The Electric Snowplow and other goodies

I recently explored the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada* and came back with a number of photographs that could inspire models – or, even, achievable layouts. Here’s are a couple of examples, from the Toronto & York Radial Railway – an electric line that became an integral part of what is today’s Toronto Transit Commission:

Toronto York Plow 5

This plow begs to be modelled, using one of the classic Ambroid wooden kits that are available in various scales as a starting point. In fact, I’ve already used one of these Ambroid kits to model a CNR plow in S scale, which I’ve detailed on my Port Rowan in 1:64 blog. (I enjoyed that experience, so I’m seriously considering acquiring another of these kits to build this plow – because it’s just so darned neat.)

I’m fascinated by the trolley poles. I suspect they were required to activate signals. But they could also be there to power an onboard air compressor to lift the flanger blades at crossings. On a non-electric line, that air is supplied by a locomotive – which would also supply propulsion. But this is an electric line, so maybe they took advantage of that? Fortunately, one doesn’t need to know the answer to model The Electric Snowplow and have a wicked conversation piece.

The Toronto & York has a lot to offer a modeller looking for a layout subject under wire – including a plethora of interesting equipment. Here’s another piece of arresting snow-fighting equipment from the line – again, via the Andrew Merrilees Collection.

Toronto York Radial Railway rotary plow

Wow – a Toronto & York Radial Railway (Metropolitan Division) double-ended rotary snow plow, under wire. And with no protection across the blades. Can you image the potential for mayhem on city streets? An unknown photographer shot this image in 1905. According to notes on the back of the photo, the plow was built by J. Coghlan Company and T&Y purchased it secondhand in 1904. The photo was taken on Yonge Street, at the GTR Belt Line Subway, outside the old T&YR Mount Pleasant shop in what is now north Toronto. The gentleman is identified as Joseph Middlebrook.

The Toronto electric lines rostered fascinating equipment for use in the warmer months, too:

T&Y Weedkiller

T&Y 1

These two pictures were taken at the TTC’s Hillcrest shops at Bathurst Street and Davenport Road in Toronto. Note the weed killer spraying arms on the front (left) end of the flat car, and the hose or air line emerging from the side of the hood on the locomotive and connecting to the flat car.

I don’t have details on the steeple cab photo, but the image of it with the weed-killing car was taken on June 6, 1928. Notes on the back of that photo say this car was used on the Lake Simcoe Radial Line between 1928 and 1930.

WK-921 was originally a Toronto & York Radial Railway car of the same number, and was scrapped in November 1931 at the Schomberg Junction Wye. Locomotive number 1 was renumbered LM-1 on February 7, 1931 and sold to Noranda Mines Limited in February 1938.

*Earlier this month, I joined my friends Jeff Young and Peter Foley on a visit to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to do a dive into the astonishing Andrew Merrilees Collection. (Thanks to both gentlemen for helping to make my first visit to the archives a successful and enjoyable journey of discovery.)

Drawing on a finding aid compiled by Ottawa-area railway historian Colin Churcher, I was searching primarily for images of the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway and its predecessor lines. As part of the Merrilees collection at LAC, these are free to distribute with proper attribution, so I’ll be sharing my findings on my NS&T blog as time permits. But there were a number of wonderful photos that I couldn’t resist capturing while I was at the archives, and I’ll share those here. To that end, I’ve created the Andrew Merrilees Collection category, so readers may find all posts related to this incredible archive of railway history.

7 thoughts on “The Electric Snowplow and other goodies

  1. These are so cool.

    The trucks under the rotary look like proper trolley trucks so it could have been self-propelled. Intrigued by the idea of these machines I couldn’t resist a search. I found this photo of a Montreal Tramways rotary on the McCord Museum website:

    Elsewhere I see other self-propelled trolley rotarys such as the cool machines on this page:

    And that little steeplecab. Oh my these are enticing finds.


  2. Wow. These are great, Trevor. I have had an interest in the Toronto and York since we moved to Oak Ridges (Schomberg Jct.) in 1967 and I discovered that our north property line was the S&A fence line and the street over one was Schomberg Rd. built on the ROW. I’ve been searching for information on the S&A ever since with the idea to write an article of some sort. I have put some information together. These finds are awesome. Interesting about the flat car. Was that on the back of the photo? I ask because the S&A was abandoned in 1928 but I have anecdotal evidence that it lay dormant and was used to move material from the lines’ gravel pit on Lake Wilcox to Schomberg for the construction/paving of Hyw 27 in early 1930. When the T&Y was widened to TTC Gauge in 1928 the S&A branch was not. I wonder if the scrapper used Schomberg Jct. as a place to store rail and other materials from the line north of Richmond Hill as that became the north terminal of the North Yonge Railways. A place to load standard gauge cars with the stored material as the area around the station had a yard and the Y you mentioned. There was an interchange with CN where the S&A crossed the Newmarket Sub. Interesting indeed.

    • Hi Daniel:
      Given your interest in these pieces, I’m including the backs of the photos here. There was no information on the back of the snow plow photo.

      Back of the Rotary photo…
      Rotary Plow - Photo Back

      Back of the photo of Locomotive #1…
      TY Loco1 - Photo Back

      Back of the photo of the weed killer car…
      TY weed killer - Photo Back

      • Thanks so much for these! This opens up some interesting questions about what was going on at the Schomberg Jct., location after the line was abandoned in 1930.

    • Hi Daniel:
      As I noted in my post, “As part of the Merrilees collection at LAC, these are free to distribute with proper attribution.” I have added proper attribution directly on each photograph because I assumed that once they hit the Internet via my website they would be downloaded and shared. So yes, you may share these on the T&Y Facebook page. You don’t need to credit me – but do credit “The Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada”. If you want to link back to this post, that would be wonderful…

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