Getting Around Ontario


During a recent train trip between Kingston and Toronto, I thought about Grace and how she travelled almost a century ago. She said gShe said goodbye to her mother at Colborne train station in the fall of 1925, when she left home to attend Peterborough Normal School (Teachers’ College – see photo). It was her first train journey and she felt grown up and independent. Her mother Susan cried and waved until the train was out of sight, then drove three miles back to the farm in the horse and buggy. Susan knew she wouldn’t see her daughter for four months. Peterborough was about fifty miles (eighty kilometres) away – too far for a day trip.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, a network of train tracks crisscrossed southern Ontario.  Trains were often for both passengers and freight. Even very small communities could be reached by train. Wellman’s Corners, for example, had a flag station – a small shelter with a flag. Placing the red flag in a conspicuous holder gave the engineer a signal to stop. Grace came to that station in 1931 when she was invited to interview for the teaching position at Wellman’s one-room school. One of the trustees met her with his car and drove her to the school, two miles away. The train tracks crossed his land and he had the position of stationmaster.
Men from Stirling and other communities came by train to stops like this, carrying their fishing poles and their lunch. They’d spend the day beside a lake or stream, returning to the flag station in the afternoon with fish for their family’s dinner.
Nowadays, train routes link major cities. Rail lines to smaller communities have been torn  up to become trails for hiking and snowmobiling. A car is essential to visit Ontario’s small towns and fishing holes. This, we say, is progress.
Millie Morton