The Gilmour Tramway

Creator(s): Dorset Heritage Museum

In the 19th century, lumber companies relied on rivers to float their logs downstream to sawmills, or to ports for export to Great Britain. One of these lumber firms was Gilmour and Company, which operated a huge sawmill at the mouth of the Trent River on Lake Ontario.

By the 1890s, timber limits in the Trent and Moira river systems had been largely depleted. David Gilmour, head of Gilmour and Company, was forced to acquire expensive new limits far to the north in Algonquin Park. The problem was that the river draining from these limits - the Oxtounge-Muskoka - did not flow to Trenton.

David Gilmour came up with an ingenious solution. Near Dorset, he constructed a complex mechanism known as the Gilmour Tramway to lift millions of logs through a range of hills from the Lake of Bays, on the Muskoka River system, to Raven Lake on the Black River. The Black was then diverted to flow to St. Nora Lake in the headwaters of the Trent.

This Community Stories exhibit tells the story of the Gilmour Tramway, from its construction in 1893, to its final abandonment in 1895 when Gilmour built a new sawmill in Algonquin Park.

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