Big Chute Marine Railway

Historic Big Chute Marine Railway is a short walk down the road.

The marine railways at Big Chute tells a tale of engineering and circumstance that are an integral part of the heritage of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Here where the Severn River rushes through a narrow chute of pre-Cambrian granite, a marine railway has been in operation since 1917. Today's giant sized carriage and tracks were installed adjacent to the still-operational smaller railway 1977. Although replacing the marine railway with a conventional lock would have been simpler, the land portage over the 17.7 meter height of land was necessary to prevent the possible migration of the parasitic sea lamprey into the Lake Simcoe fishery.

Indeed, the original plans of the early 1900's called for conventional locks to be built not only at Big Chute, but at the Swift Rapids site upstream. Ambitious excavation and construction projects were begun at both locations but ground to a halt as money for government projects was diverted to the Great War. Marine railways were quickly built as temporary measures. At Big Chute, dams, two locks, and a man-made lagoon had been well underway. Work stopped. Construction crews, once numbering over two hundred men were paid off and dismissed. The works abandoned by those early laborers now lie over-grown and hidden in the surrounding forest.

White water at the Big Chute signaled trouble to early boaters on the Severn RIver but engineers of the day recognized it as a potential source of hydro-electric power.

The present hydro plant at Big Chute is the original: water first rushed through the penstocks of the Simcoe Railway and Power Company's installation here in 1911. It supplied power to Penetanguishene nd Midland under contract to the Hydro-Electric Power Commission (HEPC). In 1914 HEPC purchased the plant, thereby making it the first such facility to be owned by what was later to become Ontario Hydro. It was the first step towards public control of hydro-electrictricity in Ontario.

Unique in North America, the Big Chute Railway carries boats over a 17.7 m height of land on a giant traveling carriage. Boats, floated on to the partially submerged car, are cradled by a variety of slings. A unique double track uses an offsetting cam principle to keep the carriage nearly level at all times, save for a slight tilt to facilitate loading and offloading.

The larger Big Chute Marine Railway was installed to carry the increased size and volume of traffic using the Waterway.