If you were in Delhi during the 70’s and before, you’ll remember the train station that was located on the corner of William and Main. But did you know there was another station there before that?
Alas, the days of the “Big Iron” have long gone, but if you listen carefully, their steam whistles can still be heard in the memories of our past. As kids, we would run toward their steel highways and wave at the conductor hoping he would pull the cord that would make the mighty dragon breathe a flume of steam high into the air.
The names of the old railroads are unfamiliar to most of us nowadays. Names such as Lake Erie & Northern, Wabash, Grand Trunk, Port Dover & Lake Huron, TH&B. But in their heyday, they were as familiar in the local area as any fast food franchise today.
Delhi and Courtland were the last communities that enjoyed rail service in Norfolk County. This grand structure (see photo at bottom) was built in the 1870’s and consumed by fire in 1916 (or 1918). Some of the people identified in the photo were from left to right, Emerson Davidson, who used to deliver express and freight. The station agent William Barnes is next. Then is Bill Haviland standing besides an unidentified lady. Next to her is Jason Kellum, the telegraph operator and the last person to be identified in the photo.
At the time the photo was taken, believed to be around 1907, there used to be six daily passenger trains that stopped in Delhi.
Railways were a big part of local economies during the turn of the century. Matter-of-fact, their location at crossroads often determined which communities would prosper and grow. Such was the case of Croton, a logging settlement south-west of town. While Croton was bigger than Delhi, it lost out when Delhi got the “Airline Railroad” in 1872.
Shortly if the first train station burned down, a new station was built on the same plot of land. This is the station that most of us would remember and can be seen in the photo above.
Today, trains are a rare sight in many places. If it were not for the Trillium Railway Company that services the Co-op fertilizer plant in Delhi, railways here would be a thing of the past. But there is still hope, shortline railrays are enjoying a comeback south of the border and there are efforts underway to revive a line here in Delhi. Can you imagine taking a ride on “Big Iron”? What a tourist attraction that would be.
It seems that more and more people are beginning to realize that the enormous amounts of trucks on our highways are greatly affecting our environment, not to mention traffic volumes. Railways are a much more environmentally friendly way to move goods and people. While many claim that railways are too slow and expensive, maybe it is time we have another look and see what “expensive” really means.
Thank you to James Gorgan, our Toronto SEO expert who loves himself some Ontario history!