Huntsville and Lake of Bays Transportation Company
|Huntsville and Lake of Bays Transportation Company|
|Locale||Lake of Bays, Canada|
|Dates of operation||1904–1959|
|Track gauge||3 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,130 mm) (later) 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)|
|Headquarters||Huntsville, Ontario, Canada|
The Huntsville and Lake of Bays Transportation Company was a company chartered in 1895 to operate steamboats on the Lake of Bays, and a series of lakes connecting to Huntsville in the northern section of the Muskoka Lakes District of Ontario, Canada.
In the latter half of the 19th century, the land north of Barrie was being opened up for colonization. As roads were in poor condition or non-existent, the only reliable form of transportation was by steamboat. By 1875 a pair of locks and a canal had been built to bypass a series of rapids in the Muskoka River, allowing navigable access between Mary Lake and Huntsville. In 1886 another canal was built to connect from Fairy Lake to Peninsula Lake to the east. However, the short distance between Peninsula Lake and Lake of Bays was too steep to justify building a canal. Within a distance of 1800 metres the elevation change was more than 30 metres. A ridge down the middle added an additional 20 metres.
Initially service over the portage was provided using buckboards to convey passengers and cargo. A portage railway from Peninsula Lake to Lake of Bays was proposed by the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Transportation Company and in 1900 the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway Company was incorporated by a separate charter to build an electric or steam railway, over the portage.
In 1900 the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Transportation Company changed its title to Huntsville and Lake of Bays Navigation Company. In 1902 this company was dissolved and a new charter was obtained as the Huntsville and Lake of Bays and Lake Simcoe Navigation Company Limited.
Work had not commenced on the portage railway by this time, although its charter stipulated the undertaking was to be started within three years and completed within seven. The Navigation Company took on the task of building the railway, starting in September 1902. Trains were operating after the close of navigation season in 1904, however, passenger service over the line was not available until 1905. The railway ended up as narrow gauge because rolling stock was purchased second hand from E.B. Eddy of Hull, Quebec.
Through its existence, the company operated several steamboats (see table). At the time, the area was becoming a popular resort destination. Several large hotels operated on the Lake of Bays and on the lower lakes and the steamboat business grew to service them, connecting with the Grand Trunk Railway, at Huntsville.
Steamboats operated on both sides of the portage. The lower lakes run started in Huntsville and ran east through Fairy Lake and into Peninsula Lake. After the trip on the portage railway, passengers boarded another steamboat for a trip on Lake of Bays. All the boats were powered by steam engines except the Iroquois II which used a diesel engine.
|S.S. Northern||1877||Denton||Lower Lakes||Dismantled in 1897|
|S.S. Erastace Wiman||1890||Denton||Lower Lakes||Burned December 15, 1899.|
|S.S. Mary Louise||1884||Marsh||Lake of Bays||Retired in 1907|
|S.S. Excelsior||1884||Marsh||Lower Lakes||Purchased in 1891. Burned in 1894|
|S.S. Lady of the Lake||1886||Marsh||Lake of Bays||Dismantled in 1910|
|S.S. Empress Victoria||1894||Marsh||Lower Lakes||Built on hull of Excelsior. Retired in 1915|
|S.S. Dortha||1894||HLBTC||Lake of Bays||Renamed the Ramona in 1908. Retired during the depression|
|S.S. Joe||1900||HLBTC||Both||Dismantled in 1919 and sunk - bow can be seen (below water) south side of Portage Bay, Lake of Bays.|
|S.S. Phoenix||1900||HLBTC||Both||Tugboat. Dismantled in 1925|
|S.S. Florence Main||1901||HLBNC||Both||Imported to Huntsville, from Muskoka Lake 1904, entered service 1905, moved to L' of Bays 1907, rebuilt 1913.|
|S.S. Mohawk Belle||1913||HLBNC||Lake of Bays||Reconstructed from Florence Main|
|S.S. Algonquin||1906||HLBNC||Lower Lakes||Hull replaced in 1928. Retired in 1952|
|S.S. Iroquois||1907||HLBNC||Lake of Bays||Retired in 1948, sank at South Portage dock - stern can be seen 5' below water.|
|M.S. Iroquois II||1949||HLBNC||Both||Transferred to Lower Lakes in 1953. Sold in 1960|
End of the line and rebirth
By the early 1950s, the road network improved to make the journey by steamboat unnecessary. The company continued to operate the portage railway and some of the steamboats as tourist attractions but by the end of the decade, aging equipment made the operation unprofitable. Service ended in 1960.
In 1984, a group of local railway enthusiasts got together to restore the railway portion of the company. The Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway Society operates a short run railway as a tourist attraction.
- N. MacKay, 1994. By Steamboat & Steam Train: The Story of the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway and Navigation Companies. Boston Mills Press. Erin, Ontario. ISBN 0-919822-73-8