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The Lake Erie, Essex & Detroit River Railway

by Al Roach, June 7,1958

walerville-train-station.jpgSix months ago, wreckers' hammers destroyed an old fortress-like building near the foot of Devonshire Road. In doing so they destroyed one of Walkerville's last remaining links with the quaint Victorian past.

The beautifully designed red brick structure, with its dormers, gables, large square turret, and pigeons had b een a landmark of this district for almost 70 years.

It was back in 1888, tow years before Walkerville became incorporated as a town, the Hiram Walker built the old station as the Detroit River terminus of his Lake Erie & Detroit River Railway.

From it thundered the old wood-burning engines of a bygone era. With sparks flying from their great funnel-like smoke stacks they chugged across the countryside linking Walkerville with Harrow, Kingsville and Leamington and later pushed through to St. Thomas.

As the years rolled away, the line was absorbed into the Pere Marquestte system (1903) and, still later, in the 1940's, became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio, the present owners.

Over the decades, the aging station became involved in one way or another with the lives most residents of Walkerville. Many farewells and joyful reunions were witnessed there.

train1.jpgIn the 1920's, business began to fall off and in 1926 some passenger trains were replaced with a strange conglomeration of passenger cars, mail cars and freight cars known, for obvious reasons, as the "mixed".

By the 1930's, all the trains were "mixed". one left Walkerville and one left St. Thomas each day. The crews lived in St. Thomas and one night out of tow they were away from home, staying in Walkerville. No longer financially successful, the "mixed" came to an inglorious end about 1947 and only freight trains ran until 1955.

Had you been a boy living in the district a quarter of a century ago, however, you would have had little concern for the failing revenues of the Pere Marquette. For the station and its ground provided a veritable treasure-house of places to play and things to do.

You could play, for instance, "French and English" on the hedged and grassy area beside the station. You could race for house back and forth in usually futile attempts to capture the enemy's flag.

And - once in a long, long while - you could burst with exhilaration as you raced to victory with the enemy's banner tucked firmly under your arm.

Or you could race home-made soap-box cars around the smooth gravel track surrounding the field. And you could complain vociferously when some railway express truck interrupted the race. It never occurred to you that you were playing on his territory.

Or you could have water fights at the old Victoria Fountain at the Devonshire road end of the grounds, a beautiful monument which in that day had not yet fallen prey to the ravages of time.

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