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The Ski Train (Posted On: Friday, December 26, 2014)

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From 1940 to 1960, regular 'ski trains' ran from Toronto's Union Station to the Craigleith Depot, where skiers - sometimes a rollicking bunch after partying on the train - were taken to Blue Mountain by horse-drawn sleighs. Each weekend, 200 to 300 revelers disembarked at The Depot - possibly explaining why the conductor in this photo appears to need some quiet time.

The Craigleith Depot - indeed, Craigleith itself - have a direct connection to Sir Sandford Fleming, who engineered much of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1854, Fleming settled his parents, brothers and sister on a family farm originally owned by the area's first resident, John Brazier. Naming the area Craigleith, meaning Rocky Harbour, the Flemings established a quarry and a furniture factory in the area. In 1872, Sandford's father Andrew sold a parcel of land to the Northern Railway in order to construct a train station for the community. "By 1880 a handsome station with the very newest architectural design, a rounded turret, opened its doors to the whistle of the locomotive and promise of prosperity for the community," reads The Depot's website. "In a direction quite unforeseen by the Flemings, the little station became the hub of ski trains from Toronto in the early 1940s, and planted the seeds for what was to become Ontario's premier ski and four-season recreational destination."

Regular passenger and mail service between Toronto and Craigleith ended on July 2, 1960, although freight service continued until 1984. In 1989 the tracks were lifted and the rail corridor became the Georgian Trail. The Depot was turned into a restaurant, then sat disused and derelict for many years before George Weider, son of Blue Mountain's founder Jozo Weider (the very man responsible for bringing all those skiers to Craigleith years before) spearheaded a move to turn the former 'ski train' stop into a museum and "community interpretation centre." Today, the fully refurbished Craigleith Heritage Depot is one of the last remaining wooden CNR stations. 

Read More articles from On The Bay Magazine by clicking here.


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