NS&T passenger service at Woodruffs

When I was in high school, and living near the General Motors plant on Ontario Street in St. Catharines, the remains of the NS&T were still active as part of the CNR system – but, of course, only as a freight line. The CNR would deliver boxcars to two locations in the plant – and that’s it. It was wonderful to live so close (but not too close) to full-size railroading in the streets, but it sure didn’t provide variety.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, back in the NS&T days this plant had more trackage, and received a greater variety of equipment. There were also other customers in the area, all fed off a small passing siding located between Ontario and Louisa Street and known as Woodruffs.

At one time, this area also saw frequent passenger service, as Louisa and Woodruffs were part of the route used by NS&T cars to reach Port Dalhousie. I found several examples of this in the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 310 Crossing Ontario Street

NST 310 crossing Ontario Street, St. Catharines – Photographer and date unknown.

This car is headed inbound from Port Dalhousie. Once it crosses the street, it will enter Woodruffs. There are lots of neat details in this photograph.

The small structure at right is an NS&T passenger shelter. It appears similar to one that was frequently photographed at Dainsville – on the Welland Division, just north of Port Colborne.

The building behind the 310 is WS Tyler – which was a customer of the railway in the 1950s. Not seen, but also in this area, are two spurs headed to the right to serve McKinnon Industries and McKinnon Columbus Chain.

The curved track in the lower right is the line entering Ontario Street from Woodruffs. It heads north to serve west plant of McKinnon Industries, and then curves east alongside Carleton Avenue to reach the back of McKinnon’s east plant.

If the photographer backed up about 600 feet and shot another photo, it would look something like this:

NST 312 at Woodruffs

NS&T 312 at Woodruffs, St. Catharines – Photographer and date unknown.

This car is also inbound to St. Catharines from Port Dalhousie. It’s on the main track at Woodruffs – a siding approximately 600 feet long tucked on an angle between Ontario and Thomas Streets. The track to the right is the siding, which then curves onto Ontario Street and runs north as previously described. There’s another switch, beyond the crossover, which heads to through the bushes to the right to serve the RM Stokes coal dealer, which was tucked in a triangle of land between Woodruffs, Lowell Avenue, and Thomas Street.

NS&T 312 is the omega car in the 301-312 series. These cars were built in 1926 by the Cincinnati Car Company, as kits – then shipped to the NS&T to be assembled. In this way, the railway avoided a punishing duty for cross-border shopping. These 31′-6″ cars each seated 44 passengers and weighed 32,700 pounds. Unfortunately, the steel parts were not treated to protect the cars from corrosion and several were scrapped in 1948. According to the revised John Mills book, the remainder were retrofitted with 14-foot poles and trolley bridges (the little platforms on the roofs to allow the poles on shorter cars to reach the wire) and otherwise retrofitted for service on the Port Dalhousie line. Since the cars in these photos are so equipped, these photos were taken after 1948. Buses replaced the trolleys to Port Dalhousie on March 1st, 1950. All Cincinnati cars were eventually scrapped.

Note the city bus running on Ontario Street, directly ahead of the siding.

Port Dalhousie was a popular destination. It featured a nice beach, a dance pavilion, and other attractions. The line could be quite busy in the nice weather – as this final look at Woodruffs attests:

NST 80 plus 300-series cars - Woodruffs

NS&T 80 plus two Cincinnati cars at Woodruffs – Photographer and date unknown.

This photo was shot from Ontario Street, looking the opposite direction from the previous two. Car 80 is taking the crossover out of the siding and back onto the main to continue onto Port Dalhousie. It’s likely the unidentified Cincinnati car behind it will follow along. Just barely visible at the extreme right of the photo is the reason for their wait in the hole: another NS&T car – likely a Cincinnati model – headed inbound to downtown St. Catharines.

Car 80 was a one-off. The second car to carry this number on the NS&T, it was built in 1915 by Kuhlman. The 57′-6″ car weighed 69,740 pounds and could accommodate 64 passengers. The car was originally a combine, but was rebuilt in 1939 to remove the baggage compartment. It was further rebuilt in 1941 after a collision with Car 82, into the configuration seen here.

The track to the right of 82 is the spur into RM Stokes.

While short, the Woodruffs siding was important as a run-around track into the CNR era. I remember watching CNR crews in the 1980s use these two tracks as a small yard to store cars for one GM plant while working the other one. It must’ve been even busier when freights needed to keep out of the way of the traffic to and from Port Dalhousie.

Here’s a photo to help make sense of all of this:

NST - McKinnons - Aerial Photo

1955 aerial photo showing Ontario Street and Woodruffs, from the Brock University online collection

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.