Cobourg Peterborough Railway - 10
D'Arcy Edward Boulton, as we have seen, was, in a sense, part of the railway since before the beginning of the railway. It is hard not to see him as having made the very best effort he could to get it running.
If he was responsible for choosing the bridge in the first place, he at least had a genuine interest in making the thing work. He was also, at the time, Mayor of Cobourg and would expect all eyes to be upon him and his management of Cobourg's great project in which half the town had sunk their investments.
Sometime in the summer of 1858, however, the president of the railway, Henry Covert, seems to have decided that he should take over the lease from Boulton. Covert was from an old Cobourg family, established in the early 1820s by John Covert who built New Lodge Farm on the then Kingston Road. Covert also held the mortgage on the harbour property which the railway was using as its Cobourg terminus.
Whether Covert actually submitted a bid to the company, or submitted one which was rejected, he seems to have acted on his own, only to be brought up short by the shareholders, who, instead, awarded the lease to John Henry Dumble. Dumble's father, a surveyor, had been sent over from Britain to assist in settling a boundary dispute between New Brunswick and Maine and, after several other surveying jobs had settled in Cobourg. John H. attended Victoria College and later worked on the Grand Trunk.
Dumble plunged into the job of running the railway with enthusiasm. He seems to have had no formal lease on the road, merely a gentleman's agreement. He said later that he found the rolling stock, the line itself and the bridge in dreadful shape, yet he raised 5,000 pounds on his own and began filling in the pilings of the bridge. He also contracted with some Peterborough lumbermen to ensure their shipments went through Cobourg rather than through the newly opened Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton RR. This last company had almost completed their own "spur" line to Peterborough, a serious threat to the Cobourg road.
In the meantime, Boulton, now no longer in the spotlight for the Cobourg line, quietly bought some shares in the Port Hope line. In this he became a shadowy partner of one John Fowler. Fowler was a sub-contractor on the construction of the Cobourg railway who submitted a bid on the lease of the line in 1856 at the same time Boulton did. (More on Fowler here). Boulton's was preferred and Fowler switched his interests to Port Hope.
Oddly enough, also in this eventful summer of 1858, Henry Covert, president of the Cobourg and Peterborough RR. Co. entered into partnership with Fowler to lease the Millbrook branch of the Port Hope Line. The Millbrook Branch is the somewhat euphemistic name for the spur of the Port Hope Lindsay Beaverton line which ran off over to Peterborough from the town of Millbrook.
At this point, then, the president of the Cobourg Railway and the Mayor of Cobourg, both of whom had been ousted from their direction of the railway, were financially interested in the success of the Cobourg railway's greatest nemesis and rival, the Port Hope railway.
By 1859 things were looking not too bad for Dumble. He managed to move 26,000,000 board feet of lumber through Cobourg harbour and the bridge barely fell down at all under his stewardship. He had filled in another quarter mile of the embankment the bridge was resting on and was confident that with a bit more effort the bridge would be secure. To his dismay, of course, he found that an impartial overview of the bridge and its original design showed that it had been disastrous from the very start. Part of the agreement in his lease was that all profits were to be used in filling in the bridge until it was secure. By this time the government had stepped in and cleared the capital part of the town of Cobourg's debt for the railway, but the company was still unable to meet operating costs and pay the interest on the vastly over-capitalized venture.
This wasn't the only place where Cobourg was overextended. In a fine flush of enthusiasm over their new rail-road; the townsfolk had decided to build themselves a town hall worthy of the bustling metropolis they were sure Cobourg would soon become (current photo). All in all Cobourg had a very large emotional investment in this railway.
And it is at this point that a Mr. J.H. Cameron, speaking on behalf of the Bondholders of the railway, approached Dumble and, at first, asked him whether he would care to take out a formal lease on the line. Dumble accepted, but still considered himself to be working on behalf of the Bondholders. In December, Cameron again went to Dumble and represented to him that, if he were to relinquish his lease, the company would be able to sell out to the Grand Trunk for a very good settlement and become a feeder to it. (The Grand Trunk Railroad was, at the time, the main line running between Toronto and Montreal along the north side of the lake) Dumble agreed and, in his own words, "in all confidence, believing that (to be) the truth, and that this course would be greatly advantageous", he signed the paper canceling his lease. The next day he discovered that the lease had not been taken over by the GTR but by the lessees of the Millbrook branch of the Port Hope line. Those lessees were, of course, Henry Covert and John Fowler. He had been duped and poor Dumble found that he had handed over his beloved young railroad to the arch fiend with the black moustache who was almost literally about to tie it down on the railroad tracks in a very perilous way indeed.
The new lessees immediately laid off all the men working on the bridge, and even more skullduggery was on the way.
Written by Colin Caldwell
Part 10 is on this page and an index is below.