Kingston’s Hanley Spur
Are the tracks really gone?
I can hear the chuff of a Canadian Pacific mixed train coming up behind me. There! A Canadian National roadswitcher burbles as it ambles along in the warm afternoon sun.
I am day-dreaming. I’m walking exactly where those steel-wheeled sights and sounds were once felt. I’m on the City of Kingston’s Urban K&P Trail, the umbrella name for the multi-use trail that traces the paths of Canada’s two major railways from mainline to lakefront.
When the railways first mapped out their steel arteries, the ‘line of best fit’ could not possibly reach every community. Canadian Pacific’s Montreal-Toronto mainline was many miles north of Kingston. The Grand Trunk Railway (later Canadian National) barely entered city limits.
The Kingston & Pembroke (the trail’s namesake) connected Kingston to the CPR mainline in 1885, with GTR’s Kingston trackage having reached the waterfront in 1860. Industry grew along the water; grain elevators trans-shipping to lake freighters, coal and oil dealers supplying the city’s heating needs, even one of Canada’s major locomotive manufacturers. Trackage was extended as far south as it could be—mere feet from Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Cataraqui River.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve relaid track along Kingston’s waterfront—at least in HO scale!
As Kingston grew, this trackage became inconvenient and in the way of traffic, of new buildings, and even of the businesses they once served. Gone by the 1980’s, the roadbed lay fallow until remaining segments were stitched together as an urban trail. Where smoke-belching steamers trod, the way is now clear for skateboards, mountain bikes and baby strollers!
Walking the trail last summer, it occurred to me that I could recreate the now-gone railway heritage I was strolling over. In HO scale! So with an eye to scale-modelling the scene, I took some photographs of some of the 19th and 20th century structures that were once rail-served, and still standing proud. Visit Kingston’s Hanley Spur for more information.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve relaid track along Kingston’s waterfront—at least in HO scale! The Canadian Locomotive Company, Imperial Oil and the Hield Brothers’ woolen mill again feel the hot exhaust of nearby switchers, the clank of couplers and the squeal of steel wheels on industry spurs.
The activity I’ve found most meaningful and rewarding is researching the trackside shippers and receivers, the history of the buildings and the line, and how it served and benefited the city over many decades. Also rewarding is the enthusiasm of the Associated Railroaders of Kingston, as we discuss building modules to represent this line from the postwar years to the swinging sixties.
The tracks are gone, but enough of the trackside scene remains that my interest in these waterfront operations continues to grow. My imagination frames the scene and I walk right in.
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Eric Gagnon – Photographs and text Copyright 2019