DWIGHT, ON, Aug. 21 /CNW/ - Today, a provincial plaque was unveiled by
the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Township of Lake of Bays at South Portage
Dock in Dwight, Ontario to commemorate the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway
Company - once known as the "smallest commercially operated railway in the
Over the years, northern Ontario attracted settlers and tourists alike.
This awe-inspiring landscape, however, made settlement and transportation a
challenge. Although rail travel and canals were often effective in connecting
remote and rugged regions, challenges still existed - for example, the steep
1.8-kilometre stretch between Peninsula Lake and Lake of Bays. This challenge
was finally overcome when the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway Company
track was completed in 1905. For the next 55 years, this narrow-gauge railway
provided essential links for both commerce and tourism in North Muskoka.
"Since 1953, the Ontario Heritage Trust has unveiled over 220 plaques to
commemorate transportation systems throughout the province," said The
Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust. "From
early canals and roads to pioneering airways and railway routes, Ontario has a
unique history of expansion. Today, the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway
Company joins this illustrious array of important transportation systems."
By the 1980s, after the railway had long been dismantled and the
locomotives relocated to St. Thomas, a local movement to bring back the
railway gained momentum. Today, the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway
Society owns and operates the railway in conjunction with the Town of
Huntsville's Muskoka Heritage Place.
"One cannot deny the sheer beauty and majesty of Ontario's north," said
Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cocco. "This railway has played a
critical role in opening the Muskokas for visitors to enjoy, and for local
communities to thrive. We are proud to commemorate this railway today, and
acknowledge the many volunteers who have helped preserve it."
Thanks to the efforts of these dedicated local residents, ex-railway
employees and rail enthusiasts, the restored railway and Muskoka Heritage
Place celebrate the rich history of settlement and tourism in Muskoka and
welcome thousands of visitors each year.
"The Portage Flyer Steam train is an important part of the valuable
heritage of Lake of Bays and Huntsville," added Nancy Tapley, Chair of
Township of Lake of Bays Heritage Committee. "In an age before the automobile,
steamships and this railway stitched together the wonderful hotels - including
Bigwin Inn, the WaWa, Britannia and Port Cunnington - that made Muskoka a
world tourist destination."
This unveiling is part of the Trust's Provincial Plaque Program that
commemorates significant people, places and events in Ontario's history. Since
1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.
The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario,
dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's
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For further information:
For further information: Gordon Pim, Marketing and Communications
Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-1484, E-mail: