41 North - 44 Back

Content Tools

250 Yonge St., Painswick, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, January 3rd:

My engineer friend, Joe, calls at about 9:30 to ask me if I'm running on time because we must be at the station before 10:00 in order for him to sign on, pick up orders, etc., for train No. 41 north bound to North Bay. We will take 41 north, and I will be the guest of Joe, the engineer, and Hank, the fireman on the 'Head End' on Canadian National engine No. 6536 on the regular Toronto-North Bay daily run. Great! An ambition fulfilled a ride on the business end of a train. Train travel is pleasing anytime, but this should be a day to remember.

We drive to the station a wonderful day, not a cloud in the sky and temperature about 14 degrees above. We are at the station in plenty of time into the crew room to pick up orders and the control key that each engineer must have to operate the locomotive controls. Time 10:20 we hear an air-horn blasting to the south ward, and here she comes picking her way through the switching yards and rounding the curve to the platform. Crew change on the engine. Hank goes back to investigate a great cloud of steam between coaches 4 and 5 and finds a faulty steam heat connection, a pipe coupling not properly secured. It is quickly fixed by a carman.

10:26 - ' 'Board' We are up in the cab now high over the rails, how narrow the gauge looks from this monster! Conductor's signal whistle in the cab blows once twice. Now hissing of brakes off, a short blast on air horn and an easing on the throttle-lever. The two V-16 diesels whine and we move forward with bell clanging, through the yard and over the switch points and start the big swing through town and around the Bay. Twenty miles per hour to operate the street crossing signals. Through the last crossing, now throttle lever fully open and diesels roaring picking up speed in her own time on the grade going up from the shore. Full power 35-40 miles per hour and the crossings come closer as the speed picks up 50-65-70, it's almost a full time job pulling on the air-horn rope as we blast through the level crossings.

This is a fast track straight and level Barrie to Orillia, good smooth road bed. We're doing a nice 75 miles per hour now and running on time. Into Orillia, a few minutes stop for mail bags, and away.

At Washago we stop again, a junction point. We pick up water for the steam generator about 1500 gallons for steam to heat the coaches.

We're away again picking up speed quickly. Stop at Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. Road bed not as smooth now as we get into, the rocky hill country, and more curves. How this thing can take these curves on those narrow rails at 65 I'll never know. Jerks and jolts. The never ending level crossings keep the air horn sounding.

Into Huntsville a 10 minute stop to pick up orders and stretch our legs, then pull slowly out. Round the yardend curve, with flanges squealing on the icy rails. Pick up speed again through Scotia Junction, Emsdale, to Burks Falls. Stop for a few passengers and some orders on a Y stick to Joe's arm thrust out the cab window.

We leave Burks Falls and pick up speed quickly to 75. Hank takes over the driving controls while Joe takes me back to look at the power. The G. M. V-16 is screaming on the dynamo full power. The steam generator is roaring producing our passenger coach heat. I attempt to read Joe's lips as he trys to tell me what goes on. We head for the rear door to go back to the second unit. This unit is a different style, a 'road switcher' with outside cat-walk around the engine cowling. We pull our hats down and work along the open cat walk holdtight that icy wind is blowing at 75 miles per hour! Into the cab of the rear unit and slam the door lovely and warm in here. Now I can hear Joe again. He shows the inter-locked controls of the second unit all working as one from the 'head end.' Could have twenty units all controlled the same.

Now we work our way back along the cat walk to the leading unit. Hank is blasting on the air horn as we brake for Trout Creek.

A smooth stop, pick up two passengers. As we pull out and pick up speed, Joe and Hank tell me of the old couple who live by the right-of-way. They are always on hand when the train goes by, day or night. They are always waving. Week days on the return trip Joe never fails to throw them a copy of the North Bay 'Nugget.' They live for the trains.

Thunder through Powassan on to Callander, and the last stop before North Bay. About six passengers on and mail bags off. More orders, brakes off, we roll.

Lake Nippissing comes into view frozen completely just like glass. Children skating, cars on the ice and dozens of fishing huts. The temperature now about 12 degrees below in brilliant sunshine.

We clatter over the Eastern Junction points and then over the Ontario Northern Railway Line 'X' and approach the station. An alarm bell starts ringing back in the engine. Joe goes to investigate and finds that the steam generator oilburner has cut out. Good thing we were in North Bay before the passengers started to freeze. We roll up into the station and turn the locomotive over to the yard crew who will take it to the O. N. R. shops to repair the generator, fuel up and take on water.

On our return trip we are train No. 44 North Bay-Toronto daily. We have a two-hour delay waiting for an O. N. R. Timmins connection running behind time because of a speed over-run. A speed over-run is exceeding the allowed speed of the locomotive. This is 89 miles per hour, and when this takes place the engine shuts itself down completely and the train comes to a halt. This happened to the Timmins train and the crew could not get it started again, without calling for instructions from the shops all this caused delay, and embarrassment to the crew.

At 8:25 we sit in the yard at North Bay while the O. N. R. switching engine backs the newly made-up train into the station. We have more coaches on this trip, as New Year's visitors and scholars head back south. The switcher clears the train, our rear light cuts the darkness as we ease over onto the main line and back slowly in to couple the train. Coupled. The conductor's signal whistle blows once, twice and we start to move slowly out through the yards. Our headlight stabs through the pattern of green switch lights and along the frosty rails. Temperature 20 degrees below, stars shining, no wind and two hours late leaving North Bay on our long jaunt south. What time we can make up will be difficult because we have about 120 miles of track ahead that is not 'fast' When our speed will not often exceed 65 miles per hour.

The rails look narrower than ever now in the darkness, and the curves cut away beneath the headlight beam. We seem to be moving faster in the starlit night, but the speed does not exceed 65.

The airhorn blasts for Callander, a flag is flashing and we make a fast stop to pick up four passengers. No time to waste steps up, full power, and we're up to 65 again in a flash, with both units working harder on our heavier train. Powassan, Trout Creek, and on to Sunbridge with another flag flashing. About seven more passengers and a small load of express.

We roll again and soon receive a message on the radio telephone to take the siding at Scotia Junction to pass the north-bound Continental Limited. Through Burks Falls, Emsdale, and as we approach Scotia, we see the northbound Continental standing on the main line ahead with headlight dimmed. I hope they have that switch open yes, they have and we slowly pull around beside them. The coach windows shine brightly as we ease by. We stop to open the far switch, and the Continental pulls swiftly away into the night. The switch is hard to pull, clogged with snow. We kick the snow away from the points and as Hank eases the locomotive forward the switch locks safely. Slowly the train clears the switch, and stops to let the trainman on the last coach off to close and re-lock. A wave of the signal lantern and he swings aboard and we pull rapidly away under full power.

More stops at Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Washago, then on to Orillia a pretty sight, lots of lights and green switch lanterns glimmering on the shining rails as we pull into the station. Ten or so passengers aboard here, and mail bags for Toronto. We pull out, Hank at the controls. Air-horn sounds for street level crossings as we roar out of town and into the long grade, picking up speed quickly. We are now on 'fast track' and Hank has the speed at about 85 miles per hour, as we top the grade and start the straight and smooth run toward Barrie. Hanksholds the speed steady at about 85 we have made up some time but still about 1 hours late.

We blast through Oro and Shanty Bay still at full speed then start the gradual swing to the right for the approach to Barrie. We roll in, braking, down to the waters edge, skirt the down-town section with its crossing signal bells ringing, then round the bay to Allandale station. A smooth stop, a hand shake and thank you to Joe and Hank and I climb down from the Head End. A short walk back the platform to see the express and mailbags being loaded then that familiar ' 'Board' and air signal, and the train moves almost noiselessly away from the station. The air-horn is sounding as they head into the long curve, and the red tail lights on the last coach disappear in a swirl of snow.