Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Steel Trail

By : Dennis Stein

   What is today used by cyclists, dog-walkers, and children began in some areas as the Brockville and Westport Railway. The 6 Km of the aptly named Brock Trail wind through Brockville following Butler’s Creek, upon part of the old roadbed of this historic railway line. Started in 1884, and making its final run in 1952, The Brockville and Westport was originally supposed to be a much more ambitious project than it ended up being. The intent was to have rail service all the way to Sault St. Marie, but the costs associated with building the rail line shortened it to Westport. The first passenger train left Westport for Brockville in 1888, the track joining the Grand Truck Rail lines to get into town. A trestle bridge was eventually built over top of the Grand Trunk line, where the Brockville Country Club is now, connecting to the Church St. Station, and further down to the rail yards at the waterfront. Jones' Mill, which still stands, is at the very south end of the path, and its logging ponds were removed to put in the rail line around 1884. Regular passenger service ran between Brockville and Westport, but eventually, the cost of running the rail line became too much, and the railway went into receivership. In the early 20’s, The Brockville and Westport eventually ended up as a part of the newly amalgamated Canadian National Railways. In October of 1952, a special train made a last run from Westport to Brockville to pick up any equipment left along the line. It was then abandoned and later dismantled. Old railway ties can still be seen near Church St. alongside the path, left over evidence from the past, now overgrown with mosses.

  Further north along the bicycle path, in some areas especially in the summer months, the city seems to disappear, as you walk through areas with hanging wild vines and thick undergrowth, even though you are really walking almost right behind homes and businesses. It becomes almost jungle in some areas, and wildlife can usually be spotted on any given day. Bridges occasionally cross the creek, and the city parks staff have done a fabulous job with cement planters, flower beds, and park benches along the way. Planted trees serve as memorials, all decorated with small plaques to immortalize the beloved departed, and tablets with various interesting historical facts line the way in spots. The scenic Brock Trail takes people from Brockville’s waterfront, and through the city to its north end, passing residences and businesses alike, tying in city parks, and quiet shaded areas. The gurgling creek is always present, flowing swiftly with the spring run-off, and slowly by the end of summer. It houses fish, turtles, frogs and waterfowl, along with a myriad of plant life. Many residents have helped with the cultivation of the Brock Trail, as almost an extension of their backyard, clearing brush and planting perennials at times right up to the shore of the creek. Ducks are ever present along the way, even during the winter months, and nest with young along the creek banks in early summer.

  I personally enjoy walks along the path, and it becomes functional to me as well. There is little sense of even starting our truck for a trip down to Metro for a few needed items for dinner, when a pleasant walk of 15 minutes takes me there and back. It is a much better way to spend time than waiting for traffic, and burning expensive fuel. It is great exercise, and a ‘free’ entertainment to walk with your family, a friend, or even by yourself. Next time you are looking for something to do that doesn’t cost a thing, try walking the Brock Trail, there is always something to see, you don’t have to worry about parking to see one of our downtown events, and it will fit in with anyone’s fitness level. We all seem to be looking for ways to exercise and relieve stress these days, and a good walk to get your blood pumping on the Trail is the perfect answer…

Photo from Brockville Museum Collection...