Facebook Page
Old Time Trains


C.P.R. Port Mc. Nicoll Subdivision

Georgian Bay & Seaboard


Public Time Table 1912 NEW

Employee Time Table No.44 effective May 1st 1921
Port Mc.Nicoll Subdivision
Peterboro Subdivision

Employee Time Table No.84 effective September 27th, 1936.


The Port McNicoll Subdivision was originally built under the charter of the Georgian Bay and Seaboard Railway from the old O&Q Havelock mainline through Orillia to Port McNicoll. A connection was made with the Muskoka Section (MacTier Sub.) at Coldwater Junction (Medonte) and the line built to Victoria Harbor (Port Mc.Nicoll), which was opened June 29, 1908. Although the portion from Coldwater to Orillia also came under the Bruce Division, it belonged to District 1 (Trenton Division) train crews whose home terminal was Havelock.

A line was first envisioned in 1891 as a lake and rail short cut for grain moving from Western Canada to Montreal and beyond. Construction began using the charter of the Atlantic & Northwest, from just west of Renfrew through Eganville, enroute to Madawaska and Parry Sound. A legal battle with the Ottawa, Arnprior & Parry Sound over use of a narrow passage west of Killaloe, was lost by the CPR and subsequently worked ended at Eganville after only 19 out of a planned 186 miles were built.

In 1902 another plan was for a CPR port at Midland or Victoria Harbour and for the GTR to grant running rights over their line from Midland to Peterboro, which was to be double tracked. This too failed.

The effort was revived with plans for a new port at Victoria Harbour on Lake Huron, and the Georgian Bay & Seaboard was incorporated in 1905 to build eastward towards Peterboro where it would connect with the old O&Q main line.

The first contract was let in April 1907, and the line was opened June 29,1908 between Victoria Harbour (in 1912, re-named Port Mc.Nicoll to honour Vice President, David Mc.Nicoll), and Coldwater, 12 miles. From there through Orillia to Atherly, another 18 miles was opened December 15,1911. The final segment through Lindsay to Bethany Jct. was opened May 4,1912, a total distance of 88 miles. In making its way through Lindsay, the GB&S actually used about 1.4 miles of the LB&P to a new Lindsay Jct. The original route was to go through Peterboro, but trouble getting a right of way resulted in other attempts including a connection with the Lindsay, Bobcaygeon & Pontypool just south of Lindsay. In the end a route through Bethany to Bethany Jct. (later re-named Dranoel to honour James W. Leonard, Assistant to the Vice President, by spelling his name backwards!), was chosen. Before much had been built the GB&S was leased effective January 1, 1910 to the CPR for 999 years. Toronto Construction Co. Ltd. performed the work at a cost of slightly over $36,000 per mile. It featured 85-lb. rail, and had a mild 0.4% grade (21 feet per mile). It became the Port McNicoll Subdivision.

Canadian Northern was granted joint use of the track for a few miles between Udney and Orillia, and the station there.


Grain train from Port Mc.Nicoll along the Scugog eastbound through Lindsay. 1930
Collection of Steve Lucas, digital recovery courtesy of Steve Woolfrey.


NOT a GO train! GO 705 with two other GO units leased week-ends, with grain train from Port.
Medonte, Saturday, March 18, 1979 Mike Bannon/Doug Hately Collection

Note: Station demolished 1999.

Ancient crossing protection illuminated signal on CN Coldwater 5/28/1983

Note: CP used running rights over CN after CP trestle abandoned.

8150 with van 438533. Port August 24, 1977 Mike Bannon/Doug Hately Collection

CNR Midland

CN 9620 leads two more units for a grain train. Tiffin elevator.
Midland. February 15, 1978 Mike Bannon/Doug Hately Collection


Steam gallery

3632 coaling up. Circa late 1950's Bud Laws Collection

Extra 3649 backing up. Port October 1955 Al Paterson/Bud Laws Collection

3722 in a winter scene not long before the end of steam. Uhthoff, January 9, 1960
Note the bay window on the cab. Common on yard diesels, not so for steam.

M4d 3422 Cyl. 21"x 28" Drv. 58" Press. 200 lbs. t.e. 36,200 Schenectady 10/1904
Way Freight ex Port at McMillan, Junction with CNR Joint Track to Midland. Note derail switch!
September 23,1959 Bob Shaw, CPR retired.

Two way freights meet. N2 class Mudhen 3722 at right. September 23,1959. Bob Shaw CPR retired.

3422 passing the Port Mc Nicoll mile board and yard limit. September 23,1959. Bob Shaw CPR retired.

3422 at the LCL freight shed. Note the spare scoop (shovel) on back of tender.
September 23,1959. Bob Shaw CPR retired.

3422 at the station with shed in background. September 23,1959. Bob Shaw CPR retired.

N2a 3632 Cyl. 23" x 32" Drv. 63' Press. 190 lbs. t.e. 43,400 (r/b 11/1926 ex 3832) CLC 997 10/1911

N2b 3722 Cyl. 23" x 32" Drv. 63" Press. 190 t.e. 43,400 (r/b 12/1927) ex 3922 MLW 51634 10/1912

A Permanent Slow Order of 5 mph was in effect on this bridge at Mileage 26.07
There was also a prohibitation against restarting a stalled eastbound train.

CNR Midland Sub. track in lower foreground.

View from a different angle crossing over CNR Midland Subdivision.
CPR/Collection of Rod Hodgson

A spectacular curved wooden trestle 2142' long and a maximum height of 114' with 40' above water, crossed the GTR and Hog Bay to reach the new terminal where an 3000' long wharf was built next to a 2,000,000 bushel concrete grain elevator with 80' high silos. The fall harvest of 1910 was the first to be handled there. An 800'x 89' flour shed was built along with a freight shed. There were also two passenger stations, including a summer one for boat traffic. A large yard was built along with a 6 stall roundhouse, (6 stalls added 1927), machine shop and 70' turntable, (replaced with a 90' table in April 1930), plus a 200 ton wooden coal tower etc. The grain silos were increased to 4,000,000 bushels in 1911 with a planned further 2,000,000, eventually reaching 6,500,000 bushels, well short of the original plan for 12,000,000 bushels.

Port Mc.Nicoll elevator expansion Canadian Machinery March 27,1913 page 1 and page 2

Port Mc.Nicoll elevator 1952 Spanner

Shipping season 1916

Part of the plan was to upgrade the old O&Q line eastward to Glen Tay by reducing the grade to a mere 0.4%, the same as the GB&S; reducing curvature and improving trestles, as well as double tracking. Line relocations were surveyed east of Havelock via Madoc and Actinolite to Kaladar, to straighten and shorten the route. All of which would have resulted in a top quality line to handle heavy grain tonnage. Another alternative under consideration was for the extension of the GB&S from Bethany to Cobourg, then eastward through Belleville, Kingston and Brockville connecting with the O&Q near Kemptville Jct. (Bedell). None of this was carried out, but a new line was eventually built between Agincourt and Glen Tay, which would relieve the old O&Q line.

A short-sighted move by the CPR during the Great Depression saw the line broken when 39 miles were abandoned September 7, 1937 between Lindsay and Orillia. This forced all traffic to move via Toronto. When World War II caused greatly increased traffic the short cut that had aided in World War I was no longer available and trains were seriously delayed at an overcrowded Lambton Yard in Toronto.

Local traffic, both freight and passenger, was minimal on the section between Lindsay and Orillia. A Daily except Sunday passenger train between Havelock and Port Mc.Nicoll had ended in December 1932, however a unique Mixed train service carried on for many years. It operated daily except Sunday from Port Mc.Nicoll to Orillia, its few local passenger carried in a combine to do their shopping in Orillia. It was powered by a D-10, which was quite sufficient for the few cars of freight and the one passenger car. What was unique about this train is that it was not in the public timetable, nor the employee timetable either! It ran as an extra and the locals all knew its schedule which returned from Orillia in mid-afternoon (around 2.30 p.m.). The conductor wore work clothes plus a uniform hat as was required by law. He would inform passengers about his estimated time to return to Orillia and no doubt watched for all to return before leaving. There wasn't even a station to use in Orillia, it having been sold off to the Canadian Legion. Returning, the engine was on the west end of the train tender first, with the combine next followed by the freight cars. It operated this way until it got to Medonte where the locomotive could be turned on the wye.

This break resulted in the 18.1 mile portion from Dranoel to Lindsay becoming part of the Bobcaygeon Sub. The portion between Orillia and Midland remained the Port Mc.Nicoll Sub. and was at that time part of the Bruce Division however, Trenton Division (District 1) trainmen retained rights to work the line. A record was kept of all miles worked on the Port Sub. by North Pool (District 3) crews. To compensate, a van and its East Pool crew were assigned to the North Pool for about 4-5 months each summer to recoup the miles of work "owed" to them. They worked all north trains, not just Port trains. Engineers' seniority covered all Districts. The next portion of the old GB&S to be abandoned was from Lindsay to Dranoel, December 25,1987. The Lindsay to Bobcaygeon part of the old LB&P had already been abandoned June 15,1961.

Scenes of Port Mc.Nicoll, 1959. R.L.Kennedy

Power house

Freight shed


Coal chutes

Hogg Bay


Two photos 1959 R.L.Kennedy


Coldwater (Mile 16.0) to Port McNicoll (Mile 26.3) was abandoned March 5,1971 in favour of running rights over the CNR to reach Port McNicoll without using the Hog Bay trestle, which was very expensive to maintain. Speed over this trestle was restricted to 5 mph! NOTE: The last train crossed at 5.45 p.m. March 4th hauled by two 8100's.

From Mile 16.9 CP trains used the CN Coldwater Spur, CN Midland Sub. from Coldwater, Mile 58.3 to McMillan, Mile 70.2 where they then used a new CP track from Mile 28.3 to Mile 27.7 where it rejoined the original CP track into Port Mc.Nicoll where it reconnected to the CN at Mile 29.0 (CN Mile 70.9), continuing on to Midland.

The segment between Orillia (Mile 0.0) and Uhthoff (Mile 7.3) was abandoned December 6, 1985, following which there was an attempt to start up a diesel tourist train (Orillia Rail Ride) on this line, but it was still-born. The remaining portion from Uhthoff to Medonte, Mile 14.1 was abandoned December 3, 1993. When Medonte was closed September 10, 1993 when the diamond with the CNR was electrified it was the last location for operators.

The loss of the "At and East" federal government grain rate subsidy in 1989 resulted in the end of grain movements through Port Mc.Nicoll bringing about its abandonment. The last train ran September 13,1991. (Owen Sound and Goderich elevators were also closed down.) In January 1990, CN closed its Tiffin elevator, their last Midland area elevator.

On May 4, 1992 the National Transportation Agency ruled that the CPR did not have to go before a public hearing to seek abandonment of its three remaining segments of trackage in the area, stating they did not constitute a branch line under the Railway Act, rather they were merely spurs and a yard.

These portions were: Mile 14.1 to 15.9 in Coldwater; Mile 28.3 to 29.0 in Port Mc.Nicoll; and Mile 31.2 to 31.4 in Midland. The CPR had already cancelled its running rights agreement with the CNR in November 1991.


Randy Masales Collection courtesy of Brian Switzer

These scenes were taken on April 30,1960, the last day of regular steam operation on the CPR. It was here that three old 2-8-0's (inc.3422) had soldiered on, unremarked and largely unnoticed, Port McNicoll had remained all steam right to the end! Note: 3722 had an 8,000 gallon tender, (same as G5 class 1200's), other engines of this class had their original 5,000 gal. tenders replaced with 10,000 gal. tenders.

Midland Terminal and Midland Simcoe

Midland Terminal Railway Co. was incorporated (Ontario) in 1903 by the Canada Iron Furnace Co. to build from the GTR at Penetanguishene to the GTR at Perkinsfield near Midland to reach their smelter which had begun operation in 1900. It used ore from the Helen mine on the Algoma Central & Hudson Bay and moved by ship to Midland. Just 5 miles of track was built at that time.

April 16, 1912 the name was changed to Midland Simcoe, and it was acquired by the Great Lakes Transportation Co. In 1926 authority was granted to extend the line from Midland to Orillia. Also in 1926 a new 2,000,000 bushel grain elevator was built at Midland. Instead of building a new line with a difficult access, they tried to negotiate running rights over the CNR. The CNR refused since it became known the little railway was supported by the CPR. In 1927 approval was given for a new right of way through Midland to connect with the CPR at Port Mc.Nicoll. In October 1927 the elevator opened. Early in 1928 the CPR announced it was building a yard and freight shed in Midland. Soon, an agreement followed allowing the CPR running rights on 4.2 miles of the CNR between Port Mc.Nicoll and Midland. That ended all need to build a separate line. April 30,1928 service was inaugurated between Midland and Port Mc.Nicoll with a daily except Sunday train.

Effective January 1,1930 the CPR leased the Midland Simcoe for 999 years. It was dissolved into the CPR in 1956. Running rights over CNR were cancelled by CPR November 1, 1991 after the closure of all elevators at Port Mc.Nicoll and Midland brought about the end of CPR freight service.

Port Mc Nicoll Subdivision stations

Eldon *
M. 39.0

Brechin *
M. 47.3

Orillia *
M. 60.7


Coldwater 1960's
Al Paterson

Port Mc.Nicoll

* Still on original site.

Great Lakes Steamship Service

On to: Trenton Division - Nephton

On to: Bruce Division - Passenger

Back to: Trenton Division - Lindsay, Bobcaygeon & Pontypool

Back to: Bruce Division - Hamilton

Back (Use your browser Back button)

Old Time Trains © 2012 2013 2014 2017 2018 2020 2022