The train doesn’t stop here any longer.
The abandoned Ernestown train station sits in an isolated setting about 25 km west of downtown Kingston. I first became aware of it as it flashed past the window of my Toronto-bound train this past winter. I vowed to return for a visit, and my opportunity came when I was in Kingston earlier this month for a conference.
Originally built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1855-6, the building is designated as a heritage train station by the federal government. There doesn’t seem to be much local interest in doing anything with the station, which is kind of understandable given that the station is not really in a good location for any sort of community use. The station of similar vintage and design in Port Hope is still in use for passengers and was restored to period appearance in the 1980s.
The Ernestown station is easily accessible by bike from Kingston. A short paved road off County Road 4 and about 100 metres of grassy double track bring you right up to the back door. I didn’t go inside, but at least one visitor has taken some shots of the interior and another has made a short video about the station and its history.
The first leg of the Upper Canada Heritage Trail looks like many other rail trails.
The majority of the trail runs beside Concession 1 and passes numerous orchards and vineyards.
Risa attended a meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend and I tagged along for the drive down the QEW so that I could take a walk down an old railway, now the Upper Canada Heritage Trail. It travels about 11 km from the Bruce Trail west of Queenston down to the Waterfront Trail on Lake Ontario. Combined with the first few kilometres of the Bruce Trail from Queenston Heights and the General Brock Trail along the Niagara River, it constitutes a day-long hiking loop over mostly easy terrain. The UCHT would definitely be the quieter side of the loop, especially at this time of year.
Risa tossed me out of the car at the trailhead at York Road and Consession 2 and told me I had three and a half hours to get to Fort George or I’d be walking all the way home. The terrain was about what you’d expect in a rail trail: mostly flat, mostly straight, and mostly running behind farms. A portion of the trail just north of York Road was completely washed out: about 20 metres of the raised railbed had collapsed into a jumbled mess of trees, dirt, and rocks below. The resulting hole is navigable on foot with sturdy boots and a bit of care, but don’t expect to pass with your bike or horse. Several large potholes and a subsiding trail leading up to the washout hint that much more of the old railbed here is probably going to collapse in the near future.
The long middle stretch of the trail runs dead straight and flat beside Concession 1 and is a pleasant walk alongside a quiet country road lined by numerous vineyards and orchards. Autumn is usually my favourite time to go hiking but this portion of the trail would probably be much nicer in the late summer with the sights and smells of all the fruit coming into season.
The third section of the trail curves up through suburban Niagara-on-the-Lake heading toward downtown. It feels like more of an urban rail trail, with numerous well-kept backyards opening right up onto the trail. Just imagine having a section of the Bruce Trail literally outside your back door. This section is also home to the most interesting sight on the trail, a long stone wall. It looks long abandoned and neglected at first, but it does still separate private homes from the trail. Numerous sections have fallen down and been replaced by ugly wooden or chain-link fences, while another portion would have fallen over if it weren’t propped up by three large metal beams.
The trail ends at the Waterfront Trail, a short walk away from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort George. All in all, it’s a nice walk, if not a challenging hike.
When they’re located on a high-speed rural road a couple of kilometres away from any real landmarks, homeowners can sometimes have difficulty giving directions to visitors not familiar with the area. Some try to use distances in minutes or metres (“One minute south of Bailieboro on 28,” “four and a half kilometres north of County Road 9,” and so on), but such measurements tend to be either imprecise or inconvenient. Others put up their own landmarks to guide visitors: lawn ornaments, rock gardens, and flagpoles are among the more common examples. But some homeowners take a more direct route when it comes to giving directions: there’s just no mistaking “turn at the giant yellow driveway” for some other location.
(Freshly painted starting three weeks ago, as seen on County Road 28 about two kilometres south of Bailieboro, or twelve minutes north of the Transformers. Look for the giant yellow driveway.)
In honour of today’s release of the latest Bond movie, I present this poorly photographed bit of whimsy from outside a basement office in the Toronto Carpet Factory about a dozen years ago. The actual company that occupied Suite 007 remained, as you might expect, top secret.
It’s hard to imagine something more impressive than the sight of a Transformer, Bumblebee, standing at the side of the road in Port Hope:
Fortunately, you need only turn your head to see something far more impressive:
Primitive Designs in Port Hope always has something unexpected on display for passers-by on County Road 28. Last year, it was a Toronto Moose. This year, a two-storey-tall Optimus Prime and his merely human-sized companion, both made of car parts, grace the store entrance. An employee hinted that more may be on the way for next year. A fellow gawker was standing there all agog, barely able to string together a coherent sentence while standing in Optimus Prime’s shadow.
I can’t really say anything else other than to get thee on a day trip to Port Hope post-haste to check them out. The amount of work that went into them is incredible, as seen in this detail from Optimus Prime’s leg:
Is that a rod in your hand or are you just happy to see me?
People put the darnedest things on their docks. I hope he’s just holding the broken end of a fishing rod and not, uh, well, um, whatever it is that boys do when they pack up their satchels to spend a solitary afternoon by the river…
There’s still some hope here, but just a little.
(In Port Hope, of course.)
This abandoned rail line is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Surprisingly, it’s not part of one of the rail trails that I rode this summer, nor is it in the middle of nowhere: it’s barely a ten-minute bike ride from downtown Toronto. It’s owned by Metrolinx and it would be a very long shot to have a trail (with or without passenger rail) along here someday.
This past summer was a busy time in Dodgeville and, as always, there were far more pictures taken than posts about them. Here’s a gallery of just a few of the things that didn’t quite get into their own posts.
Continue reading 'Summer wrap-up'»