HEPC: Freight Motors E1-E12


While working my way through photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada in September, I found a number of images from the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway – operated by Ontario’s Hydro-Electric Power Commission.

As noted previously, this railway was an interesting electric line that once operated in the Niagara Region – and which supplied a few freight motors to the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway.

The NS&T rostered two freight motors – the second #16, and the #17 – that were originally built by National Steel Car Company of Hamilton for the Queenston power canal project.

HEPC freight motor E9 was sold to the NS&T in 1926, and became its #17:

NST 17 - Welland Avenue

Another HEPC freight motor became the NS&T’s second #16 – although we don’t know which locomotive it was on the HEPC roster. The second 16 arrived on the NS&T in 1926 and received a new cab in 1930.

NST 16 - Welland Avenue

The revised John Mills book on the NS&T notes that the second 16 was a National Steel Car Company product, which would make it one of the E1 to E12 series. Of this series, we’ve accounted for E9 (which became NS&T 17). Mills notes E7, E11 and E12 ended up on the International Nickel Company (INCO) railway in Sudbury. I have no information about the disposition of the rest (E1-E6, E8, and E10).

In the archives, I found a book of photos that also included information about each piece of HEPC equipment. I believe this book was an evaluation of the equipment for insurance or possibly sale purposes. Here is the page from that book that provides details of the first six National Steel Car freight motors – E1 to E6. I assume E7 to E12 were similar:

HEPC - E1-E6

I have more photos of HEPC equipment with their valuations, and will share them in the coming days.

HEPC Queenston Railway

HEPC-Jordan Spreader

A HEPC freight motor and Jordan Spreader work on the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway. Photographer and date unknown.

The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway acquired its freight motors from a variety of sources. Three locomotives – NS&T 16, 17 and 18 – arrived on the property via the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway. This railway – built by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission (HEPC) of Ontario – operated for three years (1918-1921) with the sole purpose of helping to excavate a power canal designed to drive the hydro-electric generating station at Queenston, Ontario. Chapter 18 of the revised John Mills book on the NS&T provides a good capsule history of the railway, so I won’t repeat it here.

While working my way through photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada in September, I found a number of images from the construction railway.


HEPC E1. Photographer and date unknown.


HEPC E3. Photographer and date unknown.


HEPC E9. Photographer and date unknown.

The construction railway rostered 12 of these handsome steeple cab electrics – built in 1918 by National Steel Car Company of Hamiton, Ontario. These 50-ton models were 35 feet long.

Note the four trolley poles on each motor: this was required because the overhead wire was mounted off-centre to keep it out of the way of shovels while loading dump cars. The photograph of E9 clearly shows this.

Note also that these freight motors are fitted with large air tanks – again, this is clearly seen in the photograph of E9. These freight motors often handled cuts of eight-to-10 air-operated dump cars, and needed extra air capacity not only to provide sufficient braking but also to be able to power the dump mechanisms.

Of these 12 engines, one – E9 – was sold to the NS&T in 1926, and became the railway’s #17. Its heritage is clear:

NS&T 17 - Welland Car Barn

NS&T 17 – Welland Car Barn, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

The NS&T 17 should not be confused with the HEPC 17, which has a very different history:


HEPC E17. Photographer and date unknown.

This engine was part of a 1919 order (E13 to E18) from Canadian Car & Foundry in Montreal. These were also 50-ton freight motors, but were 41 feet long over all.


HEPC E15. Photographer and date unknown.

E15 and E17 were amongst the freight motors that the HEPC sold to the International Nickel Company in Sudbury in 1926.

The HEPC also ended up supplying a boxcab-style freight motor to the NS&T:


HEPC E21. Photographer and date unknown.

The HEPC acquired this Baldwin-Westinghouse 55-ton freight motor second-hand in 1919 from the Auburn & Syracuse Railway in New York State. It went to the Toronto & York Railway as its #2 in 1924 before ended up back in the Niagara Region in 1927, as the NS&T 18. When the wire came down in 1960, the CNR forwarded this freight motor to the Oshawa Railway as its #18. This freight motor was fortunate enough to go into preservation, when it was sold to an enthusiast and ended up at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in 1964.

nullCT Trolley Museum 18
(Click on the image above to read more about the 18 at the Connecticut Trolley Museum website)

There’s one other ex-HEPC locomotive that made it onto the NS&T roster, as the line’s Second #16. Unfortunately, it’s not known which HEPC locomotive this was. What is known, according to Mills, is that it arrived in 1926 and received a new cab in 1930. The rebuilt locomotive is immediately recognizable as it has four windows along the cab side:

NST 16 - Welland Ave Car Barns

NS&T 16 – Welland Avenue car barns, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

Number 16 ended up in Oshawa in 1960 – then went to Noranda Mines Ltd. in 1965.

While not directly related to the NS&T, my visit to Library and Archives Canada also turned up the following pictures of the construction of the Queenston power canal:

HEPC-Hanging Wire

HEPC-Steam Train

HEPC-Charles Boone

NS&T 17 at work on Welland Avenue

I’ve found many pictures of NS&T freight motor 17 at rest in the Welland Avenue car barn yard, but I’m always excited to find new (to me) views of it in service. Here are two that I came across last week, in the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada*:

NST 17 - Train - Welland Avenue

NST 17 and train. Photographer and date unknown.

While I am not 100% certain where this photo was taken, I’m pretty sure it was shot on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines, between Geneva Street and the car barn yard. There was a section of double track here, which curved into the car barn yard. A quick search on Google Street View suggests the train – headed westbound – is about to enter the Welland Avenue intersection with Woodland Avenue: The bungalow in the image appears to still exist, on the northeast corner of this T-intersection. Many of the cars in this train would be headed to McKinnon Industries (General Motors) on Ontario Street, while others might be going to Welland Vale.

NST 17 - Train - Welland Avenue

NST 17 and train. Photographer and date unknown.

On a different day, NS&T 17 is headed westbound on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. This time, I’m pretty sure of the location: in the background, just ahead of the locomotive, one can see what I’m sure is the roof of the platform awnings at the Geneva Street Terminal. As with the first photo, this train is likely headed towards McKinnon and Welland Vale.

*Last week, I joined my friends Jeff Young and Peter Foley on a visit to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to do a dive into the astonishing Andrew Merrilees Collection. (Thanks to both gentlemen for helping to make my first visit to the archives a successful and enjoyable journey of discovery.)

Drawing on a finding aid compiled by Ottawa-area railway historian Colin Churcher, I tracked down and copied numerous photos of the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway and its predecessor lines. As part of the Merrilees collection at LAC, these are free to distribute with proper attribution, so I’ll be sharing my findings on this blog as time permits. To that end, I’ve created the Andrew Merrilees Collection category, so readers may find all posts related to this incredible archive of railway history.

Black Beetles and Stanton Drives

I’ve been occupied with other model railway projects lately, including speaking at the NMRA Lone Star Region annual convention in Texas, and setting up my home layout (Port Rowan) to be used as a location in a film. So work on anything related to the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway has taken a back seat.

But I have been busy acquiring things that I’ll need in order to model the line in 1:64.

Before I commit to building an NS&T layout, I have four criteria to satisfy. One of my criteria is to build the kits for various freight motors that I’ve acquired from William Flatt, and get them running to my satisfaction.

In order to achieve this goal, I have been creating a parts list for each freight motor (which I will share in future posts, once the lists are complete). At the top of each list is suitable power trucks: These are essential to getting them running, after all.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve placed orders with two suppliers, as recommended by William.

The first is Steam Era Models – an Australian company run by David Foulkes. Steam Era Models has been around for many years: In fact, back in the 1990s when I modelled the Boston and Maine Railroad in HO scale I acquired one of David’s plastic kits for a Victorian Railways Diesel Electric Rail Motor (DERM). At the time, Walthers had not yet introduced its model of an EMC gas-electric, and this was the most suitable starting point I could find to model the EMC doodlebugs that ran on the B&M:

Boston Maine Claremont Branch - Staging Yard
(The Steam Era Models doodlebug at right blends in nicely with my Boston & Maine equipment. You would never know its an Australian prototype. This was the staging yard on my HO layout.)

The model included a Black Beetle – a power truck of David’s own design. It was wonderful.

Fast forward about 20 years, and David has achieved international recognition for these power trucks, which he offers in several options. One picks the wheelbase, gauge, wheel type, wheel diameter and profile, and the gear ratio, and he builds them to order. William has used these under several of his models, and designed his white metal side frame castings to fit them.

I ordered two Black Beetles for Number 17 and a pair for Number 20, so I can now start work on those two motors:

Black Beetles
(Black Beetles for Number 20 (left) are built to 31mm wheelbase, while the trucks for Number 17 are 33.5mm wheelbase. Both locos ride on 14mm diameter disc wheels. I chose the Code 88 wheel profile (Proto:64) to match the NWSL finescale wheels I use on my freight cars, and the 27:1 gear ratio because that results in a slower, smoother drive. David installed the wires between the motor and pickups to test the trucks, but left them long so I can cut them and use them as leads for the DCC decoders. Normally they would be tight to the truck body.)

Interestingly, when I contacted David about these power trucks he asked if I had bought a Victorian Railways DERM from him many years ago. Great memory!

The NS&T also had three freight motors (8, 15, and 19) with trucks featuring an eight-foot wheelbase. For these, I decided to use Stanton Drives from Northwest Short Line. These run faster than the 27:1 Black Beetles, but I’m confident I can knock down their top speed through CV settings in my DCC decoders. I have acquired two Stanton Drives, which will do one of the freight motors. My order is in for four more to cover the other two. (UPDATE: These arrived July 30th)

Stanton Drives
(Stanton Drives from NWSL. As the packages note, they’re eight-foot wheelbase, with 36″ diameter code 87 wheel profiles, and DCC ready.)

While it doubles the expense, I decided to power both trucks on each freight motor. They will be pulling trains – admittedly short, but possibly up and down grades – so the extra horsepower will be welcome.

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!

NS&T: ex-Queenston Power Canal freight motors

The Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway rostered an eclectic collection of equipment – including many pieces acquired secondhand. Included in the “previously enjoyed” category are a trio of freight motors originally built for the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway – an industrial railway operated by Ontario’s Hydro-Electric Power Commission (HEPC). Here are photos of all three – from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 16 - Welland Avenue Yard

NS&T 16 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

National Steel Car built NS&T 16 in 1918. This 50-ton freight motor was acquired from HEPC in 1926. Its number on the Queenston Construction Railway is not known, but it joined the NS&T as the second Number 16. (The first 16 was sold to the Montreal & Southern Counties in 1925, but returned to the NS&T in 1936 as Number 19.) When acquired by the NS&T, this freight motor sported the same body configuration as Number 17 (below), but the NS&T rebuilt Number 16 in 1930, giving it a new cab with a distinctive four-window side arrangement. I’m not sure why this was done.

NST 17 - Welland Avenue Yard

NS&T 17 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

NS&T 17 is also from the National Steel Car class of 1918. It was originally Queenston Construction Railway #E-9. Number 17 was 35 feet long and weighed 50 tons. I love the design of this freight motor, and I’m glad I have photo etches and detail parts to build it.

NST 18 - Welland Avenue Yard

NS&T 18 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

Number 18 is a classic Baldwin Westinghouse freight motor design. B-W built this 55-ton unit for the Auburn & Syracuse Railway in 1918. The Queenston Construction Railway acquired it, second hand, a year later, and it became #E-21. It was reassigned in 1924 to the Toronto & York Railway as that line’s Number 2, and acquired by the NS&T in 1927. I also have photo-etch and detail parts to build this freight motor.

The revised John Mills book on the NS&T includes a chapter (18) on the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway. It notes the canal was 8.5 miles long and its construction required the displacement of nine million cubic yards of earth and four million cubic yards of rock. The railway had 24 electric locomotives (plus a number of steam engines), plus about 250 air-operated dump cars.

The overhead wire was off-centre, so electric locomotives were each fitted with four trolley poles. They also carried heavy duty air compressors and larger than usual air tanks, because in addition to needing air for braking, they also supplied air to operate the dump cars.

When the CNR shut off the power on the NS&T overhead in 1960, all three locomotives transferred to the Oshawa Railway. From there, they took diverging routes. Number 16 went to Noranda Mines Ltd in 1965. Number 17 was scrapped in 1964. And Number 18 went to the Connecticut Electric Museum at Warehouse Point in 1965.

NS&T 82, 20, 17 – Welland Avenue car barns

The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway had an eclectic collection of equipment, often on display at the car barn – a city block-sized yard on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. Here’s an example from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NS&T 82, 20, 17 - Welland Avenue Car Barn

NS&T 82, 20 and 17 – St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

The photographer is standing near the front of the car barn at the east side of the yard, shooting northwest. Welland Avenue is on the other side of the fence, behind the equipment.

I’ve determined that this map conveys a pretty good representation of the trackage and facilities in this yard:

Welland Avenue car barns - map

1923 St. Catharines fire map – Brock University historical maps digital collection

I do like the paint scheme on these three units. While it’s a standard CNR green, the window frames and doors on the freight motors are nicely picked out in orange – and those black and white sills and pilots sure eye-catching.

Number 82 can barely be seen at the left (west) side of the photo. This car 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. Sharp-eyed readers will note it has a baggage door in its side. Car 82 was rebuilt in 1956 as an express motor. It was scrapped in 1959 – so that narrows down the year for this photo.

As mentioned previously on this blog, 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.

I also have a photo-etched kit from William for NS&T 17 – a handsome freight motor with pronounced curves on the ends of its hoods, and cab-side doors. Number 17 was a 50-ton freight motor built by National Steel Car in 1918 for the Queenston Power Canal Construction Railway as that line’s number E-9. It was one of two freight motors acquired by the NS&T from the construction railway in 1926 – the other being the NS&T’s second Number 16. While the second 16 was rebuilt with a new cab in 1930, the 17 retained its original configuration. Number 17 was transferred to the CNR’s electric line in Oshawa, Ontario when the NS&T converted to diesel in 1960, and was scrapped in 1964.

As I ponder possible scenes to include on a layout, the Welland Avenue yard and car barn is tempting. That said, if I end up not building a layout (still a possibility), it would make a nice diorama – a great place to display the variety of equipment once owned by the NS&T.