Before too much time goes by let’s note an important milestone for Winchester, Chesterville and Kemptville and the whole region. It was 130 years ago, on Sept. 1, 1887, that the first Canadian Pacific Railway train started running between Smiths Falls and Montreal. It wasn’t easy. Efforts to build railways had gone badly for years. But the new CPR line was the final key link in a regional Ontario CPR line that had opened just three years earlier between Toronto and Perth.
When we are awakened by noisy CPR trains passing in the middle of the night or we wait impatiently at a crossing for more than 100 box and tanker cars to pass, it is easy to dismiss them as relics of the past. But they laid the foundation for our world of highways and airlines. Even the Internet can be traced to the clacking keys of the railway telegrapher. Railways knitted together tiny isolated pioneer communities, speeding the movement of people, farm products and ideas of a wider world. Employment grew as companies like the M.F. Beach sawmill in Winchester opened a furniture plant to service the Eaton department store chain.
Thanks to the Upper Canada Village Aultsville train station display for reminding us of the anniversary.
Bert Hill, Winchester