History Lesson: Accessing the Tollendal Mill

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In the 1800s, getting to the Tollendal Mill could be a precarious journey.

The only access, before a bridge was built over Lover’s Creek, was by way of water or the Tollendal Mill Road. This road ran west from the Penetanguishene Road (Yonge Street), down a steep downslope, over the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) tracks and on to the grist mill on the west side of Lover’s Creek. At the north side of the junction of the road with the GTR, a road also ran to The Gables.

The drawback with this route over the Tollendal Mill Road was that it had a steep slope down to the railway tracks at a curve in the tracks that a person could not see an approaching train from the south. Once a horse and wagon proceeded down the hill, often it would be too late to stop or backup in the event of a speeding north bound train. On more than one occasion there was a close call with a train, a few cattle were hit but nothing was done.

Nothing until August 19, 1892, when James McKee, a Singer Sewing Machine Co. employee, left Barrie on business, by horse and wagon for Tollendal.

Without seeing the approaching train, the slope of the road created too much momentum for James to stop in time. The 60-mile-per-hour northbound express struck the horse, killing it instantly and turning the wagon into splinters. Mr. McKee was badly hurt and died shortly after in the Barrie hospital, leaving a wife and seven children.

Innisfil town council decided something had to be done. On October 24, 1899 the township passed a by-law expropriating land from the Montgomery and Galbraith estates to straighten Tollendal Mill Road and built a bridge over the tracks.

By 1902 a wooden trestle bridge was built with loose planks for the road bead that rumbled like thunder when driven over. This solved some the problems with the train crossing on the road into Tollendal but vehicles still managed to crash through the bridge guard railing from time to time landing upside down on the tracks but with no more fatalities.

The contract with the GTR had them paying a portion in maintaining the bridge.

By 1960 and after many years of use the bridge badly needed costly repairs or even replacement. By this time the GTR had merged with other rail lines to become the Canadian National Railway (CNR) and they wanted to find a way of avoiding the on going bridge expenses. The CNR offered to build another road to replace thunder bridge, further to the west where there was no hill to deal with. The land west of the Tollendal Mill thunder bridge to the Allandale station, approximately a mile-and-a-half, was owned by the railway. An agreement was made to sell the easterly half mile, excluding the rail bed to Innisfil and to build a new road on the westerly edge of that purchased land. This would give a much shorter and safer route, now connecting Minet’s Point with Tollendal.

In 1962 the thunder bridge was demolished at a cost of $800.

With Tollendal Mill Road now cut in two parts, the easterly portion remained Tollendal Mill Road. The westerly portion from the CNR tracks to Yonge Street was renamed Highland Avenue and later to Foster Drive after being annexed by the City of Barrie.

2018-05-17T08:11:45+00:00

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