Plotting the NS&T schedule

As I mentioned last week, I recently acquired a copy of NS&T Employee Time Table 61 effective May 13th 1945. One of the things I discovered while reading through it was that 78 scheduled trains passed through Thorold each day.

NS&T - Thorold Station - 1 of 5

NS&T Thorold Station. Photographer and date unknown.

These included two routes – the Niagara Falls Sub (main line) and the Welland Sub. The Niagara Falls Sub ran between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, passing through Thorold en route. The Welland Sub ran between Thorold and Port Colborne, passing through Welland.

NST 135 & 132 - Substation Junction

Main Line train: NS&T 135 & 132, Substation Junction 1943 – photographer unknown.

NST 130 - Thorold

Welland Sub train: NS&T 130, Thorold – Photographer and date unknown.

Obviously, an interurban car working either of these routes would cover the route several times n both directions over the course of a day – which led to my next question: How many trains would be on the line to cover such a schedule? (The question for modellers is related: How many pieces of rolling stock are required to cover it?)

To answer that, I sat down on the weekend with graph paper, a ruler and coloured pens and drew a timeline for a typical weekday schedule. (Those who have set up a layout for operations might know this as a String Diagram). Here’s what I found:

NST - 1945 - Schedule - Plotted

1945 NS&T schedule interpreted as a String Diagram

You can right-click on the string diagram and open the image in a separate tab to see a larger version of it, but what I learned is that at a minimum, it requires four trains – two for each division – to cover 24 hours of passenger service through Thorold. At least some of the Niagara Falls trains could be run with two cars, as shown in the first photo in this post – so a modeller may want six pieces of equipment. In addition, there are a couple of other scheduled trains that do not follow the routine – they cover part of a line, then (I assume) deadhead to return to the car barn. So, there’s room for a seventh car, if desired.

I do not know if cars were pulled from service after a certain number of runs in the day, and new cars swapped. Obviously, the crews were – the lines ran from 5am to 2am.

The string diagram also tells me more about how Thorold worked – from a passenger train perspective. The Welland Subdivision car would arrive first, from the south, and take the layover siding (seen in the second photo in this post). Then, a main line train heading eastbound (from St. Catharines) would make its station stop. The main line train would then leave headed east (for Niagara Falls, with the Welland Sub train following it. The main line train would continue east at Substation Junction, while the Welland Sub train would head south to Port Colborne. The main line train would cross the Welland Canal and meet its westbound counterpart on the east side, at a siding called Shriners.

The schedules were set such that a person arriving at Thorold on the northbound Welland Subdivision train would be able to make the connection to the main line train with relatively little waiting: a four-minute wait for an eastward train to Niagara Falls, and a 15-minute wait for the westbound headed to St. Catharines. Those headed from St. Catharines to Port Colborne would also be well served: Their southbound train would be waiting when they arrived at Thorold, and they’d have seven minutes to board. What about those those travelling from Niagara Falls to Port Colborne? Their two trains would meet at Substation Junction, where – I believe – passengers would be able to scoot across the inside corner of the wye.

It sure didn’t leave much time for freight…

NS&T - Thorold Station - 4 of 5

A quick switch: NS&T 14 at Thorold Station. Photographer and date unknown.

… but freights and other extras did manage to squeeze in between the parade of trains, making for a very busy day in Thorold.

NS&T Employee Time Table from 1945

Well, now I’m in trouble. This week, the mailbag included a terrific score – a copy of NS&T Employee Time Table 61, effective May 13th 1945:

NST Employee Time Table 61

This book runs 26 pages, and has a wealth of information between its covers. Already, I’ve learned some eye-opening things about the NS&T.

For example, on a weekday, the line through Thorold hosted an astonishing 78 scheduled trains: 39 in each direction. Some ran through between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, on the Main Line. Some took the Welland Division to Fonthill, Welland and Port Colborne. Some started or ended their run on the layover track in Thorold. But all passed the depot, the small yard, and the substation.

Even if one keeps in mind that each train is one or possibly two cars long, and that the same equipment ran under several schedules over the course of the day, that’s a huge amount of traffic.

Thorold Map - labelled.

There wasn’t a lot of track in Thorold – but there sure were a lot of trains. Right-click on the image to open in a separate window, in a larger format

What’s more, this does not include any freight trains that operated on the line, or switched in Thorold itself. I don’t know how the crews switched Thorold without going nuts, trying to keep out of the way of all of that…

The employee time table is in excellent condition, too – only lightly used. It is a reprint, done in 1972 – but even so, I can’t believe my luck in finding this one online for the princely sum of $8.

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 in 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…

NS&T 14 – five at Thorold Station

This week, I’ve been sharing photos of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway that were taken in and around Thorold, from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt. In this post, I have not one but five photos to share: a sequence of views taken at the station. They’re not as sharp as they could be, but they have so much valuable information in them for the modeller that I had to share…

NS&T - Thorold Station - 1 of 5

NS&T – Thorold Station (1 of 5). Photographer and date unknown.

This is a great overview shot of the NS&T station in Thorold. It was shot from the north, looking southwest. Not only does this photo feature the entire back and right side of the station in one frame, it’s also a terrific painting guide. The details are great too – such as the phone boxes, the parking meter, and the line poles: I see at least three pole-mounted lights to illuminate the platform area.

Note the bus, standing on the former main track at the station. At one time, there was a double-ended siding here, but the main track was removed and the siding turned into the main track to accommodate buses at the station. In addition to its railway operations, the NS&T ran a fleet of buses in the Niagara Region, starting as far back as 1929. Over the years, these included city buses, sight-seeing and charter operations, and highway services. The NS&T was the first component in the CNR system to adopt buses, and the railway maintained buses for itself and several other operators under the Canadian National Transportation Limited umbrella.

While I’m not sure what route this particular bus is covering, one possibility is that it’s in local service between Thorold and Merritton. This route was previously covered by the Low Line, but service on that line ended in the early 1930s and the Low Line tracks were lifted following an acrimonious dispute over the renewal of the operating franchise between the NS&T and the town of Merritton. By this date, the bus is likely running north beyond Merritton to St. Catharines, too.

NS&T - Thorold Station - 2 of 5

NS&T 14 – Thorold Station (2 of 5). Photographer and date unknown.

Here, the photographer has captured a short freight movement. NS&T steeple cab 14 has arrived from the south with a CNR boxcar. When this photo was taken, this 40-ton GE Steeple Cab was the lightest freight motor in service on the NS&T. It was built in 1914, rebuilt in 1943, and scrapped in 1960.

NS&T - Thorold Station - 3 of 5

NS&T 14 – Thorold Station (3 of 5). Photographer and date unknown.

The photographer has repositioned to the south end of the station area and is looking north. There’s a lot of great information in this photo – including the left (south) wall of the station, the layover spur for passenger cars working between here and Port Colborne, and even a good look at the ornamental bracket for a street light.

The grey stone building to the left of the main track, across from the station, is served by a spur that can be seen in Photo 5, below. It’s identified in the 1938 Employee Time Table as Davy Paper Company and in the first book by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen as the Welland Pulp Mill. To the left of the boxcar, one can make out the glimmer of water: that’s the mill race off the no-longer-used second Welland Canal. This can also be seen in Photo 5, below.

The CNR boxcar appears to be 522786. It has a red flag in its coupler to bring up the markers, but there may be more to this train, as the next photo suggests:

NS&T - Thorold Station - 4 of 5

NS&T 14 – Thorold Station (4 of 5). Photographer and date unknown.

The NS&T freight motor and its boxcar are in the same position as in Photo 3, but the photographer has repositioned himself to the west side of the station. If the bus from Photo 1 is still hanging around, it’s just out of view to the left. The wide expanse of pavement between the track and the station is where the former main track used to run through here. In this photo, the main track is the former siding.

This photo also provides a good look at the grey house at the end of the street, which regularly provides a backdrop for pictures of passenger cars spotted on the layover siding (for example, this one from Wednesday’s post).

In the distance, two orange-painted pieces of equipment can be seen in the small Thorold freight yard. The one of the right is NS&T line car 31, which I wrote about on Monday. To the left of it is a van (caboose). My guess is that NS&T 14 is operating as a train (with a flag to bring up the markers) as it’s occupying the main track. But I think it’s move from the yard to the mill spur north of the station (as shown in Photo 5), and that it will drop the boxcar and then return for the van: It’s unlikely a van would lay over in Thorold. But that’s just a guess.

NS&T - Thorold Station - 5 of 5

NS&T 14 – Thorold Station / High Line (5 of 5). Photographer and date unknown.

Our “train” is heading north, out of the station area and towards the High Line. The buildings at right are the backs of businesses on Front Street. The mill described in Photo 3 is to the left, out of the picture, at the other end of the walkway clad in corrugated metal. Note the water of the raceway in the foreground. The automobile here can also be seen in Photo 3. The stone building at left is obviously derelict. I’m not sure what it was. It could be a former part of the mill, but it sure does have fancy windows for an industrial structure…

I suspect the crew on Number 14 will stop shortly and then back the boxcar onto the mill spur, which can be seen just in front of the automobile. (Why do it this way? Why not bring the van along for the ride? My theory here is that the crew of Number 14 wants to be able to duck out of the way of a passenger movement. The mill spur is quite short, but there’s enough room for a freight motor and single car to clear a passenger train. Obviously, a van on the main would be in the way, too: better to just leave it in the nearby yard.)

I also suspect the kid on the bike will stay to watch the proceedings: I know I sure would…

Phew – that’s a lot of Thorold! Tomorrow, I’ll share some freight switching from a much busier yard on the system.

The magic of McKinnon on Ontario

If there’s any part of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway that speaks most strongly to me, it’s the operations on Ontario Street in St. Catharines.

I spent my formative teenaged years living just a couple of blocks south of the General Motors plant on Ontario Street, and I would regularly see CNR switch crews working the complex. GM spanned the street, with plants to the east and west.

CNR on Ontario Street, 1993

CNR on Ontario Street – 1993, author’s photo.

In the distance, a CNR crew with an SW1200RS is returning from switching the east plant of General Motors on Ontario Street. The trains and tracks would disappear in a year or two.

Auto traffic was regularly stopped for in-plant carts and workers on foot. And, at shift change time, by an end-cab switcher shuffling boxcars up and down the street. While locals knew this, and might seek an alternate route, there was always some driver on Ontario Street who would be surprised by a few hundred tons of metal taking over their lane, complete with ringing bell and squealing flanges. For a train-mad teenager, it was delightful.

And for decades it had the same effect on the kids of previous generations – like the one in this view:

NST - switching McKinnon on Ontario Street

NS&T train, Ontario Street – 1951, C.N. Riehl photo.

That kid? Look just ahead of the two cars parked on the curb. He’s on a bike, and I know exactly how he feels – because in 25-30 years, that would be me.

There’s so much to explore in this image. McKinnon can be seen on the right, above the second-last gondola. On the east (right) side of the street, a number of small businesses are ready to serve hungry plant workers.

The McKinnon foundry is the tall dark building ahead of the locomotive (over the dark auto that’s driving towards the photographer). Here’s a closer look:

NST - switching McKinnon on Ontario Street

NS&T 14, Ontario Street just south of Carleton Street – 1951, C.N. Riehl photo

One thing I notice in comparing the two NS&T images to my own photo is that by the time I encountered the CNR on Ontario Street, the track had been relocated from the west side of to the centre. I suspect that was to prevent the additional chaos of having two-way traffic all squeezed into the northbound lanes. A train makes a very effective lane divider.

This large factory has an interesting history, which you can read about on the Vintage Machinery website. Unfortunately, this company – the major employer in St. Catharines for decades – is a shadow of its former self. Here’s what the area looks like today:

Ontario Street - Google Streetview

Ontario Street, north at Beech Street – 2014, Google Streetview

The Family Recreation Centre at right is the building with the Coca-Cola sign in the first Riehl photo. And of course, there are no tracks in the street anymore. Also, no wide-eyed kids on bicycles…

What I did not appreciate when I grew up near the plant was how much busier this area was for the railway back in the NS&T days. The above photos provide some clue to this: I only ever remember seeing boxcars for General Motors, yet here are tanks and gondolas. Consulting various sources, I’ve learned there were more spurs for the GM plant, plus other rail-served industries such as WS Tyler, a coal dealer, and – across 12 Mile Creek – the Welland Vale Company:

McKinnon aerial photo - 1955

1955 aerial photo showing McKinnon on Ontario Street, from the Brock University online collection

The NS&T line to McKinnon was part of the Port Dalhousie division. It left the terminal area downtown and headed west along Welland Avenue before jogging over to Louisa Street. (I’ll write more about the terminal and about Louisa Street in future posts.) At the Parnell & Garnett coal dealer, the NS&T swung northwest, slipping between houses at an angle to reach Ontario Street. There was a run-around track here called Woodruffs, where passenger trains to and from Port Dalhousie could meet. There was also a spur to the RM Stokes coal dealer.

The main track crossed Ontario Street and slipped behind the west plant of McKinnon. Spurs snuck in behind this plant, and over to WS Tyler. Meantime, the main track dropped downgrade and crossed the creek before continuing on to Port Dalhousie. On the far side of the creek, a switchback paralleled the water to reach Welland Vale.

Back at Woodruffs, a switch took the track into Ontario Street and up to the foundry at Carleton. Zooming in on the original aerial photo shows a spur swinging back into the McKinnon building on the east side of Ontario Street (in the middle of the large structure just above Pleasant Avenue). At Ontario Street, spurs pointing north and west crossed each other to serve the foundry. Meantime, the line turned east, along the south side of Carleton Street and then south alongside Haig Street to a couple of spurs at the back of the east plant.

And if you look just south of my label for Ontario Street, the arrow points to the house I grew up in.

Between the two plants at McKinnon, two coal dealers, WS Tyler, and Welland Vale, there’s a lot of switching potential here. (If I model the era in which passenger service still ran up Ontario Street – crossing the Port Dalhousie line with a level crossing at Woodruffs to join the spur to Carleton – then I could also model the passenger extra trains that delivered and picked up workers. Because yes, McKinnon was large enough to warrant its own, daily, special movements.)

This area is very high on my list of places to model – providing I can fit everything in. The challenge will be, I know the area so well that I may have trouble selectively compressing it. But that’s an exercise for another day. For now, I can enjoy thinking about the possibilities of switching an auto plant – under wire!

NS&T 14: switching on St. Paul

I’m working my way through the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – and I thought I’d share some of the images that speak strongly to me about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. Here’s one:

NS&T freight - St. Paul Street

NS&T 14 with a cut of cars on St. Paul Street – Date and photographer unknown.

The photographer took this image just west of Geneva Street in St. Catharines. We’re looking northwest. (For those who know St. Catharines well, the white building behind the train is the building that’s now occupied by Herzog’s – the men’s clothing store. And behind the boxcar at the end of the train, you’re looking at the building that would later house Niagara Central Hobbies. One of the best model railway stores in North America at one time, it never made the transition to the online economy and closed a few years ago.)

I’m told the car in the foreground is a 1952-53 model, so it was taken after that.

I love this photo – it’s the sort of railroading that appeals to me. This is a switch crew, working a short cut of cars, under wire, on trackage up the middle of a city street. When I was growing up in St. Catharines, I saw similar (although diesel-powered) trains every day, working the General Motors plant on Ontario Street. Other than the overhead wire, it was just like this.

I had some trouble pinning down exactly what this crew was doing on St. Paul, however. I didn’t know of any industries along the street – I thought it was solely a passenger-carrying line. (The city bus next to the steeple cab shows that the streetcars had been abandoned by this time.) So I posted the photo to the NS&T Facebook group, and the Niagara History and Trivia Facebook group, and got some answers. (Thanks to everyone who contributed!)

It turns out that there was a factory at the south end of Phelps Street (now Riordan Street) that was an NS&T customer. There are various thoughts about the identify of the customer – including English Electric, Resin-Tex Limited, Eaton Yale, and Ferranti-Packard. (Eaton Yale or Ferranti-Packard may make the most sense: those companies had foundry operations, which would explain the gondola cars in the train.)

As the saying goes, “getting there is half the fun”. Switching Phelps Street required a lot of backing and frothing. I’ve illustrated this by adding labels to an aerial photograph of the area:


Aerial Photograph, downtown St. Catharines, 1955 – From the Brock University online collection

St. Paul and Geneva - Aerial 1955

(As above, without the labels.)

Cars for this customer would’ve come out of the Eastchester Yard, west onto Welland Avenue, south down Geneva Street, and then west on St. Paul Street. That’s where the photo of Number 14 was taken. At this point, the crew is likely preparing to swap ends with the trolley pole: either that, or the crew member holding the pole’s rope is preparing to guide the pole as the train back-poles. (I’m told the track on St. Paul was cut back to Court Street – which is the gap between the buildings over the second gondola car. On the photo, I’ve ended my sketch of the line at Court.)

The train would then pull east on St. Paul and onto Queenston Street and run past Phelps Street before switching direction again and heading south on Phelps to the factory.

For those unfamiliar with St. Catharines, Welland, Geneva, St. Paul and Queenston are all major streets with a lot of vehicle traffic. It would’ve been a real challenge to switch this safely.

If I go ahead with the NS&T layout project, I know I will want to model some scenes where freight ran through the street, so this picture is a real inspiration.