Key Valley Railway: References

Log Loading on the Key Valley Railway
Log Loading on the Key Valley Railway


  • Brown, Ron, “Ghost Towns of Ontario, Volume 2: Northern Ontario and Cottage Country”, Cannonbooks, Toronto, Ontario, 1983. ISBN 0-9691210-1-6 (v.2)
  • Bytown Railway Society Inc., “Canadian Trackside Guide 1995”, Bytown Railway Society Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, 1995.
  • Dunn, Craig, “Key Valley Railway: The Railway that Ran to a River and Stopped…”, White Mountain Publications, New Liskeard, Ontario, 2008 ISBN 1-894747-33-X [9781894747332].
  • Macfie, John, “Parry Sound Logging Days”, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ontario, 1987. ISBN 0-919783-76-7
  • Macfie, John, “Parry Sound Old Times”, The Hay Press, Parry Sound, Ontario, 1996. ISBN 0-9694962-1-4
  • Mackey, Doug and Paul, “The Fossmill Story: Life in a Railway Lumbering Village on the Edge of Algonquin Park”, Past Forward Heritage, Toronto, Ontario, 1999. ISBN 1-896974-10-4
  • Tatley, Richard, “The Steamboat Era in the Muskokas, Volume II – The Golden Years to Present:, The Boston Mills Press, Erin Ontario, 1984. ISBN 0-919783-10-4


Key Valley Railway: Locomotives

The best source of information concerning the KVR locomotives is the Industrial Locomotive roster in Colin Churcher’s Railway Pages. I’ve cross-referenced the locomotives listed in Churcher’s roster against photographs I’ve collected.

Engine #1 – Two Truck Shay

Engine #1 was a 30 ton Shay locomotive (Lima serial # 2679). The history of Engine #1 is summarized in the 1995 Canadian Trackside Guide. It was built in 1913 by Lima as the Dennis Canadian Lumber Co. #1 and apparently worked out of Whitney, Ontario. The Hope Lumber Co. purchased it next and used it until 1928 when it was purchased by the Key Valley Railway, probably to replace the locomotives the KVR lost in a roundhouse fire in 1928. The following photo shows #1 near Lost Channel.

KVR Shay

Here is another photo of what I believe is #1. The domes match with the first photo, but the stack has been replaced.

KVR Shay #1

The Key Valley used #1 until 1935 when it was sold to the Standard Chemical Co. of South River. The engine made several other stops until it arrived at the Komoko Railway Museum near London, Ontario. The Railway Museum website has a few photographs of the engine, like this one:

KVR Shay #1 at Komoka Railroad Museum

Engine #2 – Two Truck Shay

Built in 1910 as Lima serial #2386, this Shay was used by the KVR until it burnt in the roundhouse fire in 1928:

KVR Shay 2

Another photo of #2:

KVR Shay 2

Engine #4 – Two Truck Shay

Churcher’s database indicates that the KVR had three Shays in total. He lists this third Shay as having serial #1508 but this has not been confirmed. The following photograph from John Macfie’s collection shows two Shays and a rod engine in the background. Given that the only time the KVR had two Shays on the roster was before 1928, it is likely the photograph was taken then and that the Shays are engines #2 and #4. The rod engine is likely engine #50.

Key Valley Railway Tracks at the Lost Channel Sawmill

I finally found a picture of #4. Not a great one, especially because it’s on the left side of the engine (the non-interesting side):

KVR Shay 4

Engine #6 – 2-8-0 Baldwin

Engine #6 is a conventional rod locomotive using the 2-8-0 (Consolidated) wheel pattern. Churcher lists #6 as being built by Baldwin in 1904 as serial #24841. A photograph I have possession of dates the engine as in use in 1922; Churcher listed #6 as starting service on the KVR in 1922. It too was scrapped in 1928 after the same roundhouse fire that claimed #2. Here’s a photo of #6 from John Macfie’s collection:

KVR Engine No 6

Another photograph of #6 near Lost Channel:

KVR Engine

Engine #39 – 4-4-0 Rogers

Engine #39 is a conventional rod locomotive, though it is difficult to make out what type of pattern from the photograph. The photograph dates the engine as in use in 1922. Churcher lists #39 as 4-4-0 wheel pattern built by Rogers in 1883 as serial #3137. It arrived at the KVR in 1917 and like #2 and #6 burned in the roundhouse fire of 1928.

Engine #50 – 4-4-0 Manchester

Engine #50 is a conventional rod locomotive originally from the Grand Truck Railway. It appears on the roster in 1917 and was later scrapped. Here’s a photograph of #50, probably at Lost Channel:

KVR Engine No. 50

And another photo:

KVR Engine 50

Key Valley Railway: Lost Channel

Lake steamship "Kawigamog" at the dock
Lake steamship “Kawigamog” at the dock

Of the major locations on the Key Valley Railway, Lost Channel was the obvious choice to study first.

One of the techniques I used with great success in the past was to use vintage aerial photographs to determine trackage patterns and building locations. For the Key valley Railway, I purchased a set of 1928 aerial photographs for the Lost Channel area. These photos are approximately 1:25000 scale, and can show a fair amount of detail. I’m fairly happy with the technique, although the 1920’s vintage photos are very grainy and lack a lot of detail. I’ve scanned one of the photographs in and annotated it with the important town features I’ve been able to determine so far.

Lost Channel Actual

It is clear from this aerial photo that the eastern terminus of the Key Valley Railway was literally the boardway at the sawmill. I had, at first, interpreted the buildings around the sawmill as a tramway structure. However, after closely reading John Macfie’s “Parry Sound Logging Days” book, I learned that the KVR loaded lumber directly from the sorting boardway onto flatcars for transfer to Pakesley, where the major KVR lumber yards were. Given the lack of real estate around the Lost Channel town site, this is hardly surprising that there was no large lumber yard there.

Macfie’s book mentions that there were 12 or 13 spurs running into the boardway. This is confirmed in the following photograph of the sawmill area:

Key Valley Railway Tracks at the Lost Channel Sawmill

Typical operations would have the Lost Channel yard engine (one of the Shays most probably) spot one flatcar on each spur, parked right up to the boardway floor. Each car was probably assigned to handle a specific grade and dimension of lumber. When the right grade and dimension of board came to a sorter, he would pick it up, turn and stack it on the appropriate flatcar. When a flatcar was filled, the yard engine would swap it with an empty. I assume that when enough cars were filled, a run would be made to Pakesley and an equal number of empties pulled back to Lost Channel.

Lying to the west of the sawmill was the station for Lost Channel. It served both the town site of Lost Channel as well as the local lake steamer, the “Kawigamog”. The lead photograph shows a jumble of buildings wedged between the KVR mainline and the lake itself.

Further to the west where land was easier to clear and develop, the KVR built a small yard to service the sawmill and a wye to turn locomotives.

Key Valley Railway: Locations

The Sawmill at Lost Channel served by the Key Valley Railway
The Sawmill at Lost Channel served by the Key Valley Railway

The two key locations on the KVR were Pakesley and Lost Channel. The major attributes of each village is given below:

Lost Channel

  • the company sawmill;
  • the company town site;
  • a station serving both the townsite and the local lake steamer;
  • a wye for turning locomotives;
  • a small yard to support the local trackage.


  • the interchange with the Canadian Pacific Railway;
  • the main lumber storage yards;
  • a station on the Canadina Pacific for passengers transferring to and from the KVR;
  • a wye for turning locomotives;
  • the likely location of the KVR engine facilities.

I have also found references to two other important KVR locations between Lost Channel and Pakesley. They are:

Camp Six (about half way between Pakesley and Lost Channel)

  • one of the company’s logging camps, with a road connecting it to other camps lying to the north;
  • a log loading area;
  • possibly a passing siding.

Cole’s Siding (just west of Lost Channel)

  • a connection to a short branch where log loading occurred;
  • possibly a passing siding;
  • possibly a spur to a sand/gravel quarry.

Key Valley Railway: History

Lake steamship "Kawigamog" at the dock
Lake steamship “Kawigamog” at the dock

The Key Valley Railway (KVR) was a standard gauge railway that ran between the villages of Pakesley and Lost Channel in Ontario between 1917 and 1933. It was constructed to transport logs, lumber and people to and from the company’s lumber mill at Lost Channel.

The general location of the Key Valley is given in the following map obtained from Google. The Key Valley was just 12 miles long; the western end met the Canadian Pacific Railway at Pakesley; the eastern end was the company town of Lost Channel.

View The Key Valley Railway in a larger map

The construction of the standard gauge Key Valley Railway was started by the Lauder, Spears and Howland Company in 1914. Before the railway was built, the company used a rugged bush trail to haul lumber to a siding on the Canadian National Railway. Unfortunately, the trail was difficult to maintain and was often impassible. The new railroad, named the Key Valley Railway for the narrow valley in which the roadbed lay, would head directly west of Lost Channel to connect with the Canadian Pacific Railway at Pakesley. Unfortunately, the construction costs of the railway almost bankrupted the Lauder, Spears and Howland Company. In 1917, the Schroeder Mills and Timber Company bought up the financially troubled Lauder company and finished the railway.

In the 1920’s, Lost Channel was a bustling place. The sawmill there was the largest in the area. Within the town site proper, about 300 people lived. Along with the Schroeder Company’s bunkhouses and cookeries for its workers, Lost Channel had stores, a hospital and a school. They even had electrical power.

The railway also connected with the steamship “Kawigamog” which served various villages and resorts on the Pickerel River system. By the mid 1920’s, upwards of 1,200 hunters a year passed over the KVR and onto the “Kawigamog” to arrive the Kawigamog Lodge.

At the other end of the KVR, Pakesley also grew. Here, the Schroeder Company kept its large lumber storage yards from which it supplied the Toronto, Detroit, Chicago and New York markets. In the 1920’s, Pakesley grew to include a post office and a hotel as well as receiving a new CPR station in 1924 to handle the increased passenger traffic to and from Lost Channel.

In 1927, the Schroeder Company, perhaps recognizing that their lumber limits were nearing exhaustion, sold the company to a new company, the Pakesley Lumber Company. In 1930, a devastating fire destroyed the Lost Channel mill, and by 1933, Lost Channel was a ghost town. Pakesley survived into the 1960’s as an important CPR section house, but by 1970, it too had become a ghost town.