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The Rail Car Ferries – Then There Were Two

By 1914, the success of Ontario No. 1 was firmly established. Another vessel was ordered.

a black and white aerial photograph showing two ferries docked in Cobourg Harbour, one in the centre of the picture at a pier with its bow toward the lake and it's stern at the end of a railway line with railway cars on it, and the other at a dock along the shore. The picture includes the western extension of the harbour in the foreground and the beach in the distance.

Both ferries in Cobourg harbour.

Ontario No. 2, almost identical in most respects to her sister, was built by Polson Iron Works Ltd. of Toronto and was launched on April 3, 1915.

black & white photo of a sparse dining area with shiny wooden floor and carpet runners. Round tables are set with white table cloths, napkins, seven pieces of silverware and plates. Serving tables are in the middle background

The passengers’ dining area aboard Ontario No. 1.


Visitors from the United States, who established Cobourg’s American Summer Colony, were a significant part of the ferries’ business.  The 1910s and 20s were the most successful for the ferries. They carried 70,000 passengers per season during this time.  In 1925 they loaded and ferried 12,863 coal cars.

A bronze coloured skeleton type key attached by wire to a key fob made of brown material stamped with the text ONTARIO CAR FERRY No. 2 10 COBOURG ONT.

Key from Ontario Car Ferry Ontario No. 2.


However, with the Great Depression, hard times hit. Still, there remained enough commercial traffic, supplemented by excursion rentals, to keep both ferries running.

But by the mid-1940s losses were being experienced. Ontario No. 1’s last trip out of Charlotte was on July 31, 1949 – her certificate expired and she had to be dry docked. On April 30, 1950, Ontario No. 2 blew her whistle and left the American dock for the last time. The Ontario Car Ferry Company’s service ended when Ontario No. 2 docked at Cobourg and the steam was let down for the last time.

View this video with a transcript: “Phil’s Story”.