Two views of the car barn yard

I’m working my way through photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada*. My findings included a couple of images taken from opposite ends of the main track that ran through the car barn yard on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines:

NST - Welland Avenue - Southwest

NS&T – car barn yard, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

A few days ago, I posted an image of NS&T 301 – and at the time, I was unsure of where the photo was taken. This image solved the mystery for me (and I’ve since gone back and updated that post). The unknown photographer is standing at the northeast corner of the yard on Welland Avenue, looking southwest along the main tracks that swing off the road and pass through the yard. The trespassing sign, switch stand and corner of the carbarn – at left – can clearly be seen in the photo of 301 linked to above.

I wish this photo was more clear, because there’s a lot going on in it. Just to the right of the car barn is a small shed and what could be a pile of sand. The barn leads are packed with equipment. What appears to be a 130-series car is preparing to leave the yard. This image also provides a good view of the fabricated metal poles used to support the overhead wires along parts of the NS&T.

To the right in the distance is the freight house that once stood on the property. I believe this dates from the days of the steam-powered St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway. As noted elsewhere on this website, the NS&T’s freight house was located on Niagara Street.

NST - Court Street - Northwest

NS&T car barn yard, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.

In this view, the photographer is standing on Clark Street and looking northeast into the car barn shooting along the main track, from the opposite direction of the photo above. This was possibly the same photographer, as one can see what appears to be a 130-series car on the main track (partially obscured by the trespassing sign). Again, there’s a lot of equipment in the yard.

At one time, the main track through the yard continued across Clark Street and down Raymond to James, forming one of the many loops through downtown St. Catharines. I don’t know when the railway lifted the track on Raymond.

For those unfamiliar with the car barn area, this St. Catharines fire map puts everything in perspective:

Fire Map - Welland Avenue car barns

*Earlier this month, 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.

NS&T – Tower Inn Terminal

I’m working my way through photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada*. Here’s one showing an overview of the compact interurban terminal in Niagara Falls:

Tower Inn Terminal

NS&T 135, 134, 130 – Niagara Falls. Lloyd G Baxter Photo – July 1940.

This image also appears on page 55 of the revised John Mills book on the NS&T, which is where I found the captioning information. That book (which I highly recommend) notes the photo was taken from the station’s observation tower, about two months before the terminal was forced to close to make way for a highway (the Queen Elizabeth Way) and a bus terminal. In this photograph, track one (at the right) is buried under materials that will be used to build the highway.

Despite the sad subject of this photo – the impending closure and destruction of one of the most handsome terminals ever to grace an interurban railway in Canada – there’s a lot to see in this picture. I particularly like how it shows off the roofs of three of the NS&T 130-series cars – classic, handsome wooden heavyweights that held down the boat train assignments between here and Port Dalhousie. (I’ve shared plenty of photos of this series elsewhere on this blog – and have more to share as time allows.)

I’m also intrigued by the freight car standing on a spur at upper left: I’m not sure what those tracks were used for. Perhaps they were team tracks? Or perhaps the railway is delivering the materials that will be used to pave over this piece of interurban glory…

*Earlier this month, 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.

NS&T 301 – Welland Avenue car barn

Here’s a terrific view of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway that I discovered last week in the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada*:

NS&T 301

NS&T 301. Photographer and date unknown.

The photographer is shooting northeast alongside the north edge of the car barn on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. I love the motorman standing next to the front door of the 301 – perhaps waiting on his departure time. I also love that someone has stashed his automobile against the building – like a preferred parking spot – but quite the squeeze to make sure it doesn’t get sideswiped by a railway car.

NS&T 301 is a Cincinnati car, the class unit 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 platform on the roof to allow the poles on shorter cars to reach the wire) and otherwise retrofitted for service on the Port Dalhousie line. Since the 301 is equipped with the trolley bridge (and since the destination sign reads “Port Dalhousie”), the photo was taken after 1948. Buses replaced the trolleys to Port Dalhousie on March 1st, 1950. All Cincinnati cars were eventually scrapped.

We can’t read the sign on the pole next to the 301 as it faces east – but it warns people that they’re about to trespass on NS&T property. I have a view of the front of that sign, which I’ll share in a future post.

*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.

A sweeper, from Doug

While in Ottawa last week, I attended the monthly OVAR dinner. There, I met up with Doug Lake – a traction enthusiast whom I’ve known for years. And I ended up with this delightful little HO scale model of a McGuire-Cummins sweeper:

HO Sweeper - 01

HO Sweeper - 02

The best part? The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway rostered an example of this single-truck sweeper – Number 23:

NST 23 - Coal Track - Thorold
(Click on the image to explore all my posts about this piece of work equipment)

This story of the HO sweeper starts with a much bigger piece of interurban equipment:

Illinois Terminal Class C

Back in the 1990s when I lived in Ottawa, I owned the above Suydam HO model of an Illinois Traction Class C four-truck freight motor. At the time, I was refocussing my hobby – I do that a lot – and I didn’t really need this freight motor, so I sold it on to Doug.

(I will admit I kind of regretted the sale afterwards because the locomotive was a favourite of mine – but Doug could put it to better use than I could and would get considerable enjoyment out of it, so overall I was glad to see it go.)

Fast-forward 20 years, and Doug got in touch earlier this month to ask if I’d be interested in reacquiring the Class C. I thought about it and decided that yes, I would. I told Doug that by happy coincidence I planned to be at the OVAR dinner in September, and asked how much he’d like for the model.

Doug’s deal was remarkable: I could have the model as long as I took a bunch of other models off his hands, too. All for free.

To make a long story short, I’ve ended up with several neat pieces of brass – including my Class C. I’ll use this cool HO sweeper as a study model for building my own version in S scale – and probably paint the HO model up as NS&T 23, just because.

Meantime, I’ll keep select pieces from Doug’s collection and pass along the rest to friends. I’ll be sure to tell them of Doug’s generosity!

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.

An NS&T Whistle Post

I made a trip down to Port Colborne, Ontario recently to visit my friend Jim Martin. Jim and his wife recently moved to a smaller property and wanted to unload some pieces that were surplus to their needs – including this whistle post, once used on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway:

NST Whistle Post - Garage

Jim rescued this post many years ago from an abandoned portion of the NS&T’s Grantham Division, which ran from the main terminal in St. Catharines Ontario to a lake boat connection at Port Dalhousie East. This Division was originally built in the mid-19th Century as part of the Welland Railway – a line that paralleled the canal to transfer grain and other bulk commodities between steamships on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Grand Trunk Railway leased the Welland Railway in the 1870s and acquired it outright in the 1880s – and it’s likely that the whistle post was built during the GTR’s ownership.

The GTR later became part of the CNR. As part of its improvements to the NS&T in the mid-1920s, the CNR electrified this line in 1924-25 then leased it to the NS&T on January 1, 1926. The Grantham Division would be used by mainline passenger trains – connecting with NS&T lake boats out of Toronto at Port Dalhousie East to take tourists to Niagara Falls. This whistle post would’ve regularly warned the motorman at the controls of the NS&T’s handsome wooden interurbans to alert motorists of their presence as they carried loads of tourists to (or from) a day in the Falls.

NS&T 132 and 134 - Welland Avenue Car Barns

The last of the boat trains ran in September 1947, and the passenger shelter at Port East was torn down in 1951. The line continued in operation for freight – the Port Dalhousie East terminal also featured a bulk coal transfer facility – and was used for at least one fan trip under wire, in 1953.

As with the rest of the NS&T, I assume the wires came down for good in 1960. I’m not sure when the rail itself was abandoned but it does not show up on the mid-1980s CNR track maps in my collection.

Many years ago, Jim would walk his dog along a portion of the abandoned Grantham Division that ran on an embankment behind the Fairview Mall in St. Catharines. When he learned that this embankment was to be flattened to make space for more parking lot at the mall, he knew that the whistle post would either be plowed under or sent to landfill. He recruited a friend and rescued the post from oblivion.

For many years now, the post has resided in Jim’s backyard, lying on its back and mounted on blocks – disguised as a garden bench. He offered it to me about a year ago, but it’s taken this long for me to get my act together to collect it. Why the delay? For one thing, I thought I would require the help of a friend to load it at Jim’s and unload it at home. As it turns out, two people could handle its 200 pounds without too much trouble, so Jim and I loaded it at his place.

At home, I received help from the architect/contractor with whom we’ve been working to renovate our house for the past several years. That renovation is about to include a remodelling of the garden, and you can learn more about the new home for this whistle post on my Adventures in Live Steam website.

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.

Will I build an NS&T layout?

That’s a really good question – and I just realized that while I have addressed this on my Port Rowan blog, I haven’t written about it here. It’s time to fix that.

The short answer is, I don’t know – yet. The longer answer is, I won’t make the decision until several milestones are achieved.

First – I intend to finish my Port Rowan layout.

I’m so close, it would be unfortunate to not do so. I enjoy my Port Rowan layout but I have no personal connection to the prototype: I chose to model this line for the very practical reason that it fit my layout space. But I think it would be novel to finish a layout in my lifetime.

Second – I need to design a layout that I would actually want to build.

I’m picky about layout designs and compromises.

On the plus side, as my Achievable Layouts blog should make clear I’d rather build a simple layout with a few scenes done well, than a lot of scenes overcrowded. My Achievable Layouts philosophy will guide my designs, and I will only undertake an NS&T layout that can be built without becoming an albatross.

On the minus side, when it comes to the NS&T I know the subject matter really, really well.

With previous layouts – including Port Rowan – I was working largely from photographs and maps, and I was able to introduce compromises without them bothering me too much. Over the years, I’ve built many layouts and each has become simpler than the one before it, as I reduce the compromises by picking smaller subjects to model. But even on Port Rowan – which has just eight turnouts in total, and a single train per operating session – compromises were required. Again, they were easy to make because I don’t have a history with the prototype. But the NS&T? Well, I grew up around it.

To provide an example of the challenge, I walked the line along Louisa Street every day to attend high school. The prototype ran for several blocks and crossed one major street (Lake Street) about halfway along. If I decide to model Louisa Street, how long should the street be? How many blocks should I represent? How much can I compress those blocks? At what point does it lose the feel of running along a street?

Here’s another example: I regularly watched CNR crews switch the General Motors plant on Ontario Street. Again, the track went up the middle of the street past the plant to get to the far side. On the prototype, the track runs in Ontario Street for approximately 2,300 feet. Obviously that’s too long to model uncompressed: In S scale, that’s almost 36 actual feet. But how much can I compress that by? I think 15 feet of street running would be fine. But how about 10? At what point would this huge General Motors plant no longer feel like the major industry that it is?

I feel that compressing scenes will be harder in the case of the NS&T than it was for any previous layout I’ve built, because of my familiarity with the prototype. Can I apply enough compression to actually make something fit in my space that will be satisfying to build, fun to operate – and remind me of the real thing? Those are questions I need to answer.

Third – I would have to actually build all of of the kits I’ve acquired for NS&T freight motors – and get them running to my satisfaction.

I can do this – I’m pretty sure I have the skills – but one doesn’t know for sure until they’re built. Until I have these freight motors ready to run there’s no point in considering a new layout. Get the equipment finished first, then address the layout. It worked for Port Rowan, after all.

Fourth – I would have to build some trolley wire and get it working to my satisfaction.

Despite being a traction guy at heart, I’ve never done this. Can I do it? I’d better figure that out before I commit to a layout.

If I can satisfy these four criteria, then I’ll retire Port Rowan and embark on this new adventure. Until then, Port Rowan is safe. If I cannot satisfy these four criteria, then I see a terrific NS&T diorama in my future…

NS&T 83: Louisa Street

On this blog, I’ve shared many images of Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway number 83. It was a popular interurban car for excursion service. This time, I have one of my favourite photos of this car – found among the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt:

NST 83 - Louisa Street

NS&T 83 – St. Catharines. Robert Sandusky photograph, 1956.

Here, NS&T car 83 is headed eastbound on Louisa Street at Henry Street, on – you guessed it – a fan trip. It’s returning from Port Dalhousie and is a few minutes east of the bridge at 12 Mile Creek, and the siding at Woodruffs.

I was certain I’d shared this photo before, but I can’t find the post. No matter – it’s worth sharing again. I love the combination of big interurban car on a tree-lined residential street. And as I’ve mentioned previously on this site, I used to walk Louisa Street to get to high school. Granted, that was three decades after this photo was taken, but at the time the track still existed, and still hosted short CNR trains moving freight cars to and from the General Motors (nee, McKinnon Industries) plant on Ontario Street.

Louisa at Henry - Google Street View 2014

In the above image, Google Street View cameras have captured the same location in 2014. The track is long gone by this point. But the houses haven’t changed all that much over the intervening decades.

The personal connection with trains in the pavement at this location means I would love to be able to include a segment of Louisa Street running on any NS&T layout I build.

St. Catharines Freight House

In an earlier post, I asked readers for photographs of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway freight house in St. Catharines. Thanks to some detective work from Aaron White on the NS&T Facebook group, I now have a couple of images I can share. As a point of reference, I will include the 1923 fire insurance map for this area further down…

The first photo comes from a collection recently acquired by the Niagara Railway Museum:

NST-StC-FreightHouse

The photographer is obviously using slow film, as the photograph is quite blurred. He’s either aboard a moving train, or paused while crossing Welland Avenue to shoot this photo.

The picture shows the freight house on the right, on the far side of Niagara Street. A freight shed extends behind the brick structure.

To the left of the tracks, a tower controls the interlocking here. This interlocking includes the yard throat in the foreground that leads to the passenger terminal (behind the photographer), the line curving away at right that enters Welland Avenue and heads towards the car barn, and the city line that curves away to the left, onto Niagara Street.

(The Niagara Railway Museum is a great place to spend a bit of time online. Its website hosts a number of photo galleries, including one on the NS&T. Why not have a look… and plan to visit the museum this summer?)

The second photograph is via the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre, with permission from Adrian Petry:

NST-StC-FreightHouse

I’ll get to the story of the photograph in a moment – but I want to focus on the freight house itself: the brick building in the background. To the right of the building, one can see some boxcars standing in front of the freight shed that extends from the back of the brick structure. And of course, there’s that overhead crane – which is part of the team yard adjacent to the freight house.

The freight house faces Niagara Street, and the NS&T mainline passes on the far side of it. Where the NS&T crosses Niagara Street, one can see the striped crossing gates. To the left of the street, one can spot the interlocking tower that controlled this area on the railway.

Here’s the story of the second photograph, from the St. Catharines Museum’s Facebook page

Lightning Fastener Co. Ltd., 1925
(50 Niagara St. (cor. of Davidson St.), built 1925)

Early versions of fasteners were developed and patented in the United States, most notably in 1851 by Elias Howe and in 1893/1905 by Whitcomb L. Judson. However, it was the Swedish-American Gideon Sundback (photo upper right, facing left), who is credited as the “Inventor of the Zipper.” He not only designed the first successful slide fastener (later referred to as the modern zipper), with a system of interlocking teeth and scoops, but also developed a machine in 1913, later improved upon, for mass-producing his invention.

Seen here is the cornerstone laying ceremony for Sundback’s new Lightning Fastener building in St. Catharines, 1925.

(The museum has a lot of great information available. In addition to its Facebook page, you can find the museum on Twitter and Instagram by using @stcmuseum. Enjoy if you visit!)

As promised, here’s a map of the area. The green arrow points to the freight house / shed. As the photographs and map show, there are spurs on both sides of the structure.

NST-StC-FreightShed-Map

I’m excited by these two photographs because they confirm what I remember of the freight house, from seeing it as a young railfan back in the 1980s. I’m equally excited that there’s a decent stand-in model available for this freight house in S scale – thanks to my friend Barry Silverthorn, no less.

Before he launched TrainMasters TV, Barry ran Grand River Models, which produced a handful of delightful craftsman structure kits in 1:64 – including the Prince Edward Express Company:

GrandRiverModels - PrinceEdwardExpressCo

No, it’s not an exact model. But yes, it’s darned close. And I happen to have one, plus a couple of extra freight shed extensions that I can use to lengthen the structure.

The Niagara St. yards are looking like a better modelling subject all the time!