Facebook Page
Old Time Trains

by R.L.Kennedy

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.

Map GJR and connections. NEW

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!
One of the interesting facts that came out of this "de-leasing" was that the Guelph Junction Railway owned most of the yard at Guelph Junction, north of the mainline where GO Transit has a facility to store and service commuter trains for its Milton-Toronto service. This would bring additional revenue, as would switching a lumber reload facility (rail-truck), and another industry, both located on GJR land! Map showing GJR/OSR limits.

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.
OSR promptly began switching customers in Guelph Junction yard 5 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
handling about 4,000 cars! The outlook is very positive at this time.

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
and will continue to be so for many years.

Three Year Infrastructure Program 2015-2017

Under new management a major upgrading of the track took place from Guelph Junction to the Eramosa trestle
which itself underwent a complete rebuilding. This work raised the track from Class 1: 10 mph to Class 2: 25 mph.
Track beyond through the City Limits itself remains at the age-old 10 mph primarily as a safety precaution along the
heavily built up right-of-way. As part of this program GJR contracted to PNR track work previously done by OSR.

New steel pile trestle construction.
November 2015

Guelph Junction Railway Gallery

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.

Aerial view 2005

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.
Three units this day; 181_647_504 February 4, 2014 Tim Ball



182_504 southbound with nine cars in a wintery scene at Moffat. Coming and going!
February 14, 2006 David Young


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.
It has been restored with north switch and now used for storage holding 25 covered hoppers for PDI.
Aerial view train southbound near Arkell.

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
over the Eramosa River. November 6, 2005 David Young

New steel pile trestle construction.
November 2015

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
a shopping centre just north of Huntsman, was extended to hold a dozen or more cars waiting placement at PDI in the Lower Yard. In late 2006 a new track with switches at both ends was begun to facilitate switching at the new PDI Liquid Terminal which could only be switched southbound. A major new customer for this liquid terminal was added when Clean Harbors acquired in 2012 Safety Kleen Canada closing their facility at Future Transfer in Tillsonburg (ST&E) yard to handle oils to
and from (by road) their rerefinery in Breslau. Interestingly this resulted in a traffic decline in Tillsonburg and an increase in Guelph that actually benefitted OSR with higher revenue!

Job 1 southbound with 181 leading is setting off cars from CN interchange and other cars from Joint Industrial area.
Job 2 8235 leading sits in the clear switching PDI's main facility on Elizabeth Street waiting for other crew to finish.
Proof of the heavy volume of freight traffic on GJR. 6/13/2016

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
La Farge (concrete pipe) property at 351 Elizabeth Street which is a new rail-truck transload facility owned by PDI. This new site relieves their CPR facility in Streetsville. The 14 plus acre site started out in February 2002 with 3 tracks holding 8-9 cars each. Later, in 2003 there were 8 tracks totalling about 64 cars and more recently 12 tracks totalling 90 cars. A further 4 tracks holding about 35 cars were added late in 2004 bringing total capacity to 110 cars. In additon there are short tracks to the packaging warehouse facility. Until the new location was ready PDI used a temporary facility located at the end of the North Industrial spur. Later still, another large facility was built at 240 Massey Road. It has 13 tracks for transloading
totalling about 90 cars.

Aerial views of PDI all three locations.

Spur Mile 30.88 Gallery

A little farther along at Mile 30.89 is the north leg of a wye and access to a spur at that at one time had a small enginehouse on it as well as some industries including Chemtura Canada at 120 Huron St. At the end of this spur, Owens-Corning Canada (fiberglass) on York Road.

181 leads southbound heading back downtown to set off a lime car from the interchange GEXR/CN into the lower yard
and switch PDI Elizabeth St. then PDI Liquid (formerly, Huntsman Chemical). October 1, 2014. Michael Da Costa

St.George's Anglican Church 1879
99 Woolwich Street

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 for
transfer of cars between GEXR and GJR as well as Joint Industrial Area leads and GEXR Fergus North Spur.

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.
Both CNR and CPR had equal access to all customers. Depending upon which railway put a switch from the lead into a
private siding of an industry you might see either a CNR or CPR style switch! Many small industries don't use rail.

Located on the North Industrial Spur is Metro Recycling a major new customer shipping waste metal from the former Armtec 2 plant. Owned by Consolidated Recycling Inc. it was acquired in October 2008 by Gerdau Ameristeel Corp.
A facility for contractor Pacific Northern Rail now known as PNR Railworks.

A large warehouse with a long siding located at 390 Woodlawn Road West is Smurfit-MBI formerly (July 1999)
MacMillan Bathurst (corrugated cardboard boxes) a CN customer. Note:: May 2011 RockTenn acquired Smurfit-Stone Containers making it the 2nd largest producer in North America for container board and corrugated cardboard boxes. WestRock is the current name which was created in 2015 when Mead/Westvaco and RockTenn merged.

Other industries that no longer use rail include Euclid-Hitachi. Also located here, another temporary transload for PDI.
Sanimax opened a packaging, distribution and warehouse centre March 2010 in the former Guelph Tool plant closed in late 2007. It required a small siding.

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
and expanded. Also located on this spur is AOC Canada Inc. (Alpha-Owens Corning, Resins and Coatings) plant.
Evolution Bio Fuel located along this spur with two sidings in recent years. Other plants on these spurs no longer use rail.


Guelph Junction Express
Short-lived excursion train

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
The little trail shelter almost has a modern railway shelter look about it.

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.

181-183 alongside the Speed River in Guelph. June 2000. Two photos; Brian D. Switzer

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
This van was transferred from Clarkson and returned to service to replace older caboose 4900. Kevin Flood

Guelph Junction

Lineup in the morning. 505 504 1210. Behind 505 is likely 181 as those two and 504 went out that day.
Behind 1210 is likely 8235. Left behind that day were 647 and 506 below. August 30, 2013. Tim Ball

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
At far left background is hull of 1116 cab control car bought minus trucks for parts.

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


Guelph Junction Railway Gallery


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.


Back to OSR main page



Back (Use your browser Back button)

Old Time Trains © 2015 2016 2017 2022