FEATURED TOPIC: Heritage Train
With video camera in hand, Our Town: Markham volunteer
videographer Tracy MacKinnon hopped aboard a tourist train on the old railway
line through Markham. “It was quite exciting, just the feeling
of riding in the front of the train and what sights you see as you pass through
Markham, “Tracy recalled.
“We followed the crew around. They showed how to operate the switches,
and I shot them actually connecting the caboose to the engine. It was
kind of neat to see the engineer actually operate the train. I was right
The rail line was built in the1860s as the Toronto and Nipissing (T&N)
Railway. It was built to allow its owner, William Gooderham, a well-known
distiller from Toronto, to carry his grain to his distillery and wood for export
Towns paid handsomely to have the railways routed through them. Markham
raised over $4,000 in one night! The train’s routing through Unionville
can be credited to the efforts of a local businessman. “In the
late 1860s, he convinced the township to spend $30,000 to have the train bend
through Unionville,” Tracy noted.
The coming of the railway triggered an economic boom, shifting the village’s
business centres southward from the mills and making Unionville and Markham
a hub for the transport of people, livestock and goods. It would late
become part of Grand Trunk and Canadian National.
On special days, riders can experience the nostalgic journey through Markham
aboard The York-Durham Heritage Railway. The tourist train features authentic
cars from the 1920s through the 50s pulled by an old diesel locomotive.
Tracy also explored Unionville Station, built in 1871. “The ceiling
is quite neat. It’s old post and beam, and it’s all exposed,” she
said. It has been restored and today functions as a community room.
The historic line is still in use today as part of the Go Transit system. “The
heritage train brought the people here in the 1800s and now it brings people
to work. It takes the commuters down to the biggest city in Canada,” said
Tracy loves the small-town feel of living in Markham and the history of the
town. “Everything is preserved. The Main Street of
Unionville is just beautiful. It’s like you walked back 200 years
ago, but we also have all the modern conveniences. So on the weekend,
we can ride the heritage train; and on Monday morning, I can hop on the Go
train and be in downtown Toronto in 22 minutes.”
All aboard! The York-Durham Heritage Railway is just one part of Our