Big Chute Marine Railway – Coldwater, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

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Big Chute Marine Railway

Coldwater, Ontario

This "railway" for boats continues a waterway over a road. 


When driving along Upper Big Chute Road in Ontario, you’ll come across something unusual. At what looks like a railroad crossing, the tracks disappear into the water. The crossing is still in operation, so what’s happening?

Originally, there were plans to build a lock to transport boats from the Severn River to Georgian Bay (and vice versa). However, this was during the First World War, so there weren’t enough workers to build a full and proper lock. Instead, a temporary railway was set up. It started in the water, and boats would park on the “rail car.” Then, the car would transport them down (or up) a hill to the other body of water. A lock was never built, as the railway was deemed suitable. In 1923, a new carriage was used on the marine railway that could hold bigger boats. 

In the 60s, another marine railway in Swift Rapids was shut down and a lock was built. There were plans to do the same at Big Chute, but biologists in the area had found sea lamprey in the area, and figured that if the sea lamprey were able to swim through the lock from the river to the Bay, then it would have a devastating effect on the local fishing industry. However, the carriage that was being used at the time wasn’t able to keep up with the number of boats that needed to use the railway. And so it was decided that a much larger carriage would be built.

This large carriage was opened to the public in 1978 and is still in use today. It can carry boats up to 100 feet long. The site has a path beside the railway, so you can run alongside it as it takes people for a ride.

Know Before You Go

If you are coming during the summer, which is tourist season, be aware that parking here is limited.  It is best to come on a weekday morning.

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June 15, 2021

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