Saturday, February 16, 2019

1942 CNR Turcot Yard and Lachine - photos by LC Gagnon


Like many photographers of the era, I think my father, LC Gagnon, was surprised by the speed of steam's demise in the 1950s on the CPR and CNR. Steam had 'always' been around and surely the railways would 'use up' their powerful new locomotives - rather than scrapping them after only 15 or 20 years of use. Steam locomotives were capital assets which were often in use (with technical upgrades added during rebuilding) for 50 years.

These circa 1942 photos were taken when my father was about 15. The cost of financing his hobby might have limited the number of photos he took back then.

If starting a second career, getting married and having a kid hadn't taken up his attention in the late 1950s, perhaps he would have taken many more photos during that era - when the future of steam was clear.

Back to the 1940s: 

My father also mentioned that it was generally unlawful to photograph trains during World War Two. During the two 'world wars' soldiers were often posted at the ends of key railway bridges - to prevent sabotage by enemy spies. I think the railways - particularly in the US - went through a similar period of paranoia after 9/11 when there were orders to report anyone by the tracks who was not 'dressed appropriately'. 

... I suspect this referred to the then-new practice of railway workers wearing high-visibility vests. But, by the same token, what terrorist would be so meticulous as to have prepared an engineer's cap with 20 'fallen flag' railroad company crests sewn on it? Surely traditional railfan garb was included in their definition of appropriate trackside dress.

Was my father concerned about wartime restrictions? 
Might he have ended up watching his trains from the POW camp at Neys? 
We just don't know.

If you have an interest in this period in history, hopefully you will find a few interesting details in these black and white prints - taken with an abdominally-braced box camera with a vertical viewfinder and a slow shutter.



These views of Turcot Yard, Montreal, were taken from Upper Lachine Road/St Jacques looking south.

My father noted that the locomotives in the foreground are positioned over the ashpits. Between runs, coal ash and some clinker would be cleaned from the fire by rocking the movable grates on which the coal was burned. The locomotive ashpans (beneath the grates) were then cleaned out into pits below. At large terminals, conveyor systems loaded the cooled ash into gondola cars for disposal. Rolly Martin started his work on locomotives as an 'ashpitman' at the Schreiber roundhouse.



Of course, this is the Turcot roundhouse. One reason that the railways converted to diesels so rapidly was because the latter required much less labour to keep them safe and running properly.

With steam, as an example, workers often had to get into still-warm fireboxes to look for steam leaks needing repair. A boiler failure over the firebox's crown sheet (usually from low boiler water and consequent metal failure over the fire) often destroyed the engine and killed the crew. 

The 'human experience' of locomotive terminal work involved working outside in the coldest, and inside in the hottest, weather. Roundhouse workers in summer toiled in a hot, noisy and dirty environment. With the war on, a number of younger railway employees joined the armed forces. The older, knowledgeable workers left behind would often have been the people popping into those fireboxes for an inspection.

With operations at a 'war tempo' transportation was always in short supply for the movement of troops, weapons, military supplies, and commodities such as grain and oil. Timing train movements to support the assembly of maritime convoys at Halifax's excellent natural harbour put further pressure on the eastern end of the CNR railway system.

Just behind the left side of the roundhouse you can barely see the roundhouse's water tank with its conical roof. You can spot the locomotive stalls in which locomotives have had their work completed - where their smokey coal fires are being built for the next run. No doubt, urban smoke regulations were relaxed during wartime. This gives you an idea just how unhealthy urban air was during the age of coal.



This view angles farther to west of Turcot Yard.
My father notes the presence of the Canadian [railway] Car Plant,
two streetcars (also on the far side of the yard),
and the end of the coaling dock (at the right edge of the photo).

Here is the ultimate article on CC&F thanks to Jim Christie's research.
This article is from 1906.

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Here is CNR 46 with an eastbound morning commuter train, whistling for the future 48th Avenue crossing.

In this era, the CNR track followed the route of today's Victoria Street through Lachine.

Above the running board, notice all the heavy air pump equipment to quickly recharge
the higher pressure passenger air brake system.
The ability to quickly recharge/release the air brakes after a station stop
kept the train on its tight rush hour schedule.



Here is a westbound afternoon commuter train in Lachine with a similar engine leading.

These little engines had been purchased by the Grand Trunk for this type of service.
They were absorbed into the CNR's roster, along with this railway line, in 1923.
Their wheel arrangement, rear pilot and rear headlight enabled them to operate at speed
(here in reverse) in either direction.

The choice of reversing westbound was perhaps due to the homeward run being less urgent
than the mission of getting commuters to work on time in the morning.
That tight schedule had to be maintained.

Looking at a home movie from the 1950s on video, I was amazed to see a running switch
performed with this type of consist at the western end of its run.



Here is CNR 6029 with a westbound passenger train in Lachine.



An eastbound CNR freight receives a clear signal in Lachine. Notice the two ice-cooled refrigerator cars on the head end. In this position they could quickly be switched out of the train consist for re-icing at Montreal or into another train to continue their journey without delay. The Wabash car of coal would not be handled with the same urgency. The four hatches are open on the second car.

Ice could be provided in a wide variety of particle sizes - depending on the preservation needs of the foodstuff or other freight being refrigerated. The cooling power (rate of melting) could be increased by mixing salt with the ice. 

And further refinements to cooling power could be made by opening the hatches on the ice bunkers - at each end. This could also be done to ventilate the car, particularly when charcoal-burning heaters were lowered into the ice bunkers during the colder months to prevent foodstuffs from freezing in transport.

Here are a few diagrams to help explain these cars better.

from: Handling Perishable Traffic, Circular 357; May 1938; Canadian Pacific Railway.

from: Handling Perishable Traffic, Circular 357; May 1938; Canadian Pacific Railway.

Below is a diagram showing the correct nomenclature along with inspection instructions.

from: Handling Perishable Traffic, Circular 357; May 1938; Canadian Pacific Railway.


... during a winter escape attempt from one of the POW camps along the north shore of Lake Superior, I read that a prisoner chose to hide in the ice bunker of a refrigerator car. While climbing into an ice bunker during a Lake Superior winter might signal a desperate need to escape by a 'not so bright' enemy ... It is also possible that the ice bunker had an operating charcoal heater in it. As long as one maintained access to fresh air, this would have provided a cozier ride than an empty boxcar!




Sunday, February 10, 2019

Railway Curiosities



In the dead of winter, here are a few quick items which I hope you will find interesting. While many different technologies were/are used around the world for railway operations, the 'railwayness' of self-steering flanged wheels on low-friction rails is common to all.


from: The Observer's Book of Railway Locomotives of Britain; 1955, 1962; HC Casserley; Frederick Warne & Co.

This class includes a widely-travelled and famous named engine: The Flying Scotsman.

It was built in 1923,
numbered 4472 (February 1924 – January 1946)
and numbered 60103 from December 1948 onwards.

Photos of the engine itself can be seen via this link to Eric's post:



*  *  *

from: A Historical Survey of Great Western Engine Sheds 1947; ET Lyons; 1972; Oxford Publishing.

This photo was taken at Abingdon, just south of Oxford, England.
The local engine shed was in service 1856-1954.
The water tank and long curving run of interlocking rods give clues about the climate here.

The particular 'curiosity' here is the type of derail used here in Britain and also in India.
In contrast to Canadian top-of-rail castings which are secured in derailing position with switch locks ...
in a Canadian winter, this arrangement would be one more 'frozen switch' to heat or burn out,
or to chip ice out of, and sweep clean with regularity.

*  *  *

from: A Historical Survey of Great Western Engine Sheds 1947; ET Lyons; 1972; Oxford Publishing.

Truro is in western Cornwall, England.
There are lots of interesting curiosities here.
Probably no one ever put a locomotive in the turntable pit here.
Perhaps those are tank engines or Forneys for short locals.

*  *  *

from: GWR Company Servants; Janet KL Russell; 1983; Wild Swan Publications.

The local hayburning 0-4-0.
Somewhere I have an article about slip coaches - which are local cars cut off on the fly.

*  *  *


from: Early Railroad Days - Prints from the Collection of American Steel Foundries; circa 1945.