Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Great Gorge Route

Great Gorge Route trolley courtesy

Back in the late 1800's, a rail line was built along the Niagara Gorge for tourists to ride on.  Starting at 5 cents per ride, passengers could travel the six-mile route where they took in a magnificent view of the Niagara River.  Dressed in their Sunday best, passengers were sprayed with a fine mist as they rolled by the Whirlpool Rapids, the American Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls. They also got a peek at Clifton Hill and the Steel Arch Bridge.

A visit to Niagara Falls circa 1905 courtesy 


At the rail line's height, trolleys ran every 15 minutes from 7 am to 12 midnight, seven days a week, (except during the Spring Thaw in March & April).  Two hundred thousand passengers per year were transported along the route.  One of its most famous passengers was President McKinley who rode the American route on September 5, 1901 with his wife and then headed to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo where he was assassinated the very next day.  

President McKinley riding on the Great Gorge Railway at Niagara Falls, Sept. 5, 1901

President McKinley riding the Great Gorge route on September 5, 1901 courtesy

The rail line was plagued by accidents.  In February of 1906 the shop and car barn burned to the ground.  In 1907 an ice avalanche killed 8 passengers on one of the trolleys.  In 1910 two trolleys had a head on crash which resulted in injuries to passengers.  In July of 1915 a Toronto Sunday School group boarded a trolley which was overloaded with 157 passengers rather than its regulated 84.  The trolley derailed, rolled over and crashed, killing 13 people and injuring another 60.  In July of 1917, another trolley derailed and plunged into the river, killing 12 and injuring 23.  The accident was caused by heavy rains which undermined the railway's under bed.  In February of 1930, a rock slide sent power poles plunging into the Niagara's depths.  Finally, in September of 1932, the rail line was abandoned.  Three years later, 5000 tons of rock fell near the Whirlpool Bridge, destroying a 200 foot portion of the track.  

Rocks cover tracks after rock slide circa 1900 courtesy www.nflibrary .ca.

Today, the route has been overtaken by nature, with very little evidence to show of its existence.  However, tourists can hike along trails which parallel the Gorge where they can feast their eyes on the same magnificent sights that Canadians and Americans viewed a century ago.  

Whrlpool Rapids courtesy

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