Saturday, March 13, 2021

Harrowsmith, ON Part 5 - The End


My wife, my niece and I visited the Harrowsmith railhead marking the end-of-steel for the CN Smiths Falls Subdivision on April 9, 1989 (top photo). In the past four posts in this series, we 'tracked' the genesis and history of the lines through the village. The line's removal by CANDO Contracting began a week earlier. The remaining CN trackage can be seen at left, with a skeleton car, and the CP, already dismantled, would be about where the bulldozer is sitting, behind two piles of rails. At the time of our visit, a crew was working a mile or two east of Harrowsmith. A bucket loader was at the Page farm, while the rail it was removing was stacked here at Harrowsmith for removal. Equipment in use: 

  • Trackmobile - operable on road or rail.
  • Skeleton cars - basic trucks, collapsible with a central pole attached by drop pins, removable/collapsible for transport. An assembled car, and the ends for another skeleton car are visible in the top photo. 
  • Bulldozer - with forklift attachment for stacking the rails.
  • Bucket loader - to lift rail onto the skeleton cars at end-of-steel.
  • Spike pullers - powered by Honda engines.

The procedure for removing the rail started with removing track bolts with pneumatic wrenches or cutting torches. One bolt was left in place. Spikes were pulled by spike pullers. Rail was lifted onto skeleton cars by the bucket loader. Skeleton cars were pulled to Harrowsmith railhead by Trackmobile. Bulldozer unloaded and stacked the rail for removal.

The foundation of the interlocking tower was still discernible in the brush to the right, ahead at the joint section (above). A few telegraph poles and wires still parallelled the north side of the CN right-of-way. Having walked past the joint section, this view looks west, with CP now at left, CN at right, and the village of Harrowsmith in the distance. Meeks Lumber barn-roof warehouse is visible at centre.

Semaphores at Harrowsmith were dismantled and moved to the Smiths Falls Railway Museum in 1986. My brother and his wife visited the site the same day, this photo taken from near the skeleton car, north of the CN track looking west (below - David J. Gagnon photo):
A Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper article published April 1, 1989 profiled the CANDO Contracting crew lifting the CN Smiths Falls Subdivision between Forfar and Chaffey's Locks. The Brandon, MB firm had submitted the lowest bid. Their work had begun on March 24, and encompassed 46 km of trackage to Harrowsmith. At the time, the Rideau Valley Heritage Railway Association had hoped to have a steam-powered dining train beginning operation in 1991. Their $14 million plan was pared back to $3.5 million and the distance shortened to Smiths Falls to Otter Lake, a distance of 15 kilometres. A June 3, 1989 Whig-Standard article updated the work:
A CANDO Contracting crew of sixteen, mostly newly-hired younger local workers, was overseen by Foreman Victor Rochelle. A backhoe with claw was lifting 900-lb rails (70 lb/yd) onto a flatcar. Removal of ties and hardware was by hand. Quicker progress could have been made, but the trees that had grown up between the ties hampered progress. Local man Doug Knox of Perth Road watched the crew's progress. His father, Henry Knox of Sydenham, had been CN section forman for a crew of three maintaining a 13.7-mile stretch of CN track.
Trackmobile and bulldozer blade (above). The skeleton cars were an interesting design: two basic trucks, attached to each other by a central steel pole secured with drop pins - like those used on farm equipment - removable for transport. U-shaped brackets on the ends were made of old rail. One end of each skeleton car had a knuckle-shaped piece of steel welded on for coupling to the Trackmobile. 
Progress was further hampered by an industrial accident on May 19, 1989. Seventeen year-old Doug Bell was stopping to drink from a trackside spring when a piece of rail fell, according to fellow crew member Robert Gower of Harrowsmith. The incident was two miles east of Maple Road, at 1420 hours. The spring banks actually absorbed much of the rail's descent, though Doug Bell was taken to Kingston General Hospital by ambulance.
Since speed limits were now a thing of the past, I recklessly endangered my 'great with child' wife by perching her on my shoulders with the socket wrench, souvenir-hunting east of the joint section (above). At another location - the Boundary Road grade crossing just west of the village of Sydenham - here are two views of the dismantling stopped for the weekend:
East toward Sydenham with rails intact (above) and west toward Harrowsmith with rails removed (below).
Drainage and maintaining flangeways were a thing of the past. Thanks for accompanying me on this journey through time - from a century in which railways were the next big thing, until their declining relevance and road construction led to their nadir in the ensuing century.

Running extra...
Thanks to faithful cross-border Trackside Treasure reader Kevin Ingraham for telling me about this stretched cabooooooooooooooooooooose. Doesn't that just look like any ol' run-of-the-mill, plain-jane crummy, hack...NOT. This sticks out like a sore nuclear thumb! Here's the rest of the story!

Who owns RDC's in Canada?
  • VIA Sudbury 6105, 6208, 6217, 6218, 6250, 6251.
  • Rapido Trains/VIA Historical Assn. 6110, 6113, 6133, 6214, 6215.
  • Waterloo Central Railway (new) 6111, 6135, 6138, 6148, 6205.

Bringing up the tail-end of one year since COVID shut so much down. Trainwatching was largely unimpacted, and model railroading experienced a boom. Much was lost, much was learned. Many things delayed, many will make up for lost time. Welcome to the Roaring Twenties of the twenty-first century!

Speaking of The End, good morning to you, too! I make every effort to finish what I start. There are potential authors who accumulate material for projects they may never complete. (This can lead to disillusioned, even angry photo contributors. Not a good way for an author to build a reputation. I endeavour to handle contributors to my books and other successful authors ethically, and most importantly, to respect them.)
To see what Greg Gormick's On Track Strategies has been publishing recently, I tried to access the site but was directed to ED medication and my anti-virus strategy issued a warning. I won't be back!


Steve Boyko said...

I haven't contributed much to your excellent series of books, Eric, but I've felt very respected for what little I did!

Eric said...

For sure, Steve. I don't think you nor I would ever post a message like the one I shared. I can't imagine it! I am just happy to be in the company of fellow authors and bloggers like you that I can't imagine trashing that relationship!

Thanks for your comment,

Mark said...

Hmmm, now I know one author to avoid...

Eric May said...

That skeleton car was quite interesting.

Eric said...

Mark, I don't think you'll have to worry because that attitude displayed does not work well outside the social mediasphere.

Eric, I think it's highly modellable if you have a branchline on your layout you want to rip up. Or a truck load heading somewhere else!

Thank you both for your comments,

K Wadden said...

I just don’t understand rail enthusiasts’ who can’t see beyond the end of their...nose. Over the years I have always enjoyed reading your factual, interesting and at times humorous articles covering the rail scene in and around Kingston. In addition to what you have authored loaded with highly informative data at Bytown’s Brannchline magazine. Apart from that I am also the proud owner of three of your books.

You deserve far more credit for the time and effort your literary accomplishments have achieved over the years. For all of us to enjoy reading now (!) Something those other ‘formers’ have yet (?) to complete.

Your time and effort in putting together everything you have published and posted is appreciated by everyone.

Take a bow Eric. We say bravo.

Ken Wadden
Pointe Claire Quebec

Eric said...

Thanks very much, Ken. I know there are far more folks out there who are positive (yourself included) than the negative ones. Normally I just kick the negative stuff by. We hear so much about teen bullying on social media, but apparently us older folks can engage in it, too.

I shall continue curating my constricted corner of cyberspace constructively!