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Arrival of local railway helped to put Proton Station on the map

July 23, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Current residents of Proton Station might not consider their corner of the world to be an actual ghost town, however when you consider the past history of the village, it does qualify as a place that once was a bustling hub full of businesses that have now vanished.

It is located about 10 km north of Dundalk and just off Highway 10.

The town was first settled in the 1850’s as a few pioneers made their way to the area.

Proton Station really became a spot on the map when the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway laid tracks and set up a train station in 1872. It was an unusual choice for a railway stop.

Even though the terrain is flat and level, the area is prone to spring flooding.

The first church in town was the Knox Presbyterian Church, later call Knox United, which was built in the mid 1870s.

Apparently the local community was quite religious. Sunday morning Sunday school registered 170 children for classes, with 14 Sunday school teachers in charge.

An Orange Lodge was established in the late 1870s, chapter 244.

The TG&B Railway was not financially successful and it was bought out by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884. The CPR converted the narrow gauge rail to standard size and introduced telegraph services.

A post office opened in 1886 in a new store owned by Frederick Freeman. The store became a popular place for locals to gather and socialize.

By 1890, Proton Station had grown into a small industrial community with around 75 residents.

There was a sawmill, run by the Boyd Brothers and two other saw mills and a lath mill run by James Carnochan and the Neilson Brothers.

The Neilsons built three houses to accommodate their mill workers. They also opened a general store.

Another important industry was the brick works owned William Irwin and J.C. Wright.

The brick works operated right up until 1932.

More business eventually sprung up around the town.

There was a hotel owned by Neil McLean, Trelford’s hardware store, Blakely Woodworking, and the Pollock blacksmith shop.

The town knew they had really made the big time when the Bank of Hamilton (later part of the CIBC) opened a branch for local residents.

Tragedy struck the small town in August of 1901 when a CPR engine jumped the track and rolled.

A work crew with five teams of horses were installing a new siding as the train approached.

Three people were killed in the ensuing carnage and 15 railway cars were destroyed in the accident.

A family named the Devers started their own general store in the early 20th century. The store quickly became the place to hang out for local residents.

They were the first people to introduce electric lighting to the area. They also owned a radio and became the gathering spot for locals on Saturday nights to listen to radio programs. The store burned down in 1933.

The town thrived through the mid 20th century.

In 1915 a new church, the Trinity Anglican Church was built.

In 1947 a decision was made to close the local school house as it was deemed unsafe. The new school opened in 1948 and operated until the centralization of the school system in the mid 1960’s.

After the Second World War, people began to move away. Both churches were abandoned and later demolished.

The railway tracks were removed in the 1980s and the rail bed converted to a recreational trail.

Proton Station is still there and still has residents, but the days of the townsfolk gathering at the general store to listen to the radio are over.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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