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

One thought on “HEPC Queenston Railway”

  1. As always very interesting collection of photos. This has a connection to my wife, Martha. Her Grandfather was the the engineer in charge of the any tunnelling involved with this project. Martha’s Dad was born in Niagara Falls. He made a name for himself as a tunneller and his handy work can be found all over Canada and the US at many power plants/dams. He was very involved in tunnelling CP’s access to docking facilities at Quebec City. He moved to The States in 1937 to work on the tunnels New York City was building to bring water from the Catskills to the city. Thus the reason for our cottage in the Catskills.

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