Sunday, October 14, 2018

Engineering Streetcar Tracks in 1914




This week we look at track structures which are usually hidden within city streets.

In the 1960s, through the cracking pavement of Broadway in Lachine, Quebec, I could trace the rails of the Montreal Transportation Commission's west island streetcars. I'm quite certain there was a similar phenomenon visible along King Street in Kingston in the 1970s - just east of our famous prison.

This was an MTC show of retired streetcars at their Youville Shops on a hot September 23, 1961.
I wasn't taking notes.

I once heard a key member of a national railway historical organization politely dismissed as follows: "Well, he knows everything there is to know about trolleys, but ... "

Knowing nothing about trolleys, I am fortunately immune to such criticism. As one pokes around the history of vehicles on rails and their worldwide distribution today, one can begin to appreciate the 'railwayness' of a much broader spectrum of railed vehicles and the systems which support them.

When possible, there are advantages in letting a voice from a particular period of history speak. What did 'they' think about then; what experiences did they have; did they make any predictions about the future?

Urban passenger railways (city streetcars) had the same requirement for good track as Class 1 common carriers. If 'all politics is local' ... streetcars worked in a much more demanding environment than the Class 1 railroads.

Not only did they operate beneath, above and among other crucial - often fragile - infrastructure systems which could not be disrupted ... 

Every day, the streetcars performed before thousands of pairs of eyeballs - workers, employers, local elected officials ...

Repeatedly delaying the arrival of part of a large plant's workforce due to regular derailments or frozen switches had more real time urgency and greater political consequences than ... putting a few boxcars in the bush several times each winter - like a Class 1 common carrier.

The engineering textbook forming the main part of this post gives us a comprehensive view of the construction of urban railways, when the technology was still early in its evolution.




The Time of the Trolley; William D Middleton; 1967; Kalmbach.
Lexington, Kentucky, 1890s (above)
If you have studied aspects of railway track structure, you will note that this situation is the worst - particularly in a climate (like Canada's) which includes temperatures below freezing for a significant part of the year. Generally, water needs to drain away from your track ... and frozen water causes heaving and derailments.

In their defence, this may be the inaugural run of this line. The local officials may not yet realize that operating through mud and horse manure will be an unpleasant experience.













*  *  *

Here are three diagrams representing about 50 years 
of technological advances on the Toronto system.

Many readers recall that William Mackenzie (of Canadian Northern Railway fame)
was an early investor and developer of the Toronto horsecar/streetcar system.

Wheels of Progress; 1953; Toronto Transit Commission.

Wheels of Progress; 1953; Toronto Transit Commission.

Wheels of Progress; 1953; Toronto Transit Commission.

Above: I think you can see a thermite weld represented here - on the second rail to the left of the tie bar.

*  *  *

Track Infrastructure in Toronto and Montreal

Wheels of Progress; 1953; Toronto Transit Commission.
In the undated photo above, the very large pixels could not be smoothed more without harming detail resolution.


July 2018, Google.
The same intersection recently.
The two buildings on the corner - to the left of the centre streetcar - can help you get oriented.


A Toronto Album; Michael Filey; 1970; University of Toronto Press.
Here is the same intersection, in 1923 - perhaps during the same job which is pictured above.
From a social history perspective, cobblestones and granite blocks made excellent projectiles during riots.


A Toronto Album; Michael Filey; 1970; University of Toronto Press.
Enlarged detail of what the workers are doing ...



A Toronto Album; Michael Filey; 1970; University of Toronto Press.
Enlarged detail of what may be a traction engine which was used for the transportation of materials.
There seem to be granite blocks piled on the wagon.


A Toronto Album; Michael Filey; 1970; University of Toronto Press.
When the rails provided an essential service, the priority was to keep them operational.

After rubber-tired vehicles became more common (buses and personal autos) perhaps there was not the same sense of overnight urgency.
  • Buses could detour passengers around the area being rebuilt.
  • Instead of using 'modular' granite blocks, it was necessary to carefully pave over the track structure.
  • In addition, local businesses, dependant on rubber-tired restocking and shopping, needed the whole street back in its original condition.

*  *  *

Two Views of Track Structure in Montreal

Montreal's Electric Streetcars; Richard M Binns; 1973; Railfare.
'Roller Skating at The Forum' (from 1912)

This streetcar is turning from St James (St Jacques) to Windsor (Peel). This book's author notes that the rickety wooden steps at the Grand Trunk Bonaventure Station (right) were a longstanding feature of the facility. Notice that a sewer hatch may be be located within the trackwork - just one more complication. I think those may be bonding cables for the switch rails which you see lying over the ties.


Montreal's Electric Streetcars; Richard M Binns; 1973; Railfare.
In the middle of the Great Depression (1935) you can see a disadvantage of paving over the track with concrete instead of granite blocks or asphalt. You need jackhammers to get at the track. The residents along The Boulevard in Westmount will simply have to make do as best they can with all the noise and inconvenience.

*  *  *

After posting, Jim Christie sent me some really interesting links.
Here are two of them:

Montreal's Street Railway System 1893

Rules for Drivers and Conductors, Toronto Street Railway, 1880


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Postwar Problems - Locomotives and Cars - Karl Fritjof Nystrom in 1946.




This seemed like an interesting article to post ... from an old BLF&E magazine of 1946.


Predicting the future is something humans seem compelled to do. As we consider present day forecasts, it can be helpful (sometimes even comforting) to look to the past to see which unforeseen events, social trends, inventions and general phenomena have impaired humans' clairvoyance in the past.


For specialists in the railway arts and sciences, these 'future of railroading' articles are interesting to consider ...
  • Some predictions come to pass, some do not. 
  • What in the author's background caused them to see the future this way?
  • In the years that followed, what unexpected events or conditions changed this vision of the future?

The locomotive photos below are located in the same place they appear in the article - I have tried to draw out a little more detail in the photos so they appear as separate images.




If you tipped your head to the left to read the mailing label ...
I think the recipient probably worked out of Lambton Yard on the CPR.
As Rolly Martin transferred there for a short while, early in his career,
he might have crossed paths with Mr Fox.

*  *  *

Here is the obituary from the Milwaukee Sentinel June 6, 1961 for Karl F Nystrom.

from: Milwaukee Sentinel June 6, 1961, Google Newspapers.







One of Nystrom's many patents ...

The Nystrom Truck
(from patents.google.com)






For (1) above ...  modern samples of AAR Letter Ballots.





The article concludes ... and some advertisements (How did the advertisers see 'the future'?)





*  *  *

Hiawatha Equipment


from: The Golden Age of the Passenger Train; CJ Riley; 1997; MetroBooks.

A streamlined Hudson leading a Hiawatha consist - all styled by Otto Kuhler (1894-1976),
using design specifications of the American Locomotive Company
and Milwaukee Road's chief mechanical officer Karl Nystrom.

This train provided speed topping 100mph between Chicago and Milwaukee.
The Hudsons entered service in 1939.

from: The Golden Age of the Passenger Train; CJ Riley; 1997; MetroBooks.

The Beaver Tail observation car.

*  *  *

The Olympian Hiawatha

Chicago to Seattle-Tacoma.
Equipment from 1947.

from: Trains; June 1949; Kalmbach.

Train No 16 east of Black River, Washington.
Starting from the left: 2 tracks Northern Pacific, 2 tracks Milwaukee, distant track is Union Pacific.


from: Trains; June 1949; Kalmbach.

Sky-top lounge-sleeper on the tail end of the Olympian Hiawatha.