A Five Day Trip to Toronto


The most important event in mid 19th c. Canada was the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway linking to what is now Quebec and Ontario. What it meant is well illustrated by the Principal of McGill’s journey from Montreal to Toronto just before the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway. It was at Christmas time in the winter of 1855-56 that Sir John Dawson began his trip from Montreal Island and the first bridge across the St. Lawrence was as yet only in the planning stage, and the steam ferry was, of course, laid up for the winter…



but the Indians of Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) were still running a canoe ferry, and this Dawson used even though the river was already dangerous with floating ice.




From Montreal’s South Shore, he could get a train to Rouses Point in New York State…


….where he took a sled to the Vermont and Canada Railway, which took him to Burlington, Vermont then Rutland Vt. and eventually to Albany back in New York State where he could get across New York State to Buffalo, though no doubt there were a number of wearisome carriage-changes along the way.


From Buffalo, the Great Western Railway had only the previous March begun to run trains across the new Niagara suspension bridge to Hamilton,but the line from Hamilton to Toronto had been completed less than a month, and for lack of a terminal in the city the passengers for Toronto were set down on the outskirts and had to complete their journey by coach.


Dawson’s comments on his remarkable journey were:

“The weather was stormy and the roads blocked with snow, so that the journey to Toronto occupied five days, giving me a shorter time there than I had anticipated.”

Only a few months later he walked down to the Bonaventure Station in Montreal and took a train directly to the heart of Toronto in a mere ten hours.

Source: “Dawson: The Early Years” McGill University: For the Advancement of Learning Vol. I1801-1895 (Montreal: McGill-Queens Univ. Press, 1980)