The railway stationPhoto: John and Josephine Krystia
In 1908 the Canadian Northern (Ontario) Railway pushed a line north of Toronto to meet an iron prospect situated at Moose Mountain, 50 miles north of Sudbury. Mackenzie and Mann had become majority shareholders in the mine by 1906 and had planned, that same year, for an extensive harbour to tranship the ores for smelting and refining. The harbour, located at Key Harbour on the Georgian Bay was finally completed by 1908, and a 16.8- kilometre (12-mile) spur line was built 300 kilometres (214 miles) north of Toronto to access the site.
A railway section was established at Key Junction to service the stretch of mainline and the spur. The site became a hub of activity when a station was added. The facilities also included a water tank, coal chute, and storage beds to stockpile coal. In addition, the spur connection formed a wye to facilitate the turnaround of freight trains going to and from Key Harbour 12 miles away. Mackenzie and Mann unfortunately went bankrupt in 1916, but the harbour, mine, and railway were kept in operation. Although the harbour and mine both closed in 1920, the railway had been reorganized as Canadian National Railways (CN), and the site remained busy.
By this time, the section village had grown to contain six family homes along with a bunkhouse and a section foreman's house. The homes were un-serviced apart from two public wells. A post office, opened in 1915, cemented the settlement's links with the outside world.
After the CN opened a coal dock at Key Harbour in 1928, the spur line saw renewed activity. By 1929 the community contained enough children to justify construction of a school section. Within a few short years the schoolhouse was converted to a hall and replaced by a new structure. John Krystia later added a store in 1930, and his wife integrated the post office in that same year. In order to complete the fire watch grid, the Ministry of Natural Resources, established a fire tower on nearby Tower Lake. Towers were established every few miles apart to form a triangular watch pattern.
In 1938 the coal dock at Key Harbour was closed down and the facilities moved to Britt. Within the decade the section village was in serious decline. The school, store, and post office closed in 1948, and the remaining children had to walk to school in Pickerel River, approximately 1.9 kilometres (1.5 miles) away. By the close of 1958, the coal chute and water tower had become redundant and the section village was abandoned. In 1960 the spur was torn up and salvaged for scrap iron. Key Junction had slipped forever into history.