The journey from Montreal to Niagara is nearly 400 miles;
we left the former place at seven-thirty in the evening and arrived at
Niagara about nine o’clock in the morning, after waiting long enough to
have breakfast and a wash at Toronto.
They have an excellent plan for the examination of
tickets with a minimum of inconvenience to the passenger, a system which
can best be appreciated when travelling during the night. Railway
tickets are issued in long strips of perforated coupons; I have seen
tickets quite a yard long for passengers going a long journey out West.
The attendant looks at your ticket; you then put it carefully away, and
he gives you a small duplicate ticket which you put in your hatband or
pin to the back of your seat. This saves any further examination, and
the attendant can at once see your destination.
The conductor comes to the door and shouts the name of
the place at which we are next stopping, and if anybody leaves the train
for refreshments he makes it his business to go and see for himself that
he is not left behind.
The luggage or freight train cars are huge in every way,
compared with ours; most of these cars are thirty-eight feet in length,
and after seeing the immense cases landed from steamers at the docks,
one realizes that the carrying capacity of the trucks must needs be
Instead of the shrill whistle we have for use on our
trains, they have heavy bells at the back of the funnel of the engine.
These bells are, I should judge, about sixteen to eighteen inches in
height, and they are constantly clanging, although when travelling at
any speed, they cannot be heard from the inside of the train.
We reached Niagara at last, and lost no time in finding
the best way of seeing the Falls, and as much as we could of their
surroundings in the short space of time at our disposal.
I find that most towns in Ontario have a good service of
trams, and one line, called the "Belt Line,” takes you really round the
town, and shows you much that, else, you would probably not see. This is
a circular route, and it will either set you down at any place you may
wish en route, or bring you back, setting you down at the place from
which you started; whilst, if you prefer to change before you complete
your journey, you are given transfer tickets to cover the unused part of
To me Niagara itself is just impossible to describe. It
frequently happens that when a famous beauty spot is visited, its glory
and charm seem to have been very much over praised, and a sense of keen
disappointment is experienced, but no brush or pen could paint or
describe anything approaching the immensity and glory of the Falls of
Niagara , or the beauty of its environs.
The two largest Falls come thundering down, their spray
creating clouds of mist, and smaller falls are everywhere; one cannot
get away from the refreshing sound of the splash and rush of water, and,
wherever you may glance, shady dells and cool greenery meet your eye,
creating an atmosphere which is indeed grateful and pleasant in the
intense heat of a brilliant summer day.
Lake Erie is 573 feet, and Lake Ontario 247 feet above
the level of the sea, and a rushing torrent carries fifteen millions of
cubic feet of water per minute over the precipice from Lake Erie, down
through a deep ravine, widening slightly at the Whirlpool Rapids, into
Lake Ontario, from which flows that mighty volume of water, the great St
Lawrence River. This stupendous flow of water is, it is said,
perceptibly decreasing, owing to the large quantities taken from it for
A steel arch bridge, 1,280 feet long, crosses the ravine,
over which one can walk from the Canadian to New York State territory,
where the town of Niagara is situated. The span of this bridge is 840
feet, and it is 192 feet above the water. The contour of the American
falls (New York side) is 1,060 feet, the height 167 feet, whilst the
larger or Horseshoe falls, on the Canadian side have a contour of 3,010
feet, and a height of 158 feet. The river, between the two lakes of Erie
and Ontario, averages a depth of 180 feet.
The circular car, or belt line tram, took us down one
side of the river, past the Whirlpool Rapids, and back the other side to
Niagara Town, where we had luncheon.
After luncheon we took a carriage, driven by a man of
remarkable loquacity, who was very anxious to show us the beauties
of his famous town and falls. He set us down several times, that we
might walk across bridges or rocks to get to different views of the
lovely place. One of the surprise's of Niagara is the freedom with which
a visitor can roam about without being pestered by the guides and
curio-vendors usually associated with such c place as this.
I strongly recommend anyone going to Niagara to arrange
to spend at least one or more weeks there; I cannot imagine a more ideal
place for a holiday, especially during a hot summer, unless it be spent
on one of the Thousand Islands of the river below Kingston; but then one
would be away from the refreshing roar of water; away from the most
wonderful sight I have ever seen, or can ever expect to see.
I was told that, some years since, visitors suffered from
a veritable plague of importunate touts, but that the Ontario and New
York State authorities eventually took action, and put a stop to the
nuisance; and to them, for the peaceful quiet which obtains everywhere,
and for the beautiful public parks which surround these glorious Falls,
the thanks of the whole world are due.
After we had taken tea, and had made some purchases, I
had, very reluctantly, to bid farewell to my travelling companion, to
whose courtesy and kindness I was so much indebted, and make my return
journey to Toronto, where I arrived on the eve of a "civic holiday.”
The “civic holiday” is a day corresponding to an English
The town was very full of visitors, and I had some
difficulty in finding hotel accommodation. However, I at last settled in
at the “Empress Hotel,” in Younge Street.
It was whilst in Toronto that I first realized the
convenience of the town planning system of building streets at right
angles to each other, North to South, and East to West. It saves the
confusion experienced by strangers in such cities as London and Paris,
where, unless one’s bump of locality be abnormally developed, one must
at first inevitably be puzzled and vexed by the bewildering arrangement
of the streets.
If the topography of the town was easily understood, it
is more than can be said of any verbal directions, however courteously
given, by the good people of Toronto.
The practice of contraction in regard to proper names, to
anyone unused to it, is confusing in the extreme. Inquiring which
direction I must take to reach my hotel when I was out one day, I was
told very politely, but in a rapid stream of words, “Go on tram King
West to Younge, ask for transfer Young South.” This was rather
staggering, but I learned that it was necessary for one to know
thoroughly the points of the compass in Canadian towns.
The streets of Toronto have much the same untidy look as
those of Montreal, but they are better kept, and there are some very
fine shops. The larger drapery stores are arranged and run on the same
lines as Selfridge’s, in Oxford Street. The hotels are more comfortable,
and the general appearance of the town is much better than that of
Montreal. The street lighting is particularly good.
In the residential part of the town it seems odd to see
the well-kept lawns of the larger houses unenclosed and extending to
the side walks of the public roads; and, to the credit of the public be
it said, these lawns are no more trespassed upon by passers-by than they
would be if fenced in by high walls and railings. The flower beds and
the fresh green of the lawns impart an air of refinement to the place,
and the effect is so pleasing as to make one wish that such a thing were
possible in our English towns.
A feature of town life in the Western Continent is the
“shine parlours.” It is unusual to have your boots cleaned in the
hotels. No! you must take yourself to a shine parlour, or send your
boots there. These shine parlours are narrow shops, with three or four
shelf-like arrangements at the sides. The customer sits on a seat on one
of the higher shelves, and places his feet or a lower shelf, and has a
five cent shine. At first sight these places seemed a little ludicrous,
but it must be confessed that they are a great advance on the European
Toronto is called the "Queen City,” and also the “City of
Churches”; it well deserves the latter title, for there are churches and
chapels of every denomination in abundance, and on Sunday it was, so far
as appearance went, more like a Scottish city, with its air of religious
abnegation, rather than a young city with which one would associate
irresponsible freedom in regard to such matters; but from what I could
glean in so short a space of time, I am of opinion that Canadians,
besides being an intensely loyal people, are as religious as they are
I was sorry to find that, as in many churches in England,
only when Services were in progress were the doors open; they were
closed immediately afterwards. I was disappointed at finding the English
cathedral closed; in outward appearance it somewhat resembles that of St
Giles, in Edinburgh.
I like the speech and accent of the Toronto people; the
rather drawled out sentences, with the dropping voice at the end,
sounded very agreeable to my ear.
Ontario is almost entirely a fruit growing province, and
the shops are temptingly stocked with fruit of all kinds, and not only
are the shop windows fitted with gauze to keep off the myriads of flies,
but you can buy small baskets of mixed fruits entirely wrapped in pink
or white gauze, for the same purpose. The fruit farms I passed in the
train are much the same as the fruit orchards in England or the South of
France, but instead of being apples or orange trees, they contained
mainly peach trees.
On the Saturday evening I went to the Alexandra Theatre.
It was a very homely affair, just a large hall filled with stalls, and a
gallery at the back; for 75 cents I secured a seat in the second row of
the stalls. During the interval, the lady who was running the show was
called to the front, and made a little farewell speech, in the course of
which “she wished she need not leave all her friends who had been so
good to her, but in fairy tales we are told that if we wish hard enough,
we shall get what we want, so she should wish ‘vurry hard' and she hoped
her friends there would wish hard too, and then she would be sure to
come back next season." Just a sample of the country—free, kindhearted,
simple and genuine.