As is often the case with these things, I wasn't completely sure as to the exact location of this town when I arrived. In fact, I wasn't completely sure there was even anything left to see. However, we were on vacation, we were in the area, give or take a few hundred kilometres, why not go take a look.
When we were close to the spot, I decided to park the truck and consider two possible directions we could begin hiking. One seemed most likely, so I chose to eliminate the other first. As it turns out, both were right.
Nearing the tracks, we saw a well-beaten path on the far side, so often a clue when exploring. We crossed over and followed it, only to emerge on a beautiful section of beach and a tent... Someone was camping here, although not currently at home. Clearly this wasn't where we wanted to be, so after giving the dog a chance to swim a bit on a warm day, we backtracked up the path to the railway.
People had arrived in a car, and a second vehicle was approaching. When I spoke to the first, I found out that this was the person camping on the beach, and that the place I was looking for was a little ways down the rail line. By this time, the second group of two people arrived. The man indicated that he had spent time here in his youth and was here to see what was left. We were advised that there were a few narrow rock cuts along the track, and that there were frequent trains. We would need to be careful.
Jackfish existed before the CPR came along, mostly as a small fishing community. It was the railway, however, that caused it rapid and immense growth. Between 1883 and 1885, the railway, and a siding, were constructed here allowing the passing of trains in opposite directions. After almost a decade, a port was established for the unloading of coal, building Jackfish up into a recoaling and watering station for the CPR's steam engines, here and in Shreiber and White River.
We began our westward hike along the track and came quickly upon a large collapsed concrete structure on the south side. It appears to have been a coal tipple that fell over. Given its size and weight, I could just imagine the sound it must have made.
A little further along, on the north side of the track, we encountered the remains of a water tower. Not yet knowing the history of this place, I came to the conclusion that coal and water were the most likely reason for this town's existence. As we continued along, we began to notice other details. A ramp to raise a car for repairs. An old car. Open foundations with old furnaces cold and covered in moss.
In the 1930's, things continued just as busy as a local lumber company began using the port to ship wood to US pulp mills. In the 40's, the war made its impact known as those of Japanese decent were placed in internment camps including one here at Jackfish. The men were used to build the nearby Trans-Canada Highway.
With the rise of the diesel engine, coal began to give way, and so did Jackfish's importance to the CPR. Things began to wind down, and people began to close up and move away as fortunes here began to diminish. In 1960, the town's hotel burned down, and by three years later, only two families remained living here.
We watched a few of the new trains go past along the tracks as we explored. No one seemed surprised we were there. A couple of camps were still occupied, probably on a seasonal basis, and the signs of the town's former glory and becoming ever more difficult to find. Still painted in relatively small white letters on the rock face, however, was "Jackfish Ontario".