Everyone Has A Railway Story
Ask around and you'll fnd that everyone has a memory of riding a train. It could be a trip across Canada through the Rockies, a trip on the Canadian Northland to Moosonee, or a rapid train to Montreal. Some business people today still prefer to travel by train because it is more relaxing than flying, and during the journey, it is easy to get some work done. Others take their families on a train ride to give them the experience of a former era. And every day of the week, thousands of passengers still stream in and out of Union Station from countless locations outside the city that are still easy to reach by rail.
For over 100 years, Toronto was a major railway centre, and its dominant position in Ontario and Canada resulted because of its railways. Today, although most of us have other transportation options, we do have found memories of travelling by train. Railway crossings and the sound of trains remind us of some good old times. To share their experience, some take their kids to an old train station and go for a ride. Others relive their train memories by owning their own model sets with motorized locomotives, cars, tracks and small villages.
Toronto has become the city it is today because of the railway era between 1850s to 1960s. At one time, Montreal was the largest city in the country, with its prominent position on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Toronto was able to pass Montreal as the economic engine of Canada because of the railways. Yes, Toronto had waterways; but it also had a way of connecting the city over land to all corners of the province, and across the country
Our growth and development, the people and expertise we attracted to the city, our leadership frst in manufacturing and today in fnance – all of this can be attributed back to the way in which the city embraced railways, and the many railway "heroes" who saw the potential in building rail lines and stations throughout the city
Trains And Railway Stations As Cultural Icons
Railroads continue to make an impact on our culture even though trains are no longer an everyday experience for most. Just look at one of the books currently on the Best Sellers List ("Te Girl on the Train") And ever since trains were introduced, trains and railway stations have been featured in hundreds of movies, songs, even Broadway shows (e.g. Starlight Express). Who can forget the famous scene in movies like Some Like it Hot, Mission Impossible or Strangers on a Train? One of Canada's most famous music legends, Gordon Lightfoot, gave us "Te Canadian Railway Trilogy", and children love the story of Tomas the Tank Engine. We even use railway expressions in our daily speech, e.g. "full steam ahead", "run out of steam", "get back on track", "interrupting my train of thought" and "just chugging along".
Our Lost Stations
It's hard to believe that at one time, there were 76 railway stations in Toronto! Only two of these exist today in their original location, the others (except Don Mills) were demolished when the railway era ended in the 1950s and 1960s. In most instances, there are few if any reminders left that a station even existed. In some locations, there is a plaque, or a subway or GO station in the area. And yet, everyone knows what those railway stations looked like – probably because we've all marvelled at miniature model train sets and watched movies!
When you read these stories, think of those who were passengers on the trains, where they were going, who was meeting them at the station. Were they on a great adventure headed west, or just arriving for the frst time in the city, greeted by the grandeur of Union Station? Also think of the thousands of people who worked in the railway industry, designing the rail networks and the locomotives, laying the tracks, repairing the trains, and keeping the railways running on time.
From the man in the ticket booth to the steam locomotive engineer driving the train, everyone had a key role in an industry that literally moved Toronto forward into the 21st century with locomotive speed and power!