Changing a pole at the end of the line

Back in the day, photographers typically focussed on roster shots: Clean, 3/4 views of equipment. It made sense, given that film was expensive. But it made for pretty static pictures that rarely told a story. Occasionally, however, a static composition would convey life on the line, as in this example – from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I acquired from William Flatt:

NST 82 and 130 - Port Colborne

NS&T 82 and 130 – Port Colborne, Ontario. Photographer and date unknown.

Car 82 is the in-service car and is having its pole changed. (I’m not sure why: Perhaps the wheel failed on it? I’m open to suggestions.) Car 130 is tucked in behind, ready to make the return trip north.

The photographer is standing on the west side of King Street, looking northeast. The track in the foreground is the Canadian National Railways Dunnville Subdivision between Brantford and Fort Erie. The CNR Port Colborne station is out of frame, to the right.

The black automobile to the left of Car 82 is on Princess Street, which then curves behind the cars and turns into West Street before crossing the CNR track, as the turquoise auto is doing.

NS&T Car 82 was built by the NS&T in 1925, for the Toronto Suburban Railway. It uses a standard underframe designed by CNR for its self-propelled diesel electric rail motors. As built, the car seated 72 passengers, was 61′-9″ long, and weighed 80,000 pounds. Car 82 was rebuilt in 1956 as an express motor, and was scrapped in 1959.

NS&T Car 130 was part of a series of heavyweight wooden cars – passenger cars 130, 131 and 135, plus combines 132, 133, 134. All were built by Preston in 1914. They were 58 feet long, with 64 seats, and weighed 75,400 pounds. They rode on 6′-6″ Taylor trucks. Sadly, none of the cars survived: The 131, 132 and 135 were scrapped in 1949. 133 met its fate in 1942 while 134 lasted until 1950. Car 130 was preserved in Sandy Pond, NY but allowed to decay.

NS&T 130 – Humberstone

In a post earlier this week, I shared an image of NS&T 130 from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt. Here’s another look at this classic interurban:

NS&T 130 - Humberstone Siding

NS&T 130 – Port Colborne. Photographer and date unknown.

My notes for this image say this car is on “the Humberstone siding”. I’m guessing this is either the passing siding at the north end of Port Colborne, or the spur to the Robin Hood flour mill in that town. In any case, the photo was likely taken the same day as the one I shared in my previous post, in which case the 130 is running as a railfan special.

I do like how the two-tone scheme jumps off the green background of a summer’s day in Southern Ontario…

NS&T 130 – Elm Street

There’s such a wide variety of designs for interurban cars that it’s hard to pick a favourite. But for a classic look, nothing quite compares to this image from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NS&T 130 - Elm Street

NS&T 130 – Port Colborne. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T car 130 is working its way along Elm Street in Port Colborne. It’s running as a railfan special – note the “Special” in the destination sign in the front window. The arched side windows have been modified but it sports an attractive two-tone scheme.

While it uses trolley poles and not pantographs, this car just screams “Bob Hegge’s Crooked Mountain Lines” to me…

NS&T 20 – Port Colborne

I’ve shared a lot of images of equipment in the north end of the NS&T system. Let’s look at the south end now…

I’m working my way through the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt. In a post a couple of days ago, I shared a photo of a freight headed to Port Colborne. Let’s go back to the south end of the Welland Division now:

NS&T 20 - Port Colborne

NS&T 20 and CNR caboose – Port Colborne. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T 20 was built by General Electric in 1914 as South Brooklyn Railway #6. The NS&T acquired it in 1938 in a trade with a dealer in Toronto. It was a 55-Ton steeple cab, which was scrapped in 1960.

A few years ago, I acquired a photo-etched kit for this locomotive designed by William, so it’ll definitely show up on any layout I build.

This location is identified by John Wigt in a similar photo as the “layover spur” in Port Colborne. This is the present location of Princess Street, between King and Catherine. There was a business on the lot across King Street, where the 7-Eleven convenience store is now located.

The following photo shows the same house in the above photo in more recent days. It’s now the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum:

Port Colborne - Layover Siding - Google Streetview

Location of NS&T layover siding, Port Colborne – Google Streetview 2014

Comparing these two photos, it’s clear the NS&T layover siding must’ve run where this segment of Princess Street is now located.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Gregory Ayres, I’ve now learned that’s incorrect. Greg contacted me via the comments for this post and I took another look. I also consulted maps and vintage aerial photos of Port Colborne, including those at Brock University and at the Niagara Region Navigator. Based on this, I’ve concurred with Gregory that Princess Street existed to the north of the tracks. Here are some aerial views:

Port Colborne - layover - Aerial photo 1934

Close-up of 1934 Aerial Photo – Niagara Region Navigator.

I have labelled Princess Street and the CNR depot. The track closest to the depot is the CNR line, while the NS&T is the next line to the north. An NS&T passenger car is in front of the CNR depot – as evidenced by the shadow it casts. Note the NS&T line comes in from the north on the left side, curving east to parallel the CNR, then curves north again at the canal (extreme right edge).

(As an aside, on the south side of the CNR line just west of the depot, there’s a large structure and two spurs entering the property from the west. That’s the CNR freight shed. At least seven boxcars are spotted at the shed and in the team area behind it.)

Based on the 1934 aerial photo, here’s an aerial courtesy of Google Street View, on which I’ve drawn in some trackage:


Princess Street, Port Colborne – Google Street View.

The white lines represent the NS&T main track and layover spur. The NS&T also had a crossover in this area to connect with the CNR. CNR lines are drawn in green. The CNR freight shed would’ve been in the large parking lot on the south side of the tracks – and I’ve included a pair of lines to represent the approximate locations of the spurs serving it. The CNR station is out of view to the right.

I based the updated location of the layover track, in part, on a second photo of NS&T 20 from the collection I recently acquired:

NST20+CN77234 - Port Colborne

NS&T 20 and CNR 77234 – Port Colborne. Photographer and date unknown.

The building at left, in the shade, is the red building seen in the preceding photo. There are vehicles parked in front of it, and obviously they would access this parking area via Princess Street. The weed-covered track in front of the freight motor is the NS&T main track, while the well-groomed track in the lower right corner is the CNR main track.

As explained elsewhere, any CNR vans assigned to an electric line such as the NS&T would’ve had their caboose stoves grounded for safety under the overhead wire, so once they were so assigned they would tend to stay on the property. Therefore, CNR 77234 would’ve been a regular visitor to Port Colborne.

This broader view illustrates the relationship between the house (now museum), Princess Street, the parking area on the south side of Princess (formerly the NS&T RoW), and the the CNR track and station (at right).

Port Colborne - NS&T and CNR - GSV

Port Colborne – Princess Street and CNR station – Google Streetview 2014

Today, the CNR track swings north onto the line that used to belong to the NS&T. The lift bridge at the extreme right carries Clarence Street over the canal. At one time, the CNR had its own lift bridge to the left of this one.

Port Colborne was the site of Robin Hood Flour Mills – a major customer for the NS&T. I discussed the mill in an earlier post.

NS&T 21 – Humberstone

A reader commented that the NS&T seemed very urban compared to the types of model railways I’ve built in the past – including my Port Rowan in 1:64 layout and the earlier Maine On2 projects. And it’s true – there’s a more urban feel to the NS&T. But it had its share of open country running, too: Here’s an example from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NS&T 21 - Humberstone

NS&T 21 between Dainsville and Humberstone. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T 21 was built by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston, Ontario in 1927 as Montreal and Southern Counties 327. The NS&T acquired this locomotive in 1941 and scrapped it when electric freight service ended in 1960. At 60 tons, it was not only the heaviest freight motor on the NS&T, but also the railway’s heaviest piece of equipment.

We’re looking north in this photo, on the Welland Division line. The train is working south – the crew member on the locomotive is assisting with “back-poling” – towards Port Colborne. Based on the photo description and the 1930 Employee Time Table reprinted in the revised John Mills book, this is the 1,087-foot siding between MP 16.20 and 16.40, just north of Humberstone.

With that long train of boxcars in tow, the crew is likely headed towards the Robin Hood Flour Mill in Humberstone (the north part of Port Colborne). Located on the west bank of the Welland Canal and reached by a spur that left the mainline between Courtland and Omer Avenues, the mill had six tracks and was a major customer: in the peak season, the NS&T could switch 70-100 cars during the day shift, and many were headed for Robin Hood.

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.