Back in 1894 during the height of lumber baron activities in what once considered the far north, David Gilmour devised a plan to transport huge timber stands from Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park down the waterways to his huge mill in Trenton, Ontario.
The scheme was a massive undertaking, which turned out to be more foolhardy than reasonable. David would have to hire a huge workforce. To begin he had to build a road from Dorset to Canoe Lake. He would then have to build large lumber depots that would lead from the north all the way down the upper reaches of the Muskoka River watershed and up over the Black River watershed into the Trent watershed (which eventually would flow down to Trenton). Timber would take two years of travel time to make it from start to finish.
His hundreds of working men would have to not only build, but also to cut the timber. Before this could all begin every single section of the waterway course would have to be in working order. Timber slides would have to be built to overcome major waterfalls to prevent the timber from being destroyed by the rushing water and rocks. Rivers and lakes would have to be dammed to allow for the transport as well. The most arduous task was to build a "lift" to get the timber over between the 2 watersheds. These were called jack ladders.
From Canoe Lake the timber would travel down the Oxtongue River and into Lake of Bays. Here at a point in Trading Bay just west of Dorset he had his tramway built. The tramway would lift the logs up from lake up to a point where it could be slid down hill. Phone lines were installed along it alignment as well. The logs were to then make it to the Black River and Raven Lake and down on into St Nora Lake in the upper reaches of the Trent watershed.
All in all, the plan was doomed from the very start. Log jams, machinery malfunctions and many more issues arose. Along with taking two years to reach their final destination many of the logs got damaged in transit and were no good when they reached Trenton. The tramway itself only allowed timber to move single file.
After 2 years of heartache the whole plan was batched in favor of opening a mill at Canoe Lake near Mowat (now a ghost town). Gilmour's Canoe Lake plan finished him off as he finally went bankrupt and moved to the USA.
The tramway sat abandoned into the beginning of the early 1900s, until one day the locals heard a huge bang. The tramway gave way and one whole mile of it came crashing down in a matter of seconds. Today the Lake of Bays tramway lift house has been remodeled into a beautiful cottage- its illustrious past almost unknown to the modern world..
Today, one can see the old pump house that propelled the logs up hill at Trading Bay. In the woods one can still see the outline of the tramway and some foundations. My friend, Gary Long, wrote a book on the topic and has provided some wonderful photos. To order Gary's book check the link below..