NS&T 83: Louisa Street

On this blog, I’ve shared many images of Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway number 83. It was a popular interurban car for excursion service. This time, I have one of my favourite photos of this car – found among the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 83 - Louisa Street

NS&T 83 – St. Catharines. Robert Sandusky photograph, 1956.

Here, NS&T car 83 is headed eastbound on Louisa Street at Henry Street, on – you guessed it – a fan trip. It’s returning from Port Dalhousie and is a few minutes east of the bridge at 12 Mile Creek, and the siding at Woodruffs.

I was certain I’d shared this photo before, but I can’t find the post. No matter – it’s worth sharing again. I love the combination of big interurban car on a tree-lined residential street. And as I’ve mentioned previously on this site, I used to walk Louisa Street to get to high school. Granted, that was three decades after this photo was taken, but at the time the track still existed, and still hosted short CNR trains moving freight cars to and from the General Motors (nee, McKinnon Industries) plant on Ontario Street.

Louisa at Henry - Google Street View 2014

In the above image, Google Street View cameras have captured the same location in 2014. The track is long gone by this point. But the houses haven’t changed all that much over the intervening decades.

The personal connection with trains in the pavement at this location means I would love to be able to include a segment of Louisa Street running on any NS&T layout I build.

NS&T 622 – Louisa at Catherine

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:

NST 622 - Louisa at Catherine

NS&T 622 at Louisa Street in St. Catharines – Photographer and date unknown.

The 622 was a 50-seat interurban built by the Ottawa car company in 1930 and acquired from the Montreal & Southern Counties – another CNR electric operation – in 1956. This series were the most modern cars ever to grace the NS&T, and all were scrapped in 1959. It’s barely visible, but the 622 has a CNR Maple Leaf on its flank.

The train is headed westbound and while it’s not flying extra flags, I’m sure it’s in excursion service. It has just come off Welland Avenue and skirted through an S-curve that brings it to Louisa Street. The cross-street here is Catherine (with an “e”, unlike St. Catharines, with an “a”). Catherine Street is important to me because that’s the street on which my high school was located. I would walk Louisa Street twice a day, Monday to Friday, during the school year. I would often meet a train on my walk – although by the time I went to high school, this was a freight-only, CNR line servicing the General Motors plant on Ontario Street.

There’s not much space between the houses here. On a layout, it would be an ideal, and very prototypical, way to have trains exit the scene to staging…

St. Catharines: CNR track maps (1980s)

I grew up in St. Catharines in the 1980s, and that’s the era I remember on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. Of course, by that time the trolley wire had been gone for a couple of decades – it came down in 1960 – and much else had changed. Customers disappeared, and new customers were added. Trackage was rearranged – often with new connections made. And so on.

Still, any knowledge of “what was there” can only be a good thing. Years ago, I collected a set of CNR track maps – including associated indexes that identify each track. Here’s what I have. Note how each zone map includes the links to adjacent zones.

Zone MM
This 1983 map covers the transfer yard at Merritton, where the NS&T interchanged with the CNR.

Zone MM - Map

Zone MM - Index

Zone MG
Moving north from Merritton Yard, the line’s hub of operations was the Eastchester Yard area. This map is from 1985.

Zone MG - Map

Zone MG - Index

Zone ML
This map, from 1981, covers the area east of Eastchester Yard and up to Port Weller on the Welland Canal.

Zone ML - Map

Zone ML - Index

Zone MP
This map, from 1983, covers the track along Louisa Street and up Ontario Street to serve McKinnon’s (General Motors).

Zone MP - Map

Zone MP - Index

I’m grateful that I have these. I can compare them to other sources – such as the 1923 Fire Maps I recently found online – to develop a better picture of the NS&T in the electric era.

St. Catharines: 1923 fire maps

My virtual visit to Brock University’s collection of photos and maps is already paying off with more knowledge about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. In the university’s extensive online collection of historic maps, I found a set of 1923 fire insurance maps for downtown St. Catharines. These have already answered many questions. Here’s some of what I’ve found:

NS&T Geneva Street terminal and Niagara Street Yard:
Terminal-Eastchester Yard

Based on CNR track maps from the 1980s and other sources, this is a pretty good representation of the trackage in and around the terminal and freight house. Even better, though, this map clearly lists a number of industries served by the railway. There are coal sheds, lumber yards, and more. I can compare this to the siding turnout list in the 1938 Employee Time Table to get a better picture of a major traffic generating location on the line.

Welland Avenue car barns:
Welland Avenue Car Barns

I have plenty of photos taken in this area, but this is the first time I’ve seen a map of what was there. I know that these maps can be unreliable when depicting track arrabngements, but comparing the map to photos tells me that generally, this is correct. Furthermore, it’s the first resource to show the actual location of the car barns on the site. (As an aside, the car barns were torn down in the 1960s and the site converted into the Midtown Plaza strip mall.)

Ontario Street – Woodruff’s Siding – Louisa Street:


These two maps (from 1923 and 1913) show an area of particular interest to me – the location of McKinnon’s (later, General Motors) on Ontario Street. I’ve added a few legends to the maps as follows:
A – Woodruff’s Siding. This area was also the site of a coal dealer: RM Stokes Coal Co. I did not know that.
B – Weston Bakery. Again, I didn’t know that.
C – Another coal dealer – Parnell & Garland. This is now the site of a low-rise apartment building.
D – Spurs serving McKinnons and WS Tyler.
E – At one time, Warren Axe & Tool was located here, and had rail service. Later, this area became a parking lot for General Motors, which has plants on both sides of Ontario Street.
F – Welland Vale Manufacturing Company, also rail served.

Thanks to the university’s digitization project, I’m developing a much better picture of what existed, back in the day…