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The Plowing Bee about 1904
The Plowing Bee about 1904
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Editors Note : The Lift Locks is actually situated in Carden Township

The Opening at Kirkfield
Peterborough June 23, 1907
The Trent canal authorities have issued the program for the official opening of Kirkfield lift lock on July 6. The Government will be represented by Hon. Rudolphe Lemieux, Postmaster General and Minister of Labour and Mr. M.J. Butler, Deputy Minister of Railways and Canals. Invitations have been issued to members of Parliament, Senators and Provincial members. The new lock has a lift of 48 feet and differs from Peterborough in being built of steel instead of concrete. The opening of the lock gives access to Lake Simcoe and completes 160 miles of navigable canal.


The Opening at Kirkfield
Peterborough June 23, 1907
Big Demonstration at Kirkfield last Saturday
Orillia Times July 11, 1907
The opening of the lift lock at Kirkfield on Saturday was recognized as an event of special interest, not only to the inhabitants of the surrounding townships but also to the towns and villages within a radius of fifty miles. The event marks an epoch in the progress towards the completion of the Trent Canal, which has been on the boards for the last seventy years.
The Dominion Government was represented by the Hon. Rudolphe Lemieux, Postmaster General, who came from Lindsay on the government steamer, Stoney Lake, accompanied by Mr. M.J. Butler, Deputy Minister of Railways and Canals, Senators Cox and McHugh, Mr. R. Hall, M.P., Peterborough, Mr. Peter Christie, M.P. for South Ontario, Mr. George D. Grant, M.P. for North Ontario, Col. Sam Hughes, M.P. for North Victoria, Mr. S. Fox, M.P. South Victoria and about three hundred others, with the Sylvester band. The steamers Sovereign and Bob Hall also brought their complement of passengers from the east and a large number of steam and gasoline launches from Lake Simcoe and points south and west. Vehicles were in evidence everywhere, from the luxurious automobile to the unpretentious sulky. Everybody was out and it is estimated that over two thousand were present to witness the interesting ceremony.
At 2:30 pm, the steamer Stoney Lake came in sight. From the lock tower a succession of rifle shots were fired as a salute, which were replied to by the whistle of the steamer, which glided slowly and steadily into the huge pan and was lowered as if by magic, 48 feet 6 inches, the band playing the Maple Leaf, the steamer the Rob Roy with several Orillians on board, at the same time being taken to the upper level. Addresses were delivered from the upper deck of the boat by Mr. Hall. M.P., Hon. R. Lemieux, Mr. George D. Grant, M.P., Col. Sam Hughes, Senator Cox and others.
This important link in this great enterprise gives a stretch of navigation, 160 miles in length, besides placing all the towns on Lake Simcoe in connection with the canal. There only remain 23 miles at the south from Healey’s falls to Trenton and 14 miles on the Severn River to complete the undertaking of a complete waterway from Georgian Bay to Lower Lake Ontario.
There has been some difference of opinion as to the utility of this work, and whether successive governments were warranted in making the outlay, but when the work had been prosecuted after a fashion for sixty years and a large expenditure incurred, the Laurier Government felt duty bound to push the work to completion in order to bring into usefulness the expenditure of former governments. The government on its accession to power in 1896 announced that its canal policy would be to spend such sums of money in the enlargement and completion of canals already undertaken as the revenue would warrant. That policy has been faithfully carried out.
The question of the Trent Canal carrying grain from west to east is a question for the future, which will depend largely on the exigencies of the trade and size of vessels approved for its carriage. Certainly canal barges will be able to receive cargoes of wheat at Midland and Victoria Harbour and deliver them to Bellville or Montreal more cheaply than the railroads, provided the elevator monopoly can be broken. In the shipment of coal, the canal will be found useful and profitable. It is estimated that it will effect a saving of at least 75 cents per ton, which will mean $32,500 to the city of Peterborough alone, and when the canal is completed all the towns on the route, including the towns on Lake Simcoe, will be similarly benefitted. It will supply a market and open up resources at points along the canal now far from the railroad. For instance, at a point near Balsam Lake there is said to be excellent sand stone which will be quarried and moved by the canal to points where it is required.
The Minister’s announcement appears to settle the question of the route in favour of the Severn River. This was practically settled last winter, but certain members of Parliament prevailed on the government to make another survey from Barrie, via the Nottawasaga River to Nottawasaga Bay but besides the extra cost it would be decidedly objectionable to have the mouth of the canal on the bleak stretch of shallow water and unprotected shore of the Notawasaga Bay. By taking the Severn Route the excellent harbours between Penetanguishene and Port Severn will be available for canal traffic.
In the able address of the Hon. R. Lemieux with its buoyant optimism, there was promise of the enterprise and energy on the part of the government in solving the transportation problems of our great country.
Orillia was well represented at the opening, notwithstanding the fact that the Board of Trade’s official party were obliged to remain at home owing to the disabling of the steamer Soncie. The steamer had only got into the lake when a flue was blown out, necessitating a return to shore for repairs. Several hours were occupied in repairing the boiler and then it was found to be too late to reach Kirkfield in time for the opening. The party of the Soucie numbered twenty five or thirty. Messrs. C.J. Miller, J.R. Eaton, E.A. Doolittle and J.H. Hammond, left the steamer when the accident occurred and took the 8:10 train for Gamebridge. They met Mr. Mark Vasey of Victoria Harbour, at the station and travelled together, the conductor of the train obligingly pulling up to the canal and allowing the party to get off. The Rob Roy of Peterborough, returning from a trip to Lake Simcoe was hailed and they were taken on board.
The trip down the canal was a very pleasant one and decidedly unique. For the most part the canal went through good farming country and there was ample variety of scene. At one time there would be high banks on either side; at another the canal would be higher than the land level, the sides being immense dykes of concrete and clay construction. One section runs through overflowed land where the canal proper is difficult of location, the buoys not being set yet. The work is of the most substantial character, the locks being cement, bridges with massive piers and one immense stone bridge with a sixty foot span is most picturesque from an artist’s point of view and is striking contrast to the iron bridges so commonly seen.
Between Lake Simcoe and Kirkfield, a distance of eighteen miles, there are five locks, each with a lift from fourteen to twenty one feet. The Kirkfield lock has a lift of 48 feet. It is situated at the height of land and Balsam Lake at the head of which it is situated, flows in the other direction. There is a driveway along the side of the canal and many availed themselves of this means of attending the opening. Houses for the lockmasters are now being erected. There is a good deal of driftwood and other debris in the canal at the present time but once the canal gets into operation, there will be a good channel for boats drawing a reasonable amount of water. The depth of the canal is eight feet.
Among other Orillians present at the opening were Messers. A.B. Thompson, W.W. McBain, Thomas Moase, Norman McAuley and Joseph Barker of Brechin. Messers. W.H. Crocker, H.M. Young and J. Arthur Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. William Thompson, Mr. and Mrs George Thompson, Sheriff and Mrs. W.M. Harvey, Mrs. A.R. Harvie, Mr. and Mrs. D. Inglis Grant, and Mr. G.D. Grant M.P., Mr. C.H. Hale and Miss Hale, Mr. Hugh C. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Taylor.
The Kirkfield lift lock is described as follows: reaching a height of about 100 feet, the new lock resembles something between a huge pontoon bridge and a large dredge and is a landmark which can be seen miles distant. The central or guide tower, composed entirely of steel, is 94 feet in height and the lift measures 48 feet, 6 inches. The following are other dimensions of the structure: External diameter of cylinders, 8 feet: diameter of ram, 7 feet, 6 inches: working stroke 48 feet, 6 inches, depth of water in chambers, 8 feet: chambers each 140 feet long by 33 feet wide and 9 feet 10 inches deep; approximate weight of water in each chamber 1,385 tons. Costing $298,000, exclusive of concrete and breast walls, the structure is a magnificent piece of engineering work, efficiency of which may be better understood that from the time a steamboat or barge enters the lock until the rise or drop is effected, the time is only some ten minutes, a saving of nearly twenty minutes for example, compared with the time required to negotiate the lock at Fenelon Falls with a lift of 24 feet. The drop itself was effected on Saturday in three minutes, the apparatus working with a smoothness and nicety that evoked general admiration.

Dear Sir, having had the pleasure of a visit by boat to the Kirkfield lift lock, i have taken the liberty of sending you a short account of my trip. St. James’ Sunday School, Orillia, ran an excursion on the 10th instant by the steamer Geneva. We left Orillia at 9 o’clock with 310 passengers on board and at 11 o’clock , entered the Trent Valley Canal at Gamebridge. At the first lock we took on the superintendent of the canal and at the third lock took aboard a pilot as the River Talbot, which forms part of the canal system is difficult to navigate. In places the canal has been blasted through solid rock. Especially is the case near Kirkfield, where the limestone rock is piled up on each side of the canal in heaps 20 to 30 feet high. Much of the low land along the course, mostly cedar swamps, has been flooded. We went through six locks. The first four were 14 feet each, the fifth 21 feet and the sixth, the lift lock is 48 feet. The last mentioned is a fine structure built of steel and has an observation tower 120 feet in height, where the man who operates the lift is placed. A fine view of the structure can be had from this vantage point. The steel cradles are 140 by 33 feet and 14 feet in depth. One of the cradles goes up as the other descends acting as a counterpoise and everything works like clockwork. It is an odd sight to look down from the tower and see a vessel and its load of passengers or freight being to the top of the lock. Some people jocularly call the canal the Government Ditch. However it will have an important effect in cheapening the rates and we will be able to go from Orillia to Lake Ontario and via the great lakes to Fort William or Owen Sound if we are so inclined. We crossed under the CNR which spans the canal by a low swing bridge. The Grand trunk Railway has an overhead bridge and two feet had to be cut from the top of our smokestack to enable us to safely go under it. Altogether we passed two railway and three road bridges. The first five locks are constructed with the old fashioned wooden gates, cement walls and breast works. All the cement work is nicely done and looks substantial in every way.
Yours truly,
J.R. Doherty


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