Aerial Photography of the NS&T

This morning, I had the idea that vintage aerial photography might help me trace the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto – and I found an excellent resource online at Brock University.

Niagara Air Photo Index
(Click on the image to visit the university library online)

The Niagara Air Photo Index includes photography of St. Catharines, Thorold, Welland, and Port Colborne, and covers multiple eras dating back to 1921.

I note the university library also has a number of vintage maps online, so there’s plenty to explore…

NS&T 1938 Employee Time Table

As I ponder a layout based on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, I have been reviewing my various source materials (four books and a video) about the line.

And this one has turned out to be a real gold mine of information:

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Like many railway references, the 2008 edition of the book by John M Mills includes a lot of data that one tends to skip over in favour of photos and captions when simply reading for pleasure. But since I’m reading for specific information this time through, I’m paying much more attention to it. So, I’ve been reading through the appendixes … which include a copy of NS&T Employee Time Table 52 – dated April 3, 1938.

In amongst the schedules and special instructions, there’s something I’ve never before encountered in an Employee Time Table: a complete list of sidings and turnouts for each division, presented in order with their mileage marker. This is spectacular information for the layout designer, because many of the sidings are identified by the customer they serve. Essentially, I now have a list of online customers, and where they were located in relation to each other.

For example, here are a few entries for the line out of Port Dalhousie:

Graham & Son Coal Company – MP 0.04
Yard Switch – MP 0.13
Johnson Coal Company Siding – MP 0.20
Dominion Canners Siding – MP 0.63
Lake Street Team Track – MP 1.02
Imperial Oil Company Siding – MP 2.21
Lincoln Canning Company Siding – MP 2.23
Cloney & Winton Siding – MP 2.33

… and so on.

The descriptions also include things like passing siding locations and lengths (e.g.: Thorold Passing Siding, 345 feet long), railway trackage (e.g.: Thorold scale track siding, 452 feet long; beginning of double track; South Wye Switch), and more.

It’s not perfect – a track map would be even better. I have track maps from the mid-1980s, but I know that a fair bit of the trackage in St. Catharines was rearranged in the post-electric era. For example, passenger service trackage in the downtown was lifted or paved over, and in some cases trackage moved to better serve industries or to get trains out of the streets. In other cases, customers disappeared – there weren’t many retail coal dealers in the 1980s – and tracks were removed. (A good example of this is the list of industries I’ve included above: the line to Port Dalhousie was cut back to McKinnon’s on Ontario Street by the era represented by my track maps. It was miles away from Port Dalhousie at that point.)

But, this list is an excellent start. If nothing else, it will help me determine what segments of the NS&T will be most interesting to operate. And it’ll give me names to put to industries, which should help in researching them. I’m really pleased!

Thanks to John M. Mills for including this important piece of background information in his book.

NS&T: Four books and a video

Those wishing to learn more about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway can draw on a number of resources. While there are website and groups online, I find myself returning time and again to the following traditional media, presented in order of publication…

“The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway” by John M. Mills

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The first book I know of on the NS&T, this 118-page softcover volume was jointly published by the Upper Canada Railway Society and the Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association. I’m not sure of the publication date, although my copy has a handwritten note on the title page that says simply “December – 4 – 1971”. There’s no ISBN. It covers the history of the NS&T, its predecessors, and its various components – including the interurban operation, city car lines, navigation company, and bus services.

“NS&T” by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen

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This 48-page softcover book of photos and captions was published by NiagaRail Publications in 1983, for the Niagara Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. 1,000 copies were printed. There’s no ISBN. It contains a number of full-page pictures, and several not published elsewhere.

“Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Electric Railway in Pictures” by Andrew Panko and Peter Bowen

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A follow-up to their earlier collaboration, this 144-page hardcover was published by NiagaRail Publications in 1984 (ISBN 0-920184-02-6.) The book features a painting by Anton Akkerman on the cover, and 2,000 were printed. It continues the Panko-Bowen exploration of the NS&T via well-captioned photos – and like their first volume, it includes many large photos of subjects not found elsewhere.

“Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway: a Canadian National Electric Railways Subsidiary” by John M. Mills

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This is a revised and expanded edition of the author’s earlier book – and well worth adding to one’s library. It was published in hardcover and softcover by Railfare / DC Books in 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-897190-28-9 for hardcover and 978-1-897190-27-2 for the paperback.) At the time of this writing, it’s the only book in this list that’s still in print. (I’ve included a link on the home page of this blog, under “Resources”.)

As with the first Mills book, this one covers the history of the NS&T, its predecessors, and its various components – including the interurban operation, city car lines, navigation company, and bus services. But at 256 pages, it includes much more – including some 300 photos (50 in colour), maps, histories, rosters, drawings of select pieces of equipment, and so on. If you’re only casually interested in the NS&T or Ontario railway history, this is the one for you. (If you’re a student of the line, you’ll want all four of course!)

(I frequently refer to this book as “the revised book by John Mills” elsewhere on this blog.)

“Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway – The Little System That Could” (DVD)

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This 60-minute DVD – published in 2010 – is narrated by Ray Neilson and includes interviews with author John Mills, as well as a number of rail fans who experienced the NS&T first-hand and captured it on film. It also includes interesting footage of the boats from Toronto, Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie, and other goodies courtesy of the St. Catharines Museum. My DVD player has trouble playing this video sometimes – it jumps from chapter to chapter – but it’s well worth the agro. Still in publication, and available from GPS Video. (I’ve included a link on the home page of this blog, under “Resources”.)