California Dreamin’ | We’ll always have Perris

As part of my trip to California in mid-September, I squeezed in a brief stop at the restored ATSF train station in Perris. This is something I’m really glad I was able to do – it was a pilgrimage of sorts.

To find out why, visit my Achievable Layouts blog. Just click on the pretty postcard view of the station, below:

California Dreamin’ | PE 985

Danger! Danger! Whoop-whoop-whoop!

PE 985 in O scale

I had a great time in southern California earlier this month. A great time. I’ll write more about it as time allows, but my travels included a stop at The Original Whistle Stop model railway emporium in Pasadena. Which is where I saw the above, O scale, Pacific Electric wood car.

What a beauty.

I have a soft spot (right between the ears) for traction. I attribute it to growing up in Toronto – a city where streetcars survived and thrive. The TTC was a part of my daily life. My parents did not have a car – in a big city, you don’t really need one. My father took the subway to work, and my mother and I would go on all manner of trips through the city – all involving a ride on public transit. Unlike many hobbyists I know, these were my first exposure to the phenomenon of flanged wheels on steel rails.

That influenced my tastes in the hobby for many years. While others my age were devouring the work of Al McClelland and Tony Koester – and building “tribute layouts” around the theme of Appalachian coal hauling – I was absorbing everything I could about Bob Hegge and his Crooked Mountain Lines. I can still remember the month/year of issues with Hegge articles in them and at one time planned my own tribute layout in my parents’ basement. (I started one, but never got as far as stringing overhead, so I don’t know if that’s something I enjoy – or whether I’m even capable of doing it.)

My interest extended beyond the CML, of course. My copies of the traction books from Kalmbach and Carstens are definitely dog-eared. And I have a number of models of equipment from interurban lines, in several scales.

No need to worry: Port Rowan is safe. I have a boxcar painted in the Crooked Mountain Lines scheme – an NMRA heritage car, and the only freelanced railway represented on my layout.

But models like the Pacific Electric car above make my heart skip a beat. I’m fortunate it was not for sale.

As I noted earlier, I’ll have more to report on my trip – to an NMRA convention, and seeing the sights – as time allows. Stay tuned…

Southampton mural

George Dutka recently visited Southampton, Ontario and shared a couple of photographs of a terrific mural painted on the side of one of the old brick mills. Have a look at his blog to see what I mean:

Southampton, Ontario – Mural

I have a model of the subject of this mural, which regularly plies the rails to Port Rowan. So it’s nice to see it captured in a piece of public art – thanks for sharing this, George!

Like Port Rowan, Southampton is another one of those small Ontario towns once served by the CNR that would make a terrific subject for a satisfying layout. In fact, I’ve even drawn up a plan for such a layout, which you can find on my Achievable Layouts blog.

Enjoy if you visit!

Port Rowan Main Street :: 1956

While this is correct for the era I model, Main Street in Port Rowan is south (beyond the backdrop) of what I model. Still, it’s an interesting photo of the community I’m modelling, and I’m grateful that it was shared via the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook.

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Not to be too grim, but perhaps C. Leslie Clark ships an occasional coffin (loaded or empty) as express on The Daily Effort

Leedham’s Mill research trip

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(My stitched-together version of the Leedham Mill sign, based on a series of photos I shot of the original – which hangs in Donald Leedham’s garage)

Yesterday, I visited with members of the Leedham family – the people who owned the feed mill in Port Rowan (now Doerksen’s Farm Supply). Leedham’s Mill is the complex of structures at the end of track in Port Rowan, and a major customer on my line.

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(My mock-up of the mill complex: I’m now looking forward to replacing this with detailed structures)

It was a treat to sit down with Donald Archie Leedham in his home. Donald worked in the family mill in the 1940s and 1950s. He seemed really pleased that I’m interested in the mill and plan to build a model of it. The visit gave me a chance to learn a lot about the history of the family and the mill, as well as scan photographs and take pictures of artifacts relevant to the era I’m modelling.

Here are some of the things I learned:

The Leedham Family originally had a mill in nearby Forestville, but when farms in that area switched almost exclusively to tobacco, the family moved its operation to Port Rowan. When the railway decided it no longer needed a separate freight house in Port Rowan, it was purchased for the mill. In February 1938, the freight house was jacked up and poles were used as rollers to move it across the tracks and west to the mill property. Here’s a photo of the move:

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The Leedhams then added an office to the freight house. This was done because the original mill office had a very low ceiling. The office is clearly seen in this next photo, from a local calendar in Donald’s collection. This also shows that the mill had a truck scale, on the north side of the office. The scale operator worked behind the large window on the north wall – to the right of the chimney – and the truck scale is right in front of the window. I don’t know if I have room to model this on my layout, but I’d sure like to figure out how:

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(Photo shows the mill after it was acquired by Doerksen – the current owners)

One of the most exciting artefacts is the original mill sign from the era I’m modelling. The Doerksens offered the sign to the Leedhams when they took over the mill. Donald has restored the sign and it hangs in his garage. It measures approximately 3’x10′ and hung on the north side of the former freight house (so it will be visible from the aisle on my layout, which is a nice bonus!). I took photos of it in segments, and stitched them together in PhotoShop to create a version of the sign that I can add to my model of the mill.

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(A sample of the sign. I took several photos – without the flash – then stitched them together to create a suitable sign for my model. That stitched-together sign is the lead photo for this post)

Leedham’s Mill handled a variety of products. The mill received various grains by rail. These were cleaned and blended into the typical products one would expect at a mill – including seed, feed and flour. The tall building closest to the tracks was the elevator – it was torn down a few years ago. Leedham’s also shipped out wheat grown in the area – but by truck.

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Speaking of trucks, Donald had one of the company signs from the trucks. These were molded out of some form of plastic and attached to the truck doors with magnets. I was able to stick it to the side of my vehicle to take a photo outdoors:

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In addition to feed and seed, Leedham’s was also a fuel dealer. Coal was delivered by rail – to the elevated coal delivery track elsewhere in the Port Rowan yard. (I did not realize that Leedham owned the coal dump – now I do!) It was then loaded into trucks using a conveyor, and trucked from the dump to a coal bin on the east side of the Leedham complex. I’ve built a small coal shed for this location but realize now I’ll have to make it a lot larger. I’ll use this coal shed elsewhere once I’ve built a replacement. There was a fair bit of coal traffic during tobacco curing season: apparently, the tobacco kilns were originally fueled with wood but Donald remembers them being switched to coal.

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(Leedham’s Mill was an important enterprise in Port Rowan, and a major customer for the railway. This pamphlet lists many of the services the mill provided to the community)

Donald recalls that coal came from the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. It crossed the lake via car ferry to Port Burwell on the CPR, and then was forwarded to the mill by the CNR. He also recalls that an elderly trestle near Vittoria was in bad shape, and that a full car of coal was too heavy for the trestle – so he would drive to Simcoe with a truck to shovel out part of the load. The balance would be delivered by rail to Port Rowan.

Leedham’s was also a B/A Oil dealer, but this was trucked to the mill. The pumps were on the west side of the road – which puts them in the aisle in my basement, so I won’t be modelling this part of the operation.

Finally, Leedham’s sold bagged cement. Volumes were dependent on who was building what in town. The bagged cement was shipped to the mill in boxcars from St. Mary’s, and unloaded into an extension of the main mill building.

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I’ve been putting off building the mill because it’s a large project – but yesterday’s visit answered some important questions and I’m now keen to tackle Leedham’s in 1:64. Thanks to Donald, his daughter Pat Elliot (who arranged the visit and brought a delicious cake) and son Scott Leedham (who was also on hand to help out), my model of the mill more accurate, and the process of building it will be more rewarding.

Port Rowan: Satellite overlay

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(“It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?” Jack, Roy and Mocean stand in what was once the Port Rowan yard – but where, exactly, did the track go? And where were the buildings located? I now have an approximate answer…)

I’m not sure why this never occurred to me before…

… but while answering a question on the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook, I realized I could probably take my scan of the prototype track map and superimpose it on a satellite image of Port Rowan. This would allow me to determine – roughly, at least – where various features were located in the large park that’s all that remains of the terminal. Here’s the plan:

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And here’s the plan overlaid on the satellite image:

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Next time I’m in Port Rowan, I’ll have a better idea of where I’m standing.

CNR Map of Port Rowan branch (1937)

I thought I’d share this period map of the branch from Simcoe to Port Rowan. This was included in the Canadian National Railway’s application to abandon the line in the late 1930s. It’s intended to show the various alternative transport links available to those who would be affected by the line’s closure.

The line to be abandoned is shown in red.

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(Click on the map to view a larger version)