Laying the Tracks for the Future
Before the 1850’s, the present site of the Village of Thorndale was the dense wilderness property owned by the Logan family. It wasn’t until 1857, did the Logans survey their property along the line of the Grand Trunk Railway as a village site. The name ‘Thorndale’ was chosen for the village in recognition of the importance of the Shanly family to the area. Also Walter and Francis Shanly, sons of early settler James Shanly, were top-ranked civil engineers and it is not known if they personally were involved in the construction of the Grand Trunk Line from Stratford to London but they were very well known for their engineering marvels and saw to the construction of more miles of railroad than any other engineers in North America.
The Grand Trunk Railway was unable to buy a lot for a station at Wyton, a small but growing settlement southwest of Thorndale, so they went on to Thorndale. When the Grand Trunk came through in 1858 and with the building of a station and rail freight sheds that year, the village of Thorndale was placed on the map. The railway was an essential link to the outside world as it opened up new markets for wood, timber, farm produce, and other goods produced in the Village and area.
In those early years, the village of Thorndale had a population of only 75 but housed a post office, saloon, wagon-maker, book dealer, tailor, painter, carpenter, shoemakers and store. The village quickly grew and by the 1880’s, Thorndale was considered one of the most important shipping centres of the area. From this point, the railway provided the gateway to the markets of London, Toronto, and Montreal and as far away as Europe for local livestock and farm produce.
Today, anyone driving through Thorndale will notice the mural painted on the east wall of the feed mill, facing the railroad track. In 1999, Dick and Trudy Nieuwland commissioned London artist, Fred Harrison to paint a railroad scene (on the original station site) as their way to help preserve the historical importance of the railway to the village of Thorndale. This mural has become a Thorndale landmark marking the significant role the rail system played in early development and growth of Thorndale, as well as being the community’s lifeline.
To commemorate the important 150 th anniversary of the railroad in Thorndale, the Thames Centre ‘Communities in Bloom’ Committee hosted the Prickly Valley Train Festival on Saturday, June 21 st at the park adjacent to the railway tracks at King Street in the centre of the village. This festival was a family day of interesting vintage exhibits, live Bluegrass music, food and fun.
The Prickly Valley Train Festival was a great way for the community and surrounding area to celebrate its heritage as the village of Thorndale is ‘rooted in history, growing for tomorrow’.
Written by Nancy Abra