By Rail to Owen Sound, Published 13 February 1945A Geography Lesson by Austin F. Cross
I suppose I was the only newspaperman to go to Owen Sound, just for the train ride. Others went up to assess the relative chances of Mayor Gar and General Andy, but I wanted to see what took C.P.R. No. 705 four hours and 45 minutes to make 128.8 miles. This works out to 27.4 miles an hour, and any way you explain it, Leo Sauve. it isn't streamliner time.
I was among those, jostling with politicos, pontificos and so and sos down at the Union Station, to catch the first No. 33, and soon we were high-tailing it out toward Osgoode Station, with the 2401 up ahead giving out with that mad bull whistle. Far more appealing was the thrilling, exciting, travel-inciting whistle of 6060, which lumbered in late on C.N.'s No. 1.
In due course, I reached Toronto, where you always arrive too soon, and where it seems to me, that if you are not annoyed by the insolence of the red caps, you are frustrated by the endless tumbling down stairs, and climbing up stairs. To go through Toronto Union Station, you always take a beating nowadays, and worse luck, you can't get a car out of Ottawa that goes through Toronto.
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I soon found myself sitting in an Edward VII era coach, on train No. 705, which was to take me from Toronto the Good to Owen Sound the Better. But though it was old. there is something to be said for these old wooden models with the free swing backs, where you can flop over a seat, and put up your feet for a nice morning's loafing.
In this case, however, who should I have as travelling companion but Gordon Graydon, opposition House leader. Always affable, always friendly, you couldn't want a better man to travel with than Peel County's outstanding M.P. Gordon started rattling off the stations in a way to make me envious, until I learned the secret. He told me that having been brought up along the old Toronto, Grey and Bruce, his aim in life at a tender age was to be a brakeman on said line. Conceiving that functionary's chief duty to be the calling off of stations, Gordon dutifully sat down and learned them all. Then, just for good measure, in case he had to start off in a smaller way, on the Elora branch, he conned by rote, the Cataract, Erin, Hillsburg, Orton, Bellwood, Spier, Fergus, and Elora sequence. It takes talent to do that.
Some people are launched in life with high hopes, but don't get very far. Gordon, who aspired to be a brakeman, didn't seem to make good, for he never got that high in life. Today he's just the leader of His Majesty's loyal opposition. However,, he still knows the stations, and I suppose he secretly hopes that, some day President Coleman will hear him rattle off the stops and hire him as a green brakeman. Life sometimes gives a man a break, just when things seem darkest.
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I must confess that this was brand new territory to me. Once I left Streetsville Junction, which I had whisked through on such haughty limited as No. 19, and No. 21, Chicago-bound, I was on terra incognita. So we swung slowly across the switch, just clearing the main line for No. 21 fast on our traces, and Ihen we settled down to do our leisurely schedule up to Grey North.
At Brampton we paused a bit, since it shares with Orangeville, top honors as the metropolis of the trip. Then we started up through Snelgrove and Cheltenham. We traversed ordinary prairie country, and then, as we passed Inglewood, the scenery got wilder and grander. We were headed up toward Forks of Credit I should think that the run from Inglewood clear up to Orangeville is about as picturesque a stretch of countryside as we have in old Ontario. As the train twists and turns, always climbing, there is something reminiscent of southern Oregon. I myself found it hard to realize that I was only a score of miles away from dull Streetsville Junction, and convention Brampton.
The towns were all buried under a dazzling white blanket, the black rails barely showed above the snow, and the dinky little station in the dell, picturesquely named Forks of Credit, seemed like something in another world. At Cataract you change for Flora. But anywhere between Inglewood, where the climb starts, and Orangeville, where you come up on the level again, you find that the Credit River, thanks to its developing some picturesque aqueous forks aeons ago, gives you quite an eye-full.
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Up ahead was old 2206, with her new wartime bell, tinkling its tintinnabulation through the towns. Gone was the old bell that Shaughnessy gave her: this is the new Coleman model.
At Orangeville. they had just opened up a new restaurant, and the traincrew were so proud of this new caravanserai you would have thought they had shares in it. I liked their local pride.
The thing to do in Orangeville, of course, is to get off and eat for ten minutes, so I did just that. It is, a pleasant place, clean and new, with incredibly quick service, and excellent hot tea.
Some of my fans, like Commons Cleric Boyce, usually regard my trip as wasted, and my Lesson just as well unwritten, if I don't come back with a few engine numbers. I can say that running opposite 2206 is 2208. I beg to report too, that the 500's still survive around here, with 516 and 553. I remember when they used to operate around Montreal 30 years ago. Then there are the Victorians. 428 and 452, revamped in 1913, and still wayfreighting, or cleaning out sidings with the snowplow. Inevitably, you find the D 10 s. 888 and 953 being two I remember. I must say I was delighted and surprised with the amount of power operating out of Orangeville. I have underestimated the place all my life. I did it a cruel wrong, and now I apologize. As a railway man, I now assert that Orangeville is one of the most interesting places in Ontario.
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From Orangeville the train climbs uphill to Dundalk. This is the highest point attained by any railway in Ontario, namely 1705 feet. The C.N.R. has a spot above 1609 feet in Algonquin Park, and rarely travelled. The CP.R.'s summit between Montreal and Manitoba is at Upsala. Mile. 1073, with an altitude of 1585 feet. You can see that Dundalk's got them all stopped. I understand it is also the highest town in Ontario.
After Dundalk. you run through a number of places, including Markdale, in which I am promised a dinner by Walter Harris, the M.P. for Grey-Bruce, who lives in Markdale. I told him one time that the old geographies cited Markdale as being famous for horses. He, poor young kid of the gasoline age, thought me wrong. I got an old geography, proved my point, and elicited a promise of a meal. I hope he gets reelected!
From Markdale it is downhill to Owen Sound, and a pleasant run it is. I could write about Owen Sound too, of its pleasant scenery, and pleasanter people, but then I was sounding that city's charms as far back as 1934 in these columns. I leave Owen Sound to the political writers.
Lastly, and I hope Windsor Station sees this, I never did see so polite and obliging a crew in all my life. They were courtesy itself. You wouldn't know there was a war on, they're so polite. It is a pleasure to travel with people like that. Why can't all railroaders be as obliging as the Owen Sound crew?