NS&T – In and around the car barn

The car barn on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines played a critical role in keeping the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway in business – from servicing the line’s equipment, to building new equipment, to maintaining electric railway equipment for other members of the CNR electric lines family. So I’m pleased to have a number of images of the car barn among the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt. Here are a few examples:

NST83 - Carbarn interior

NS&T 83, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

NS&T 83 slumbers in the car barn on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. I really like this photo – there’s just so much detail to absorb.

NS&T 83 + 620-series, car barn, St. Catharines

NS&T 83 + NS&T 622, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

This photo, taken from the west side of the car barn, shows a pair of “modern” NS&T passenger cars being serviced. Car 83 is on the left, while Car 622 is on the right. Car 83 is on the same track that’s occupied by Car 82 in this photo:

NST82 - Car barn

NS&T 82, St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown

NS&T 82 was built by the NS&T in 1925. It was to be the first of a series of 10 cars, but no others were built to its design. The 72-seat steel interurban was built on the standard underframe used for CNR self-propelled equipment. It was 61′-9″ long, weighed 80,000 pounds, and rode on 6′-6″ Baldwin trucks. Car 82 was rebuilt in 1956 for use in express service with the addition of freight doors, as seen in the above photo. It was scrapped in 1959.

The car barn was built by NS&T parent Canadian Northern (yes, Northern – a predecessor to the CNR) in the first decade of the 20th Century on land formerly occupied by a freight yard for the (steam-powered) Niagara Central Railway. By the mid-1920s, the Canadian National Railways had assumed ownership of the NS&T and other interurbans, and brought them together under the Canadian National Electric Railways operating unit.

CNER launched a modernization program which included the expansion of the car barn facility so that it could build equipment for all lines under the CNER umbrella – including the NS&T, the Toronto Suburban Railway, the Oshawa Railway, and the Montreal and Southern Counties. This shop also built and maintained battery powered and other self-propelled cars for the CNR. In addition to this work, in later years the talented mechanics on Welland Avenue also serviced the buses of Canadian National Transportation Limited. (In the photo of Car 82, it appears that the shop is doing this: note the lower-height door and lack of track in the right-most bay.)

The car barn occupied the east end of the block that’s now the home of the Midtown Plaza – running along the south side of Welland Avenue between Clark and Court Streets:

Carbarn - Aerial photo - 1955

NS&T – Car barn, Welland Avenue, St. Catharines – Aerial photo, 1955. From the Brock University online collection.

There’s a lot of activity in this space, and it’s a scene that would be satisfying to model as the photos in this post attest.

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.

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?

NST 623 – eastbound on Welland Avenue

I’m working my way through the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – and I thought I’d share some of the images that speak strongly to me about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. In yesterday’s post, I shared a photo of Car 83 on Welland Avenue. In that picture, the photographer was looking west. Here’s another photo, taken a bit further east on Welland Avenue, and looking east:

NST 623 from 83 - Welland Avenue

NS&T 623 on Welland Avenue, St. Catharines – Photographer and date unknown.

Here, the photographer is riding inside NS&T 83, and has captured car 623 as it heads east on Welland towards Geneva Street. This is a typical street scene in St. Catharines at the time.

The brown building at left is the NS&T’s main terminal. Built in the 1920s, it had several tracks and used to be surrounded by stately trees, as shown in this earlier photograph that I shared. Obviously, this is taken later in the year – there are trees in the distance that are bare of leaf, and it has the greyness that suggests autumn. But it’s also clear that many of the trees around the terminal were gone by the time this photo was taken.

This railfan excursion likely occurred well after the NS&T ceased offering regular passenger service in St. Catharines. Note that part of the property along Welland Avenue behind the terminal is occupied by a car dealership. (I don’t know whether any of the platform tracks are still in place at this point.)

Still, there are many ideas in this photo that can be enacted on a layout – including the many signs (from the Sunoco gas sign, to the billboard, to the small “barber shop” sign with barber pole at the right edge of the image). There’s a great selection of automobile colours on display, too.

But it also gives me ideas about what I don’t want in a layout. Late fall can be an interesting season to model – but not in the city. It’s too drab. And tress in leaf can be used as view blocks. So that’s something to consider.

All in all, an interesting photo.

(EDIT – Nov 1, 2019: Looking at other photographs, I believe the subject of this photo is NS&T 623. I mis-identified it when I initially posted this. I’ve updated the post, but the caption on the photo is incorrect.)

NS&T 83 – Welland Avenue

I’m working my way through the collection of photographs, maps and other materials I’ve recently acquired from William Flatt – and I thought I’d share some of the images that speak strongly to me about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. In yesterday’s post, I shared a photo of NS&T 83 on a railfan excursion. Here’s another photo of this car in railfan service:

NS&T 83 - Welland Avenue

NS&T 83 eastbound on Welland Avenue – Photographer and date unknown.

There’s a lot to like about this photo. For starters, there’s the 83. It’s a handsome car – one that bridges the ears between the wooden heavyweights such as the NS&T 130-series and the modern steel cars of the 620-series. (I’ve written about examples from both of those series in previous postings. You can use the “categories” tool on the right side of the home page to find them.)

The NS&T built Car 83 (as well as the second car to carry the number 82) in 1925. It had 72 seats and weighed 80,000 pounds. Interestingly, the NS&T built 83 not for itself, but for the Toronto Suburban Railway as that line’s number 107. The car came home to the NS&T in 1935 and was stored out of service. That changed with the demands placed on public transit by World War II. The car entered service on the NS&T in 1943, on trucks salvaged from NS&T Car 80 and 600-volt electrical equipment out of Car 133.

The revised and expanded NS&T book by John M. Mills notes cars 82 and 83 were built on CNR under frames designed for their oil electric cars. Those cars had end doors for multiple-unit operation, which accounts for the flat faces of 82 and 83.

Beyond Car 83, there’s a lot of note in this photo. The kid on the bicycle is a nice detail. Not also the presence of what appears to be a switch stand on the far side of the sidewalk, to the right of the kid. I was intrigued by this so I went looking in my collection and found another photo of 83 in the same location – probably taken the same day:

NS&T 83 - Welland Avenue - another view

NS&T 83 eastbound on Welland Avenue – Photographer and date unknown.

Yep – it’s definitely a switch stand! But for what track? I went looking for more info in the Mills book referenced above. Here’s what I found:

– A photo of a freight entering Welland Avenue from Louisa Street (page 142).
– A photo of the two line cars parked on “line car siding, Welland Avenue” (page 41).
– A rough map of the lines in St. Catharines , which suggests there’s a short spur just east of the Louisa Street cutoff – probably the line car siding (page 44).
– A crossover between the two tracks on Welland Avenue – just east (ahead) of Car 83 in both photos.

Based on this, I’ve decided the house is at 133 Welland Avenue – directly across from Court Street. Look carefully, and one can see the stop sign at the end of Court Street at the left – in front of the large square brick wall. That wall is the east end of the NS&T car barn.

The Louisa Street cutoff leaves Welland Avenue to the east (right) of this photo, and the track passes through the trees behind the white house. And the switch stand? That’s for the line car siding. This siding was gone when I first encountered the former NS&T in the 1980s. It’s nice to discover the system had a special siding for line cars, back in the day: on a layout, it would make a great place to display some funky equipment.

St. Catharines: CNR track maps (1980s)

I grew up in St. Catharines in the 1980s, and that’s the era I remember on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. Of course, by that time the trolley wire had been gone for a couple of decades – it came down in 1960 – and much else had changed. Customers disappeared, and new customers were added. Trackage was rearranged – often with new connections made. And so on.

Still, any knowledge of “what was there” can only be a good thing. Years ago, I collected a set of CNR track maps – including associated indexes that identify each track. Here’s what I have. Note how each zone map includes the links to adjacent zones.

Zone MM
This 1983 map covers the transfer yard at Merritton, where the NS&T interchanged with the CNR.

Zone MM - Map

Zone MM - Index

Zone MG
Moving north from Merritton Yard, the line’s hub of operations was the Eastchester Yard area. This map is from 1985.

Zone MG - Map

Zone MG - Index

Zone ML
This map, from 1981, covers the area east of Eastchester Yard and up to Port Weller on the Welland Canal.

Zone ML - Map

Zone ML - Index

Zone MP
This map, from 1983, covers the track along Louisa Street and up Ontario Street to serve McKinnon’s (General Motors).

Zone MP - Map

Zone MP - Index

I’m grateful that I have these. I can compare them to other sources – such as the 1923 Fire Maps I recently found online – to develop a better picture of the NS&T in the electric era.

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…