John Marsh, Trail Studies Unit, Trent University, June 2019

doubes trestle bridge

There was considerable railway construction in the Peterborough area through the nineteenth century. However, until 1881 the system had a “Missing Link” between Peterborough and Lindsay.

On 3 March 1881, the Midland Railway began surveys to enable construction of a line linking Peterborough and Lindsay.

Several major bridges were required to cross valleys along the section of the route between Peterborough and Omemee. The biggest was required where the line crossed Buttermilk Creek, near Orange Corners. It became known as Doube's Trestle.

All the trestles and bridges between Peterborough and Lindsay were completed by 1 June, 1883. The line was ready for use by 1884.

Doube's Trestle was made of wood and was 1500 feet long, with a cut stone culvert of Grand Trunk Railway design to channel the stream underneath. Later the central part of the trestle was converted to a steel bridge. The bridge then had nine spans totalling 572 feet long. After final upgrading in 1923 the bridge could carry the heavier Mikado steam engines that were to use this route. Later, diesel engines were used to haul the trains.

On 8 January 1921, the line between Belleville and Lindsay via Peterborough was taken over by Canadian National Railways

Even though the bridge had been strengthened, some trains required two diesel locomotives, so the speed limit for trains crossing it was 20 miles per hour. A timetable for the Campbellford Subdivision published on 27 November 1949 shows two passenger trains each day except Sunday, and one train on Sunday running in each direction between Peterborough and Lindsay. The journey typically took 35-40 minutes.

Initially there were passenger and freight trains using the route, but eventually only freight trains. Until 1955, there were a number of flag stops along the route where milk was picked up from nearby farms. In May 1974, the route was used by some trains being diverted because of a train wreck on the main line at Bowmanville. Subsequently because of concern the heavy trains might have caused problems with track elevations and alignment on Doube's bridge, the Rideau Area engineer, I.L. Hilborn was instructed to conduct a survey involving sightings every 100 feet for a distance of 1000 feet from each bridge abutment, and to check for the plumbness of the bents between spans 2 and 3, and 7 and 8. Any defect was either corrected immediately or deemed insufficient to warrant repairs.

Also on 24 May 1978, the route was traversed by a diesel hauled, blue and yellow, Ontario Northland passenger train on a promotional tour of southern Ontario. In the 1980s a considerable number of trains, some with over 40 cars, were carrying grain to the Quaker Oats factory in Peterborough.

Probably, the last steam train to use the line between Lindsay and Peterborough came through on 26 July 1975. It was an excursion train that came from Toronto via Uxbridge and Lindsay to Peterborough where it arrived at 12.40 p.m. At 1.10 p.m. it went on to Campbellford and just east of there, at Anson, turned around. Returning to Campbellford, it took on water and came back to Peterborough at 4.30 p.m. It consisted of 11 air-conditioned coaches with 500-700 passengers. In Peterborough it stopped on Bethune Street, between Charlotte and Sherbrooke, where the old C.N. station used to be. An opportunity was provided for the Toronto passengers to watch a re-enactment of the landing at Little Lake of the Irish immigrants led by Peter Robinson 130 years previously. Thereafter the train continued to Lindsay and back to Toronto.

The train was pulled by Canadian National steam locomotive 6060. This type of locomotive was known as “bullet-nose Betty” though the origin of this nickname is unknown. It had a 4-8-2 wheel arrangement. It was one of 20 mountain-type locomotives built at the Montreal Locomotive Work in 1944, and was subsequently modified to use oil rather than coal. It was black and green with gold lettering.  It was C.N.'s last operating steam engine in Canada. When originally taken out of service it went on display near the railway station in Jasper, Alberta in May 1963. However, in 1972, it was replaced in Jasper with C.N. Mountain locomotive 6213 that for the last ten years had been in the Canadian Railway Museum at Constant, Quebec. Locomotive 6060 was then rebuilt in Montreal and after 1973 it was used to pull excursion trains and mystery tours.

In early 1978, trains ceased using the line from Peterborough to Lindsay over Doube's Trestle. Subsequently the rails were lifted and the route became the property of the provincial government's Ontario Realty Corporation. Eventually the route, including Doube's Trestle, was leased to Kawartha Rail Trail and it became a recreational trail, part of the Trans-Canada Trail now known as The Great Trail. It has proved popular with a variety of users, such as walkers, cyclists and snowmobilers, with Doube's Trestle being the most significant attraction. Various projects are now being undertaken to inform the public about the natural and historical attributes of the route, including an interpretive sign on Doube's Trestle.


Source Material

  1. Williamson, C. Hillier. Omemee: Missisauga Camp Site to Ontario Village. Newson, Peterborough, 1968, p.244.

    “The two wide valleys were Doube's (Buttermilk Valley), and Tulley's farther east. The former was bridged by a wooden trestle 1500 feet long, and 70 feet above the valley floor, with a similar structure at Tulley's, 700 feet long, and 40 feet high. The first train crossed Doube's bridge in October, 1883, and the momentous event was chronicled in the Lindsay press in this paragraph:

    On Monday, October 8, the first train of cars was successfully taken over the big bridge across Buttermilk Valley on the “missing link”, Engineer W. Pilling, Conductor Ed. Pymm, Fireman H. Maloney being the heroes. The speed made when crossing was about 4 miles per hour. The bridge is perfectly safe, and stood the great strain without a quiver.

    “In 1884 the Midland Railway was taken over by the Grand Trunk System, which already had the main line between Montreal and Toronto, and later the Federal Government bought up several railway companies, including the Grand Trunk, and consolidated them into the Canadian National.” (p.245).

  2. Kirkconnell, Watson. County of Victoria, Centennial History. Victoria County Council, Lindsay, First Edition, 1921, Second (revised) Edition, 1967, p. 186-187.

    “The Omemee-Peterborough line, known popularly as the “Missing Link” was begun in February 1882 under the contractorship of J.H.Beemer. The heaviest work lay in the bridging of two wide deep valleys at "Tully's” and “Doube's.”

    “On July 2, 1883, a small battle, involving stilettos and revolvers, took place at Sherin's Cut, two miles east of Omemee, between some Italians who had struck over an illegal reduction of wages and some Irish-Canadians who had kept on working. Many were wounded but none killed. The first train over the “Missing Link” was run on November 23, 1883, five days after standard time had been first adopted by the railways of Canada.”

  3. Pammett, Howard T. Lilies and Shamrocks. A History of Emily Township, County of Victoria, Ontario, 1818-1973. Emily Township Historical Committee, Lindsay, 1974, p. 158.

    “To the fury of Port Hope, George Cox of Peterborough, Midland President, began scheming in 1881 to change the traffic flow, which had poured down from Lindsay and Peterborough to Port Hope. The “Peterborough Review” in July said that the Midland was asking Peterborough for a $40,000 bonus to build the “missing link” to Omemee, and in return Midland head offices and workshops would be moved up to Peterborough; at a Peterborough meeting in August Cox also promised that trains would start from that town, and daily service increased; also the engines were being converted to burn coal instead of wood in future. In an. 1882 tenders were called to build the Omemee link, and by April 100 men were at work, under contractor J.H.Beemer… Doube's (Buttermilk) valley was bridged by a wooden trestle 1,500 ft. long, 70 ft. above the valley, and Tulley's farther east with a trestle 700 ft. long and 40 ft. high – later Doube's was partly filled by a causeway, and Tulley's completely filled. The Lindsay Post reported Oct. 19: “On Monday Oct. 8 the first train of cars was successfully taken over the big bridge across Buttermilk Valley on the “missing link”, Engineer W. Pilling, Conductor Ed. Pymm, Fireman H. Maloney being the heroes. The speed made when crossing was about 4 miles per hour. The bridge is perfectly safe and stood the great strain without a quiver.”

    “The first train went from Peterborough to Omemee and on to Toronto November 2, 1883, and as the Toronto “Mail” reported Nov. 27: “Regular train service over the missing link Omemee to Peterborough began yesterday.”

    “The 1883-84 Directory of Peterborough Town and County gave glowing praise to “our energetic fellow-townsman George Cox” and looked forward to seeing the Midland workshops and head office moved to Peterborough as promised – but Cox in a typical doublecross and doubleplay moved himself and the head office to Toronto, moved the main workshop to Lindsay for a bonus, and left only a dispatching office at Peterborough; and to cap the scheme, on Jan. 1, 1884, revealed he had acted for the Grand Trunk all along, and arranged the merger of the Midland into the Grand Trunk as its Midland Division, before moving himself on to greener financial and political pastures.”


Map Evidence

Doube's trestle is located in the southern half of Emily Township, Lot 16, Concession 3.

Pammett, Howard T. Lilies and Shamrocks. A History of Emily Township, County of Victoria, Ontario, 1818-1973. Emily Township Historical Committee, Lindsay, 1974.

  1. Inside Cover: “Emily Ratepayers 1867.”

    This map shows the land on the west side of Buttermilk Creek, later crossed by Doube's trestle, owned by George Harding, and the land on the east side owned by William H. Taylor, and east of that owned by John Down. 

  2. Page 194: “Map of Emily about 1910.”

    • This map indicates that the land (the south-west quarter of Lot 16, Concession 3) on both sides of Buttermilk Creek over which was built Doube's trestle was at this time owned by J.R. and S.B. Carew, who also owned the land (the southern half of Lot 15, Concession 3) crossed by the railway west of the bridge. The land to the east of the Carew property (the south-east quarter of Lot 16, Concession 3), crossed by the eastern end of Doube's trestle and the approach to it was at this time owned by J.J. Doube. Hence the name given to the trestle.

    Further research is needed to determine when J.J. Doube bought his land.