Toronto’s railway revolution in the 19th century

In the footsteps of the railroads at Front Street East. Photo: Lila Berdai,

Early Railways: Ontario Simcoe and Huron

Thanks to investments, the Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railway Company were the first railways built in Toronto in 1850. The Queen City was already built on the lakefront, the company established itself in the area today called Queen’s Wharf .

Rivalry between railway companies

If the early 1900s were marked by a proliferation of railway companies, all were rivals. The companies do not share their resources. Since there was no standardization of trains, each company had its own railway line, with rails of a particular size.

However, at the same time, the massive construction of railways in Canada was followed by financial difficulties, and several companies went bankrupt. At the same time, railway companies were developing thanks to their sometimes unstable partnerships with banks, which put a considerable damper on the growth of rail.

In 1912-1913, the federal government intervened and formed Canadian National, one of Canada’s two major railway companies. This progress further supported the unification between the different provinces of the country at the time.

The historic Canadian National Railway offices, built in 1923 on Cherry Street. Photo: Lila Berdai,

Union Station would symbolize this reunification of the railway companies a few years later. A focal point in the center of Toronto, the station has facilitated the coordination of services.




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