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.

Port Dalhousie & Lakeside Park

In an earlier post, I shared photos of several Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway passenger cars headed through Woodruffs siding near Ontario Street in St. Catharines. Those cars were on the Port Dalhousie Division, taking people to and from the amusements at Lakeside Park. Here are some photos of the north end of that division, from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:


NS&T 309 and NS&T 68 – Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie. Photographer and date unknown.

The Port Dalhousie Division was considered part of the St. Catharines local lines – but it presented many challenges to the NS&T. Lakeside Park was popular during beach season, meaning there was heavy seasonal traffic. In addition, a dance hall in Port Dalhousie generated a lot of riders. John Mills notes in his revised book on the NS&T that trains were often run as “doubles” (two cars running close together, on the same schedule), and that during peak Port Dalhousie season, up to six sections could use the same schedule. By 1940, the NS&T decided to run the division using standard railway operating rules, with green flags for advanced sections, white flags for extras, and – of course – red flags or markers bringing up the rear.

NS&T 309 is a Cincinnati car, in the 301-312 series. The presence of Cincinnati cars on this line suggests the photos were taken after 1947, as that’s when they were pressed into service to the Port after the CNR transferred the NS&T’s 320-series cars to Montreal. The Cincinnati cars did not track well on open track work, such as the stretch between Port Dalhousie and Woodruffs, and frequently derailed. The NS&T had better luck with 68 – a Preston product built for the London & Lake Erie in 1908 and acquired by the NS&T in 1920. NS&T 68 was 51 feet long, weighed 34,380 pounds, and sat 54 passengers.


NS&T 309 – Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T 309 is just leaving Lakeside Park. It’s about to cross Lock Street in Port Dalhousie and run southwest along Main Street.

NST80 - Port Dalhousie

NS&T 80 – Port Dalhousie. Photographer and date unknown.

Further along Main Street, NS&T 80 is headed out of the centre of the road and onto private right of way. Here, there was a siding known either as Corbetts or the Canning Factory siding. This was on the southeast side of the road and the start of the siding can just be seen at lower right.

NST309+others - Cannery Siding, Port Dalhousie

NS&T equipment – Port Dalhousie. Photographer and date unknown.

This photo was taken further west on the canning factory siding. Car 309 – at right – is headed towards Lakeside Park in this image. Ahead of it, at the left edge of the photo, is another car heading to the Port. They’re meeting two cars – including a Cincinnati curved side in the 301-312 series – making the return trip to St. Catharines on the track closest to the photographer.

The two cars that are not Cincinnati products could be NS&T 327 and 328. They are known to have covered the Port Dalhousie Division, and they do not appear to have integral classification/marker lights above the end windows.

NS&T 327 and 328 were built by Preston in 1914 for the Edmonton Radial Railway. From there, they went to the Oshawa Railway as that line’s 80 and 81. At some point, the Oshawa Railway converted them into tool sheds – and it could’ve been their fate to rot in place. But World War II placed new pressure on the NS&T, and to satisfy the demand these two cars were acquired from Oshawa in 1943 and returned to active duty with motors and parts from NS&T 62 and 64. They were scrapped in September 1950.

The brown building at the left of the photo, behind Cincinnati car, is the Port Dalhousie Canning Company. According to a history of Canadian Canners Limited by Louise Elder, this factory was built in 1913. It packed strawberries, raspberries, cherries, tomatoes, peaches, pears, plumbs, tomatoes, pumpkins and apples under the “Harbor” and “Harvest” labels.

Port Dalhousie Canning Company Ltd

Port Dalhousie Canning Company Ltd

Two views of the Port Dalhousie Canning Company Ltd. Photographer and date unknown.

The Port Dalhousie Canning Company was purchased by Dominion Canners Ltd in 1923, but DCL used it only for storage. DCL sold the facility to the Port Dalhousie Lions Club in 1952. The club has since built a new hall at 201 Main Street, the site of the original canning plant.

NS&T 134 & 131 – St. Catharines, 1943

I’m rarely certain when photographers took the images in the collection of Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – but in this case, it was easy to pin down, as a note on the back of the photo included the date:

NS&T 134-131- St Catharines May 23, 1943

NS&T 134 and 131 – St. Catharines, May 23, 1943. RT Vincent photo.

(A cropped version of this photo appears in the second book by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen.)

I do like these big wooden cars in the 130 series. At this time, they would be operating in boat train service from Port Dalhousie East (on the Grantham Division) to Niagara Falls. Here, they’re on Welland Avenue at Geneva Street, heading east towards the photographer from the NS&T car barns a few blocks to the west. They’ll shortly reach the terminal, behind the photographer and on the right (north) side of Welland Avenue, to begin their working day.

Here’s a more recent look at the same corner:

Welland Avenue west from Geneva St. GSV

Welland Avenue, looking west from Geneva Street, St. Catharines – Google Street View 2017

It’s easy to identify the building with the peaked roof, at left, in both photos. The buildings to the right of the interurban have been torn down: They would’ve been just behind the car in the left-turn lane.

Of note in the 1943 photo is the group of boys on the corner at left – doing what kids do: hanging out. Kids appear in many of the photos I’ve shared via this blog. It seems that if there’s a train on the street, there will be kids on the street watching it…

NST 132 + 134 – Welland Avenue car barns

I’m rarely certain when photographers took the images in the collection of Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – but in this case, it was easy to place:

NS&T 132 and 134 - Welland Avenue Car Barns

NS&T 132 and 134 – St. Catharines, September 14, 1947. Photographer unknown.

A note on the back of the photo identifies this as “The day after Boat Train Service was cancelled”, which lets me peg down the date. Cars 132 and 134 were regulars on this service between Port Dalhousie East (Michigan Beach) and Niagara Falls. Here, their duties done, they’re slumbering in the Welland Avenue equipment yard. Note that 132’s roll sign says “Toronto Boat”. (The 134 was last headed to “CNR Depot”.)

The photographer is looking west at the open yard tracks. Welland Avenue is to the right, while the building visible between the cars is on Court Street.

Both of these cars were originally built by Preston in 1914, as combines. At some point, Car 132 was rebuilt for single-operator service and clad in steel, with its upper sash windows plated over. I don’t have a date for that retrofit, but the revised John M. Mills book on the NS&T includes a photo of Number 132 in steel taken December 1939 donut was prior to that.

Car 132 was scrapped in April 1949, while Car 134 met the scrapper in 1950.

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.

NS&T Power Distribution

I’ve been reading through the revised book by John M. Mills on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, and it’s raised some questions about power distribution for the line.

NS&T 30 - Welland Avenue Spur

NS&T 30 – “Line Car Spur”, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

Chapter 12 of the book is a brief look at the power supply. It notes that by the 1950s, the railway had substations in St. Catharines, Thorold, Fonthill, Welland and Humberstone. (The substation in Niagara Falls was closed in 1947, while a substation in Niagara-On-The-Lake was shuttered in the 1930s.)

Most of the photos I’ve seen are of the building in the centre of the wye at Substation Junction, in Thorold. I’ve never seen a photo of the substation in St. Catharines.

I was curious about its location, so I went exploring.

My first theory – which was based on no evidence – was that the St. Catharines substation was located on the north side of Welland Avenue, must east of Court Street. This would place it across the street from the car barns, which backed against that street.

The Louisa Street cutoff comes in from the north to join Welland Avenue here, and there’s a short spur on the north side of the Lousia Street line at this location. Line cars were frequently photographed parked on this spur: an example of that is NS&T 30, shown above. Parking a line car next to the power supply seemed like a natural thing to do, to me…

However, a closer look at the 1923 St. Catharines fire maps shows that’s not the case:


1923 St. Catharines Fire Map. From the Brock University online collection.

The space I was thinking of is in fact a “supply yard” – which is also a logical place to spot the line cars. The map proves this is not the location of the substation – because a fire map would definitely have such a thing labelled. All that’s listed here is storage buildings. So, I kept looking…

NST-Map-Geneva Terminal and Substation

1923 St. Catharines Fire Map. From the Brock University online collection.

A-ha! There it is – the orange-coloured building in the lower right corner. That places it in the V formed by Welland Avenue and Niagara Street.

Now – does anybody know of any photos of this building?

A favour to ask…

If you share any of the photos I’m sharing, can you please include the URL to the original post?

That's a lot of photos

My NS&T photo collection. In addition to physical materials, there’s a wealth of information on electronic media. So do me a favour…

I’m really pleased by the response to my various posts, and I’m happy that some people are even sharing some of the photos – for example, on Facebook groups dedicated to the history of the various communities that the NS&T served. That’s wonderful!

But if you do share – please include the URL to the post in which I published the picture. Here’s why:

1 – I spend a lot of time – a couple of hours per post – researching the equipment and the location. I’m trying to provide context – this is history that I’m trying to preserve. If you share the photo but don’t share the link, those who see the picture on Facebook won’t know there’s more to the story.

2 – I’m doing this for free. I’m not playing “I have a secret”, as some people with photo collections do. I’m not trying to make money from the pictures. But I do want something in return: I have questions about the photos, the NS&T, its operations, and so on. What I get out of sharing these photos is not only an opportunity to organize the material in my own mind, but also the chance for others – who know more about the subject than I do – to contribute their knowledge. But they can’t do that if they don’t know about this blog.

This is not a give-and-take, where I give and others take. It’s a collaboration. I want information from those who have it, and putting the pictures online is one way I hope to obtain it. In the end, we all win.

Again – share the photos: that’s great! But if I continue to see photos shared without a link back to the post where they were first published – I’ll stop publishing them. And that would be a shame – because I have, literally, hundreds of photos…

NS&T 83 – approaching the Welland diamonds

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, NS&T 83 was a popular car for enthusiast days and charters. The photo below, from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt, may have been taken the same day…

NS&T 83 - Welland (TH&B - MCRR Crossing)

NS&T 83 – Welland. Photographer and date unknown.

NS&T 83 has stopped at a telephone shack just north of the interurban’s level crossing with both the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway and the Michigan Central Railway (the New York Central’s operation connecting Buffalo and Detroit across southern Ontario). The crossings are out of the frame to the left, and the motorman (or possibly, the conductor) is returning to the car after phoning for permission to cross the railways so 83 may continue its trip south to Port Colborne.

The photographer is standing on Prince Charles Drive, facing northwest. In the background, the large industrial complex is Vesuvius Canada, which makes clay graphite crucibles for melting steel. According to the corporate history, the company has been around since 1916, although I don’t know when it set up shop on this site. It is still in business today.

To the left of Vesuvius, a Wabash boxcar is parked in the interchange yard between the NS&T and the TH&B.

A lot of changes have taken place here, and there’s a whole mess o’ trackage, so here are some aids:

NS&T Property Plan - Welland

NS&T Property Plan 1920 (revised CNR 1948) – Welland, Ontario.

NS&T Welland - Google Earth - Labelled

Welland from the air (Google Earth) showing NS&T, TH&B, and MCRR.

The yellow dot is the approximate location of the NS&T roundhouse and turntable noted on the Property Plan. Also, while not relevant to the photo of 83, I’ve sketched in the spurs to Imperial Oil and Commonwealth Electric.

The TH&B’s own trackage ended at the MCRR connection. It used MCRR trackage to reach Niagara Falls, where it crossed into the United States then headed south to Buffalo. With three lines converging and an elevated view from Prince Charles Drive, there are several photos of NS&T cars actually crossing the TH&B and MCRR, but this is one of the few I’ve seen that provides such a good view of the phone box.

(Thanks to members of the NS&T Facebook group for help information related to this image.)

NS&T 83 – Michigan Beach

As I work my way through the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt, it’s clear that Car 83 was a popular choice for railfan trips. Here’s an example, running rare mileage on the NS&T:

NS&T 83 - Michigan Beach

NS&T 83 – Michigan Beach. Photographer and date unknown.

Based on other photos taken of this car at this location, I’m pretty sure the date of this photograph is September 8, 1957. Car 83 is on an enthusiasts’ excursion trip on what is normally, by this time, a freight-only line.

Where the heck is Michigan Beach, you ask? It’s another name for the east side of the basin where 12 Mile Creek and Martindale Pond empty into Lake Ontario. It was also called Port Dalhousie East, as the boats from Toronto would exchange passengers here with NS&T Main Line trains to Niagara Falls, before turning in the basin to dock at the west side at Port Dalhousie, where Lakeside Park is located.

As the hopper car might suggest, there was a coal transfer operation on the Michigan Beach side of the water. Once the NS&T discontinued its boat trains, this 2.93-mile line – the Grantham Division – remained in operation for freight, as there were a number of customers along its path between Michigan Beach and the Geneva Street terminal downtown. Just northwest of the terminal, the 1923 St. Catharines Fire Maps show a major rail-served industry – Canadian Crocker-Wheeler Company – in the block between George and Catherine, south of Russell Avenue. This complex appears in 1955 aerial photos, although I don’t know what company is on this site at that time. Today, it’s the Catherine Street Park – and the NS&T Grantham Division that used to run past it is now the Terry Fox Trail…

(My thanks to members of the NS&T Facebook group, who helped me to identify the location.)

NS&T 19 – switching in St. Catharines

Having explored Thorold quite extensively this week, I thought I’d switch back to St. Catharines – for some switching. Here’s a terrific shot from the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 19 + 34 - St Catharines

NS&T 19 – St. Catharines. J Wigt photo. Date unknown.

In this photo (which also appears in the second volume by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen), a crew is switching in the yard that parallels the Main Line east of the terminal and Niagara Street freight house in St. Catharines. The notes that accompany this photo say the picture was shot in the area between Page and Vine Streets. A quick look on Google identified the building at right: It’s the back of a tile and carpet store on the east side of Page Street, north of Davidson Street. The photographer was standing on Tasker Street, south of the right of way (which is now a parking lot), shooting northwest. (I do not know who occupied the tile and carpet building in the NS&T era, or whether this building was served by rail back in the day. But my fire insurance map from 1923 notes that Tasker was called John Street, and a spur ran north on the west side of John to serve a canning factory.)

Given the location, the crew is likely shuffling cars in the team track yard on the south side of the freight house, clearly shown on this map:

NST-Map: Terminal + Niagara Street Yards

1923 St. Catharines fire map, showing (left to right) the NS&T passenger terminal, the Niagara Street freight house and team track yard, Page Street, John Street (now Tasker Street), and Haynes Street. From the Brock University online collection.

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 to model all three.)

The van (caboose) is NS&T 34. I don’t have too much information on the vans used on the NS&T, but it appears to carry a CNR Maple Leaf on its side. I do know that CNR vans had to have the stove grounded before they were safe to use on the NS&T, so they tended to stay on the property. The van is standing on a spur that is identified on my 1923 fire insurance map as serving Monarch Knitting. This picture also appears in the second book by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen, and it’s noted that this spur was frequently used to store idle vans.

I used to explore this freight yard when I was a teenager in St. Catharines. It’s a fairly extensive operation, and the hub of a bunch of branches and spurs that radiate out like spokes. Unfortunately, this would make it a challenge to model…