot the Hebrews found themselves in, when captives in Egypt.
On July 29, 1879, an advertisement was posted in the Galt Reporter by Superintendent James Ross. 200 men were wanted on the Credit Valley Railway. They were to apply on the site at Drumbo or in Puslinch Township. Wages were one dollar.
On August 21, 1879, the Mercury reported that a worker on the Credit Valley Railway named Gorman had been seriously injured near Morriston a few days previous.
The line from Parkdale, west of Toronto to Milton opened in 1877; the section through Puslinch to Galt in September 1879.
“TRAINS ON THE C. V. RAILWAY – We notice by advertisement in the Toronto papers that passenger trains on the C.V.R. will commence this week to run between Campbellville and Toronto and next week between the Brock Road and Toronto. This will afford great accommodation to those from the neighbourhoods mentioned desirous of visiting the Toronto Exhibition and we hope the receipts to the company will be something handsome. They have been paying out pretty freely for the past year and a little taking in will not, we may rely, come amiss.”
The Governor-General, the Marquis of Lorne, presided at the official opening ceremony held at Milton on Friday, September 19, 1879. The opening of the railway had an almost immediate effect. An “immense” grain warehouse, measuring 100 feet by 60 feet, was completed by November 10, 1879 at the Credit Valley Station at Puslinch village. Two grain buyers were expected that week. It was reported that Puslinch village was looking “very lively” and that the value of property had increased decidedly.
The railway labourers and those who served their needs were moving on by this time. On Tuesday morning, November 11, 1879, Solomon Brown, butcher in Morriston, arrived in Guelph, accompanied by Constable Thomas Ingram of Puslinch, to speak with James Armstrong, who had kept a boarding house in Puslinch for the Credit Valley Railway workers. It seemed that James Armstrong owed Solomon Brown $139.06 for meat and Mr. Leslie of the Puslinch store $114.13 for groceries, for which he had tendered only $209. Solomon Brown and Constable Ingram were persuasive and James Armstrong paid the remaining money before leaving from the Great Western Station in Guelph.
On January 31, 1880, the railway ran an advertisement entitled “To Shippers”, announcing it was now prepared to give “prompt despatch” to goods from any warehouse in Toronto to the listed stations on its line. On the main line the stations listed were: Lambton, Islington, Dixie, Cooksville, Springfield, Streetsville, Trafalgar, Auburn, Milton, Campbellville, McCrae, Schaw, Galt, Dumfries, Ayr, Wolverton, Drumbo, Blandford, Innerkip, Woodstock, Hearnville and Ingersoll. A schedule from March 10, 1880, shows trains running west, stopping at Schaw Station in Puslinch village at 11:35 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. and trains running east, stopping at Schaw Station at 8:55 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.
“FROM CRIEFF – On the 26th of November (1880), some parties made a bee on the C. V. Railway to load wood on the cars. There were about thirty men there and whiskey was supplied freely, of which most part was bought in Crieff. The men were all more or less intoxicated and it was a wonder that no accident happened with the train. It is high time that this unlawful liquor traffic is put an end to for the benefit of the community in general.”
The line reached St. Thomas on September 5, 1881. George Laidlaw faced fierce opposition from the Grand Trunk Railway and Toronto City Council in 1879-80, in gaining access to Toronto. The Credit Valley Railway finally was permitted to reach the outskirts of the city and in 1880, an agreement was signed to allow use of the Grand Trunk track into the city and to share the station, from thenceforth called, Union Station.
R. L. Kennedy wrote in his article, Credit Valley Railway, on the website, Old Time Trains, that by June 1882, the Credit Valley Railway had 19 engines, 29 pieces of passenger equipment, 250 box cars and 195 flat cars. An engineman earned $1.75 to $2.50 per day; a brakeman, $1.25; a conductor, $1.70-$1.80; a track labourer, $1.00. He states that the Credit Valley Railway amalgamated with the London Junction Railway to form the Ontario and Quebec Railway on November 30, 1883. The Ontario and Quebec Railway was bought by the Canadian Pacific Railway on January 4, 1884.
Such was the impact of the railway on the communities it touched, that it lent its name to a hotel in Morriston. On February 12, 1884, M. Elliot Jr. advertised for sale the Credit Valley Railroad Hotel, centrally situated in the village of Morriston and lately occupied by J. B. Mitchell. It had “all the requirements and conveniences necessary for carrying on a large and profitable business”.
The railway caused a booming commerce to arise at Puslinch village. A “Morriston Jottings” column of May 27, 1890 noted that Malcolm Kennedy of Badenoch had shipped his second carload of cattle, bound for Britain, from Schaw Station and intended to make another shortly. On November 15, 1892, the same writer stated that, “shipments of apples from this section have been enormous this fall and is not yet over, as load after load may be seen going to Schaw Station”.
Four quarries operated along the line. Lot 28, front of the Gore, originally owned by Duncan and Donald Campbell and purchased by James Galloway in 1878, became the site of a quarry during the construction of the railway. Principles of the company, which received the contract in 1879, were David Christie and David Henderson. The writers of Annals of Puslinch, 1950-1967 said that that Christie and Henderson’s Lime Kiln was an important industry from the 1880’s until about 1928. It closed in 1930, under the ownership of the Canadian Gypsum, Lime and Albastine Co. Gordon Fielding stated for the historians of the Morriston Tweedsmuir Book, that the quarry reopened for three or four years during the Second World War. The minutes of the Puslinch Township Council confirm that Canadian Gypsum Lime and Albastine was operating the quarry in June 1939. It was owned by Emerald Lake Farms Ltd. in 1955, when it became an authorized swimming area but has been the site of at least sixteen deaths by drowning and much rowdy behaviour throughout many years. The quarry stretches 200 feet by 300 feet, the water is 30 to 35 feet deep in places and the banks fall away to depths of 10 feet.
The Wellington Quarry, thought to be on lot 34, rear of the Gore, originally the Malcolm Currie farm. On August 29, 1893, the Wellington Quarry had a contract to ship twenty cars of stone per day and had taken on a great number of extra men.
The property was later known as Clearview Quarry, then Clearwater Farm. The abandoned quarry became a popular but unauthorized and dangerous swimming hole, scene of at least three fatalities due to drowning. It was owned by Canada Crushed Stone in 1961. When sold to Steetley Industries Ltd. of Hamilton, that company applied to reopen the quarry in 1977 but were strongly opposed by local residents. In the meantime, they rented the property to Walter and William Tucker, controversial brothers, who espoused the alternative lifestyles of nudity and marijuana use and named the place Clearwater Abbey. At their eviction, the property was purchased in 1987 by the Hamilton Regional Conservation Authority, which determined in 2002, that due to the many trespassers, intent on swimming in the deep water despite the danger, the best course of action would be to dynamite the quarry to lower the water level and turn the area into a wetland, which will become an “ecological preserve”.
Maloney’s Quarry was about a half mile to a mile from Schaw Station, on lot 34, front of the Gore. According to land records, John Maloney and a partner first invested in the property in 1887. He became sole owner in 1891. The 1906 Atlas of Wellington County showed the location of the quarry on this lot, but listed his name as John Mahoney. The railway ran across the north-west corner of the farm and a lime kiln was situated on the south side of the track at the western edge of the lot. An engine and a stone crusher were installed there in March 1894. It was still in operation in August 1915, when it supplied chipped stone to the Township Roads Department. Finally, they struck a spring for which the pumps were insufficient and a lake formed.
From 1915, it, too, was an unofficial resort. Both lots 34, front and rear, were purchased by Canada Gypsum and Alabastine Ltd. in 1929.
A columnist for “Schaw Notes” wrote the following on January 16, 1894:
“H. Walker and R. Maddaugh have been teaming barley from Schaw Station to Greensville – 912 bushels to the load. The sale was made from our grain merchant here to Mr. Steele of Greensville. It is reported to be the largest number of bushels of grain ever teamed in one load on the Brock Road.”
That grain merchant was Henry W. Ironside of Schaw Station, owner of the large grain warehouse. He advertised on April 9, 1896, that he had for sale “a fine assortment of seed grain, consisting of Oderbrucher and Manchurian varieties of barley; Siberian, Lincoln, Bavarian, Australian, New Zealand and other good varieties of oats; Sword Mutipliers and Golden Vine Peas. Timothy and Clover seed always on hand. Headquarters for baled hay and straw. All grown on clean farms.”
A May 26, 1896 article stated that he had sold over 500 tons of hay the previous winter. Henry Ironside also brought in coal to sell locally and shipped cattle.
The Morriston columnist reported on Sept. 1, 1896 that:
“Everything around the C.P.R. station at Schaw looks neat and clean this fall. The company have had the fences and cattle guards on both sides of the Brock Road painted with a substantial coating of white paint. The yards, station and sheds also look clean. It is likely that the express wagons, which have been running from Schaw to Dundas, to connect with the Dummy for Hamilton, for some years back, will be discontinued on the completion of the T.H.&B. spur line at Hamilton, which will be early in November. Henry Ironside, the grain shipper, who occupies the large grain houses west of the station, has everything in readiness for fall and winter supplies and intends handling baled hay and coal on a large scale. Just now, he has purchased a large quantity of timothy seed for fall trade. John Macdonald is also making preparations for the fall and winter trade. ……. The station agents expect a busy time this week and next, owing to the Toronto Exhibition.”
William Reid loaded five cars of telephone poles for the Bell Telephone Co. at Schaw Station in the first week of May 1898.
With the post office, store, Henry Ironside’s large warehouse for incoming and outgoing freight and a bank in the station yard, Puslinch village was an active place. Roy Duffield, who drove the stagecoach on the Brock Road, recalled in a 1953 interview with the Hamilton Spectator reporter, Bruce Murdoch, that:
“In the old days, Puslinch village was really a busy spot and I often found it difficult to get a place to tie my team. They teamed stuff from all over the district to ship by rail from Puslinch Station. There would often be a line of teams a mile long waiting to get to the station.”
Puslinch Village reached its zenith around the turn of the 20th century, with a population of 125 in 1905, as a shipping point for the livestock industry of several townships, as well as for other produce.
On Feb 24, 1904, the Morriston columnist noted that about four cars of coal had arrived at the station the previous week and it was being disposed of quickly. H. W. Ironside was expecting another carload in mid-March 1904. Billy Brown shipped a carload of cattle on Jan. 9, 1905. In April 1909, Charlie Currie of Morriston shipped four sows and a boar to Macon, Georgia and the columnist remarked that Mr. Currie had done a big business that spring in supplying thoroughbred Tamworths throughout Ontario. Charles Currie of the Morriston Stock Farm continued to ship livestock from the station throughout the following fifteen years. A report of September 13, 1909 said there was quite a stir around Schaw Station, as Carey Brothers, who had bought most of the apples in the vicinity, were shipping. Local drovers, Brown and Ayres of Morriston were shipping hogs in October 1909. Didman and Sons were shipping cattle and Brown and McEdward, a carload of hogs and cattle in January 1911. One day in February 1911, Brown and McEdward shipped a carload of cattle to Toronto and a load of hogs to Ingersoll. Messrs. Brown and McEdwards shipped two carloads of hogs and cattle to the Union Stockyards in May 1912. In early June 1914, Billy Brown shipped a carload of hogs to Toronto.
Schaw Station was also the departure point for the many people, who left to begin anew in western Canada. As the Morriston columnist reported on March 15, 1910:
“The western fever is epidemic in Puslinch this spring”.
Those who had left recently were George Nichol, Robert McIntyre and Mitchell Steele, each with a carload of effects.
The railway brought the mail for the southern portion of the township to Puslinch Station twice at day, at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Of course, the stations at Schaw, Killean and McCrae, on Thomas McCrae’s farm on lot 5, concession 13, East Flamborough, just south of Badenoch, were useful for the rural resident, too, for travel to Galt and Toronto. In the period before the high school buses, students along the line caught the train to attend secondary school in Galt. Without the railway, education beyond public school would have been impossible for most country youth.
The Morriston columnist related on Feb. 22, 1927, that Tom Hammett, who was a Puslinch student at the Galt Collegiate Institute, had sustained cuts and bruises, when alighting from the train at the Puslinch crossing. The train slowed down but did not stop and he fell on the icy pavement, as he was getting off.
There were, of course, losses due to the railway, too. In June 1891, Robert Watson, a farmer in south Badenoch, east of Schaw Station, lost four valuable horses, killed by an engine. The C.P.R.’s fences were down, allowing them to get onto the track. Robert Watson was requesting that the C.P.R. reimburse him for his loss.
There were also some difficulties, as noted by the writer of “Morriston Jottings” on Apr. 8, 1890:
“Something gave out on an engine on the C.P.R. at Schaw on Saturday, which caused a delay of three or four hours and gave employment to local hands.”
In 1886, the Guelph Junction Railway planned to survey a route from Guelph to connect with the Credit Valley line at Schaw. However, when plans were finalized, the connection was made at Guelph Junction, near Campbellville.
The Morriston correspondent made an observation on March 18, 1890 about company regulations in regard to employees of the C.P.R.:
“The C.P.R. is very strict in carrying out its regulations. The section boss left his work for a few minutes to say good-bye to a friend, who was going off on the train. The inspector came along. Fine, two days off work.”
On November 25, 1890, the correspondent for the Morriston news, noted that the C.P. R. was replacing track from Guelph Junction to Galt, as well as installing a third side track at Schaw Station.
“For some time back, there have been some forty of their men boarding at Schaw.”
Some information about employees of the railway can be gleaned from the newspaper. During 1890-1895, Mr. Garrett was section foreman and the Garrett family lived at Leslie Station. The writer of “Morriston Jottings” noted on April 7, 1891, that John Ross, station agent at Schaw, intended to move to Toronto that week. On April 21, 1891, the same writer said that the new station agent at Schaw Station was G. T. Greer. George Greer married Clara Leslie, daughter of William and Jane Leslie of Puslinch Station on Oct. 11, 1893. A comment in “Schaw Notes” of Dec. 19, 1893, mentioned that James Russell of Brampton, had previously been an “operator” at Schaw Station for many years. C. J. Jelly was in charge at Schaw on Aug. 27, 1895. Mr. McPhee was the station agent in 1898. The Morriston columnist reported on Dec. 1st, that Mr. McPhee had forgotten to supply the village with the latest timetable. “Run a half dozen large ones up, old boy.” Mr. Butchart was track foreman at Schaw in 1903.
The railway claimed a few casualties through the years. Frederick Coveney was employed at Wellington Quarries, about two miles west of Schaw Station. It rained on Friday, August 19, 1892 and work was stopped at the quarry. Frederick Coveney and fellow workman, William Dawson, walked to Morriston. He walked home to the boarding house, about 3 ½ miles from Morriston in the afternoon, had his supper and walked back again to Morriston. He started back for the boarding house some time near 11 p.m. When a short distance from the village, he hailed Archie McCormick, who lived within a quarter of a mile of Schaw Station, who gave him a ride that far. This was the last seen of Mr. Coveney. It was assumed that he made his way to the station and then along the track a mile and a quarter, at which point he sat down and removed his pair of new boots, which were hurting his feet and his socks and fell asleep. A train went through between 12 and 1 and three more before daylight. His body was discovered at 6 on Saturday morning.
On Wednesday morning, January 12, 1898, Gilbert Barber of Keady, Ontario, a cousin of the McRobbie’s, who lived about three miles west of Schaw Station, left home, coming to visit in Puslinch and Beverly. He took the train as far as Schaw Station. When going to work on Thursday morning, George Butcher, section foreman and Edward Cutting found his body lying by the track about a mile west of Schaw Station.
Robert Watson, in his early eighties, was helping his son at harvest on his farm in Badenoch on Friday afternoon, July 29, 1904. He was crossing the C.P.R. track, which ran through his land, with a ball of binder twine, when he was struck by a train and killed.
About 8 a.m. on July 18, 1913, at Puslinch Lake, a stranger to the area walked up the track about a mile and stepped deliberately in front of the engine. Amazingly, the man was not killed instantly. Dr. King from Morriston was called to attend to him and he was taken to Galt Hospital, where he died.
At Puslinch Station, on Sunday morning about 2:30, November 23, 1919, David Kyle, a brakeman from London, who was working on Freight train #76, eastbound, tripped and fell off the train under the wheels, when returning to duty after eating his lunch.
Great excitement was caused at Schaw Station one evening in late August 1893, when a railroad detective on an eastbound express attempted to arrest four vagrants, who were hitching a ride. When they attempted to escape, the detective fired his gun, which brought two of them to a halt, while the other two got away. They were handcuffed and brought on board a train to Toronto to be examined. The “Schaw Notes” correspondent reported that the railway was employing detectives on all trains in an attempt to deal with tramps, a nuisance to the company and “a cause of uneasiness among the inhabitants of the stations where they choose to remain and Schaw seems to be a favourite resort”.
The Killean columnist reported on Feb. 3, 1896, that Robert Trousdale, who had charge of that section of the C.P.R., had been recalled to Milton and was to be succeeded by Mr. McKinnon.
About 3 o’clock on the afternoon of July 16, 1896, a heavily loaded freight of some 28 cars was proceeding east down a steep grade, known as McRobbie’s Cut, between Schaw Station and Leslie Station, when an axle or drawbolt broke. The train separated in two, with the rear part smashing into the front half at the foot of the grade. Eight refrigerator cars loaded with pork were piled up and destroyed. Two other cars left the track, which was torn up for fifty yards. Gangs of workmen were brought from Toronto and London to make the repairs.
Puslinch Township Council, at the Oct. 3, 1898 meeting, voted to advise the C.P.R. that the cattle guards at the crossings in the Gore were of practically no value for preventing cattle from getting on the tracks and to insist that they be repaired.
The first indication of concern for safety at the intersection of the railway with the Brock Road was evident in 1899, when Puslinch Township Council attempted to address the issue. At a meeting on July 6th, it was moved by George Meldrum and seconded by John Gilchrist, “that whereas there has been many narrow escapes from serious accident at the crossing of the Canadian Pacific Railway and Brock Road at Schaw, as it is impossible for people driving on the Brock Road to perceive a train approaching from the east until their horses are upon the crossing, be it resolved that the clerk be and hereby is instructed to notify the company, calling their attention to the dangerous character of the crossing and requesting them to make sure provision for obviating such danger in the future. Said communication to be addressed to F. Williams, C.P.R. Superintendent, London, Ontario.”
The Council went on to suggest that an “automatic signal gong” would be a reasonable safety measure. When the C.P.R. responded with an enquiry about whether the municipality was prepared to bear the expense of erecting a signal, the Council replied emphatically “no and in the meantime, should any accident occur at said crossing, the C.P.R. will be held responsible.”
As the Railway took no steps to address the grievance, Township Council decided to lay the matter before the Inspector of Railways on July 10, 1899. Apparently no satisfaction was obtained as, on July 9, 1900, the Council moved to apprise the Township Solicitor, Mr. Guthrie, of the difficulty with the railway company and to engage him to act on the Township’s behalf in regard to the Schaw crossing.
On May 2, 1905, Council resolved to send a deputation, consisting of Reeve George Meldrum, John Wilkinson, and John Cameron, to the railway authorities “for the purpose of bringing before the said railway company, notice and objection regarding the serious and dangerous condition of getting over the public crossing in this township, which in its present condition is considered to be a hindrance, obstruction and impediment to the people of this municipality and a great danger and obstruction to the travelling public”.
On May 1, 1909, the old name, Credit Valley Railway was phased out and the line became known as the Canadian Pacific Railway. The two stations in Puslinch Township both underwent name changes, too. On June 12, 1912, with the publication of a new timetable, Schaw Station was renamed Puslinch Station. This was to clear the confusion caused by two names, the post office being called Puslinch, while the station had been known as Schaw. With the summer timetable of May 1, 1921, Leslie Station became known as Killean Station. The reason given for this change was that there were several other places with the same name. The people of Clyde in Beverly wanted it to be renamed Clyde but upon looking into this possibility, it was found that there were two other places with that name. Killean was selected.
In June 1910, the C.P.R. Engineering Corps. surveyed a diagonal line across the concessions from Schaw Station to Corwhin Station, which was to connect at Schaw with a line from Hamilton; it was never constructed.
The C. P. R. had a labour dispute in April 1911. The local crew, working under Foreman Eli Winer, quit work, as the company refused to any longer supply them with a cook. The men declared that they could not both cook and work. One of them, John Gregor, stated his intention to start poultry raising.
Photograph courtesy of the Puslinch Historical Society.
Leslie Station, which later was renamed Killean Station, was a busy place, too. A report by the Killean correspondent to the Guelph Mercury, dated Jan. 27, 1913 noted that Mr. L. Tinning, a general merchant from Clyde, shipped a carload of corn to Leslie Station the previous week, for which there was a ready sale off the car to farmers in the vicinity. The same correspondent mentioned on Feb. 17, 1913, that Gordon Ironside and his men were busy filling cars with wood at Leslie Station. He was shipping timber from Leslie Station on June 23, 1913, as he had recently purchased 20 acres of bush from John Gilchrist. On January 18, 1918, Norman Hipel of Puslinch and his brother, Arthur of Preston were teaming wood from the Hipel bush to Leslie Station, where they loaded a couple of cars. The Killean correspondent reported on July 4, 1934, that a carload of salt was unloaded at the, by then, Killean Station by the Clyde Farmer’s Club.
The Morriston columnist mentioned that the station agent at Puslinch was Mr. V. White in January 1917. Bert Keyes was the night operator at Puslinch Station from 1920 to 1922. While stationed here, he married Lila McNaughton, daughter of John and Jennie McNaughton of Morriston. Mr. F. Holman was also a night operator at the station in June 1921 and in 1923, C. Deckert was operator at Puslinch.
A derailment occurred at the approach to Killean Station around 9 a.m. on May 20, 1921, when the baggage car of passenger train #629 developed a loose wheel and went off the track, pulling the mail cars and one passenger coach with it. The train was travelling slowly to stop at the station and the derailed cars ran along the side of the track but remained upright.
In March 1922, Puslinch Township Council wrote to H. C. Grant, General Superintendent of the C.P.R., Ontario District, requesting the construction of a new station house and warehouse at Puslinch: “We understand that the money has been appropriated and the plans out for some time.” Mr. Grant responded that, owing to a downturn in business on the railway, all expenditures of the kind had been curtailed for the present.
Bill Huether of Puslinch Village spoke to Township Council in October 1922 about the dangerous condition at the C.P.R. crossing on the Brock Road at Puslinch village. He requested that the matter be taken up with the Department of Public Highways in order to prevent a serious accident.
One Sunday night in early November 1922, the freight sheds at Puslinch Station, including the grain elevator, grist mill and weigh scales, were completely destroyed by fire. The Crieff Farmers’ Club replaced the scale. It was still very necessary to them and to others, as in March 1923, the United Farmers of Ontario shipped a car of hogs and Mr. G. Johnson of Guelph shipped two cars of fat cattle.
Bill Huether, who first worked for Mr. Ironside and eventually purchased the business about 1923, began receiving regular shipments of coal at Puslinch Station, distributing it to customers about the region. In October 1923, several area farmers were shipping turnips from Puslinch Station.
Another derailment occurred at 9:30 a.m. on a Monday in early June 1924, on a 30-foot embankment just west of Puslinch Station. Four cars of train #22 were derailed and some rail torn up.
Almost from the emergence of the automobile as a mode of transportation, there were accidents, just as there had previously been accidents involving horses and wagons or buggies. Where train tracks crossed roads, there was now a growing number of automobile/train collisions. Wellington County historian, Stephen Thorning, stated that there were, between 1920 and 1925, at least three fatal collisions at Puslinch village and several others that resulted in injuries. A report of June 8, 1923 said that the Board of Dominion Railway Commissioners had ordered improvements to be made at the level crossing at Puslinch Station. The railway was to install a wig-wag signal, in addition to a bell, within 60 days.
Nevertheless, on June 8, 1927 about 8:40 a.m., two people were killed and two injured when westbound C.P.R. passenger train #629 hit a car, which was heading south, at the level crossing at Puslinch Station and carried it a distance of about 200 feet. Mr. and Mrs. Foster Hutchison of Chicago died at the scene. Mrs. Colquhoun of Mitchell, Ontario, wife of Albert A. Colquhoun, M.P.P. for South Perth, was seriously injured, suffering broken ribs, a broken leg and internal injuries. Mr. Colquhoun suffered from shock. Although the crossing had a “wigwag” signal, the bell was ringing and the train whistle blew, the driver had ignored it. The impact could have been worse, as the train was slowing for the stop at Puslinch Station and was proceeding at 15 miles per hour.
This accident provided the impetus for a major change at a cost of $75,000. Work was about to get underway on Sept. 8, 1927:
“Autoists who travel that way to Toronto will be pleased to know that the level crossing at Puslinch, where the main line of the C.P.R. crosses the Guelph-Hamilton highway, is to be eliminated, A. C. Trory of Galt, having been awarded the contract for the construction of a reinforced concrete overhead bridge. Yesterday afternoon, he commenced trucking equipment to the scene and expects to have the job finished by the end of November. The bridge will be 100 feet long, with five percent grades on both approaches. There will be a 20 foot clearance from the rails.”
As well, the course of the highway was altered, embankments were built and several buildings were demolished or relocated, greatly changing the appearance of Puslinch Village.
Between three and four hundred men were working on the C.P.R. track in May 1929, where new 100 pound steel rails were laid between Guelph Junction and Galt.
In the Globe and Mail, Canadian Pacific advertised a fare of $1.00 return for Galt to Milton, Guelph Junction or Puslinch Station, for a trip going on May 27, 1933 and returning on May 29th.
Four small boys from Killean district appeared in juvenile court in October 1936, charged with placing stones on the track, nearly derailing a “flyer” that was travelling 80 miles an hour.
In September 1937, Puslinch Township Council received a letter indicating that, due to a decline in revenue, the C.P.R. wished to replace the station agent with a caretaker. Railway representatives, Mr. McGill and Mr. Thomas were present at the council meeting on Oct. 2, 1937 to further explain the situation, after which Council gave their consent. After that, Puslinch Station was staffed by a caretaker.
Mr. Bruder was section foreman for the C.P.R. at Killean in September 1938, when he and his family moved to Morriston.
Several hundred passengers on the Chicago-Toronto express were delayed for four hours in the coaches, east of Puslinch Station in January 1951, while the baggage car was lifted from the track by a heavy crane, which had been shunted from London, to allow two new wheels to be fitted. One wheel had cracked and broke, throwing the wheel on the opposite side off the track.
Steam powered locomotives were becoming passé by 1960 and diesel engines were the order of the day. The automobile reached new heights of popularity and use of the railway declined. The 401 opened through the township that year. The stockyards were torn down in August 1960, as they weren’t being utilized.
In October 1960, the C.P.R. requested that Puslinch Township Council support their application to the Board of Transport Commissioners to remove the station at Puslinch and dispense with the position of a caretaker. Council declined to support the application, pending the manifestation of the effect of the 401 on the area. The C.P.R. received permission from the Board to remove it in March 1961. The C.P.R. presented Puslinch Township Council with a request to discontinue express service to Puslinch Post Office in November 1963. Sitting vacant since 1961, the familiar landmark, Puslinch Station, was finally removed in the spring of 1966. According to Puslinch Profiles, 1850-2000, Killean Station was moved about the same time.
The most spectacular incident in the history of this rail line through Puslinch occurred on Tuesday, November 4, 1975. The London to Toronto non-stop freight, two new engines pulling 55 loaded cars and 33 empty cars, travelling 50 miles per hour, struck a loaded gravel truck at the concession 7 crossing at 3:50 p.m. The truck exploded into flame. The truck driver and the train brakeman were killed instantly. The engineer was seriously injured. The crossing, on a little-used stretch of the road, was marked with a sign only. The truck was carrying a load away from a pit a quarter of a mile north on the concession.
The wreck was a stunning scene:
“The impact carried the box of the truck about 30 yards down the tracks. The cab travelled another 30 yards. The two engines of the train came to rest about 100 yards down the track, the front engine nosed into a wall of mud and gravel from the rail bed.
Behind the two engines, about 20 cars were derailed and broken, stretching back to the level crossing. A few cars broke free immediately behind the engine and nose-dived into the ground, gouging the railroad bed or pushing up mounds of swampy ground in front of them. Two automobile carriers folded together, tossing new General Motors cars into the swamp and standing one on end against a nearby rail car. One of the 18 automobiles caught on fire and burst into flame again two hours after the crash.
Behind these cars, about 15 rail cars jackknifed and folded into an accordion pleat. Most of those rail cars were twisted out of shape, broken or toppled.
The railroad bed was torn apart for about 200 yards, rails were bent, ties pulled from the bed and scattered. Contents of some of the front cars, mostly automotive parts, were dispersed among the broken rail cars. A C.P. spokesman said damage could reach $1 million.
From the crossing toward the rear of the train, eight cars remain intact and standing on the rails. Behind them, other cars were derailed and many broken.
Last night, firemen from Puslinch and West Flamborough Fire Departments remained at the scene. They were joined by newsmen and more than 100 spectators, who poured over the wreckage and sloshed through the swamp and a trout stream running parallel to the tracks.
Trains with cranes were sent to the scene last night from London and Toronto and began to dismantle the wreckage at both ends. C. P. Rail officials estimate it will take two or three days to clear the track.
At the crossing, a bulldozer worked early this morning to push a rail car loaded with automobile engines off the tracks.
C. P. Rail police and Ontario Provincial Police prevented a steady stream of curious spectators from interfering with the work of the two cranes, bulldozer and more than 25 railway workers on the job.”
The foregoing colourful report is from the Cambridge Reporter of the following day. Before long, as many as nine bulldozers were at work at the site. 11,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the swamp. The line was re-opened about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday but the shattered remains of the crash still lay alongside the track. A great deal of excitement prevailed for days afterward in Puslinch.
In 2010, the train whistle still resounds across the south of Puslinch Township, a fixture for 130 years now.