Friday, January 13, 2017

CNR 1949 Halifax



This post features snapshots taken by my father during a vacation taken mainly on the rails of his employer in October 1949.

To recap his trip up to this point ... from Montreal he had taken the CPR short line through Maine to Saint John; the CPR ferry to Digby, Nova Scotia; and he had arrived in Halifax on a Dominion Atlantic Railway (CPR) train through the latter's running rights over the CNR.



Above, is my father's Halifax hotel - the CPR Lord Nelson. The lens on his box camera tends to fish-eye and blur the corners of some of his photos. This photo nods to a major change in the urban transit system of Halifax.

The last run of Halifax's streetcar system had taken place five months before these photos - back in May 1949. The catenary above is being used by electric trolley buses. 

A quick orientation to Halifax follows ...

From: Canada, A Regional Analysis; Putnam and Putnam; 1970; JM Dent.

This view of Halifax comes from the 1960s. Downtown Halifax is at the centre, bottom. Dartmouth is across the harbour. To the right is the Atlantic Ocean, to the left is Bedford Basin - an excellent sheltered area in which trans-Atlantic wartime convoys were assembled. 

'The Narrows' was the location of the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917. Three piers at the right extremity of Halifax mark the location of the CNR yard - completed after the Great War; the passenger station; and today's modern container port.

The Angus L Macdonald Bridge connects Halifax and Dartmouth at the Narrows - it was built between 1952 and 1955. It is a suspension bridge, designed to clear the superstructures of merchant and military ships using the inner harbour. 

While cross-harbour ferry transportation was particularly busy with people commuting back and forth during the years of World War Two ... there was no cross-harbour ferry for railcars between the two cities.

Here is a historical curiosity ... there had been a double-tracked railway bridge across the harbour ...

The Halifax and Eastern Railway Company twice built a railway bridge across at the Narrows. In 1884, construction started to build the bridge to connect the Woodside sugar refinery near Dartmouth to the Intercolonial Railway's Richmond Yards. This was a low wooden trestle bridge with a steel swing-span mounted on stone abutments. The first train travelled across the double-track structure in 1885 and the bridge was destroyed in a storm in 1891 ...

Caution suggested the idea of building track to Dartmouth by land from the head of Bedford Basin. However, they ignored caution and immediately rebuilt the bridge. It floated away for good in 1891, leaving 23 cars stranded at Dartmouth. 

Since then, Windsor Junction has linked the land-based railway lines of Dartmouth and Halifax. 

As you can imagine, there was a very high level of shipping activity through The Narrows, particularly for the purposes of assembling wartime convoys. It seems likely that having the obstruction of a railway swing bridge across this busy area would not have been tolerated for long, had the bridge survived.

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Quite naturally, most of us are immediately drawn to the 'old cars' shown in historical photos. Besides being sources of nostalgia for many ... the short lifespans of both the in-fashion sheet metal designs, and of the vehicles themselves, are quite helpful in dating photos precisely.

The Isaac-Newton-style water system 'pressure intensifier' on the roof ... and an extinct brand of Canadian department stores provide less precise dating for this October 1949 photo.



My father's first harbour photo is taken from the Halifax Citadel hill and looks up the harbour toward Bedford Basin.



A freighter may be under tow. In the foreground, the row-housing here might post-date the Explosion. Wood-framed dwellings on the land rising up from the harbour were generally swept away or heavily damaged by the 1917 Explosion in the Narrows. This photo has sepia-ed itself.



An enduring sight today is the Halifax Town Clock. It was put in service in 1803 - ostensibly to keep the local military forces punctual. Today Parks Canada is responsible for Citadel Hill historic sites, including the clock.



Above, are two systems used to communicate time - guess which of the two is more prized for its precision ...

The British military tradition of the Noon Gun would be accurate enough for normal business and social interactions. 

According to a write-up by Dr Randall C Brooks of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the time ball shown above was completed in 1904 and was probably removed circa 1959. 

At five minutes to noon, the ball was raised halfway. At one minute to noon it was raised to its highest point of travel. The ball was dropped by electricity at noon exactly - the electrical current coming from the nearby observatory, where the sun's transit was used to determine the exact time.

During the early 1900s, the Time Ball would provide the more accurate signal for anyone with serious precision needs - ocean navigation using accurate ship chronometers, for example. The visual cuing of the raised ball, and the 'speed of light' nature of the ball dropping sight had advantages over the less precise - but more fun - Noon Gun.

If you are curious about the spotting differences between the two cupola balls above ... you'll notice that the official time ball is constructed to rise and fall within a metal framework. In contrast, the ball on the Halifax Town Clock is not. As well, the two cupolas are different in their construction.

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The Nova Scotia Legislature is having some stonework done.
... Somewhere, there must be parking meter fans and 'rivet counters'.



The Scotian was in use from 1946 until 1955.



This is the view from the ferry to the Halifax side of the harbour.
You can see the way Citadel Hill dominates the harbour here.



The Dartmouth shore is seen above, also from the Scotian. If you check the 1957 CNR Dartmouth Subdivision footnotes (far below), you'll see that there are precautions for movements over the rail crossing at the ferry ... on the same track as that hopper at the right.



In the post-war mania for rubber-tired vehicles, these Fort William-manufactured trolley buses had significant advantages over the streetcars they were replacing ... The trackwork no longer had to be maintained; the rubber-tired road adhesion of torque from electric motors provided unprecedented acceleration; unlike streetcars, trolley buses could swerve to the curb to pick up riders; the buses were very quiet and smooth riding.

Of course, the children of this transit revolution were themselves dispatched by the march of technology. With powerful postwar diesel engines in buses, the trolley bus catenary would no longer need maintenance. While noisier, diesel buses could operate on any road - not being limited to routes with overhead wiring.



The trolley bus above is just leaving its own 'Belt Line' bus stop.

from: Canada Handbook 1946; Dominion Bureau of Statistics.
While looking around for other illustrations to include, I found this image from the government's Canada Handbook of 1946. The hand-drawn marks refer to the Bedford Magazine explosions of July 18, 19 1945. This occurred after Germany had been defeated but before the end of the war in the Pacific. 

As you can imagine, military ships participating in ocean convoys needed all kinds of exploding materials - from anti-aircraft machine gun ammunition, to anti-ship torpedoes, to anti-submarine depth charges. These dangerous articles had been located away from the main areas of civilian population ... The Halifax Explosion of 1917 had provided the 'never again' incentive to ensure the safe handling of explosives around the harbour. While many windows were broken in the city, there was no civilian loss of life from the Bedford Basin explosions.

You can easily pick out Citadel Hill. In the foreground, you can see the CNR Hotel Nova Scotian as well as the new Halifax station, CNR yard, and the piers for the ship/rail transfer of military personnel and people reaching or departing Canada by ship.

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The local CNR employee timetable pages for the Halifax and Dartmouth areas are provided below.

The following timetable images are from
CNR Atlantic Region, Maritime District,
Timetable 94, October 27, 1957.




Saturday, December 31, 2016

DAR 1949 Digby to Halifax


This post shows photos from 1949 which were taken during part of a vacation my father took while he was employed with the Auditor of Freight Receipts at CPR headquarters at Windsor Station, Montreal. He was probably using a 'box camera' with the typical roll film of the era.

This leg of his trip was from Montreal to Saint John, Digby and Halifax. His actual ticket stubs appear at the end of this post. Unless otherwise noted, the materials are from his collection.

After taking an overnight train over the CPR 'short line' via Maine, he took the CPR ferry SS Princess Helene to reach the DAR train at the Digby wharf which took him to Halifax.

Looking at the Table 9 below, he probably followed the schedule under Train 98 ... leaving Montreal at 1515hr, arriving at Saint John at 0645hr for the ferry departure at 0745hr and departing Digby by train at 1201hr for an arrival on CNR rails at Halifax at 1815hr.

Travel time: 27 hours - Montreal to Halifax.

from: CPR Public Timetable September 1947.

I included Table 9A (above) because it shows the equipment used on various DAR passenger trains. Travelling on an employee pass, my father took a lower berth to Saint John, and was probably in a coach Digby to Halifax. My father's 1949 timetable had been cut and re-constituted so a 'mint' condition 1947 timetable is reproduced here.

Fast 'land bridge' service between Halifax and Yarmouth,
with steamship transportation Yarmouth to Boston,
was an early and longstanding source of passenger revenue for the DAR.
See trains 95 and 98, and the map above.

from: Canada by Canadian Pacific, no date, c1950.

The illustration above comes from my father's contemporary collection of pamphlets. The small advertising image of 'his' lower berth was not really useful so it is not included. Notice the (probably) 'anti-motion sickness' hue of green paint in the drawing room. The clerestory-ceiled parlour and dining car images are included for their woodgrain elegance.

He was travelling just four years after the end of World War Two ... so post-war equipment and marketing decisions were probably still being made, and were gradually being implemented ... after a long period of 'making do with current assets' during the national war effort.

Speaking of wartime exigencies: While it was still being threatened by Hitler's Unterseeboots, the SS Princess Helene usually had some sort of surface or airborne military escort - particularly after the sinking of the Newfoundland Railway's SS Caribou in 1942.


Unused patent 'postcard'.



from: The Land of Evangeline; Dominion Atlantic Railway; 1947.
Gift (1980) of E N Bytalan - an accountant friend of my father's from his CPR days.



A historical digression ...

On the Romantic History of Evangeline and the Acadians

Pictured above is a sort of a railway theme park. The DAR (leased by the CPR for 999 years in 1911) had used both the fictional character 'Evangeline' and her ethnic group 'the Acadians' as passenger marketing attractions. Between 1917 and 1930, this pleasant setting became the new focus of railway and provincial efforts to attract tourism. 

The view in the photo, above, would be seen to the north as passengers detrained at Grand Pre. The guidebook above carefully states that the site is a 'memorial' with a 'replica' church of 'Norman character'. (Today this setting is part of Canada's Grand Pre National Historic Site.)

Coming from France, these French-speaking Roman Catholic settlers had started new-world lives around the Bay of Fundy, and elsewhere in the region, between 1632 and 1653. The extreme tides of the Bay lent the tidal zone to diking and eventual desalination by the settlers ... to produce the rich farmland yielded from these labourious, time-consuming techniques.

To jump ahead a century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - born in Portland, Maine - wrote a 16,000 word poem, which was published in 1847. Titled Evangeline, it told the story of the 'expulsion' of these Acadians at the hands of the British. (As a teacher of both History and English, and with a Queen's University education, my father would have studied and taught this work.)

Although Longfellow could have been rather more brief about it, he gives the reader the separation of young Evangeline and her betrothed Gabriel as a small-scale personification of a large-scale tragic event during a complex period in history. This poem awoke the English-speaking world to the tragedy of the Acadians ... no doubt French-speaking North Americans would have a persisting cultural memory of these events.

Permanent family separations did occur as the Acadians were dispersed. Several hundred drowned as their transport ships sank. As a shock and awe memory aid that they would not be returning, most of the Acadians' buildings, including their Catholic churches, were torched as they were taken away. Settlers from Connecticut (Longfellow omits) were pleased to help the British authorities make the area more ethnically uniform by taking over the rich farmland thus vacated around the Bay of Fundy. 

A historian would say this was how most European great powers of the day conducted business. Everybody did it. 

Boiling it down:

The Grand Pre theme park is a 1920-era tourism representation 
... of an 1847-era artistic representation ... of complex historical events which culminated in 1755.


... end of digression.


Grand Pre can be seen on the map below - south of the Minas Basin.

from: The Land of Evangeline; Dominion Atlantic Railway; 1947.


Starting my father's 1949 trip to the Land of Evangeline ...



Similarly to my overnight trip to Fredericton Junction in the 1960s, my father took no photographs of his overnight train. The first photo is taken aboard the SS Princess Helene in the low, morning sun of early October. The coal fire is drafting nicely. You can see the three-element steam whistle mounted on the stack. This ship was built in Scotland for Saint John to Digby service and was used there between 1930 and 1963.



In Saint John harbour, the crew is in the process of casting off. Their uniforms were patterned after those of the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy. At the right, a cross-harbour ferry and coal-powered dock cranes can be seen.



Grain elevators and some of Saint John's skyline can be seen as the Digby boat leaves the dock.



This may be Partridge Island - site of the harbour's main lighthouse.
It seems likely that some of the structures were added during the World Wars.
Torpedo nets, guns and other defensive features may have been associated with the island.



Having crossed the Bay of Fundy under calm conditions,
the Princess Helene is probably approaching Digby Gut, and beyond it, the Annapolis Basin.



The ferry has arrived at Digby.



The bridge, masts and single stack of the Princess Helene are seen beyond the railway's harbour facilities.
My father's train probably awaits the handling of baggage, mail and express before departing from the dock into Digby.



On a nearby dock, the A J Falkland takes on lumber.



The ferry's stack and masts are still in sight as the train travels through Digby. With ship and train movements subject to blizzards and ocean storms, local accommodations would sometimes be important for waiting out bad weather and delayed transportation.



The CPR Digby Pines resort is seen from the train.


from: Canadian Pacific Hotels from Sea to Sea; 1950.



This engine at Digby was built for the CPR by Saxon
(Sachsische Maschinenbau AG, Chemnitz) in October 1903.
It was scrapped in August 1952.



The greater Digby area is seen from the train.
The top of an evergreen bisects the Princess Helene at the wharf.
To its right, descending to the right, is the white-fronted Digby Pines resort.



Barrels of apples appear trackside in an orchard.



An apple processing and storage facility.



The Canadian National Hotel Nova Scotian with the Halifax station at the right.


Below, are my father's vacation documents for both ends of his trip as he mounted them in his photo album.
The Lord Nelson is the CPR's answer to the CNR Hotel Nova Scotian.



His trip will continue from Halifax to Yarmouth on the CNR.
Then he will return Yarmouth to Montreal via the CPR.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Canadian National Magazine, December 1951



This post comes from the Christmas-themed issue of the Canadian National Magazine of December 1951. Back then, one could make a good case that railways were still the most essential element in Canada's transportation system. 

... Transcontinental highways and interstate-style controlled-access freeways were not yet well-developed. Many Canadians, even if they did have cars, avoided the inconsistently-plowed roads in the winter months. Extensive broadcasting of road salt was unknown.

... Transportation by air had been recognized by the railways as a potential threat to their passenger business as early as the late 1920s. However, in 1951, most passenger aircraft were still powered by noisy piston engines and flying was comparatively expensive.

Why was this magazine published?

The technologies used by the railways in Canada still required large numbers of employees. Labour intensive systems in wide use during this period included:
  • Steam locomotives.
  • Track composed of boxcar-length rails joined together by bolts.
  • Business offices supervised by station agents who often lived in local railway stations with their families.
  • Railway traffic control aided by paper train orders issued via wayside operators on duty in the stations.
  • Paper forms, reports and reference books ... were used for almost all communication ... and for most data storage and retrieval. 

With employees strung out across the country, often at very remote locations, a company magazine was essential to try to develop and maintain a sense of unity within this very diverse and scattered workforce. 

Considering the 'corporate culture': the government-owned CNR was only about three decades old ... As an added organizational challenge, in 1949, a new Canadian province had just added its narrow gauge railway and coastal ships to the CNR transportation system.

An effort was made to include material for every member of the family, including the children ... 

If the breadwinner only looked for articles about motive power or the names of friends who had just retired, their spouse might check the magazine for recipes. In leafing through the magazine, the latter might spot details about a employee benefit program which might be helpful to the family ... which the breadwinner might have ignored. N.B.: In most cases on the railway during this era, breadwinners were male and their 'spouses' were female.

The first article shown below states 'the railroad never sleeps'. For the children of running trades or other operating employees, their railway parent often missed birthday celebrations or Christmas - in contrast to most of their classmates in a large economically-diverse town. Well, the magazine article explained a little of the higher purpose of this unfair arrangement affecting their family celebrations.

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Advertisements in this magazine promoted everything from 'capital goods' such as new diesel locomotives; to employee necessities such as railway-grade watches; to financial institutions and financial products; to expensive jewelry, food staples and cleaning products; to cigarettes - but not (see Rule G) alcohol ! 

... Both corporate decision makers and relatively well-paid unionized employees and their families were in the target audience of this publication and its advertisers.

















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from: Railroad Magazine, October 1953. Collection of LC Gagnon.

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A single-page digression follows. My father purchased this early Omer Lavallee publication after a ride on the Quebec Railway, Light and Power Company to see the family's patrimonial landing site in New France at Chateau Richer. Below, you can see one of this railway's famous anachronistic stub switches.


from: Chemin de Fer de la Bonne Sainte Anne 1889-1959; Omer S A Lavallee. Collection of LC Gagnon.


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Returning to the last two pages of the Canadian National Magazine ...