St. Catharines Freight House

In an earlier post, I asked readers for photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway freight house in St. Catharines. Thanks to some detective work from Aaron White on the NS&T Facebook group, I now have a couple of images I can share. As a point of reference, I will include the 1923 fire insurance map for this area further down…

The first photo comes from a collection recently acquired by the Niagara Railway Museum:

NST-StC-FreightHouse

The photographer is obviously using slow film, as the photograph is quite blurred. He’s either aboard a moving train, or paused while crossing Welland Avenue to shoot this photo.

The picture shows the freight house on the right, on the far side of Niagara Street. A freight shed extends behind the brick structure.

To the left of the tracks, a tower controls the interlocking here. This interlocking includes the yard throat in the foreground that leads to the passenger terminal (behind the photographer), the line curving away at right that enters Welland Avenue and heads towards the car barn, and the city line that curves away to the left, onto Niagara Street.

(The Niagara Railway Museum is a great place to spend a bit of time online. Its website hosts a number of photo galleries, including one on the NS&T. Why not have a look… and plan to visit the museum this summer?)

The second photograph is via the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre, with permission from Adrian Petry:

NST-StC-FreightHouse

I’ll get to the story of the photograph in a moment – but I want to focus on the freight house itself: the brick building in the background. To the right of the building, one can see some boxcars standing in front of the freight shed that extends from the back of the brick structure. And of course, there’s that overhead crane – which is part of the team yard adjacent to the freight house.

The freight house faces Niagara Street, and the NS&T mainline passes on the far side of it. Where the NS&T crosses Niagara Street, one can see the striped crossing gates. To the left of the street, one can spot the interlocking tower that controlled this area on the railway.

Here’s the story of the second photograph, from the St. Catharines Museum’s Facebook page

Lightning Fastener Co. Ltd., 1925
(50 Niagara St. (cor. of Davidson St.), built 1925)

Early versions of fasteners were developed and patented in the United States, most notably in 1851 by Elias Howe and in 1893/1905 by Whitcomb L. Judson. However, it was the Swedish-American Gideon Sundback (photo upper right, facing left), who is credited as the “Inventor of the Zipper.” He not only designed the first successful slide fastener (later referred to as the modern zipper), with a system of interlocking teeth and scoops, but also developed a machine in 1913, later improved upon, for mass-producing his invention.

Seen here is the cornerstone laying ceremony for Sundback’s new Lightning Fastener building in St. Catharines, 1925.

(The museum has a lot of great information available. In addition to its Facebook page, you can find the museum on Twitter and Instagram by using @stcmuseum. Enjoy if you visit!)

As promised, here’s a map of the area. The green arrow points to the freight house / shed. As the photographs and map show, there are spurs on both sides of the structure.

NST-StC-FreightShed-Map

I’m excited by these two photographs because they confirm what I remember of the freight house, from seeing it as a young railfan back in the 1980s. I’m equally excited that there’s a decent stand-in model available for this freight house in S scale – thanks to my friend Barry Silverthorn, no less.

Before he launched TrainMasters TV, Barry ran Grand River Models, which produced a handful of delightful craftsman structure kits in 1:64 – including the Prince Edward Express Company:

GrandRiverModels - PrinceEdwardExpressCo

No, it’s not an exact model. But yes, it’s darned close. And I happen to have one, plus a couple of extra freight shed extensions that I can use to lengthen the structure.

The Niagara St. yards are looking like a better modelling subject all the time!

NS&T 83 – approaching the Welland diamonds

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, NS&T 83 was a popular car for enthusiast days and charters. The photo below, from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt, may have been taken the same day…

NS&T 83 - Welland (TH&B - MCRR Crossing)

NS&T 83 – Welland. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T 83 has stopped at a telephone shack just north of the interurban’s level crossing with both the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway and the Michigan Central Railway (the New York Central’s operation connecting Buffalo and Detroit across southern Ontario). The crossings are out of the frame to the left, and the motorman (or possibly, the conductor) is returning to the car after phoning for permission to cross the railways so 83 may continue its trip south to Port Colborne.

The photographer is standing on Prince Charles Drive, facing northwest. In the background, the large industrial complex is Vesuvius Canada, which makes clay graphite crucibles for melting steel. According to the corporate history, the company has been around since 1916, although I don’t know when it set up shop on this site. It is still in business today.

To the left of Vesuvius, a Wabash boxcar is parked in the interchange yard between the NS&T and the TH&B.

A lot of changes have taken place here, and there’s a whole mess o’ trackage, so here are some aids:

NS&T Property Plan - Welland

NS&T Property Plan 1920 (revised CNR 1948) – Welland, Ontario.

NS&T Welland - Google Earth - Labelled

Welland from the air (Google Earth) showing NS&T, TH&B, and MCRR.

The yellow dot is the approximate location of the NS&T roundhouse and turntable noted on the Property Plan. Also, while not relevant to the photo of 83, I’ve sketched in the spurs to Imperial Oil and Commonwealth Electric.

The TH&B’s own trackage ended at the MCRR connection. It used MCRR trackage to reach Niagara Falls, where it crossed into the United States then headed south to Buffalo. With three lines converging and an elevated view from Prince Charles Drive, there are several photos of NS&T cars actually crossing the TH&B and MCRR, but this is one of the few I’ve seen that provides such a good view of the phone box.

(Thanks to members of the NS&T Facebook group for help information related to this image.)

NS&T 19 – switching in St. Catharines

Having explored Thorold quite extensively this week, I thought I’d switch back to St. Catharines – for some switching. Here’s a terrific shot from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 19 + 34 - St Catharines

NS&T 19 – St. Catharines. J Wigt photo. Date unknown.

In this photo (which also appears in the second volume by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen), a crew is switching in the yard that parallels the Main Line east of the terminal and Niagara Street freight house in St. Catharines. The notes that accompany this photo say the picture was shot in the area between Page and Vine Streets. A quick look on Google identified the building at right: It’s the back of a tile and carpet store on the east side of Page Street, north of Davidson Street. The photographer was standing on Tasker Street, south of the right of way (which is now a parking lot), shooting northwest. (I do not know who occupied the tile and carpet building in the NS&T era, or whether this building was served by rail back in the day. But my fire insurance map from 1923 notes that Tasker was called John Street, and a spur ran north on the west side of John to serve a canning factory.)

Given the location, the crew is likely shuffling cars in the team track yard on the south side of the freight house, clearly shown on this map:

NST-Map: Terminal + Niagara Street Yards

1923 St. Catharines fire map, showing (left to right) the NS&T passenger terminal, the Niagara Street freight house and team track yard, Page Street, John Street (now Tasker Street), and Haynes Street. From the Brock University online collection.

The NS&T built Number 19 1925 as its first Number 16. It was sold, almost immediately it seems, to the Montreal & Southern Counties, where it wore Number 325. (Number 16 was then applied to a national Steel Car steeple cab acquired from the Queenston Construction Railway, which built one of the hydro-electric power canals in the Niagara Region). M&SC 325 returned to the NS&T in 1936 and was given the number 19. This 50-ton freight motor is of the same design as NS&T 8 and NS&T 15. (I have photo etches and detail parts from William to model all three.)

The van (caboose) is NS&T 34. I don’t have too much information on the vans used on the NS&T, but it appears to carry a CNR Maple Leaf on its side. I do know that CNR vans had to have the stove grounded before they were safe to use on the NS&T, so they tended to stay on the property. The van is standing on a spur that is identified on my 1923 fire insurance map as serving Monarch Knitting. This picture also appears in the second book by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen, and it’s noted that this spur was frequently used to store idle vans.

I used to explore this freight yard when I was a teenager in St. Catharines. It’s a fairly extensive operation, and the hub of a bunch of branches and spurs that radiate out like spokes. Unfortunately, this would make it a challenge to model…

Thorold Map – labelled

I have posted some photos of Thorold to this blog already, and plan to post many more over the next few days – so I realized that sharing a map of the railway in this town would be a good idea. Here it is:

NS&T - Thorold Map - Labelled

This is the 1920 NS&T Property Plan for Thorold – which I have revised and labelled to the best of my knowledge. You should be able to right click on the map and open it in a separate window to view it in a larger format.

This map nicely shows the relationship between the NS&T and the Old (second) Welland Canal. It also shows the relationship between the “High Line”, the station, the freight shed, the yard, and Substation Junction. North is to the right.

The area is vastly different today. The “High Line” is gone. So is the station and all the trackage from the north end down to Lynden Street. The Trillium Railway operates the trackage across the south (left) edge of this map – but the track arrangement is very different. The Pine Street trackage was in place until recently (but the track arrangement at the paper plant was very different than what’s shown on this map).

The biggest change? The town of Thorold filled in the Old Welland Canal in the 1960s. Part of it around Lock 25 is a park and the walls of the lock have been preserved. The rest of it, and most of the abandoned right of way, has been built over.

Port Colborne: NST track map (1948)

A visit yesterday with my friend William Flatt produced a gold mine of information about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, including a set of official track maps of the Welland Subdivision (from Thorold to Port Colborne). The railway produced the original maps in 1920, and revised them in 1948. Here’s a look at Port Colborne – a combination of four of the map pages:

NST Track Map - Port Colborne
(I realize these maps are very small, but I’m adding them to this blog primarily for my own reference.)

The line from Welland enters at the top of the map. There’s a short siding, and then the main enters Cranberry Street in Humberstone (now part of Port Colborne). Between Omer and Courtland, a spur heads east, then turns north to serve Robin Hood Flour. This was a major customer on the line: in peak shipping season it could generate 70-100 freight cars per day.

As Cranberry Street enters Port Colborne, it turns into Elm Street. South of Killally Street, a short spur serves the ET White Artificial Ice Company. A wye to the west forms a small yard – with a track crossing east of the main and heading south along the canal. This trackage is all part of Canada Cement Company.

The NS&T proper ends at Park Street, where it turns east to and parallels the Grand Trunk Railway line to the station, adjacent to the canal.

The Grand Trunk has a spur that heads south to the Dominion Government Elevator on the shore of Lake Erie.

Welland: NST track map (1948)

A visit yesterday with my friend William Flatt produced a gold mine of information about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, including a set of official track maps of the Welland Subdivision (from Thorold to Port Colborne). The railway produced the original maps in 1920, and revised them in 1948. Here’s a look at Welland – a combination of three of the map pages:

NST track map - Welland
(I realize these maps are very small, but I’m adding them to this blog primarily for my own reference.)

The line from Fonthill enters at the top and exits at the bottom, towards Port Colborne. There’s a short run-around and a spur near Donald Avenue, then the line crosses the Welland River and enters the station area at Catherine Street and Maple Avenue. A couple of spurs behind the station serve as a team track.

Continuing south, the line includes spurs for the Allan Coal Company and British American Oil. Another spur heads east on Lincoln Road to serve Imperial Oil, then turns north to Commonwealth Electric.

To the west, a spur becomes a three-track yard that is an interchange point with the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway. Meantime, the main track continues south and crosses the TH&B and Michigan Central at grade. Two spurs south of this serve the Crowland Coal Company and Welland Iron & Metal Co.

With industry and interchange, Welland is another community that would make for an ideal model railway subject.

Fonthill: NS&T track map (1948)

A visit yesterday with my friend William Flatt produced a gold mine of information about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, including a set of official track maps of the Welland Subdivision (from Thorold to Port Colborne). The railway produced the original maps in 1920, and revised them in 1948. Here’s a look at Fonthill – a combination of two of the map pages:

Track map - Fonthill
(I realize these maps are very small, but I’m adding them to this blog primarily for my own reference.)

The line from Thorold (to the north) enters at right and exits at the bottom left, towards Welland. The NS&T had a station in the northeast corner of the intersection of Canboro Road and Station Street, with a 585-foot double-ended siding in front of the station. A spur ran north up Station Street, then turned west to serve Canadian Canners.

South of the station, a 1,664-foot double-ended siding served a freight shed and platform. Presumably, this area was used as a team track.

Thorold: NST track map (1948)

A visit yesterday with my friend William Flatt produced a gold mine of information about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, including a set of official track maps of the Welland Subdivision (from Thorold to Port Colborne). The railway produced the original maps in 1920, and revised them in 1948. Here’s a look at Thorold – a combination of two of the map pages:

NST Track Map - Thorold
(I realize these maps are very small, but I’m adding them to this blog primarily for my own reference.)

Thorold, on its own, would make for an interesting layout. In Thorold, the railway had a station, a small yard including a scale track, a junction between the Main Line to Niagara Falls and the Welland Sub, a substation, a couple of major industries (including Exolon and the paper mill on Pine Street) and more. It would provide plenty of construction challenges and operating opportunities.

In the lower left corner, the line heads south towards Fonthill.

I have a lot more material to dig through from yesterday’s trip, and will share it as time allows.