Midland Coal Docks

**Note: Visitor’s will have to explore the Midland Town docks to find the 4 plaques at this location.

Established in 1901 the Midland Coal Dock was owned and operated by Playfair-White Associates. Coal was brought in on ships and sent out on trains. It was also the source of fuel for the ships coming in and out of harbour. In the first year of operation, the coal dock handled over 7000 tons of coal. In 1917 a crane was built to streamline the loading process. In the 1930s the coal dock was taken over by Canadian Steamship Lines, but fuel oil was already starting to overtake coal as the fuel of choice. Coal was gradually phased out and the need for the coal dock disappeared. The coal dock was permanently dismantled in the early 1970s.


1992 0020 0034

The 5-ton coal unloading bridge at the James Playfair Coal dock in Midland Ontario.

1991 0001 0238

The James Fish Jr. loading at the Midland Coal Dock. Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada.

2004 0083 0051 town dock

Midland Coal docks in winter, Simcoe Elevator can be seen in the background.

1997 0007 0195

Employees of the Midland Coal Dock, date unknown.

1993 0023 0001

The offices of the Midland Coal Docks c.1968.

2004 0083 0091 Midland Coal Yard

Midland Coal Yards. The 5-ton unloading bridge is seen in the background.

2004 0083 0052 coal dock..

The Midland Coal Dock.

5 thoughts on “Midland Coal Docks

  1. When I was a kid I spent lots of summers in Midland. (1940’s & 1950’s) Did a lot of walking from my grandmother’s, & Aunt’s houses on Olive St. Enjoyed the trains, The activities at the coal dock, & just walking around town. Rode on the “City of Dover”, & watched the T R Mclagan being launched. How many people remember “wireless Hill”? Thanks for saving some of Midland’s history.

    • I am glad that you have such fond memories. Midland is quite different now but it still has a lot to offer. It is our pleasure to preserve the past so that more people can appreciate and share in the things you remember from your childhood.

      • Re: Midland history

        Attached is a spring photograph showing CSL ships tied up in Midland. The man on the left is my uncle “Charlie swales”. I have no idea who the other person is, or as to the date of the picture. Uncle Charlie took me aboard one of the last coal fired lake boats at the existing elevator. One has no idea how hot it gets in the engine room till you spend some time there. I have a few more pictures taken at my aunts house on Olive St or at the waters edge behind it. At least two showing lake boats in the background. Family photos, but still Midland history!

        Jim Booth 2ssmcook@hotmail.ca

  2. As a small five year old boy, I lived in a house converted from an old barn on Olive street. It was in my grandmother’s back yard. In the winter we’d heat our houses with coal. Being dirt poor, we couldn’t afford to buy coal. However, living so close to the coal dock, we had an unlimited supply of coal if we were willing to help ourselves to it at the risk of being caught by “the coal dock cop”.

    I clearly recall back in the 50s being only about 5 years old and my uncles bundling me up to head out in howling snow storms in the dark of night. This was the best time to steal coal. Pitch black of night and bad weather ensured the cop wouldn’t be in a hurry to do his rounds and the falling snow would cover our tracks.

    I remember enjoying the ride sitting on empty burlap sacks on the big wooden sled that my uncles would pull by hand along the snow covered sidewalks down to the coal dock. Once there, they’d find their “hole” that they had bored through the layer of frozen coal in the huge pile to get to the dry loose coal underneath. They’d leave me standing outside the hole then they’d rush to fill up the sacks as quickly as possible. When the sacks were all filled, they’d load them and me onto the sled then strain on the ropes to haul the heavily laden sled home.

    At the time, I asked why I always had to go with them? After all, taking a five year old boy out of his warm bed to go steal coal on a black stormy night, didn’t seem to make sense. They told me my job was to stand guard to watch for the coal dock cop. A duty which I took very seriously and didn’t blink an eye all the time they were in the hole.

    Now that I’m in my 60s, I’ve come to the realization that I wasn’t really a guard. I was their sympathy card if the cop ever did catch us. It would take a hard heart to throw two men and a boy in jail just for trying to keep themselves warm in the dead of winter.

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