New display tells the story behind Station replica

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The train that once passed through Creemore may not have been the fastest or the most profitable of railways but it played an important role in the growth of the village of Creemore.

Those who understood and appreciated its history were determined to build a community centre in the image of Creemore’s old train station, which burned down around the time the decommissioning of the railway.

Bill Mann was a part of the team that proposed building the Station on the Green in the old railway yard as a millennial project and he always wanted the building to tell the story of Creemore’s railway history.

“I always wanted some recognition of the village’s railway past but it got lost in the dark recesses of people’s minds,” said Mann.

He collected photos and stories about the railway, relying on history collected by local people, including that penned by Helen Blackburn and train enthusiasts Charles Cooper and Robert Sandusky, and then worked them into a display board now mounted inside the main doors of Station on the Green.

Built by the Hamilton and Northwest Railway from 1878-1879, trains travelled the 40-mile route between Beeton and Collingwood, with 12 stations, Creemore and Alliston being the main centres.

The lightweight rails used in its construction limited the size of the engines and therefore the number of cars that could be pulled, because the train didn’t have enough power to traverse the hilly terrain.

The train went through twice each day, except Sundays, and carried mail, freight and passengers.

Only in the early days did the train have a lot of passengers. For them, the hour or two train ride to Collingwood or Beeton would have seemed very fast, compared to travelling by horse and wagon.

The train, nicknamed the Hog Special for its smelly four-legged passengers and the Virginia Creeper for its pace, also carried firewood.

In 1906 the Grand Trunk Railway built a grand train station in the village but shortly afterward, the replacement of firewood as a home heating fuel resulted in a decline in shipping volumes and the already low number of passengers shrunk to one rider per day.

In the end, it was trucking that killed the railway as a mode of shipping, said Mann.

The railway closed in 1955, then under the ownership of Canadian National Railway. That spring the train station was destroyed by fire. Lightening was blamed but never confirmed. The old original station was resurrected as a passenger waiting area until the service was completely shut down in October.

A crowd of more than 200 people is said to have come out to see the train make its last passenger run, decorated by the local undertaker with a wreath and a sign that read, “a fond farewell from the citizens of Creemore”.

The railway south of Creemore was decommissioned but freight continued to be shipped from Collingwood to Creemore until 1960.

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