The Guelph Junction Railway has remained all but invisible from its incorporation in the late 19th century until the present in the early 21st century! The Town of Guelph had rail service since 1856 when the Grand Trunk Railway built through on its way from Toronto to London. It also had the Great Western Railway's Galt & Guelph Ry. until the GWR was absorbed by the GTR in 1882. Seeking competition for better freight rates, the business leaders incorporated the GJR in 1884, then leased it in May 1887 to the "new guy", Canadian Pacific Railway, who finally got construction underway and opened it on August 20,1888.
For over a Century the only name to be seen on locomotives and other equipment was that of Canadian Pacific even though the City owned 100% of the shares making it unique in all of Canada. The City drove a hard bargain in the original lease getting 40% of the gross revenues of all traffic over the line including the CPR's own traffic originating on the G&G portion beyond to Goderich.
Declining traffic first brought about reduction and then elimination of passenger service along with a less generous sharing of revenues. Finally, the CPR was no longer interested in the Guelph Junction Railway and notified the City it would not renew the lease when it ran out on December 31, 1997.
The City undertook to take over its 16 mile long railway
and contracted with Ontario Southland Railway, a small contract switching
operator to provide service. Effective January 1, 1998 the OSR took
over and the GJR itself remained invisible!
There was also the 3.1 mile segment north of Norwich Street (mile 31.75 Goderich Sub.) of the old G&G remaining in CPR ownership which served at least two active customers. More importantly it also allowed the GJR to reach an industrial area in the City's north end where two long leads (both over one mile long), on City owned land, (track 50-50 owned CN/CP), reached the few remaining customers on a Joint switching basis. GJR acquired this small segment of track March 31,1999, to not only reach the Joint industrial area but, also to allow competitive access to both major rail systems, an enviable choice not enjoyed by most industries and short lines.
The CNR served this part of Guelph from a small yard next to the mainline, and a branchline that once ran between Galt, Guelph, Fergus and Palmerston. By the time the GJR became independent there was only a short stub running through the City to reach the Joint industrial area. It was what was left of the Wellington, Grey & Bruce. CNR sold this spur November 15,1998 to another new shortline taking over its main line between Stratford, Guelph and Georgetown, Goderich-Exeter Ry. which had also taken over CN track from Stratford to Goderich, April 3,1992, becoming the first modern short line in Ontario. Goderich-Exeter was originally owned by Railtex, a US operator of shortlines. GEXR was their first entry into Canada. All Railtex shortlines were eventually sold to Rail America, the biggest operator of shortlines in the USA.
OSR was only obligated to provide service three days a week, but from the beginning they showed a desire to provide service to the customer whenever it was requested. Five day a week service soon became normal and long hours common. On some occasions a second crew was called to relieve the first one. The two-person crew changed to three. Traffic grew and grew, a single RS-23 unit became insufficient and a second unit was added, an RS-18, (plus a spare unit) as tonnage increased.. Additional units rotate in service.
This success was due to OSR's excellent customer service along with the City's dedication to providing rail service to its existing industries as well as attracting new and expanding businesses to Guelph. Key to this success is access to both major railways to get competitive service and freight rates.
A major expansion resulted from a unique opportunity when OSR took over the long-invisible Guelph Junction Railway owned by the City of Guelph and long leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway. When declining traffic caused the CPR to give up its lease Ontario Southland stepped in effective January 1, 1998 and they have not looked back since expanding operation and growing business with excellent service. An important missing link was completed when a short piece of the CPR Goderich Sub. was purchased by Guelph ensuring a connection to the City of Guelph jount switching industrial area in the northwest part of the city also served by Goderich and Exeter a shortline operating the Canadian National main line through Guelph. This resulted in far more competitive service and business has grown substantially.
It all began using OSRX 504 (ex CP 8044) just setoff by CP at Guelph Junction December 31, 1997. Jason Noe
The original agreement called for OSR to provide service
3 days per week.
GJR traffic has grown considerably: 1998, 1323 cars; 1999,
1910 cars; 2000, 2415 cars. 2003 near 3000 cars.
GJR continues to operate at a profit as traffic in recent
years has grown to $2 Million of revenue in 2015
Completion of 2017 saw a record number of 4,809 carloads
handled, up 31% over 2016. A net profit of almost one million dollars
($958,000) resulted. This in turn resulted in payment of a dividend
for the first time in those 20 years. $100,000 was paid to its sole
owner, the City of Guelph. OSR's contract was renewed once again, this
time for 3 years with a 2 year option. In recent years GJR has been
responsible for all track, signal and structure maintenance contracting
it out separately.
1998-2018 20 Years!
January 1, 2018 marked the twentieth anniversary of Ontario Southland's operation of Guelph Junction Railway.
Note: 2019 traffic up 12% to 5192 carloads!
Traffic continues to grow, as noted above PDI has expanded its facility in Guelph again and again until there is no more room! The majority of their traffic now routes CN/GEXR whereas previously it was almost all CPR. (They continue to operate in CPR Streetsville Yard as well). Another new shipper starting about two years ago, in the north industrial area is Metro Recycling loading out waste metal to Western Canada. Late in 2004 Rockett Lumber relocated from Erindale on the CPR Galt Sub. to GJR Guelph Jct. They now receive much of their traffic via CN/GEXR/GJR. Hunt Haulage left the Junction in late 2002 for a new facility in CPR (ex TH&B) Aberdeen Yard, Hamilton. Huntsman Chemical closed their facility in September 2005. ABB also closed their transformer facility (once CGE), in December 2005, vacating in February 2006.
Track: Not including the many private tracks on PDI property, described above, there have been some additions to GJR tracks including three tracks into the OSR shop in Guelph Junction and the reinstallation of the north switch on WGOD3, plus addition of new track WGOD4 and a short stubend track next to the shop. Soon, GO Transit is expected to move out of Guelph Jct. as their new Milton facility is under construction beginning September 2005, which will consist of 4 tracks each holding two 12 car trains including locomotive. Note: This work has been held up by the construction of two highway overpasses in Milton which is expected to be completed by the end of 2006. This will free up the existing 5 tracks totalling some 5850 feet. No doubt GJR/OSR will quickly find a new use for these tracks. Update This work was later completed and OSR has taken over use of all trackage on the north side of the Galt Sub. main line.
The Guelph Junction Railway continues to be an important
link in the daily commerce of the City of Guelph
Three Year Infrastructure Program 2015-2017
Under new management a major upgrading of the track took place from
Guelph Junction to the Eramosa trestle
New steel pile trestle construction.
Guelph Junction Mile 16.4 (former CPR Goderich Sub.) Customers include: Timber Specialties (pole creosoting), Goodfellow (lumber) and in late 2004, Rockett Lumber. (Note: A lumber distribution centre for Canfor was once located here on 11 acres and opened in November 1991. Also, Cecil M. Hunt Haulage was located here until late 2002 when it left for a new facility in CPR (ex TH&B) Aberdeen Yard, Hamilton.) A heated enginehouse was built in the yard.
Moffat Mile 20.2 is a small point having a passing track used by GJR for storage of empty tank cars for owner Procor and other cars. Sharpe Farm Supplies does not use rail although they have a private siding.
1591_8235 southbound at Moffat passing Sharpe Farm Supplies. January 28, 2016 Michael Da Costa
Track machine having cleared main track cleared its
way into storage track in order to clear 181 northbound.
182_504 southbound with nine cars in a wintery scene
at Moffat. Coming and going!
Corwhin Mile 23.2 once had a small station; nothing here anymore.
Same train shown at Moffat, a little earlier at Corwhin.
Arkell Mile 27.1 is next, where a short stub end
siding was once used by Guelph Utilities to unload hydro poles.
181_505_504 crossing Watson Road, Arkell. August 30, 2013 Tim Ball
Mile 29.75 181_506 southbound at wooden pile
creosote ballasted deck trestle 181 feet long
New steel pile trestle
Mile 29.78 Near the south end of Guelph is a liquid
transload facility, a new line of business operated by Polymer Distribution,
Inc. PDI (well-known for plastic pellet transloading from covered hopper
cars), which opened in 2006 following closure in September 2005 by the
previous owner. PDI relocated their headquarters to the large office
building at 256 Victoria Rd. S. This was a large chemical plant operated
by Huntsman Corp. Canada Inc. (There had long been a chemical plant
here, first Hart Products, which was acquired by Lever Bros. in 1962
and renamed Hart Chemicals. Then it was Texaco Chemical Canada 1992-1994
when all of Texaco Chemical was bought by Huntsman). Once it was normal
for 20 cars to be here on four tracks (including a scale) having only
11 spots thus requiring lengthy switching moves. Rail was essential
to this plant, without it they would have had to relocate. An old deadend
siding referred to as "Kaufman's"
at Mile 29.88 once used to hold a few tank cars waiting placement
in Huntsman (long-ago used by Kaufman Shoes, and since demolished) at
the back of
Job 1 southbound with 181 leading is setting off cars
from CN interchange and other cars from Joint Industrial area.
1591_1210 switching the main PDI location on Elizabeth Street near downtown Guelph. October 13, 2015 Tim Ball
A little farther in to Guelph is the Lower
Yard between Mileages 30.22 and 30.57 beside which was the site
of the former
Aerial views of PDI
all three locations.
Spur Mile 30.88 Gallery
181 leads southbound heading back downtown to set off
a lime car from the interchange GEXR/CN into the lower yard
St.George's Anglican Church 1879
W.C.Wood (freezers) and other plants, are either closed
or no longer using rail. Upper Yard between Mileages 31.29 and
31.58 is almost gone and what remains is unused. Here were the passenger
station and freight shed; both long-gone. Farther along, United CO-OP
ended operations soon after OSR took over, then the siding was briefly
used as a team track. It has since been removed. At the end of the line
a reverse direction track connects with a large plant with nine sidings,
ABB Inc. (ASEA Brown Boveri, previously CGE) makers of large transformers
etc. It closed at the end of 2005. This track continues southward across
busy Woodlawn Road West as an Industrial
Lead to connect with the interchange track XT99
To reach this area the City of Guelph had to buy from
the CPR a short portion of the Goderich Subdivision beyond the end of
the Guelph Junction Railway to its end at the north city limits, the
line having been abandoned beyond there to Goderich.
Joint Industrial Area
A large area in the north end of Guelph was set aside
for industrial development and rail was an important part of this.
On the South Industrial
Spur is another new customer as of October 1999, Bi-Pro Marketing
a transloading, storage & warehousing facility, (CN & CP) with
2 tracks (a third track to be added) holding 27 cars for agricultural
products. Soon, it was averaging 100 cars per month inbound, mostly
via CN. A storage track was created 12/2002 to serve Bi-Pro by dead-ending
the lead itself and adding a new lead to the north of it. This facility
was later acquired by Traxxside Transloading
Guelph Junction Express
Scenes along the line
647_644 southbound to Guelph Junction. Stone Road, Guelph. 10/10/2019 David J. Parker
Sold June 2020 to Sartigan Ry. a small shortline in Quebec operating part of former Quebec Central.
181_505_1210 heading south through Moffat bound for Guelph Junction. May 15, 2014 Michael Da Costa
181_504_505 heading back downtown after switching the north end of
town. October 21, 2013. Michael Da Costa
RS-23's 503_505 passing along the scenic Speed River and River Run area in Guelph. Two views; 2/21/2001
OSRX 4900 (ex CP 434900) brings up the rear of short train in this second view.
Close up look at 183 (ex INCO 208-3) MLW M3497-02 5/1968 built with low nose.
Night Falls Over Guelph
Southbound train with OSRX 434462 ex CP caboose leaving
Guelph in a winter scene January 23, 2005
Lineup in the morning. 505 504 1210. Behind 505 is likely 181 as those
two and 504 went out that day.
OSRX 647 and OSRX 506 enjoying a day off. Friday, August 30, 2013. Tim Ball
Shop with work equipment hopper and track machine, storage box car.
November 4, 2013 Michael Da Costa
Looking out from cab of 1116 as day job backs towards job. July 31, 2015 Michael Da Costa
Inside cab looking into shop. May 8, 2014 Michael Da Costa
END OF THE LINE!
After 22 years and 8 months of providing great customer service that resulted in a huge increase in freight traffic the end came on August 28, 2020 when Ontario Southland, its management and employees left the City of Guelph's property. Sadly, all that hard work, pride, dedication to duty and service to the community wasn't enough to ensure that a fair and equitable agreement could be reached to renew the contract to operate the Guelph Junction Railway.
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