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Groundbreaking Ceremony
Watercolour derived from illustration in Illustrated London News, v. 19, no. 538 of December 27, 1851. 13.2 x 18.3 cm.

On October 15, 1851 with flags flying and a marching band, Toronto's railway era began. Lady Elgin, the Governor-General's wife, turned the first sod in front of the Provincial Parliament at Front and Simcoe streets.

Railways were very expensive to build, and the Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Railway (later Northern Railway) needed eleven years to raise enough money to finance Toronto's first railway.

Torontonians quickly realized the advantages railways would bring: providing year-round transportation, encouraging settlement to the north of the city, and directing produce and passengers through the city.