Ron Brown is a geographer and heritage writer. He has authored more than twenty books, including Rails Over the Mountains, The Train Doesnâ€™t Stop Here Anymore, and The Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Ontario. A past chair of the Writersâ€™ Union of Canada, he also conducts tours along Ontarioâ€™s back roads. He lives in East York.
In Search of the Grand Trunk
Explore Ontarioâ€™s forgotten rail lines and experience the legacy and lore of this the vital railway era of Ontarioâ€™s history. At its peak between 1880 and the 1920s, Ontario was criss-crossed by more than 20,000 kilometres of rail trackage. Today, only a fraction remains. Yet trains once hauled everything from strawberries to grain, cans of milk and even eels. Villagers depended on trains to visit friends, attend weddings, to shop, and to go to school. They gathered on station platforms to await their mail or greet a long-lost relative. Holidayers packed their trunks and headed north for an extended summer day at their favorite resorts. Today, these are but a distant memory as most of Ontarioâ€™s once essential transportation links lie abandoned and largely forgotten.
But perhaps not entirely â€“ many rights of way have become rail trails, and now witness hikers, cyclists, equestrians, and snowmobilers. Others sadly, lie overgrown and barely visible. Yet regardless of how one follows these early routes, one will find preserved stations, historic bridges, and railway era buildings, all of which recall this bygone era.
"Few people have done as much as popular historian Ron Brown to help us find and appreciate old places and old spaces in our porvince."