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Take a scenic ride on the historic Port Stanley Terminal Railway

August 2021

The Port Stanley Terminal Railway (PSTR) is a tourist, heritage railway, located in the port town of Port Stanley, Ontario, south of London, on the north shore of Lake Erie.

Using the tracks of the former London and Port Stanley Railway (L&PS), the PTSR takes visitors northward on either a 60-minute, 8-mile trip from their home station in Port Stanley, past the tiny Union Station to Whytes Park, or the full 14-mile, 90-minute route, to the southern edge of St. Thomas, and back to Port Stanley.

Starting on 5 July 1856, the L&PS began carrying passengers and cargo from London to Port Stanley (L&PS), providing an alternative to the congested plank road that connected the two towns. Steam-powered locomotives carried loads of coal, lumber and other products to the shipping terminals in Port Stanley, for export to other regions.

In 1913, the City of London, who owned the 23-mile line, took over operation and converted it to a high-speed electric train operation. London Mayor Adam Beck, who was a big proponent of using Hydro Electric power generated at Niagara Falls, supported the conversion to electric trains, as a way to entice more tourists to use the train for daily excursions to Port Stanley to enjoy the L&PS facilities the town, such as the amusement park, and the bathing, dining and dancing facilities. The L&PS Pavilion, later known as the Stork Club, was a popular facility for dancing to performances by big band entertainers, such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and London’s own Guy Lombardo.

Passenger service on the L&PS ended on 1 February 1957, as better roads and increasing ownership of automobiles, caused ridership to significantly drop. The L&PS continued carried on with freight traffic until 1966, when the line was taken over by Canadian National Railway (CN).

The line was a very busy freight corridor for CN, but the St. Thomas to Port Stanley section of the line was abandoned in 1982, after a washout at the Village of Union damaged the line.

The abandoned line was bought by the Port Stanley Terminal Rail Inc., a newly-formed company created by a group of railway preservationists from London and St. Thomas, with the purpose of resurrecting the line as a tourist attraction. The line was repaired and the two dilapidated stations in Port Stanley and Union, were restored and upgraded to modern standards.

In its four decades of operation, the PSTR has carried around 25, 000 riders each year, on scheduled and charter trips. Passengers ride in restored period cars, both open and enclosed, pulled by 1940s & 50s-era diesel electric locomotives. A restored CN caboose, named the “Little Red Caboose,” can be booked for children’s birthday parties.

Sources: Port Stanley Terminal Rail (pstr.on.ca), Port Stanley Terminal Rail – Wikipedia, Home – Port Stanley.

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/take-a-scenic-ride-on-the-historic-port-stanley-terminal-railway/

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