|Belleville's Own Railway: The Grand Junction Railway|
**Article originally published in the November 2017 edition of Outlook newsletter.
On August 23, 2018, the Historical Society unveiled a memorial plaque to commemorate the Pinnacle Street Railway which brought freight and passengers into the heart of the community. Many people were surprised to learn of this rail line and sought more detail. So, here is the rest of the story.
The Grand Junction Railway Company was given its charter in 1870, and after much negotiation, a route was decided on. By 1873, the track was laid from Belleville harbour, up the west side of Pinnacle Street, turning right behind houses on to Great St. James Street, then north over Mill Street (now Station Street) to join the Grand Trunk tracks.
The former Pinnacle Street Methodist Church was the downtown train stop for passengers of the Grand Junction Railway. Intelligencer photograph, June 19, 1964
The former Pinnacle Street Methodist Church (near current Canadian Legion) was bought from the Masonic Lodge in 1873 and remodelled into a headquarters and downtown station. It was three years later that two crossover diamond tracks arrived at the docks and were installed to get over the Grand Trunk so the lines could lead to Corbyville, Halloway and on to Stirling. At the same time, the company built a wooden engine house and turntable plus passenger shelter, car shop and weigh scales north of this crossing (current Crawford Metal).
Finally, on June 24, 1877, the first passenger train left the downtown station and headed for Stirling, and a special picnic was laid on by the Masonic Lodge. The locomotive pushed three wood-sided flat cars with benches fastened to the floor, and with a brakeman’s van (caboose). The cars were pushed and not pulled, probably to keep the hot cinders from raining down on the passengers. It would be another three years before the line reached Peterborough (actually Ashburnam).
The Grand Junction Trunk route is marked on the map where it ran down Pinnacle street. CABHC—Belleville Fire Insurance Map 1904-1908, Key Plan
The Grand Junction railway was amalgamated with the Midland Railway in 1880, and both became part of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1884.
As the GTR expanded in Belleville, they removed the crossovers of the old Grand Junction. This had the serious effect of removing direct access from the north to the downtown and eliminated the former market train.
Now passengers and market vendors could not travel directly from the inland points to the Belleville market with their wares. Rather, they had to detrain at Belleville station and take the Bay City Street Railway to downtown and pay another fare. This led to complaints and deputations by town council and patrons giving some limited relief.
Government Dock at the bottom of Pinnacle Street, Belleville, Ontario. Note the rail tracks which were used to transport goods to cargo ships. CABHC 2016-22 (2)
Early in the twentieth century the tracks were moved to the centre of Pinnacle Street, and at the urging of the railways in the south part of the city (Canadian Pacific and Canadian Northern), this line became the main interchange with the Grand Trunk. Now coal was carried to the South Front Street dealers, freight carried to and from the government dock, and rail sidings at the Belleville Rolling Mills, Graham’s Cold Storage (National Grocers) and Marsh and Henthorne machinery company (currently site of federal building), while ice was loaded from the Glen Roy Ice factory on the city tracks. It was a busy line for the rapidly growing city.
The last freight train ran on June 16, 1964. The last passenger train, on June 22, 1964, using CN’s famous excursion train #6167, was actually a special run to treat a group of children to the final ride and a luncheon at the Hotel Quinte. The big Northern-type locomotive then backed up the track to the CN yards, and soon thereafter a ceremonial rail lifting with CN and city officials sealed the fate of Belleville’s own city branch forever.
Grand Junction Train’s Last Run on Pinnacle Street, June 22, 1964 Mika Collection Locomotive 6167 Belleville