Monday, March 23, 2015

Railways and Mills

In Durham the other day I was reminded of the importance of saw and grist mills in determining the settlement pattern of southern Ontario.  Almost all the towns and villages I can think of had their start with the establishment of a water-powered mill of some sort.  Thirty years later the railways came along, and became another dominant feature of the landscape, though in this region they're mostly gone now.

In Durham, as soon as we got out of the car we came across this old railway bridge.  I read about the 19th Century railroad building epoch years ago, but haven't paid much attention recently - since they aren't here anymore anyway.  This particular line was the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway.

In a number of towns the old bridges have been saved, and remade into pedestrian walkways.  This one provided a nice view over the river, and it's lit up at night.

Beyond is the old Knechtel Flour Mill, and the rebuilt dam that forms the mill pond.  Like the railways, many of these old mills have closed, though the buildings often still stand.  But they're actually a key part of the heritage of these small towns.

I'm sure this has been repaired, but it's interesting to think of them building this back in the 1870s without power tools and machinery.  An enormous amount of labour went into building the railroads all across North America.

I found the dam itself interesting too.  The green gantry in the foreground can roll back and forth across the dam, removing or adding stop logs like those on the left, to control water level in the mill pond.

On this sunny day the snow was disappearing fast, but we've had a cold snap now for two days, and it feels like we're back in February!

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21 comments:

  1. Beautiful shots- and you're right. So many towns, in the 19th century particularly in Ontario, got their start from one kind of mill or another.

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  2. Lovely photos and info ! I do find our Ontario's history and historical land marks very interesting ! The first thing I did before we moved to this valley village of Vienna Ontario was research it's history and to my surprise it has an old bridge that was built in the late 1700's to early 1800's still in wonderful condition that I walk every day with my Miggs and was once the richest villages in Ontario with it's saw mills and lumber mills and the fact that we have the history of Thomas Alva Edison - inventor of the electric light-bulb as he was housed in an old farm house here that is now the Edison museum . I did a post of this village on my other blog a few years back http://kandewoodphotography.blogspot.ca/2010/10/photos-of-our-village.html .Thanks for sharing , Have a good day !

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  3. Cute little town. And, yes it's amazing to think of all the railroads that were built without today's modern tools.

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  4. Nice pictures as always. : ) Love those old bridges.

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  5. awesome! ok that's my sort of place to check out

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  6. It's nice when towns recognize historical buildings and places need to be preserved. Powell River has a section of town that's a Historic Townsite, the old mill company town. The houses are now privately owned, and many have been restored. The business buildings are not as well maintained, but plans are in the works for more to be put back into service. - Margy

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  7. Nice to see some pictures of your industrial heritage. In parts of northern England settlement is similarly tied to streams which were suitable for building watermills. Here in the south it's more often sources of drinking water that determine the settlement patterns, but either way water has a big say in the geography of the country.

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  8. Interesting pictures! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Your photos make me want to go to Durham and explore.

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  10. I hope your sunshine returns soon and continues the melt. Your pictures are full of sun and optimism, and spring cannot be far behind! :-)

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  11. I wonder abut how hard it was to build bridges a century or more ago too! It's truly amazing what builders were able to construct with comparatively primitive tools.

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  12. Lovely photos and reminiscing about the mills and railroads. Glad they have preserved the railways as a walkway over the river. I'd love to walk there.

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  13. Nice series of photos - You gave us some nice looks!

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  14. i love old mills. there are not alot in my area.

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  15. that looks like a wonderful place to explore and wander about.

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  16. I wish we would have saved more of the old railroad bridges here in this country. They would make great pedestrian and bikeways.

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  17. Beautiful old bridge, how fortunate you folks are that the bridge wasn't removed or burned. Here, the railroad construction boom certainly provided employment for Irish and, later, Italian immigrants.

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  18. Lovely scenic shots! Well composed!

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

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  19. Thanks for explaining that last one. Now I understand what that is for.

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