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)

Abandonment Application – April 1938

In the 1930s, the Canadian National Railway sought permission to abandon the Port Rowan segment of the Simcoe Subdivision – including the two towns that I model. (Click here for a map)

As part of this effort, CNR submitted its description of the line and the communities that it served to the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada.

I’ve written about this abandonment application previously on the blog and shared some of the data. But I realized I should share more – to expand on the record, as it were.

This information is not relevant to the era I model, of course – things changed significantly in the two decades that separate this document and my 1950s setting. Nonetheless, this document provides some interesting reading, and certainly can be culled as inspiration for operating sessions. So here it is – click on each document to view a larger version:

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(The following is the catalogue information from Library and Archives Canada, for those looking to find it themselves)
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As one might expect, the village of Port Rowan was not happy about this proposal. Here’s their response.

I’m grateful to Jeffrey Smith of the CNR in Ontario website, who found this information in our federal archives and shared it with me.

Port Rowan, St. Williams and elsewhere, Oct 2016

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(Outstanding in their field: Jack, Roy and Mocean take in the site of the former yard in Port Rowan – now a park)

Yesterday, my wife and I were in the mood to get out of the city, so we packed up the dogs and headed to the Port Rowan area to see trees and water, and take in fresh air. It was a fine autumn day for a drive!

While at Port Rowan, I took a few photos to show how the yard area has changed over the decades. There’s not much left that I can recognize from the photos of the yard taken in the 1950s. I realized, however, that I’d never taken a picture of the “garage with loft” that sat across the tracks (and the field) from the station. So here it is:

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In this next photos, I’m looking east – up the mainline towards St. Williams. The corn is growing where the apple orchards used to frame the railway’s entrance to the yard. The red sumach bushes behind the dogs are growing on the old right of way.

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On my layout, I’ve moved the Lynn Valley from the Port Dover leg of the Simcoe Sub to just outside Port Rowan. As I’ve explained previously on this blog, I did this for several reasons: I wanted to disguise the curvy bits of layout between Port Rowan and St. Williams, and I wanted the opportunity to model a couple of river crossings and the water tank from that portion of the subdivision.

While shooting pictures yesterday, I noticed that the trees in the distance, to the right of the break between the orchards, make this scene look a bit like the one I’ve modelled. My Lynn Valley, with its tall trees, is also to the right of the RoW when viewed from this vantage point:

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Speaking of trees, the next photo shows the row of trees behind the former location of the raised coal delivery track. I’ll have a row like this running along the backdrop in Port Rowan, and have already started twisting the armatures for them:

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On the way down, we stopped at Caledonia – where I took some additional photos of the station to fill in my blog posting from last week:

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(Click on the image to revisit that post, now enhanced with more images)

We also drove through St. Williams. There’s nothing left of the railway in this community, although I did find the approximate location of the station. Here’s a photo from Google Streetview: I believe the RoW is now the parallel to the trees:

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Curiously, the property on the other side of that row of trees has a crossbuck on the front lawn: You can just make it out against the peaked wall of the white building:

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Finally, after visiting Port Rowan, we took the Watefront Trail east to Port Dover. We ran the dogs on the park just north of the building in which Fast Tracks is located:

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Fast Tracks is on the second floor of the grey building. The green garage in the distance at right is the company’s previous location.

All in all, a fine day out!

To Caledonia, Lowbanks and beyond with Chris

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Yesterday was one of those beautiful autumn days that make Ontario great. It was also the day of the annual S Scale Can-Am Social – a gathering of 1:64 enthusiasts at a community centre in Lowbanks, in the Niagara Region. So my friend Chris Abbott and I made a day of it.

A massive marathon in downtown Toronto on Sunday morning meant I had to get out of the core early, because several main streets in my neighbourhood would be shut for a few hours. So Chris and I got in touch with a friend who is not in the hobby and met up with him for breakfast in Dundas, Ontario. From there, we decided to take the scenic route to Lowbanks.

A run down Highway 6 took us into Caledonia, where Chris and I stopped to check out the preserved train station:

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Caledonia was the first major stop south of Hamilton for the mixed train that serves St. Williams and Port Rowan. It was also an interesting junction between two CNR subdivisions, and an important source of traffic in the form of a nearby gypsum plant.

Sometimes, I think about modelling something other than what I am currently doing (I’m sure many hobbyists do that, if only to confirm that what they’re modelling is, in fact, the right thing.) When my mind wanders from Port Rowan, Caledonia comes to mind as a strong possibility. But some exploratory doodles have failed to show how I could make it work in my layout space, so it’s an idea for the “Somday, Maybe” file.

From Caledonia, Chris and I worked our way through Cayuga and Dunnville to Lowbanks, arriving just before lunch. I enjoyed catching up with fellow enthusiasts and learning about their projects. The organizer, Jim Martin, encourages attendees to share mini-clinics – lasting no more than 15 minutes – on various aspects of S scale. This year, I contributed a clinic about re-painting and re-lettering S scale die-cast trucks into prototypes that would be seen in southern Ontario in the 1950s:

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(Click on the image to read more about the trucks in this photo)

Every year that I attend this gathering, two things happen:

First, regardless of the forecast, I’ve enjoyed a spectacular day on the north shore of Lake Erie. I’m always tempted to grab a chair from the community centre and sit outside.

Second, this event has become a bit of an S scale-specific flea market and I always think, “This year, I’m not going to find anything that I want”. After all, I have a pretty tight modelling focus. And yet, every year, I’m surprised to find something to buy. This year was no exception, as I picked up a cool little water column:

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This is a River Raisin Models import from October 1991. The prototype is a Poage Water Column, and this particular one features the Fenner telescopic spout.

No, I don’t need one for my layout. But it’s cool. And hey – Caledonia had a water column…

Great to see everybody, including some new faces at the event. And, Chris, it’s always fun: Thanks for a wonderful day out!

LCL: AAR Form 99

Over on the LCL modeling group on Yahoo, a member asked whether anybody had a copy of the AAR standard form 99 – the waybill used for less than carload (LCL) freight.

As it happens, I do – in my copy of the AAR’s Railway Accounting Rules, published in 1951. So I shared it on the group – and I’m sharing it here:

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It reminds me that I need to continue to work on my ops plan for LCL and express, which is an important part of life on the Simcoe Sub to Port Rowan. I have come up with a scheme, but I haven’t held enough operations sessions to determine whether I like it…

Dan Kirlin

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I was shocked to learn that Dan Kirlin passed away last Thursday, of a heart attack. He was 60.

Dan was well known in the Canadian railway historical and modelling communities, as a wonderful source of information. I certainly benefitted from this in many ways – from drawings of CNR RoW signs to information and photos of CNR Jordan Spreaders. Dan also provided me with a CNR paint chip sampler. If I recall, this is something he helped develop for the CNR Historical Association as part of the creation of accurate paints for modellers.

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Dan’s knowledge – both in his head and in his files – was remarkable. And, most significantly, everything he shared with me he volunteered. I had never asked him, directly, for anything. He would read about what I was doing, via this blog, and I’d get a package in the mail, or handed to me at a show…

I think that speaks volumes about the man.

Dan was less well known as an S scale enthusiast. He’d done some brass importing, and detail parts manufacturing, in the past – but always in HO. But his true love in the hobby was 1:64.

Dan’s funeral is today. Details here.

Thank you, Dan, for your friendship and your knowledge. You will be missed.