Special Notice

This site has recently been expanded to include historical information from the Cobourg History site.  All information previously on this site is still here.  Some Google searches may now end up here - use the site search box if you don't immediately find what you are looking for.

Search this site


Monthly meetings are held in Cobourg's Victoria Hall.

Cobourg and District Historical Society Meetings are held every month except May, June, July, August and December.  Meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday in the Month.  Meetings start at 7:30 pm but coffee and cookies are available starting at 7:00 pm.  Meetings are $5 for non-members and free for members of the society and students. 

More on our About page.

Story courtesy of Don and Marilyn Macklin

In most respects, the Ontario Car Ferry Company was similar to the Lake Erie car ferry lines. Like them, the company was a joint enterprise of an American and a Canadian railroad, and was designed mainly to bring American coal into Ontario, principally for use in locomotives. Thus, the prosperity of the enterprise was tied to the fortunes of the coal industry in the same fashion as the Lake Erie lines. In addition, the OCFCo was characterized by the same heavy preponderance of northbound traffic that made the Lake Erie lines more or less "one-way" operations.

By Ted Rafuse

train40The town of Cobourg is not unique in being situated on the northern shore of Lake Ontario but a century ago it was unique as the northern port of an international rail marine ferry service on Lake Ontario. Commencing in 1907 the town became the northern terminus of a rail car ferry operation that endured until after World War II. Cobourg thus became the only Canadian port to provide a water-borne rail car interchange on Lake Ontario.

By Ted Rafuse

train40In 1917 the Genesee Dock area received a substantial revision to its passenger facilities. The original canopy was removed and a 35 by 30 foot immigration house was constructed to the south of the Genesee Dock station. From the immigration house a covered stairway was erected west of the track and a covered walkway permitted passengers to cross the tracks above the train to a landing platform. This landing platform could also be accessed by covered staircases from north and south, the north staircase commenced to the east of the station and on the east side of the track. From the covered landing passengers boarded the promenade deck as was the case with the original arrangement.

By Ted Rafuse

train40During the tourist months of the 1920s, upwards of 70,000 passengers were carried. Most of these were excursionists who flocked to the two boats to take advantage of the sights and shopping in communities on either shore of Lake Ontario. And as indicated above, both vessels were hired out for private excursions, often to community groups such as the Shriners and Kiwanians.

In 1927 recognizing a relatively new form of land transportation, the BR&P initiated a new service. Designed to enhance passenger traffic, automobiles on flat cars were transferred across the lake on the rail ferries. Due to the surrounding terrain at Genesee Dock automobiles were driven onto flat cars by a ramp located at the end of Boxart Street. From that point the flat car was shunted down the side of the gorge and onto the ferry. These flat cars with auto were always the last to be loaded onto the ferry and then were also the first rail cars to be unloaded from the ferry. Three flat cars were fitted with 4 by 4 inch tire guards to ensure that the driver maintained a straight course on the flat car. In Cobourg a ramp was built beside the GTR freight house for the purpose of driving automobiles on and off a flat car. Cost of the service was ten dollars and some 350 vehicles were transported in the first year of operation of this service. By 1930 the accounts stated that automobile traffic had increased due to a Shriner's Convention. The following year automobile tariffs were reduced by 25% to $7.50, perhaps reflecting the worsening effects of the Depression on cross-lake automobile traffic.