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Trains brought thousands to Orillia for 'pleasant afternoon at park'

At one time, the two railway lines were so busy, a man was hired to warn people of oncoming trains at park crossing on Tecumseth Street

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by Marcel Rousseau.

Some were previously published by the Orillia Museum of Art and History and in the book Postcard Memories Orillia.  

The first railway track built on Orillia’s waterfront was the Midland Railway Line in 1892, which was later taken over by the Grand Trunk Railroad (GTR).

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) line was built closer to the water in 1910, using a tremendous amount of fill and blocking access to many of the boathouses between Elgin and Tecumseth Streets. The town made the CPR rebuild many of these boathouses along the new shoreline.

In 1913, a new wharf was built at the foot of Mississaga Street. Since the new depot had been built with its station platform encroaching onto Mississaga Street, the CPR was also required to build a new drive around both ends of the station so people who drove to the wharf would have ample room to return to Mississaga Street.

Both railway lines were busy during this period. During the four months of summer, the town shared the cost with CPR and GTR to station a man at the park crossing on Tecumseth Street to give warning of passing trains.

Having the CPR Station near Couchiching Park and the downtown was a huge benefit to local businesses.

A 1931 newspaper story from the Orillia Library archives describes how three large CPR trains with up to 3,000 people spent a pleasant afternoon at the park.

However, by the mid 1930s, the station was no longer required and in November 1935 it was leased to the British Empire Service League - now the Royal Canadian Legion.