In our sixth article in the series about Port Union heritage, Don Allen, Scarborough Historical Society and Archives, writes about the railroad.
By Don Allen
On November 10, 1852, the Grand Trunk Railway was incorporated. Plans were immediately announced to build a rail line between the cities of Montreal and Toronto. Railway construction commenced during 1853, with the final phase completed for the August 1856 opening of the line.
The Port Union station was constructed along with a number of workers’ houses. The actual train station was on the north side of the tracks, along with large sheds for storage of goods awaiting shipment or pick-up by customers. “Coal-cars” would be parked on the siding and customers would bring their wagons at an arranged time to remove the amount of coal they had purchased from various businesses such as the W.J. Morrish store. South of the tracks was the Station Agent’s house and a house for the tender of the water-tank. Another shed contained the steam engine used to pump lake water into the storage tower which was used to refill the train’s boiler. Also, for the station water supply and a “town-pump”. Wooden cribbing ran from the pump shed into the lake to protect the intake pipe from winter ice. Further east was the GTR Foreman’s house. At this time Port Union had a population of approximately 30 people, mainly workers employed by the GTR. On June 1st 1865 a post office was opened in the station.
Because of the steep gradient from Port Union to Scarboro Junction, a Shunting engine was on hand at the station siding. This was used to help push trains up the grade between the two stations.
On June 6, 1919, the Canadian National Railway was formed and the Grand Trunk was amalgamated into the new CNR. At one time, the station was staffed 24 hours a day with the Station Agent during the day and Telegraph Operators during the evening and nights. All train clearances to allow freight and passenger trains to proceed both east and west bound had to go through this station. The crew on a train could pick up telegraphed messages as they steamed through the station using a net to retrieve telegrams extended on a long Y-shaped pole.
During the 1950’s, with increased truck traffic and the opening of the 401 highway, Port Union lost its importance to the community.
The year 1967 brought a new style of transportation to the masses: the Government of Ontario brought in the “GO” train service. The Rouge Hill station was the first Government of Ontario Rail Commuter Station built. It opened on May 23, 1967, just a few hundred metres east of the old Port Union station.
It is sad that the 120-year history of the area could not have been incorporated as a new PORT UNION GO station. The station was demolished in 1973. The land was eventually expropriate in 1997 and the rail siding removed in 1998 along with the demolition of the Lasky Hotel that had been gutted by fire, five years earlier.
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