Built in the late 1860's and early 1870's the Wellington Grey Bruce Railway served the communities of Southampton and Port Elgin by transporting local products and people to other Ontario cities. Later, it was taken over by the Canadian National Railway and the main line and newer spur lines continued rail service for well over 100 years.
In 1954, Hurricane Hazel caused a horrific accident near the south end of Southampton. The washed out creek and rail bed resulted in the engine jumping the tracks and plowing into the riverbank. Two trainmen lost their lives that day. The '54 historical crash site, was restored in 2008 with funding partners...Ontario Trillium Foundation, Bruce Power Workers Union, society of Professional Engineers, South Port Horticulture, Town of Saugeen Shores, and Friends of the Gardens. A viewing platrform and Memorial Garden were established at the site. Matching benches will be added later.
Eventually, the decline in the rail service led the CN to begin decommissioning rail lines and selling them off. A dedicated group of volunteers founded the Saugeen RailTrail Association in 1990, and it was with the SRT prompting that Port Elgin (1992) and Saugeen Township (1993) acquired the railway section of the then unused rail bed. Subsequently, a plan was put in place that opened up the Saugeen RailTrail officially on July 5, 1995. After further negotiation Southampton purchased their section of the rail bed in 1997. It is interesting to note that these same three (3) 'railtrail-connected' municipalities amalgamated in 1999 to become the Town of Saugeen Shores.
In the process of developing a land and playground inventory, the Town's newly appointed Director of Community Services (2002), discovered some 'neat parcels' of land/trail linkages, which then led to council's 10 year "Parks and Trails Master Plan". Because of the Saugeen RailTrail's proven track record and partnership over the years as rail trail trustees, it became advantageous that SRT become the Town's trailbuilders/maintainers/managers while the Town's "Parks and Trails Committee" became the policy setters. Other partners came 'aboard' with the developing of the parallel trail at the 6th to the 2nd concession allowing non-motorized and motorized to coexist. (2008) The Kincardine to Bruce Power extension is presently being developed by the Kincardine trail partners. Each year more sections of the trail are beautifuied and built. Eventually a loop trail will encompass a route from MacGregor Point Provincial Park north through Saugeen Shores and return along or near the Lake Huron Shoreline, south through Port Elgin and back into the Park.
At the same time the newly acquired rail bed in Bruce County managed by the Bruce Grey Trails Network is being developed to allow the Saugeen RailTrail to link up with other Bruce and Grey County trails. Presently, an engineering landmark, the Mill Creek Bridge is in the process of being restored with matching dollars forth coming from our connecting partner, Bruce County.