Advertisement of the Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Railway printed on a beroadsheet, 1855. Credit: Toronto public library.
In May 1853, the first steam train to operate in Canada West began service between Toronto and Aurora, at that time called Machell’s Corners. This was the first stage in a line being constructed through to Collingwood by the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union Railroad Company (OSH). The OSH was Canada’s first commercially successful railway line, promoted by entrepreneur Frederick Chase Capreol.
The completion of this line to Collingwood effectively linked the upper and lower Great Lakes by rail for the first time and confirmed Toronto’s position as the leading manufacturing and trading centre in the province. It also was important in opening northern Ontario to mining, forestry and other resource-based industries. The town of Capreol reminds us of this today.
The OSH’s initial run to Aurora (Machell’s Corners) was a milestone in Canadian railway history and is commemorated today by a provincial plaque and a locomotive bell displayed on the grounds of Aurora’s restored 1900 Grand Trunk Railway station.
The arrival of the railway brought development and economic prosperity to Aurora and every community it reached. In Aurora’s case, it led to the establishment of the Fleury Agricultural Works which went on to manufacture ploughs and a wide variety of farm implements and machinery for sale across Canada.