Cobourg and Peterborough Railway | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Cobourg and Peterborough Railway

One of the 2 earliest railway charters granted in Canada, the Cobourg Rail Road Co was incorporated in 1834 to build a railway from Cobourg northward to Peterborough across Rice Lake. The project was shelved until 1846, when it was revived as the Cobourg and Rice Lake Plank Road and Ferry Co. Samuel Gore built his plank road the 17 km to the lake, but it barely survived the first 2 winters.

The Cobourg and Peterborough Railway, incorporated 1852, was similarly ill fated. Construction began in 1853 but a cholera epidemic ravaged the German immigrants who had signed on for $1 a day. The Rice Lake bridge - at nearly 5 km long the longest in North America - was largely completed by the end of 1853. It consisted of a long trestle set on piles, with 33 truss spans (24 m each) and a 36 m swing section in the navigation channel. The bridge could not survive the grinding and shifts of winter ice and extensive repairs were required every spring; in 1860 the visiting Prince of Wales was not allowed to cross the bridge for fear it would collapse.

The following winter the bridge disintegrated entirely and with it faded Cobourg's hopes of becoming a thriving port. Its citizens had put up over $1 million for their 48 km railway. It was merged with the Marmora ironworks in 1866. The Peterborough to Rice Lake section eventually came under the control of the Grand Trunk Railway.