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…

4 thoughts on “St. Catharines: 1923 fire maps”

  1. This is starting to look more and more like a viable modeling option. You’re right, the maps can include things that were planned, or drawn incorrectly, but they are a great resource and very helpful in layout planning, none the less.

  2. Fire Atlas Maps are such a fabulous resource, at least if you are working pre-1950’s. Its sad that the corporations which succeeded Goads and the Archives of Ontario and Canada struck a bogus deal to prevent digitization of anything until they are 90 years old instead of 50+ a day as the Copyright law would properly require. It means that for the era many model the maps may be out there, but you have to go find somewhere with physical copies in their library, and even then they likely won’t make copies for you.

    Good to see you are progressing on your research project on St Catharines.


  3. This is the first time I’ve started thinking of a prototype based model. Wow! I can’t believe you found this much info so soon. It really helps to get a better idea of customers and trackage back then.
    Cheers, Gord

  4. It is an ambitious project in 1:64 scale where most pieces will have to be custom built. I love the maps that you have found. They are a great resource. The book written by John Mills some years ago, and later books had a lot of pictures and history of the line, but few maps, not to the extent you have found.

    Regards, Gordon

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