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Ayr Gravel Pit Has Served Company For 50 Years

By J. T. SCHMIDT in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record

MODERN machinery never ceases to amaze oldtimers. Up in the C.P.R. gravel pit there is a diesel-powered clam shovel methodically filling rail-road cars with gravel. It is operated by a crew of two.

"Never like this in the old days when the pit first opened," say the old-timers. "You should have seen the amount of gravel they used to take out of there when they had shovels going night and day and six trains a day hauling it away."

Fills 30 Cars a Day

A look at present-day production indicates that the same amount of gravel is going out of there today. According to the shovel operator, 30 cars a day are filled. Each car will hold up to 40 cubic yards of gravel; a cubic yard weighs over 1 1/2 tons. Roughly this amounts to about 2,000 tons daily.

Most of the gravel taken out of the pit this year is being used on the main line west of London for fill-that is, widening the track bed on each side. Last year much of it went on the double track west of Toronto.

Back in the early days before chipped rock was used for ballast, gravel from the Ayr pit was used from Windsor to Toronto, some of it even went as far as Montreal. It is supposed to be the finest texture to be found anywhere.

Supplies Royal York.

The Ayr gravel pit proved a boon to the C.P.R. when the Company built the Commonwealth's largest hotel - the Royal York. All the gravelfor cementing and plastering came from there. "They took carload after carload down to Toronto," recalls Henry Elliott, Ayr barber.

The first equipment used in the pit was a steam shovel. They were ponderous machines mounted on railroad cars. A section of track had to be laid under them. When it was necessary to move the shovel ahead a track gang would have to carry a section of track from behind and lay it ahead. Then the shovel beinfg stationary, an engine had to pull the cars ahead as they were filled. When the track to be moved closer to the working face, an extra gang was brought in.

System Changed Things are faster today.

The cars remain stationary while the mobile caterpilar-tread clam moves along the line filling them. One man with a bulldozer shifts the tracks without dismantling. The cars todayhold about four times as much, too.

If you had driven along the road some time about 50 years ago, before the C.P.R. boought the pit from from Maggie and Janet Fulton, you would have seen a 100-acre farm on a hill.

That hill is no longer there. For nearly 50 years now the railway has taken gravel from it for use between Windsor and Toronto, and in the process several other farms were eaten up. During the depresion years the pit was not in operation.

The railroad had a problem on its hands when it put a big "four-yard" steam shovel beside Roseville highway to dig gravel. When it took one of its huge five-ton "bites" the steam exhaust came out in a loud "whoose". This "whoose" sent passing horses off at a runaway gallop. After some complaints, the railroad hired a man to do nothing all day but lead horses past the monster in the pit.

The C.P.R. ran a tile yard in the pit long ago under the foremanship of James Bell. The huge tiles went all over the province. They were used as drainage culverts under the roadbed.

Spanner July-August 1950


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