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Many reminders of Washago’s railway history remain

December 2020

The small, white clapboard Canadian National Railway station in Hamlet of Washago, Ontario, is just one of the remnants of the long-defunct Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), a historic railway dating back to the end of the 19th Century.

The station building was built in 1906, along Centennial Park Drive, but was moved from this location, 200 yards west, to its present site in 1922, as a replacement for the nearby Grand Trunk Railway station that had been destroyed nine years earlier.

In 1923, the bankrupt CNoR was taken over by Canadian National (CN) Railway, an acquisition that included all the CNoR’s assets, including the Washago station. The similarly bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway was also taken over by CN the same year.

CN later built a water tower right beside the station, to replenish the boilers in the steam locomotives stopping at the station.

In 1977, VIA Rail was created as a Crown Corporation for the purpose of providing passenger rail service across Canada, taking over from both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific (CP) Railways, who discontinued their respective services.

VIA Rail didn’t own any of their own tracks, but made use of existing CN and CP lines, including the CN lines through Washago.

While the old CNoR station remains in use by CN Railway, it’s now used exclusively by CN maintenance staff. A small, unstaffed building housing an automated ticket machine was built beside the old station to serve VIA Rail passengers.

The water tower also remains, now used by the hamlet for the municipal water supply.

Washago Coaling Tower

CN Railway built large coaling tower in 1936 to resupply the coal tenders of the old steam powered locomotives traveling through Washago (although it was likely not the first one). The locomotives would transit under the tower, and the coal would be dumped in from above.

CN Railway switched to diesel-powered locomotives in the late 1950s, making the coaling towers unnecessary. Most coaling towers across the country have since been demolished, but the Washago tower remains standing beside the still-active line. The tracks that once ran beneath it were removed long ago.

Sources: https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/ontario/ramara/washago-assorted, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washago_station, http://canada-rail.com/ontario/w1/washago.html#.X-2t57ySmUn, https://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php/Washago_VIA_Rail_station, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Rail.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/many-reminders-of-washagos-railway-history-remain/

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