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Like many other villages that sprung up along the mainlines of Canada's railways, Jackfish began life as a train order station, where dispatchers controlled the movement of trains along the Canadian Pacific Railway's single tracked mainline, winding along the shores of Lake Superior. Founded in 1885 for the railway, Jackfish grew as a village over the years. Today, all that remains are memories and a few overgrown ruins.

Location attributes for Jackfish
Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada
Built :: Closed   Status   Difficulty
1885 :: 1963   Abandoned   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Hazards Risk   Security Risk   AUE Rating
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆   ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Hazard Observations   Security Observations
Active Railway, Collapsing Structures   None Specified

When the CPR built a siding along the sandy shores of Superior, they laid the groundwork for the village. The siding allowed trains to pass one another in the pre-signalling days, under the supervision of a station operator who received their directions by telegraph. In 1895, the CPR expanded Jackfish with a port capable of receiving coal for their steam engines, and the village grew from there. A large water tower was also erected for the steam engines.

Jackfish soon found itself as a fishing port, with the fresh catches being put on ice and shipped by rail to Toronto and Montreal. A hotel, the Lakeview Hotel, was also established to host the tourists attracted to the sandy beach in otherwise rugged terrain. The towns fortunes waned in the post-war era, however; a victim of CPR's desalinization of the locomotives, collapsing fish stocks, and the destruction of the hotel by fire in 1960. In October 1963, the last two families left the town and it officially became a ghost town. The railway siding still is in operation, but the signals and switches are controlled remotely from Calgary, Alberta.

Unlike most ghost towns I've poked around, there is a fair amount to be found. Brind and I found a couple of houses, partially collapsed but still recognizable. We also found the foundations of the Lakeview Hotel and the old water tower, as well as a concrete building that has completely fallen over next to the still-active rails; historic photos online show that as being part of the CPR coal docks. Quite a few trains thundered through while we were exploring, so the old railway motto very much applied... "Any time is train time". Also, to our surprise, we found an old car rotting away in the woods, not far from the foundations of the hotel. Brind was able to identify it as an old Dodge Custom series, although the year eludes us.

Further research online after the fact showed that there was once quite a bit more to Jackfish. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the town burned in a forest fire in 2010, wiping most of the remaining structures off the map, including several old log cabins. I'm surprised that there were still a few things for us to find, considering that fact, but I'm glad that we at least saw some evidence of the remains of the place 500 people once called home.

Rumble of the Canadian Pacific Railway - August 2023
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