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May 5, 2000

Trout Creek Logging Railway played key role

Heisler logging locomotive
The Trout Creek Logging Railway’s Heisler locomotive, logging cars and crew, 1915. (photo courtesy of Jack Trussler)

Logging railroads are a fascinating part of our heritage. 

The Trout Creek Logging Railroad (1911-1925) was typical of several such operations throughout the north in the early part of the century, before trucks became available.  These railways were usually established after the logs near the sawmills were cut and other logs were too far away to be hauled conveniently with sleighs. 

In 1911 three struggling logging companies in Trout Creek (Kaufman, Ballantyne and Trussler Brothers) amalgamated to form the Dominion Wood and Lumber Company.  The new company soon established a subsidiary company called the Trout Creek Logging Railway to haul their logs and work their yards.

A standard gauge railway, that eventually went 24 km east into Algonquin Park, was established.  Hartley Trussler wrote about the railway and his experience working on it in his “Reflections” column in the North Bay Nugget in 1974. 

Brian Westhouse also did a story on the railway in the Bytown Railway Society’s Branchline news magazine in 1990.  Westhouse interviewed Mr. Trussler and quoted his early diaries.  Westhouse noted that the railway’s builder was W.J Foster “who was something of an engineer, improviser and contractor.” 

This is the same W.J. Foster who had several operations in nearby Chisholm Township during this era, and who the Fassett Lumber Corporation’s Foster’s Mill—or Fossmill —operation was named after.

Foster’s men hacked out the railbed with pickaxes, shovels and two-handed horse drawn scrapers.  Dynamite was used when necessary.  After the rails were laid and an engine and steam loader purchased, ballast cars were built and holes and soft spots were filled.

Their first rolling stock was a new Heisler, two-truck, twenty-six ton locomotive, purchased new from the factory in Pennsylvania. 

The locomotive could handle four loaded log cars but sometimes had to take two at a time over hills.  Hartley Trussler worked on the railway as a millwright, blacksmith and carman.  In his diary Hartley wrote that “there is something alluring about railways, though it’s hard and dirty work.” 

In 1917, at the age of 20, he had his chance to drive the Heisler when the regular engineer became ill.  Even though as Hartley wrote in his diary: “I thought I was going to have a steady job,” a new engineer was soon found and he went on to other work for the company. 

In a 1974 Nugget article, Hartley remembered that: “Working on the Trout Creek Logging Railway was the most interesting, most enjoyable time of my life.  Truly the good old days.” 

The locomotive did all kinds of work in the mill yards in Trout Creek, and often made three trips a day for logs at the end of the steel.  By the end of 1917 the company had purchased a used Shay locomotive to help with the workload. 

Worked with brother

Hartley, in his diary on December 24, 1917 noted: “Worked all day with Rollie [his brother] fixing the Shay locomotive.  We babbited the valve gear and put it together.  Nearly everything wants overhauling.  I like working on such jobs.” 

Space does not allow for more details about the many problems they had with the Shay over the next few months.  One thing that is obvious from the diaries is that Hartley had a real natural writing skill—a skill that would recreate the story of the railway, and many of the other events of that era, half a century later.

The Trout Creek Logging Railway did its job until 1925, when the log supply diminished and the company was dissolved and its assets transferred to the parent company. 

The Dominion Wood and Lumber Company closed down in 1929, ending a fascinating era in Trout Creek history. 

The rails were lifted in the mid-1930s and the railbed is now the road bed for a road leading toward Algonquin Park.  This road joins another road on another old railbed from the Standard Chemical Company in South River, completing a circuit from Trout Creek to South River through the bush, allowing access for cottagers, Project DARE and others.
Logging railway rail car Automobile adapted to ride the rails on company business.  In this case, sightseers out for a drive. (photo courtesy of Eileen Thompson)

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