Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bee Hive Corn Syrup Tank Cars

St. Lawrence Starch Co. of Port Credit owned a small fleet of eight distinctive tank cars. Don McQueen's photo of SLAX 5024 at Allandale in 1982 shows the cars in use into the early 1980's, hauling corn syrup products from Port Credit to a variety of destinations including a candy factory in Collingwood, McCormick's in London, confectioners in Montreal, and possibly Ganong in New Brunswick. Indeed, SLAX 5024 was refurbished by National Steel Car in Hamilton in 1982. The cars were fitted with steam coils and steam jacketed valves for winter use, with insulation added at a later date. I recorded several sightings of these distinctive cars early in my railfanning career, in CN trains on the Kingston Sub:

Apr 11/76 SLAX 5023
Jun 4/76: SLAX 5024
Jun 17/76: SLAX 49102
Aug 21/76: SLAX 5023, 49102, 49103
Sep 12/76: SLAX 49102
Jul 12/79: SLAX 5022
Nov 6/80 SLAX 5022
Feb 18/81 SLAX 5024
and there were likely more - these were the ones I noted at the time. Case in point - a slide my Dad took, captioned March 1976 shows a Bee Hive tank car coupled to a P&LE boxcar, likely heading east at Amherst View, just west of Kingston at Mi. 182 Kingston Sub (L.C. Gagnon photo):
A photo surfaced on Ebay, showing SLAX 5023 coupled to a Nickel Plate Road boxcar in 1967:
SLAX 5021-5024 were 8000-gallon cars built in 1950, while SLAX 49101-49104 were 10,000-gallon cars built in 1949 by Canadian Car & Foundry. CN 990895-990969 were also 10,000-gallon cars built in 1950 for petroleum products service. I saw black-painted CN 990915 still in MoW service at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in 1984. Here's SLAX 5024 being worked on - Bill Grandin photo shared by Jim Parker:
Here's all-blue SLAX 5024, photo by Mac Wilson:

The classic yellow over blue two-tone paint scheme with "Bee Hive Corn Syrup" script made these cars noticeable trackside. The earliest livery was all-silver, followed by the lower half painted Royal Blue to hide road grime, lastly with the upper half painted Inca Gold. Full ladders and walkways were added later. I was a big fan of Bee Hive corn syrup, often enjoying a saucer of syrup with Graham wafers for a Sunday lunch dessert (pray for my poor ol' pancreas). Here's an undated photo of all-blue SLAX 49104, from the Bill Grandin collection via Jim Parker:
Blue-and-yellow SLAX 49104 on the CP at Smiths Falls, Ontario in a 1970 photo by Ken Chivers:

A.W. Mooney posted this photo to, taken in May 1979 at CP's Agincourt Yard. The car now has a railing around the dome:
A clue to cars' purchase/build dates were their numbers: Year/Month/Date - 49101's date was October 1, 1949. Don McQueen photo of all-blue SLAX 49101 in London, 1980:

As the Port Credit operation wound down, corn syrup arrived at the plant in Staley tank cars from Decatur, Illinois. The plant had always had its own locomotive; a Whitcomb in the 1950's and a Whiting Trackmobile in later years.  Construction of the plant located near CN's Oakville Sub was begun in 1889,  was served by both CN and CP, most recently daily by CN, but production ceased in 1990 and demolition soon followed in 1993 to make way for waterfront housing and redevelopment.  Trackside Treasure reader MrDan supplied a cool link to the City of Mississauga website, showing SLAX 5022 on plant trackage after the plant's closure in 1990. Trackside Treasure reader Neil, grew up in the Port Credit area and sent this link to a Mighty Machines episode filmed in the early 90's, depicting the demolition of the plant. Neil added that remnants of the spur closest to CN's Oakville Sub were still visible in 2005-2007 before redevelopment of the site.

An Ontario Archives photo shows a string of blue & yellow tank cars visible on the spur between smokestack and water tower in 1960:
Bee Hive was notable not only for elevating my glucose levels, but also for their Bee Hive Hockey Picture card promotion that ran from 1934 to 1967. It was always a sweet sight to see these little cars buzzing along the rails.

MTH produces the cars in O scale. On the O scale Model Railroad Club of Toronto, SLAX 5024-5022 are pictured in this yard scene:
Another model photo:

Running extra...
Beehive advertised airplane recognition photos in June 1941!

An enjoyable trip aboard VIA trains 655 and 648 to Toronto yesterday. Not too many early morning trains, as train 655 was holding the south track at Kingston for at least 30 minutes before departure, and was able to make Napanee and Belleville station stops off the south track, not meeting any freight trains. Train 648 home was busier, pulled by Ren 6406 in a J-train consist with train 668, which was headed by VIA engines 901-6424.

Our travels across Toronto included a ride on the Toronto Transit Commission's New Rocket subway cars on the Spadina-University line. The cars feature full accessibility between cars, electronic signage and announcements, and indeed several passengers took photos down the consist, pushed baby strollers or just strolled through the train themselves while en route. Our car was 5414.

Watch for Trackside Treasure's third anniversary consist next weekend, so station your thinking caps nearby in preparation. Don't worry, I've got enough material for at least another three years!


Tyler said...

Like the gold and blue tank cars! I wasn't familiar with this operation but I do have some relatives who live near Cardinal, Ontario, home to Canada Starch (CASCO) and their great little industrial shortline operation. Visits to relatives usually included a trip in to Cardinal and I was even invited up into the cab of SW8 #9 one time while watching the CASCO crew make a run to the CN interchange.

Eric said...

Yes, the Bee Hive cars were certainly unique, and I'm sure wouldn't survive as a separate fleet in today's economy-of-scale freight car fleets.

We drove down to Cardinal last summer, and saw the plant and lots of corn syrup cars, but nothing moving. The line literally runs through the backyard of some of the houses!

Thanks for your comments, Tyler,

MrDan said...

There's a whole bunch of shots of the old Port Credit plant of the City of Mississauga's website. One even includes most of one of the old tankers, probably stored OOS due to the broken stirrup step:

Eric said...

Thanks for that link, MrDan. I'll add it to the post. Another related photos from the same series shows a group touring the shuttered plant:

A transport trailer is lettered for St Lawrence Starch's 100th anniversary, 1989, so the photo is probably 1990+ :

A CN boxcar is being loaded with some material adjacent to the plant.

A once-booming industry...

James Kirkman said...

Reading this reminded me of living in Brockville back in the early 80's (1900-1985) and the Bee Hive syrup coming in bottles shaped like beehives (Billy Bee honey was packed the same way).

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, James. Yes, I remember the yellow plastic Bee Hive corn syrup containers with the hive top. Definitely a Canadian institution.

Neil said...

Great posting, having grown up in the Port Credit area, I remember the demolition of the plant well, however was too young to remember the operations of the plant.

Here is a kids show from the early 90's that filmed a segment at the plant during its demolition.

There were remnants of the spur track closest to the Oakville sub there up until 05-07 when the rest of the land was developed.

I have constructed a 3D model of one of the cars, and will post an photo here soon.

Unknown said...

This is very interesting to me, not from a railway interest, but because I worked for Pinkerton Security at the Billy Bee plant in the late 60's. I was also at the Imperial Oil refinery just down the road.


Gerry Haliburton

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, Gerry. There are a lot of us out there who have various memories about this Canadian institution! Sweet!

Chris said...

I worked at the plant from 1978 till it's closing in 1990. I worked primarily in the glucose filling department and can't tell you how many times I filled and cleaned out these cars, along with transport trailers. Thanks for the jog.

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, Chris. Who knew that years later we could be part of a discussion of the unique Bee Hive car fleet? Interesting memories.

Thanks for your comment,

Unknown said...

Nice to hear another memory.