Harwood Station Museum
This project will result in the development of a regional heritage museum. Located in the community of Harwood, the Museum will showcase the history of the Cobourg and Peterborough Railway as well as the impact it had on the development of the surrounding area in the 19th century.
The Mission of the Harwood Station Heritage Museum is to collect, educate, display, conserve and feature the history of the railroad and the surrounding area from its earliest settlement to its present status by providing heritage programs highlighting these areas.
By Ted Rafuse
It was the Cobourg & Peterborough Railway that created Harwood as a railway terminal in the mid nineteenth century. As a rail terminus Harwood glimmered briefly but its rail heritage has endured. Remarkably a few years after the first commercial railway operated in England, and after a very few railroads were constructed in the United States, a number of Cobourg and Northumberland citizens commenced the process of creating a railway company to be constructed between Cobourg and Rice Lake.
With the certainty of rail construction, Harwood experienced an unprecedented flurry of building activity. In 1853 the village became home to scores of men engaged in the construction of Rice Lake Bridge and ancillary railway buildings. Amongst the latter were several structures in the hamlet itself.
Throughout the first summer of construction work crews excavated earth and levelled a berm for the railway. Track layers followed laying rail north from Cobourg. Carpenters were busy laying the framework for the bridge. Efforts continued throughout the winter of 1853-54 to bring the railway to reality the following year.
The most incredible engineering aspect of the Cobourg & Peterborough Railway was the construction of the bridging necessary to cross Rice Lake, the body of water just north of Harwood Station. When undertaken, this structure was one of the largest engineering projects in North America, a feat of which most people are unaware.
One of the reasons Harwood was selected as the site on the southern shore of Rice Lake was its location with the proximity of Tic Island which could be included in the bridging of the lake. The plan for the crossing of Rice Lake consisted of several bridging techniques.
Mid 19th century rail operations were fraught with multiple forms of mishaps, some of which were humorous in hindsight, others of which were calamitous and caused death. The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway and its offspring did not escape these tragedies. A few of these occurrences are related below.
In these early days of railroading attention to the safety of limb and life was considered to be the responsibility of the individual and not of the employer. Personal injury accidents were common and too often attended with loss of life.