Brockville is a pretty little town on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Ontario. The city centre located on the water’s edge is charming, with several beautiful historic buildings. But beneath this downtown, hides an interesting historic site: the oldest railway tunnel in Canada.
Built between 1854 and 1860, the one-kilometer tunnel served to link the industrial water’s edge to the rest of the B & O (Brockville and Ottawa) railroad. Even though railways were beginning to be built in Canada around that time, none of them had a tunnel yet. Since Brockville was built on a limestone hill, the engineers decided to dig a tunnel instead of building a railroad around the city center.
In 1860, the first steam locomotive passed through the dark tunnel, which was in operation for nearly a hundred years afterwards. The large doors at the south entrance of the tunnel were closed at night to prevent animals from roaming inside.
Today, it is possible to visit part of the tunnel from its southern entrance. Grids block access to the rest of the tunnel, but the small accessible part is long enough to give an idea of what the tunnel looks like. And as it is not lit (the only light comes from its ends), walking deep inside the tunnel is a bit freaky!
There are plans to revitalize the entire tunnel for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. In the next two years, it may be possible to walk under downtown Brockville!
UPDATE 2018/07/11 – The tunnel is now fully opened and you can walk from one end to another. It is stunning and definitely worth a visit!