The Coming Of The Railway
By Samuel Farmer
On The Shores of Scugog
Those early times were palmy days for Prince Albert; but changes were coming. There were now three rival villages in Reach - Prince Albert, Port Perry and Manchester. Each place had its strong men who studied and fought to secure advantages for their respective villages. In Manchester there was Adam Gordon a man of quiet determination, who had considerable influence, as he at one time represented the riding in Parliament. At Prince Albert, Joshua Wright was the champion at first, but later he transferred his allegiance to Port Perry. He was a great fighter, fond of a debate, and often able to carry his point by sheer force of personality. There are many unwritten stories told of the prowess of Joshua Wright in debate. In Port Perry Messrs. Bigelow and Paxton were the men who looked after the municipal interests. These men stood out prominently as champions for their various villages.
Up to 1867 all the grain and lumber that had been taken to the front had been teamed there. There was no railway along this route. Often there had been talk of one, but no definite effort had been made for its construction. Had it not been for the rivalry of the villages; it is quite possible that the railway would not have been built until some years later. But Prince Albert was quite sure that Prince Albert would have to take a second place before many years.
Thinking men knew that none of these places could amount to much until there was railway communication with the Front. The old days were passing and new conditions had to be met.
In 1867 application was made to the Local Legislature for a charter to build a railway from Port Whitby to Port Perry. Messrs. Joseph Bigelow and Thomas paxton were the men who started the project. Associated with them and forming the Provisional Board of Directors were the following gentlemen: W.S. Sexton, Chester Draper, John Ham Perry, James Holden and Sheriff Reynolds.
After the charter was secured, meetings were held in Whitby Town, Whitby Township, and Reach Township to secure bonuses from these various municipalities. In this manner $100,000 were raised, divided as follows - Whitby Town $50,000; Whitby Township $20,000; Reach Township $30,000. Stock was subscribed to the amount of $100,000; and with this capital the work of construction was begun. During this time and until the completion of the railway, Joseph Bigelow was president of the company.
The contract for building the road was let to J. H. Drumble, of Cobourg, who worked at the job for a while and then sold out to C. E. English, of Toronto. This latter gentleman did not complete the work, but a dispute arose between himself and the company,and the result was that the company finished the building of the road themselves.
In deciding the route of the railway, many conflicting interests had to be studied. Reach Township had voted a bonus of $30,000 but the voters were not all agreed as to the route of the proposed railway. Adam Gordon and his friends wanted the road to pass through Manchester. Joshua Wright and his friends worked to get the railway to pass by the tannery a little West of Prince Albert. Had either of these routes been followed there would have been endless trouble, because Prince Albert and Manchester were rival grain buying centres, and the railway would have meant business success to the place that secured it, and failure to the other place. What finally resulted was that neither place secured the advantage. Stations were built south of Manchester and east of Prince Albert; but the terminus of the railway was at Port Perry. As things turned out the terminus was much more valuable than the stations. Grain which before had been marketed in Prince Albert and Manchester from the north was hauled to Port Perry after the railway was completed, and Aaron Ross moved his grain buying business from the former to the latter place. That year he built the elevator at present operated by James Lucas. Adam Gordon, of Manchester, also put up a big elevator, which was later destroyed by fire.
It was not all plain sailing in building the road. There was the usual difficulty in raising money, and after a while funds became low. Joseph Bigelow had money which he was willing to lend to the company, but so long as he was president of that organization, he could not legally do this. Accordingly he resigned his position, and loaned the company $40,000. James Dryden became president.
In 1873 the company sold out. The following extract from the Port Perry Standard, dated May 23, 1873, gives details as to the transaction:
"T. Paxton, Jos. Bigelow, C.E. English and J. Dryden, Esqs., have disposed of their interest in the Port Whitby and Port Perry Railway by a transfer of seventy thousand dollars of the stock, and some eighty-three thousand dollars of the bonds of the Company to James Austin, President of the Dominion Bank, James Michie, wholesale merchant of Toronto, and James Holden, of the Town of Whitby. Mr. Dryden, the late President, and Mr. C. Marsh have retired from the board, and have been succeeded by James Austin as President, James Michie as Vice-President, and James Holden as Managing Director.
"We understand that the gentlemen associated with Mr. Holden in the purchase are among the wealthiest capitalists of Toronto. With the exception of the changes referred to, the personnel of the Board is the same as heretofore - Messrs. C. Draper, A. Ross, E. Major and John Dryden being the Directors. We hope the new blood and capital that has been brought into the concern will be of advantage to all concerned, and to the interests of the public generally.
"If the men who now control will do what they promise, in the way of fully equipping the road with rolling stock, which is at present insufficient to meet the demands for traffic, and the road is otherwise put into first-class condition, we shall not regret the change. In referring to the condition of the roadbed, we may say that there is no better in the Province; and in condition to run over it is superior to the Grand Trunk. With a change of gauge of that road, which we would be glad to see, trains could run from Port Perry to Toronto without change or transshipment at Whitby. With proper management in the Company's interest, this will be one of best paying roads in the country.
"In reference to the parties who have had control in the past, we can assuredly say that notwithstanding all the obstacles that have been thrown in their way to embarrass and annoy them in the completion of the road, they succeeded and carried it to its present state, and have established a large and paying traffic. For so doing no men have been so vindictively, persistently and wantonly abused and misrepresented as Mr. Bigelow, Mr. Paxton and Mr. Dryden, and all through their honest endeavors to secure the completion of a railway to this section of the country.
"Knowing well the importance of the work to the country and the country generally, Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Paxton have been the moving spirits in this enterprise from its first inception, and they deserve credit for their determined and persistent efforts in its behalf; and, without fear of successful contradiction, we affirm that the county is more largely indebted to these gentlemen for the completion of the road than all the other parties connected with it.
"These gentlemen have been charged with desiring to stop the road at Port Perry in order to serve the interests of Port Perry alone, regardless of the Town of Whitby and other sections of the county, but such statements are by no means true. They were made with a special object in view - that of hurting the credit of those they were aimed at, and to injure the prosperity of this place. These gentlemen have only been actuated by one motive, and that simply the completion of the road. They were willing to hand over the road, or their interests in it, and did so, as soon as a bona fide proposition was made to them, by which they could obtain re-payment of their large advances. It was hardly to be expected that while Mr. Bigelow held so large an interest in the Company, both as a stockholder and a creditor, that he and the gentlemen with whom he was associated, would give up control and allow a ring of manipulators to endanger his interests, and those of his friends, without due consideration to security. When those desirous of managing the affairs of the company found this was the case, a combination was formed for purchasing the interests of the gentlemen to whom we have referred.
"The advance made by Mr. Bigelow amounted to $49,110, of which he received $42,000 in legal tender from the Bank of Montreal on Monday, a nice little sum in hard cash. We hope the croakers will now end their abuse, as these gentlemen have shown by their willingness to retire, what we have always contended for, that it was not the control they wanted, but that they were actuated wholly and solely by the desire, first to secure the road and then to secure themselves, and we don't blame them for it."
In spite of the continuous efforts of the Directorate to make the railway a profitable project, and in spite of the optimistic spirit of the press of that day, profits were small if they existed at all.
It was plain that profits could not be attained so long as the railway was a stub line having no direct connection with any of the larger railways. When a passenger wished to travel to Toronto, he did not buy a ticket straight through to his destination, but paid his passage to Whitby, where he bought another ticket to Toronto. In the same way freight was shipped to Whitby and then transshipped to Toronto and other points. Various efforts were made to dispose of the road to some of the larger companies, but without success.
Finally it was thought advisable to extend the road to Lindsay, so that its earnings could be increased. Another campaign for bonuses was begun, the money raised, and the road extended.
Since the time of extension there have been various views of the advisability of this movement. It is certain that Port Perry lost considerable trade eventually; and some have considered that the bonus of $20,000 given by Port Perry for the extension of the road was worse than wasted. In fact most people agree that the amount of the bonus was too large.
Those who advocated the extension claimed that eventually the road must have failed had it not been extended. There was not enough business to warrant the upkeep of the railway, and the probability was that trade would decrease instead of increase, as the lumber was gradually being cut away. In any case larger railways would not buy the railway as it stood. After the railway was extended, close watch was kept on the earnings of the road until the company was able to show a margin of profit. Then it was that the Midland Railway bought the road,and it finally became a branch of the G.T.R.
The early locomotives used wood for fuel, and along the east side of the track were immense piles of cordwood. At that time the engines on the Grand Trunk also burned wood; but it was plentiful all along the track, so that no difficulty was experienced in obtaining fuel.
The rolling stock was rented from a man in Montreal, except in the case of the passenger car which was bought in the United States.