Thursday, November 3, 2016

CN's Gananoque Spur

Beginning in 1871, the Thousand Islands Railway (TIR) served the town of Gananoque, running southward from the GTR/CN Montreal-Toronto mainline to the town on the St Lawrence River waterfront, over a 5 mile-long spur. TIR 500 is preserved near the town hall in Gananoque, photographed during our visit there in July, 2016 (top photo), formerly displayed on the Gananoque waterfront (photo courtesy Reg Aitken - below). Unless otherwise noted, [*photos are from Vintage Gananoque Facebook group, **photos are from the Gerry Ross Flickr set, *** photos from online auction site.]
A TIR ticket, which you could get punched on your trip to 'Cemetery'!
TIR 500 in use, undated:
Thousand Islands Railway combine 200, 1940 CN photo:

Wooden passenger combine photo and postcard view* of the waterfront station trackage (above and below):
Perhaps its best-known motive power was Susan Push 500 (top photo) still preserved near the former right-of-way on King Street. The operation was subsumed by CN in 1958, with passenger service ending in 1962 and freight service in 1995. The last of the track was removed by 1997. The focus of this post is CN freight operation in the 1970's-1990's, when the line was operated by CN as the Gananoque Spur.

An October, 1970 Whig clipping shows a CN RS-18 trundling past the former station, then a restaurant, tto serve Cow & Gate and/or Mitchell & Wilson:
A 1920 aerial view of the waterfront, including the large GANANOQUE lettering on the wharf rooftop:
Look behind the classic Grand Trunk station, now referred to as VIA Gananoque Junction, to see lumber reload including at least two bulkhead flat cars at left and piles of packaged lumber from the team track. (Eugene Burles photo, posted to Old Time Trains website)
Keith Hansen sent two photos of a CN Kingston-Gananoque wayfreight he took in the spring of 1970. The first view is along Highway 401 east of Kingston, with the second view at the bridge over the Rideau Canal at Kingston Mills:
A combination door (?lumber) boxcar and CN block lettering gondola ahead of the wooden caboose (above) and a gondola of scrap, another gon, CN insulated box and ice reefer (below):
Also at Kingston Mills with locks and motorboats on the Rideau Canal in the foreground, in June 1979 I caught a speeding air-filter equipped CN 4510 and four cars, at least two of them CN hoppers, westbound from Gananoque toward Kingston:
Here's CN 3708 at the station***:
Keith also kindly shared three photos of CN RS-18 3708 at the Cheeseborough lumber operation, at the former site of Gananoque's mainline station before it was relocated to Gananoque Junction, on Station Road. An April 15, 1957 Kingston Whig-Standard article announces improvements to the Cheseborough level crossing:
These photos were taken in the summer of 1986. Caboose 79615 leads the backup move from the CN Kingston Sub mainline, visible at left. Three bulkhead flats of lumber and a 40-foot double-door CN boxcar are in the consist:
Switching an empty, a half-unloaded bulkhead and two loads among the goldenrod:
MLW smoke back to the train - looks like an empty bulkhead plus the boxcar are back there:
At one time, the TIR hosted over 25 industrial operations - mills, factories and many were rail-served. The town was even known as 'Little Birmingham' a reference to the British steel centre. Colour postcard view:
An undated colour aerial view* shows the TIR line curving from left centre to left bottom towards the waterfront station.
A 1934 black & white aerial view* shows the Cow & Gate plant at bottom left, and other industrial properties clustered along the river (below):
CN's trackage in the timeframe of interest: mileage, track designation, name, last year shown on 1971/1980/1985/1986 CN track schematics:
Mi 1.5 K-126 Team track (1971)
Mi 2.84 KG27 Rockwell Industries (referred to as KG28 Rockwell on CN journal)(1986)
Mi 3.48 K-127 Leeds Bridge & Iron Works (1971)
Mi 3.89 KG29 Cattle siding (1986)
Mi 3.89 K-130 Gananoque District Co-Op (1971)
Mi 4.04 KG33 Inside and KG34 Outside Steel Co. of Canada (1986)
Mi 4.42 KG26 Cow & Gate (1980)
The Cow & Gate plant*, earlier known as National Milk Products, produced powdered and canned milk products. The plant was located beyond the waterfront TIR/CN passenger station, and no longer stands.
Aerial  (closest to bottom of photo) and more modern colour views* of the Cow & Gate plant on the waterfront:

Some dates in Gananoque's more recent industrial history:
1963 - Jones Shovel Co., (interior photo - above) located near the Gananoque River upper dam, closed its plant.
1980s - Ontario Steel Co., St Lawrence Steel & Wire Co. and Cow & Gate closed.
1986 - Gananoque Spur from just west of King Street down to harbour abandoned, CN having received permission to abandon Mi 4.10-4.42 within the Town of Gananoque.
1991 - the canal trestle was removed to improve water flow to the town generator.
1995 - CN still served Gananoque Steel Forging (formerly Stelco) and Manchester Plastics (900 Queen Street, west of Highway 32, south of Highway 401, producing automotive trim, panels, grills and assemblies). The Parmenter & Bulloch plant* was later operated by Textron:
The metal addition, added in 1969 required the CN spur to be moved, according to this April 10 Whig story: 
Gananoque Steel Forging, later known as Mahle Engine Components in 2003, but closed by 2005. Started as Byers Manufacturing in 1865, Stelco began producing engine parts for Ford and Chrysler in 1960. Hobbled by a strike in 1990, renamed GSF in 1993, bought by Brockhaus in 1997.

Rockwell Industries was previously known as Ontario Steel Products, and before that, Gananoque Spring & Axle Co. 

One report mentions unloading boxcars of British Columbia lumber for Mitchell & Wilson Construction, whose lumber yard was near Market and Clarence Streets near the waterfront. A 1986 view of TIR 500 and trackage approaching Highway 2***:
The running track of the spur was referred to as KG25 for its length. A photo in the Nov-Dec 2005 Canadian Rail included a 1985 photo of ex-RBOX boxcar SBD 10483 and one other boxcar on the siding in Gananoque. Perhaps this view is just west of River Street:
This dam photo (below) that Jakob Mueller shared from his collection taken in October, 1986 shows CN RS-18 3708 with a short CN hopper on the Gananoque River bridge, about to back into the Stelco spur. 
Keith Hansen shared another photo taken the same day. This shows not only the locomotive and hopper, but also a gon being switched at Stelco.
Here's an online auction site photo of CN 3708 returning train No 590 north past the dam, captioned September, 1986:
This online auction site photo was definitely taken from the dam! CN 3105 switches with a CN gon, DWC bulkhead flat and two short hoppers last, dated April 1984. A present-day Panoramio view.
Another online auction site photo of CN 4422 at the same location in February, 1984 also hopper-last: 
Satellite photo of this area:
Aerial view of Stelco from the Gerry Ross Flickr set**. Check out these cool photos in the set: Aerial view showing siding and boxcars, loading scrap in CN gon, and another gon. Co-op building, which was once rail-served, with white arched roof and green angled roof at right of this photo:
Now a riverside town park where we have launched our kayaks, where once Stelco sat**:
A winter view* of the River Street facility and CN crossbucks:
A local news article mentioned that Stelco hoped to expand onto its plant parking lot in the direction of the CN tracks, west of River Street in July, 1969. The industry wished to have its zoning from light industrial to heavy industrial to permit outdoor material storage, as well as moving to a less-noisy forging press from forging hammers. Stelco threatened to leave Gananoque if the zoning change was not approved.
CN's 1987 Great Lakes Region timetable notes that the Gananoque Spur extends 4.1 miles south from the Kingston Sub at Mi 155.3, with a maximum permissible speed of 10 miles per hour, down to 5 miles per hour at the bridge at Mi 4.0. Heaviest car permitted was 220,000 pounds.

Footnotes for the Steel Co. siding - "Before movement past derail, employee warning system switch located in box on power pole opposite derail post and marked by sign must be put in 'on ' position. This switch must not be put in 'off' position until switching is completed and clear of derail." Restrictions from a 1963 CN employees' timetable (scanned by David J. Gagnon):
Crossings at Mi 3.8 Third St and Mi 4.0 River St were to be protected by a member of the crew. Engines were not to go beyond frog of switch leading to track KG34. Cars over 52 feet long must not be placed on track KG34 (outside Stelco track). River is to the right of this view**:
Steel bars and billets used in the production of forgings were brought from Stelco's Hamilton Works - various high-carbon, low-carbon and alloy steels depending on production requirements. River Street in the distance...the Co-op building at left in this view** taken from the bridge - only the most distant part of the building is still standing:
This Hans Boldt photo dates from 1980:
A slightly more distant view, reformatted from an online auction site shows the Susan Push train near the bridge, dated 1954! The Co-op has a more modest roof:
Another photo from the November-December 2005 Kingston Rail shows the bridge in 1985, including the Co-Op building and curving to the south, more overgrown and with the Stelco switch possibly removed.
A 1906 view*(Archives of Ontario) of the Gananoque Bolt Company, later site of Stelco: 
Is this news? It was in 1971, according to the Kingston Whig-Standard. CN RS-18 3119 has derailed on some icy tracks, likely while switching Stelco. Notice the wooden end-cupola caboose complete with marker lamps and the same yellowish brick building as in the above photos:
Ten years later, in the news...again! Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper clippings from my files. Sectionmen are working on tie replacement just north of the bridge at the switch into Stelco, this view looking south:
Yet another ten years on, this happened:                        
Vintage view** looking from Stelco back toward the bridge. What's that? TIR 500 and a gon on the bridge?                            

Lots o'links:


George Dutka said...

Great post...always liked stopping in Gananoque when traveling the 401...never seen anything running there though...Don and I even waited a bit at the Junction station in the rain once hoping for a train...George Dutka

Eric said...

Great to have your comment, George!

Oh, if we'd been down the spur back in its hey-day! One of the few lines where you could get a box or two of LCL delivered right to your door or loading dock!


GP9Rm4108 said...

Childhood memories of seeing the rails under the 401!

Eric said...

Indeed, Chris. For me just east of Highway 38 too, the former K&P.

Though I didn't walk the Gan rails, we did kayak north from the former Stelco mill site and could only imagine the train going under the overpass. Now a hiking trail there.

With all the talk of Trump cancelling NAFTA, I'm not thinking of US jobs going to Mexico, I'm thinking of the Canadian jobs, like those at Gan, that already had left for the US!

Thanks for your comment,

Daniel McConnachie said...


Thanks so much for this blog post. I have great memories of this line from the early 70's. I played in a concert band that performed at the band shell in Gan during the summer. Sometimes CN would be switching Stelco while we played. I wish I had a camera there was still much to document. Alas......While the tracks were still in south of King there never was any traffic down that far. Always found the power canal/wooden trestle to be very modelgeniac. Still do.

Eric said...

I knew you'd like this post, Daniel. I wish you had your camera along on those occasions, too! The Gan Spur is indeed worthy of modelling! A unique operation!
Thanks for your comment,