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Thursday, January 09, 2014

The End of the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway

In Stand Clear of the Doors, I talked about the history of the Whitby, Port Perry & Lindsay Railway (WPPL), a line which connected Whitby with Port Perry in 1869 and later with Lindsay in 1877. The "Nip & Tuck"was part of Whitby life, in one form or another, right up to the 1970s.

The WPPL didn't remain the WPPL for long, being absorbed first into the Midland Railway in 1891 and then into the Grand Trunk in 1893. The line, running from Whitby's harbour north to Lindsay, also included a connecting track to Whitby's main station, allowing for easy travel to Toronto for communities to the north of Whitby such as Brooklin, Myrtle, Port Perry and Lindsay. Traffic on the line declined and in 1941, CN (who now owned the Grand Trunk) abandoned the line from Lindsay to the junction with CP in Whitby, leaving the remainder as an interchange between the CN, CP and Whitby harbour. Finally, in 1978, CN abandoned the line entirely. As the newspapers commented, the WPPL was gone, after just over a century of use.

However, as I pointed out in my book, this was not the case. While CN had torn up the line between its main line and CP, it had retained the portion connecting CN with the harbour. The "Whitby Harbor Spur" (yes, without a 'u' in harbour!) was kept to access several manufacturing facilities near the lake. As a result, the last portion of the WPPL saw regular CN local freight trains right up until 2008, when Smurfit MBI, the last rail-served facility, closed. The track remained and was occasionally used for storage until recently.

This December 2013 photograph shows the real end of the WPPL. The area around the connection between CN's main line and the harbour spur is being excavated as part of the new GO Transit East Region Rail Maintenance Facility being built in south Whitby. With no customers on the spur, the track has been removed and the one crossing (Watson Street, where the photo was shot) has been paved over. The WPPL survived an impressive 35 years longer than its official death-date.

The true end of the WPPL is another event in the transformation of Whitby into a commuter suburb of Toronto. The process has been going on for decades, but the removal of one of the last spurs in town assures that Whitby won't have any new rail freight customers.

Speaking of the new maintenance facility, there have been very few updates of late because construction remains firmly in the "let's move a giant mound of dirt around the site" phase. Of course, there is more to it than that, there are new access roads and drainage systems have been installed (much of the land around the site is marsh). When there is visible progress, I hope to begin the updates again.

If you enjoyed reading a little about the WPPL, why not learn more about it in my railway history of Whitby. Stand Clear of the Doors is available now!

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