In recent posts (like this one), I’ve written about the dominance of home road (in this case, CNR) rolling stock on branch line trains in Canada. This makes a lot of sense when one considers the rules for car handling. Here are a couple of the rules, roughly put, that apply to this posting:
– An empty car from any railway is to be returned directly to its home railway, retracing the route that it took while loaded. This makes sense when you consider that empty cars earn no revenue. So, each railway that earned money to move the load shares the cost to move the empty.
– Anywhere along its journey home, an empty car from any railway may be grabbed and used for a load providing the load is heading in the general direction of home. So, a Maine Central car could be loaded in Port Rowan and sent to Toronto (or Kingston or Ottawa or Montreal) since it’s likely the MEC car was routed from the MEC to St. Johnsbury VT, then via the CPR to Montreal. But that MEC car could not be loaded in Port Rowan and sent to Detroit, or Winnipeg, or Vancouver, or even Halifax, since that would take it too far off its route home.
It’s September of 1955 and The Daily Effort has arrived in Port Rowan. In the consist is a Pennsylvania Railroad hopper car loaded with gravel. What’s it doing there?
Hopper cars from American railroads were not uncommon in southern Ontario. Most of them were carrying coal to Canada’s industrial heartland – either for factory boilers, steel making, or to coal dealers. Even locomotive coal came from the United States.
But this car is not carrying coal. It’s carrying gravel. Ontario is full of gravel – who would import it?
As Ian Wilson‘s excellent book about the line from Hamilton to Port Rowan and Port Dover points out, there are large gravel pits at Hagersville, Ontario. For those unfamiliar with the railway, this map should help:
As should be clear by how I’ve modelled it, Port Rowan has the word “Port” in its name but the railway terminal is nowhere near the water. It’s at the north end of town – well away from Lake Erie – and obviously there’s no railway/marine intermodal stuff happening here. That PRR car isn’t going to get loaded onto a ferry to cross the lake.
It’s also unlikely that the PRR car was loaded in Hagersville, and then picked up by The Daily Effort and hauled to Port Rowan, just so it could be hauled back to Hamilton and then head towards home. Not only would that be a fair bit of back hauling, but the CNR time tables for the era note that in addition to the mixed train, a freight extra runs six days per week from Hamilton to Simcoe and back. In addition, Ian’s book notes a Jarvis Turn (freight extra from Hamilton to Calendonia and back, with a run to Jarvis as needed), and two Hagersville Turns (running Hamilton to Hagersville and back – one in the day, one at night). It’s far more likely that a freight extra would handle gravel loads out of Hagersville – and in any case, that any loads would be picked up on the return trip north.
So it’s safe, I think, to assume that this load is destined for Port Rowan – and Ian’s book notes that the coal dealer allowed his elevated track to be used to unload crushed stone.
My best guess – complete speculation at this point – is that two loads’ worth of gravel was needed in Port Rowan, and the PRR car was one of two available so the CNR sent it to be loaded.
I find it’s better to model the typical and the plausible – the things that do not have to be dissected and explained with speculation to make sense. So any crushed stone loads for Port Rowan will arrive in CNR cars…