Title: Ontario railways before 1880: a scrap-iron bonanza

Authors: Thomas F. McIlwraith

Addresses: Department of Geography, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, L5L 1C6, Canada

Abstract: The construction of the first generation of railways in Ontario, Canada, was undertaken without the benefit of adequate capital investment. The result was cheaply-built track and rolling stock that wore out with unanticipated rapidity. Substantial replacement and design changes became a part of the railroad-building process. The failure – sometimes with catastrophic results – of poor quality iron rails, wheels, boilers and castings of every description yielded a steady flow of scrap iron from before 1860 onward, and estimates its volume form a central aspect of this paper. Railroad scrap peaked in the 1870s as hundreds of miles of new, more durable steel rails replaced iron ones. This surge of scrap iron fed a flourishing foundry business in southern Ontario late in the 19th century, and quite possibly retarded the establishment of Canada|s domestic steel industry.

Keywords: railroad history; Canada; undercapitalisation; scrap iron; recycling; environmental management; industrial ecology; railroad scrap; railways; foundry business.

DOI: 10.1504/PIE.2006.011741

Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal, 2006 Vol.3 No.4, pp.344 - 360

Available online: 20 Dec 2006 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article