The Railways

Photo: First steam locomotive built in Canada: “Toronto”, the Northern Railway of Canada’s Locomotive No. 2
The Toronto, the first steam locomotive built in Canada;
... a beautiful piece of machinery” -W.L. Mackenzie
Photograph courtesy of the Canada Science and
Technology Museum, Ottawa: CN000385
The 1850s were arguably the most transforming decade Toronto ever experienced as three railway companies—the Ontario, Simcoe & Huron (later Northern), Great Western and Grand Trunk—pushed their way into the city.  Fort York and the Reserve took the brunt of the invasion because the lands there remained mostly open, and the rules on expropriation favoured the railways. See more here (p2).

But there were other casualties too. The Walks & Gardens Trust, which dated from 1818, and the Esplanade project designed to create a waterfront plaisance, were overwhelmed by railway building. Indeed, it is not stretching a point to say that the separation of the crossing of road and rail traffic on Strachan Avenue, currently under way for completion in 2014, is to remedy a problem with roots in the 1850s.

It is a fact that the financing of early railways in Canada had an influence on their names. The first wave were predominantly railroads, following U.S. custom. Many were laid out by American engineers, and it may have been assumed that much of their financial backing in the form of bonds would come from the United States. Hence, what began in 1836 as the Toronto & Lake Huron Railroad had turned into the Toronto, Simcoe & Lake Huron Rail-road Union Company when construction began in 1851, and was renamed the Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Railroad Union Company in 1852. But as the mid-century passed and British financing came to be more important the term railway became dominant. This was reflected in the naming of the Great Western Railway headquartered in Hamilton and the Grand Trunk Railway centred in Montreal. When the Ontario Simcoe and Huron was reorganized with government financial assistance in 1858, it was renamed the Northern Railway.

How to explain except confusion why in his sketch of 1851, John Howard refers to the 'Northern Rail-Road;' or why the name 'Grand Trunk Rail Road Company' appears in the title of the Royal Engineers' plan of 1856.

1851 Howard: Survey of Garrison Creek
1856 Walkem: Plan Showing [lands] taken by the Toronto & Hamilton (now Great Western) Railway

1856 Ord/Pilkington: Plan Shewing Terminus Forming by the Grand Trunk Rail Road Company

1857 Fleming Ridout & Schreiber: Plan of the City of Toronto

1859 [Plan showing the line of the Grand Trunk Railway in the City of Toronto]