Merritton :: 1980


I’ll start by saying this is not my photograph. I found it online – on a Facebook group devoted to Niagara region history and trivia. The image is by AW Mooney – and as Rob Chant notes in the comments, a larger version can be found on the Railpictures site, along with additional caption information. (Thanks Rob!)

This one is outside of my modelling timeframe and location. But I love the image.

It’s 1980 and we’re looking east along the Grimsby Subdivision at Merritton, Ontario – at the east end of St. Catharines. The photographer is standing on the Merritt Street bridge over the tracks.

At one time, this was the location where the CNR interchanged freight traffic with the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway – an electrified line that ran between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. (The CNR absorbed the NS&T and when I was growing up in St. Catharines I used to regularly see CNR switch engines in my neighbourhood, running on former NS&T street trackage to serve a General Motors parts plant on Ontario Street.)

The interchange yard is to the left, behind the station building. There’s a four-track yard there now – but it used to be larger and at one time included a track scale. Even so, it was a small yard by railway standards – perfect for modelling.

Obviously, the big attraction in this picture is the steam fan trip behind CNR 6060. But as someone who grew up in this area, I see lots of other interesting things.

The station, for one. It’s gone now – the victim of a fire (arson, if I recall) in the 1990s. I have some photos of it somewhere, taken shortly before it burned down. It was not an active station – VIA Rail trains stopped at West St. Catharines, a couple miles behind the photographer. But it was used, I believe, as a crew office for the local switch jobs. Now, Trillium Railway works out of a metal building here.

The track occupied by the switcher curves to the right in the distance. That’s the start of a steep grade up the Niagara Escarpment into Thorold. Among other customers, that line served the paper mill on Pine Street. I’ve written a fair bit about that customer on my Achievable Layouts blog.

In the distance, the grey blob over the tracks is the lift bridge over the Welland Canal.

I remember riding a fan trip special behind CNR 6060 to Niagara Falls and back when I lived in Toronto. But I don’t remember this trip through St. Catharines in 1980. This photo brings back a lot of memories.

I must confess I have made several attempts, in various layout spaces, to design a layout based on the ex-NS&T lines as I remember them – part of CNR’s Grantham Subdivision in the 1980s. Essential locations for me would include this yard and Eastchester Yard on the NS&T north of here. But I can never get it to fit. I think I know the prototype a little too well, and can’t accept the compromises required to shoehorn it into a basement. Or maybe I haven’t tried hard enough…

In addition to writing about it here, I shared the original image to the Classic Canadian National Facebook group, where it’s already generating some interesting discussion.

2 thoughts on “Merritton :: 1980

  1. “I think I know the prototype a little too well, and can’t accept the compromises required to shoehorn it into a basement.”

    Hard to deceive oneself with approximations and artifices under such conditions. This is the reason why I find it both easier yet frustrating to work with a hometown prototype.We lack the step back to appreciate the big picture, and even if we manage to create a coherent vision, it will be at best a deformed vision compared to our memories (which are also deformed).

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