Park Street

Now a railway never-never land

This is a 2022 look at the railway land at the west end of Park Street, east of the present train station (visible in the background). In the days of steam-powered locomotives, the CNR roundhouse was on this property, but it and some other smaller buildings were removed long ago. Much of the land is now used by Canadian National Railways for construction equipment and related materials. Photo: Dean Robinson

Park Street was laid out in 1855 by Toronto developers John Arnold and James Lukin Robinson and first appeared on the 1857 map. It is now the first street crossing Romeo Street south of the east-west VIA rail line.

Attracted to Stratford in anticipation of the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856, Arnold and Robinson bought a big tract of land. They owned everything east of Front Street, south from Ontario to the south side of the GTR main Toronto line where Park Street is located.

Among the residential streets laid out by Arnold and Robinson were Front, Bay, Well, Queen, Trinity, College, King, High, Oxford, Dover, Peter, Park, Frederick, Regent, and parts of Albert, Brunswick, Douro and Romeo. In the early days, Romeo Street was called Main Street to suggest the importance of that newly developed part of the city.

Like many big-city developers, Arnold and Robinson transplanted Toronto street names to their developments elsewhere. They chose important and well-known (in their day) Toronto names mostly from the old Town of York. Arnold and Robinson brought the name Park from Toronto, where Park Road had been named after the area originally set aside for the "government park."

Though Park Street in Stratford was laid out with some 30 residential lots in 1855, its proximity to the railway lands led to industrial rather than residential development. In fact, there is only one house facing Park Street. It's at the extreme east end, surrounded by lush green fields in a rural park-like setting. Supersweet Feeds (now Master Feeds) dominates Park Street on the east side of Romeo Street.

West from Romeo Street, Park Street now leads to seemingly deserted private railway property. For decades, however, it was the site of the massive and bustling railway roundhouse. After diesel replaced steam as the fuel of choice for CNR locomotives, the roundhouse was decommissioned and some of its buildings continued to serve as diesel sheds. Eventually, they too were taken down, leaving only an entanglement of rail lines in what came to be known as the Buffalo yard because that's where most of the east-bound trains were assembled. From that yard, a train can still travel across Canada in either direction. With notes from Stanford Dingman