Ideas from the 1935 Traffic Analysis

I’m really pleased by all the commentary generated by my previous post on the 1935 Traffic Analysis – part of a failed bid by the CNR to abandon the Port Rowan branch. (Thank you to everyone who contributed!)

I had a few people ask how I plan to use this data – noting, in particular, that it’s 20 years out of date for the era I model. I agree – but even before I delve too deeply into the data, I can still use it to make my layout more realistic. Here’s one example of how I can do that.

I have a coal dealer in Port Rowan:
Fewer weeds around coal bin photo CoalTrack-Weeds-07_zps4f512a4f.jpg

Obviously, the coal dealer needs a source for coal. I have a couple of two-bay hopper cars I’ve been using for this traffic – decorated for the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR):
Coal hoppers photo CoalHoppers-Finished.jpg

Looking at the Traffic Analysis for Port Rowan, I see that inbound coal loads were carried in cars from the Delaware Lackawana and Western (DLW), originating in Scranton PA. (In addition to these, there’s one load carried in a New Haven car, and a load of soft coal in a PRR car from Atlas Mine, PA.)

I have PRR and CNJ cars because those are the schemes they came in when I bought them. And on my waybills, I simply looked at a railroad atlas and picked likely sources for my coal loads.

Therefore, if I do nothing beyond repainting a hopper car into a 1950s DLW scheme and adjusting my waybills to read “Scranton PA” in the appropriate boxes, I’ve made my layout that much more realistic in my mind – despite the 20 years of difference between the Traffic Analysis and the year that I model.

I see several similar opportunities to tweak my fleet and operations paperwork. For example, there are a number of IOX tank cars billed from Sarnia. There’s gravel from Paris and stone from Hagersville. And there are poles from Sudbury. There’s no reason those commodities could not be moved to Port Rowan in the 1950s as well: When do materials like gravel, stone and poles go out of style, right?

While it’s not a perfect answer to the question, “What moved over the branch in the 1950s?” it’s a step in the right direction…

11 thoughts on “Ideas from the 1935 Traffic Analysis

  1. I think you’re on the right track, Trevor. As I’ve researched my chosen prototype, I’ve had to work with a range of data from over half a century. My philosophy is that things do not change that much over time, so things like the traffic mix and routing information tend to remain fairly steady even as total car loads vary. The one thing to watch for in your case would be shifting traffic patterns due to trucking, and possibly also to WW2.

    But still, if you feel that you’ve made the layout more prototypical, and therefore that you’re a little happier with it, then it’s a better layout, no matter how close it actually comes to reality on any given date.

  2. I have to wonder if the Port Rowan line ever had much traffic. Trucks took the light and high-value commodities away as soon as local trucking was possible. Much of the traffic remaining was local and heavy (picture a GS gon loaded with gravel) that did not generate much revenue. Coal moved over the rails into Southern Ontario into the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. I took a slide of a Conrail hopper car loaded with coal at Uxbridge, Ontario–in 1983. But a lot of the coal traffic disappeared by the early 1960’s with widespread use of natural gas and oil heating in homes that were formerly heated using coal.

    Coal came from mostly ( maybe all of it?) the anthracite-hauling railroads of the US, Canadian coal sources being much farther away and therefore more expensive to purchase for retail customers at Port Rowan or St. Williams than coal from US mines. I do not think that oil, coal, stone,or gravel traffic would be much different in the 1950’s than the 1930’s. All were essential products for local consumption. Creosoted poles may very well have originated from Trenton, Ontario as well as Sudbury. The odd carload of O.C.S. track ties would liven things up a bit too.

    • Hi Steve:
      I do have some idea of traffic sources from Monte Reeves and from the book on the line by Ian Wilson. And as you note, there wasn’t a whole lot of car-load traffic on the branch. I’m certainly adding more traffic than prototypical, or I’d be running only the mixed train, and 90 percent of the time with no carload freight to switch – and where’s the fun in that?
      But if I’m going to boost traffic levels, I’m keen to do it in a way that’s plausible – so, as you suggest, coal, oil/gas, stone/gravel, cement, poles, and so on. To that, I can add feed, grain, seed and other agricultural products in bulk… some refrigerated traffic like fresh cut flowers (there were greenhouses in Port Dover that shipped to Toronto every day, if I recall correctly), vegetables, fruit and fish… tractors for Potter Motors… and so on.

  3. I seem to remember an article that mentioned there was much intermingling/sharing of hopper cars in the Scranton area and that coal mines used what ever cars were available. For instance the O&W owned some mines but their fleet of hoppers had pretty well disappeared by the early 50’s so they used other lines cars. There were also some private owners whose fleets began to disappear as well.

  4. Hi Trevor,
    Have been reading with interest, the comments about 1935. Would like to add that when I worked one winter for the Natural Resources in 1972, that there was a map of the area showing that the line from Jarvis to Port Dover (Hamilton and Northwestern) had been removed in 1935. Further, I wonder if the line from Simcoe Junction to Otterville was removed during the same year. Was there a master plan to include the Simcoe Sub as well? It would seem that in 1935 and being that Canadian National was a government railway at the time, that this may have been a sort of Federal Relief project to engage men in work (due to the Depression). What do you think? As to operations on the Simcoe Sub in the 50s/60s, it should be noted that Barber Fuels in Port Rowan did deliver coal, fuel oil and gasoline in the area. Hammonds Mill in St. Williams also delivered coal and they had a conveyor to unload placed in the siding between the ties. On a different topic, also pertaining to loads, I am sure you will find records of shipments to the T. Eaton Co. of Toronto, of boats from the McCall boat factory in St. Williams. Boats were loaded for Eatons at the siding of St. Williams, stacked vertically according to my brother-in-law who worked there briefly in the 50s. Perhaps, you might consider this as a project i.e., boats stacked vertically in a box-car with the door open during loading. Hope you find this information helpful.
    Monte Reeves

    • Hi Monte:
      Every time you post, I learn something new. I had no idea there was a conveyor with a dump between the ties at the Hammond Mill. Something else to add to the layout. Thanks!
      I already have a waybill set made up to ship boats to the T. Eaton Co – again, thanks to your notes from a while ago. I’ll have to think about how to model a carload of boats waiting to be loaded at the team track. That would look even better if I were to re-do St. Williams to more accurately reflect the prototype location, so it may have to wait until I figure out how to do that. In any case, I’ll have to finish more structures before I think seriously about tearing out half the layout…

    • The abandonments were authorized as follows:

      Jarvis to Port Dover – June 13, 1935
      Simcoe Junction to Otterville – August 19, 1935
      Hickson to Tavistock Junction – September 18, 1935
      Burgessville to Woodstock – December 4, 1935

      The C.N.Rys. didn’t abandon Port Rowan at that time because it was shipping building materials for highway construction (poles were for rural electrification). By the time abandonment was sought (April 11, 1938) the mood had changed and the application was denied (November 16, 1938).

      Some of the information from the files mentioned can be found here:

  5. You mention St. Williams: growing up we ate a lot of jam with a St. Williams label. Was there a preserve factory in or around that community? That would mean boxes from the Waterloo box co. and jars as well.

    • Hi Chuck:
      There was indeed. At one time, the Hammond Mill was a jam factory – although it was a feed mill by the era I model. I’m not sure what happened to the jam operation, but I’m guessing someone was making jam in St. Williams in the 1950s.
      I suspect boxes and jars would be shipped by truck, or by LCL. It would have to be a huge operation to support carload rail service.

  6. Hi Trevor and Chuck,
    The St.Williams Preserves factory burned in 1914 and moved to Simcoe. In 1947,Hammonds Mill used the former foundation to build its mill upon and added a cement block building to the east towards the track on a new foundation to store bagged seeds, feed and concentrate. Hammonds were the owners who installed the rail siding.
    St.Williams Preserves were last located on Gilbertson Drive near # 3 Highway in Simcoebut have been closed for years. They made an excellent Strawberry Jam. I kept an empty glass jar filled with hockey coins but unfortunately the jar became cracked in moving here so I had to pitch it.

    Monte Reeves

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