NST 19 – Merritton

NST 19 - Merritton Yard

NS&T 19 – Merritton yard. Photographer and date unknown.

Here’s another photo from the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada, which I visited in September, 2018. NS&T freight motor 19 pauses while switching. The photo does not have any location data but I’m pretty sure this is the Merritton transfer yard so that’s how I’m labelling it. The photographer would have been standing on the station platform (a bit of which can be seen at the bottom of the image) and looking northwest. Number 19 is standing on the main track. At the far end of the yard (to the left of 19) there are a few freight cars, which appear to be standing on the scale track. (If someone can provide corrected info, I’ll update this post accordingly.)

Merritton yard was small but important, as the primary freight connection between the NS&T and the Canadian National Railways system. Cars left here by the CNR would be hauled up to the Niagara Street yard, which would feed various industries in St. Catharines.

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 Flatt to model all three.)

Two views of Merritton

The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway interchanged with the Canadian National Railways system in a small yard at Merritton, Ontario – now the southeast corner of St. Catharines. My visit with my friend William Flatt yesterday produced a couple of images I hadn’t seen before, which I’m sharing here.

NST82 at Merritton - November 21, 1954

NS&T 82, Merritton 1954 – photographer unknown.

Based on the file name, I believe this photo was taken November 21, 1954. It shows NS&T #82 at the Merritton station. This steel car was pretty big. Built in 1925 by the railway’s own shops, it was 61′-9″ long, tipped the scales at 80,000 lbs, and could accommodate 72 passengers. Number 82 was rebuilt into an express motor in 1956 with the addition of a pair of baggage doors on the side, and was scrapped in 1959.

NST Special - Merritton - August 31, 1958

Railfan special, Merritton 1958 – photographer unknown.

Again, based on the file name, I believe this photo was taken August 31, 1958. It shows a three-car railfan special. The first two units are sisters 620 and 623 – 50-seat interurbans built by the Ottawa car company in 1930 and acquired from the Montreal & Southern Counties – another CNR electric operation – in 1956. They were the most modern cars ever to grace the NS&T, and were scrapped in 1959.

The third car appears to be NS&T 83 – a sister to 82, the subject of the first photo in this post. It was also built by the NS&T in 1925, but for the Toronto Suburban Railway as that line’s #107. It returned home in 1935, where it was in storage for several years before returning to active service. It was scrapped in 1959.

Each car is flying white “extra” flags, plus red flags to bring up the markers. The poles have been switched for a run north into St. Catharines, but the flags have not yet been swapped end for end. Note the steam-powered CNR passenger train on the far side of the station.

I have a lot more information to process from yesterday’s trip, and will share it as I can…

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.

Why the NS&T?

That’s an excellent place to start…

I have a long history and fascination with railways that run under wires – including the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway.

I grew up in Toronto, and my first exposure to full-size railroading was the Toronto Transit Commission’s extensive streetcar lines and its (at the time) two-route subway system. The TTC really was “The Better Way”, as its slogan says – so much so that my parents both stopped driving before I was born.

We lived in several places in Toronto, but always near transit – in fact, always a quick walk or bus ride to a subway station – so that my father could easily get to and from work. Growing up, my mother and I would take transit everywhere: to the downtown department stores… the museums, galleries, and other attractions… the Canadian National Exhibition… St. Lawrence Market and other shopping… Centre Island, the Beach, High Park… and, of course, hobby shops such as George’s Trains. In short, everywhere. Transit was a way of life.

For the most part, these journeys involved a subway. Like many Toronto kids, I lobbied to sit at the front of the subway train so I could look out the window to see where we were headed. An empty front seat meant a dark adventure ahead and the twists, turns, rises and falls of the track were as familiar to me as they would be to any TTC subway driver. (If the front seat was occupied by another rider, my transit adventure was positively ruined.)

TTC Davisville - 1960s
(Certain stations were highlights. Davisville was one: it’s above ground, and the location of a subway maintenance yard.)

Buses were just another road vehicle. They were a means to get to the subway, and that was it. No rails. The less said about buses, the better.

Less often, our journeys would involve a ride on the streetcar. Growing up, that meant the iconic Presidents Conference Car (PCC):


I loved the way we would stop traffic to walk into the middle of the street to board. I loved the open windows in the summer, complete with dire warnings about sticking heads or arms out of the vehicle. I loved the sound of the traction motors, and the sparks from the overhead. I loved the dashed lines on station platforms that showed you how the ends of the car would swing out over the tracks as they rounded curves: step inside that line, and you’re going to be hit. I loved the flange squeal.

Today, my wife and I live in a neighbourhood bounded on three sides by streetcar lines. The fourth side is defined by the subway. (As a consequence, our vehicle spends most of its time in the garage.) I’m a passionate strap-hanger: Transit is still my preferred way to get around. And while the subway is the most efficient, it’s the streetcar that holds the most appeal for me. I love to grab a window seat in warm weather and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city passing by…

When I was 12, my parents decided to move out of the city. I hated the thought – and when we ended up in the St. Catharines without a car, I discovered just how good the TTC had been. Now, it took most of a day to get anywhere – and the only transit option was a bus.

But, it wasn’t all bad. For starters, back in the 1970s and 1980s, St. Catharines had the most amazing model train store I’d ever seen. Niagara Central Hobbies was nirvana for a railway modeller. And I could walk (or, in good weather, bike) to it from home.

Also – and this was really cool – the Canadian National Railway had a spur line to a General Motors plant just a couple of blocks north of our house:

CNR at GM Ontario Street - 1993
(While visiting my parents a few years after university, I snapped this photo of the CNR passing between the GM plants on Ontario Street. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I saw a train on this line…)

Despite living in Toronto, I didn’t often see real railroads at work. They tended to be in places we weren’t. So this was my first real exposure to real-life railroading – and what an eye-opener! The CNR would haul boxcars along tracks in the street, right up the road from me. When I attended high school, I would walk to school along Louisa Street – and my path would frequently cross that of a switch job headed to GM. I soon learned that these were tracks once worked under wire by the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway. I spent lots of free time on my bicycle, riding through the city to follow these tracks down through the Eastchester Yards and eventually to Merritton Yard, where the CNR’s Grantham Sub (as the NS&T lines were known) connected with the Grimsby Sub mainline.

CNR Grantham Sub - Merritton
(The ex-NS&T yard at Merritton, Ontario – in the southeast corner of St. Catharines)

Between the TTC and the NS&T, electrics became a strong influence in my hobby. But I’ve never modelled them – for various reasons that I’ll detail in a future post.