An NS&T Whistle Post

I made a trip down to Port Colborne, Ontario recently to visit my friend Jim Martin. Jim and his wife recently moved to a smaller property and wanted to unload some pieces that were surplus to their needs – including this whistle post, once used on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway:

NST Whistle Post - Garage

Jim rescued this post many years ago from an abandoned portion of the NS&T’s Grantham Division, which ran from the main terminal in St. Catharines Ontario to a lake boat connection at Port Dalhousie East. This Division was originally built in the mid-19th Century as part of the Welland Railway – a line that paralleled the canal to transfer grain and other bulk commodities between steamships on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Grand Trunk Railway leased the Welland Railway in the 1870s and acquired it outright in the 1880s – and it’s likely that the whistle post was built during the GTR’s ownership.

The GTR later became part of the CNR. As part of its improvements to the NS&T in the mid-1920s, the CNR electrified this line in 1924-25 then leased it to the NS&T on January 1, 1926. The Grantham Division would be used by mainline passenger trains – connecting with NS&T lake boats out of Toronto at Port Dalhousie East to take tourists to Niagara Falls. This whistle post would’ve regularly warned the motorman at the controls of the NS&T’s handsome wooden interurbans to alert motorists of their presence as they carried loads of tourists to (or from) a day in the Falls.

NS&T 132 and 134 - Welland Avenue Car Barns

The last of the boat trains ran in September 1947, and the passenger shelter at Port East was torn down in 1951. The line continued in operation for freight – the Port Dalhousie East terminal also featured a bulk coal transfer facility – and was used for at least one fan trip under wire, in 1953.

As with the rest of the NS&T, I assume the wires came down for good in 1960. I’m not sure when the rail itself was abandoned but it does not show up on the mid-1980s CNR track maps in my collection.

Many years ago, Jim would walk his dog along a portion of the abandoned Grantham Division that ran on an embankment behind the Fairview Mall in St. Catharines. When he learned that this embankment was to be flattened to make space for more parking lot at the mall, he knew that the whistle post would either be plowed under or sent to landfill. He recruited a friend and rescued the post from oblivion.

For many years now, the post has resided in Jim’s backyard, lying on its back and mounted on blocks – disguised as a garden bench. He offered it to me about a year ago, but it’s taken this long for me to get my act together to collect it. Why the delay? For one thing, I thought I would require the help of a friend to load it at Jim’s and unload it at home. As it turns out, two people could handle its 200 pounds without too much trouble, so Jim and I loaded it at his place.

At home, I received help from the architect/contractor with whom we’ve been working to renovate our house for the past several years. That renovation is about to include a remodelling of the garden, and you can learn more about the new home for this whistle post on my Adventures in Live Steam website.

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:


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:


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.


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!

Looking for photos: St Catharines freight shed and power house

I’m looking for photos of two key structures on the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway in St. Catharines.

The first is the NS&T’s freight shed on Niagara Street. It’s indicated by the arrow in this map:

NS&T Freight Shed - Map

I believe this building was later part of a lumber yard in this location, but I can’t remember. If you have more info, I’d love to hear from you.

The second is the NS&T’s substation / power house across Welland Avenue from the terminal. It’s indicated by the arrow in this map:

NS&T power house - Map

On the off chance that you stumble across this blog and you have photo of one or both of these buildings – in any era – please let me know via the comments. Thanks in advance!

NS&T gallery (Old Time Trains)

Looking for more photos of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway? The Old Time Trains website has an extensive gallery online.

It’s spread across five pages, but you can start with the first page (including links to all the others) by clicking on this terrific image of a pair of NS&T 130-series wooden interurbans in boat train service:

NST 130-series - Old Time Trains

Victoria Avenue at Roberts Street, Niagara Falls. Jim Shuman photo, July 7, 1946

Enjoy if you visit!

NS&T 17: Houtby’s Siding

The photograph below is a pretty exciting one for me. It changes how I’m thinking about my potential model railway, based on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway.

NS&T 17 - Houtby's

NS&T 17 at Houtby’s Siding. Photographer and date unknown.

This photo is courtesy of the Niagara Railway Museum, which recently acquired a large collection of photographs. I’m grateful to Aaron White for giving me permission to share it here.

Number 17 and its short freight are in the hole at Houtby’s – at Milepost 2.33 on the Port Dalhousie line. It’s facing north, but it’s likely waiting to back south along the west side of 12 Mile Creek to serve customer(s) at Welland Vale.

To the left of the freight motor, one can see the bridge over 12 Mile Creek and – to the left of that, up the hill – the back of the McKinnon Industries complex on Ontario Street.

Aerial photo - 12 Mile Creek bridge and environs

1955 aerial photo showing McKinnon Industries, Welland Vale and Houtby’s Siding, from the Brock University online collection.

I’m thrilled to have seen this photo because it provides me with an example of the traffic that was hauled across the creek to the west bank. I am very keen on modelling the operations along Ontario Street, but was worried that McKinnon Industries would dominate the freight movements. This photo gave me reason to explore more of the freight workings on the Port Dalhousie division – perhaps I could add Welland Vale to a layout to boost the switching opportunities?

My reprint of the 1945 Employee Time Table includes a list of tracks outside yard limits on the Port Dalhousie Division, which is helpful in determining switching opportunities on this line:

NST - Port Dalhousie track list

(Note the mileage is measured from Port Dalhousie in this time table, so the MP given for Houtby’s is different.)

I like that the line also includes a couple of team tracks and canneries. (I wrote about the Canadian Canners spur at MP 0.86 and the Cannery Siding at MP 0.99 in an earlier post on Port Dalhousie and Lakeside Park.) Looking at the sidings chart above – and keeping in mind that the Port Dalhousie Division was a busy passenger line until about 1950 – has given me a lot more to think about.

Thanks again, Aaron!

“The First Shall Be Last”

Thanks to Hugh Jordan on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway Facebook Group for pointing out that noted Canadian railway photographer Robert Sandusky wrote a sweet capsule history of the railway for the Bytown Railway Society’s Branchline magazine back in April, 2009.

The PDF of the issue is available for free online. The four-page article – which includes an NS&T system map – begins on page 18. Click on this image from the article to start reading, and discover the meaning of this post’s title…

Carbarn-Sandusky Article

Enjoy if you visit!

(UPDATE: I’m told this link may not work for everyone. Sorry about that – it’s beyond my control.)

NS&T 83 – Geneva Street

Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway interurban car 83 was frequently recruited for fan trip duties and shows up in many of the images in the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – such as this one:

NST 83 - Geneva at Queenston - St. Catharines

NS&T 83 – Geneva Street at Queenston Street – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

Car 83 is headed south on Geneva and has just arrived at the five-way intersection where Geneva, Niagara, St. Paul and Queenston come together. The photographer is standing on Queenston Street and shooting northwest. The car is running in extra service – note the white flags – and I’m guessing all those serious-looking gents are rail fans. (Perhaps they’re headed for lunch at the Queensway Hotel? It’s directly behind the photographer…)

I have shared many photos of Car 83 on this blog, but since it was such a well-photographed interurban the details are worth repeating:

The NS&T built Car 83 (as well as the second car to carry the number 82) in 1925. It had 72 seats and weighed 80,000 pounds. Interestingly, the NS&T built 83 not for itself, but for the Toronto Suburban Railway as that line’s number 107. The car came home to the NS&T in 1935 and was stored out of service. That changed with the demands placed on public transit by World War II. The car entered service on the NS&T in 1943, on trucks salvaged from NS&T Car 80 and 600-volt electrical equipment out of Car 133. Originally painted in the two-tone scheme, Car 83 was repainted in the mid-1950s into the CNR green scheme shown here. It was scrapped in 1959.

Geneva at Queenston - GSV

Geneva and Niagara Streets, from Queenston Street – St. Catharines. Google Streetview – 2017

While the NS&T is long gone, the intersection looks a lot like it did back in the 1950s. The same block of buildings stands, with different tennis. Even the parking lot to the north (right) is still there – although in the earlier view, it appears to be a car dealership.

This photograph was taken just east of the location where – on a different day – NS&T steeple cab 14 was caught hauling a boxcar to the factory on Phelps Street, which I shared in a previous post. The track in the foreground is the line along Queenston to Phelps Street.

NS&T at Martindale Pond

On the way to Port Dalhousie, after crossing 12 Mile Creek, the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway headed north along the side of Martindale Road. Before it could reach the port, however, it had to deal with another wet obstacle: Martindale Pond.

As illustrated in these photos from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt, the NS&T surmounted this obstacle with a trestle:

NST 83 - Martindale Pond

NS&T 83 – Martindale Pond. Photographer and date unknown

NST 622 - Martindale Pond

NS&T 622 – Martindale Pond. Photographer and date unknown

NST 622 - Martindale Pond

NS&T 622 – Martindale Pond. Photographer and date unknown

Martindale Pond is a small artificial lake near the shores of Lake Ontario created to permit navigation on the first Welland Canal. (It also served as the route for the second and third canals: remains of locks from those canals are still visible.) The NS&T – and Martindale Road – crossed the pond at a narrow bay that jutted to the west of the pond.

Martindale Pond - 1955 aerial photo

1955 aerial photo showing the Martindale Pond trestle, from the Brock University online collection.

(I’ve written previously about the 12 Mile Creek bridge and about the Canning Factory siding.)

As it approached the pond crossing, the Martindale Road swung further to the west – away from the NS&T – then crossed the pond on its own bridge. This provided an excellent vantage point for railfans to grab photos like the ones shown in this post.

Today, Martindale Road has been relocated to follow the roadbed of the NS&T and a new bridge exists where the trestle once was. The original alignment – now Old Martindale Road – is now a recreational trail.

Martindale Pond from the rec trail

Martindale Pond from Old Martindale Road. Google Street View – 2018.

In 1903, Martindale Pond was chosen as the site for the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course – a world-renowned rowing venue, and host to the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. It hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1970 and 1999, and the rowing competitions held as part of the 2015 Pan American Games held in Toronto.

NS&T – the bridge at 12 Mile Creek

Holiday-makers headed to Port Dalhousie for a day at the beach left from downtown St. Catharines, took the Louisa Street cut-off to Woodruffs siding, then slipped downgrade behind the McKinnon Industries plant to cross 12 Mile Creek – so named because the mouth of this waterway on Lake Ontario is located approximately 12 miles west of the Niagara River.

Here are some photos of the bridge over 12 Mile Creek – from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NS&T 83 - 12 Mile Creek

NS&T 83 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

NS&T 83 - 12 Mile Creek

NS&T 83 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

These two views were likely taken on the same day, during an enthusiast fan trip. While I can’t confirm the date, the revised book by John Mills includes several photos of Car 83 taken on September 8, 1957 – including a Robert Sandusky picture at this bridge. (In fact, it’s quite possible the top photo is his picture, as there’s a shot in the Mills book that appears to be this photo, but cropped.)

NS&T 83 is outbound in these photos, headed towards the photographers and towards Port Dalhousie. The white flags show it’s running as an extra movement – not on the schedule – which supports the theory that this is a fan trip.

The line to Port Dalhousie was built in 1901 – so presumably, this is when the bridge was constructed.

Aerial photo - 12 Mile Creek bridge and environs

1955 aerial photo showing the 12 Mile Creek bridge, from the Brock University online collection.

When the line to Port Dalhousie was built, 12 Mile Creek was no longer part of the Welland Canal: As part of the construction of the Third Welland Canal in the 1880s, the route was changed to cut diagonally southeast from Port Dalhousie. But there must’ve been traffic upstream of this bridge – or at least, the potential for it – because it was built as a swing bridge.

NS&T 620 - 12 Mile Creek

NS&T 620 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

This photo is a good illustration of the method used for supporting the overhead wire where the swing bridge meets the approach.

NS&T Bridge - 12 Mile Creek

NS&T Bridge at 12 Mile Creek – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

This image provides a good look at the central pier, and the rollers upon which the bridge would’ve turned. The abutment on the far (east) bank features a stone column to the right of the steelwork that would prevent the bridge from rotating clockwise. Based on this, the bridge would’ve rotated counter-clockwise to clear the river for traffic. However, it hadn’t been opened for many years by the time these photos were taken.

I’m not sure when the bridge was removed, although it was gone when I lived in St. Catharines in the 1980s. However, the central pier is still in place – a reminder of the days when St. Catharines visited the beach under wire…

12 Mile Creek - NS&T bridge - GSV

Central pier, NS&T bridge over 12 Mile Creek. Google Satellite View – 2018

(Today, 12 Mile Creek is a fast flowing, dangerous river with undertows and turbulent currents. Over the years, many people have drowned trying to shoot the rapids in this area.)

On the west side of the creek, the line climbed a hill to reach Martindale Road.

NST - Looking east towards 12 Mile Creek bridge from Martindale Road

NS&T Port Dalhousie Line – Martindale Road

In the above image, the photographer on the west side of 12 Mile Creek. He’s standing at the top of the grade, looking southeast down the grade towards the bridge. At the bottom fo the grade, just before the bridge, a spur left the main track and headed south along the west side of the water to Welland Vale. The roadbed from here to Welland Vale is now a recreational trail.

There was another bridge on the line to Port Dalhousie that was popular with railfan photographers – and I’ll share some photos of that bridge in a future post.