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Old Time Trains

Canadian Pacific Railway

Toronto Division

Toronto Coach Yard


Bay Street level crossing cuts through the railway yard, a dangerous situation (note the policeman) that was to continue here and at Yonge Street for many more years until the massive Toronto Viaduct grade separation.
CPR 5996
one of two unique 0-6-4T engines. Looking west August 27, 1914

Track plan 1910

Inc. old Union Station, GTR roundhouse and freight shed.

Track plan 1932

Track plan 1945

Entire TTR, CNR Spadina, CPR John Street, Esplanade etc.

Track plan fullest extent area. new
Circa 1976 (CN Tower)

Arrows left to right. Coach shop. Pig yard. SP&DC Dept.stripping shed and commissary building.

Pre-1972 prior to CN Tower. ENLARGE

The Viaduct project required the relocation of large freight sheds to King and Simcoe Streets. The creation of a new coach yard capable of holding 229 cars ready for train, 23 being cleaned, 155 in storage, 25 under repair (inc. 9 inside the car shop), 6 for stores, and 12 on team tracks, for a grand total of 450 cars. (A 1947 CPR description stated: South Yard 18 tracks, North Yard 10 tracks, Storage Yard 7 tracks, Local Yard 6 tracks, cleaning shed 4 tracks. Total 45 tracks). It included a Coach Shop 75 x 340 feet with three tracks, a Commissary and stripping shed. The Commissary supplied dining and sleeping cars and the stripping shed was where passenger cars were stripped of their interior fittings such as beds etc. before being shopped for periodic overhaul or for when "pearls" were reported. Pearls, was the telegraphic code word for bed bugs! The Bone yard was located at the north edge behind the Commissary, and held old wooden coaches used for heavy traffic and such specials as picnic trains, which were once popular. The North and South coach yards were separated by the engine terminal. A loop for turning trains ran behind the roundhouse. A new yard office was located on the west side of Bay Street at the south edge of the yard. A wash rack was added in 1954 in the South Coach yard to care for the new stainless steel cars of The Canadian.

Sleeping Car Laundries
NEW Montreal Gazette
September 22, 1936

Pre-inaugural cross-Canada display 1954 at CNE of equipment to be used on The Canadian.
Banff Park and Chateau Bienville.

1400 series heavyweight coaches getting a wash.

Note searchlight type signal on roof of control tower.

Business Car Mount Royal spotted on the loop at top of roadway ramp from York Street. 5/30/1969

BC Metapedia getting its air brakes tested at Glen Yard in Montreal.
November 20, 1971. Ron Visockis

Note the incorrect spelling which was done the previous month during repainting. It was corrected when repainted in March 1975. There were four of these test carts at John Street used by the carmen to test air brakes of a consist or single car before being switched into the Union Station using the 110lb. ground air system.

Named business cars were only assigned to high ranking officials such as the President and General Managers and had a two man crew, BC Attendant and a chef. Numbered cars were assigned to Superintendents and had a one man crew. Referred to by the men as "private" cars, these travelling offices with living accommodations were, the Company insisted, "business" cars and they were always referred to as B.C. Metapedia etc.

CPR-THB-NYC Pool Toronto-Buffalo

THBL 73 coach

NYC 2957 coach.

Toronto Union Car Department

The Car Department plays an important roll in the operation of any railway; none more so than one such as Toronto Union, which was responsible for the maintenance and repair of every passenger train operating out of Toronto.

Car departments traditionally divided up their operations between inspection and repair. Car inspectors examined every car upon its arrival at a terminal to determine its condition to safely continue on its journey. They also performed similar inspections on outbound trains, adding oil to the journals, or re-packing them if necessary. Carmen also perform air-brake tests prior to a train leaving a yard. Should defects be detected, particularly wheels, the car will be "shopped" and sent to a repair track (RIP Track = Repair In Place) or into a shop.

Carmen are Journeymen Mechanics who achieve their qualifications either thorough a four-year (later, three-years) apprenticeship or by experience whereby Carmen Helpers working as a Carman Trainee for a similar period of time and then passing examinations.

Coach yards were staffed by a large number of employees due to the nature of passenger trains. Not only was a higher level of maintenance required for passengers than for freight, cleaning of both the interior and exterior of cars added greatly to the staff. Approximately 45% of the Toronto Union Car Department Staff of approximately 500, were car cleaners!

A General Car Foreman was responsible around-the-clock, seven days a week as was the case in all departments and locations on the CPR. There was also an Assistant General Car Foreman along with three Assistant Foremen (one each for coaches, sleeping and dining cars and washing), on day shift. An Assistant Mechanical Foreman was the sole boss on afternoons and nights.

The majority of staff was on days with only inspection and minor repairs being done on other shifts. The coach shop worked only on days, but it was seven days. Carmen worked in three gangs of three men (plus a Lead Hand), 5 days per week to cover the seven day operation. This resulted in three extra men on Mondays to clear up backlogged work.

Top paying carmen's jobs included (airbrake) triple tester, upholsterers, carpenters, painters, motor mechanic and welders.

Car Inspectors and their helpers worked in the North and South Coach yards as well as at Union Station. These are the men known as "car knockers" a nickname that came from their tapping a hammer on the side of wheels to detect decfects. A good wheel gives a true ring, a cracked one responds with a dull sound. A Carman would uncouple the road engine from the train and the cars would be inspected before the yard engine came to take them to the coach yard. Note: Only the Car Dept. would connect and disconnect steam heat lines, which were referred to as the Barco, for its manufacturer.

Car Repairers were carmen who worked at a number of tasks performing various repairs to passenger equipment. There were more than three dozen men were in this category.

An annex on the south side of the coach shop contained a wheel shop, roller bearing shop plus an office and lunchroom. Passenger equipment was the first to receive roller bearings, long before freight cars. Early roller bearings were oil-filled and had to be drained and refilled every seven days. Later, grease-filled ones were topped-up every 30 days. Finally, modern, sealed roller bearings came along and while these greatly contributed to improved safety they also reduced employment.

A carman helper known as the "kit man" supplied every train with necessary tools and emergency equipment such as different sizes of journal brasses and knuckles, hose bags, hand lamps, marker lamps first-aid equipment etc. This was all stored in the baggage car.

Carmen Helpers performed a number of tasks including the coal man who supplied coal for Baker heaters. (These small boilers supplied heat and hot water to passenger cars when they were disconnected from the locomotive or yard steam.) Two "Top" men, for loading ice through roof hatches on dining and café cars. Small blocks of ice were thrown up! These were the first men to get hardhats! There were two openings for ice and one for coal. Sometimes, ice would be dropped into the coal hatch by mistake, a small problem. On occasion coal would be dropped into the ice hatch! BIG problem! There were also large ice bunkers beneath air-conditioned cars where several hundreds of pounds of ice were carried. At one time ice was cut on lakes up north and shipped in 400 pound blocks. Later, it came manufactured from Lake Simcoe Ice and Fuel, (late 1950's it cost 35 cents per CWT for block ice and $3.35 a ton for air conditioning) and was stored in a concrete block refrigeration building next to the roundhouse. Three water men handled water hoses and two or three "ice and water" men supplied drinking water. These latter men wore white overalls and used a white wheelbarrow. There were two or three men working in the filter room where air-conditioner filters were given a weekly cleaning with steam and hot water, finishing up with a dip in light oil. Two helpers worked at the weekly steam cleaning of drinking water tanks, which were taken to steam tanks located near the midway. Two oilers did journals, two worked in the oil house and there was also a gas man who looked after those cars still having gas lighting. There was also a fumigator! This person responded to telegraphed messages using code words:

Pearls = bed bugs; Diamonds = mice; Sapphires = rats; Rubies = roaches;
Opals = lice; Emeralds = dogs

White ice wagon

Seasonal staff starting in May included Carmen Helpers to work on air conditioning equipment, 6 or 7 men on days, 2 each afternoons and nights. In cold weather, 1 man every shift for steam heating plus in winter (starting in December) 2 men each in the South and North Coach Yards.

The afternoon shift staff consisted of 5 or 6 Carmen, 3-4 Carmen Helpers, 1 carpenter, 1 steam fitter and 2 electricians. The night shift had a mere 2 carmen, 3 helpers, 3 electricians and 5 cleaners.

Coach Cleaners made up the biggest segment of the Carmen and about 45% of the entire staff! Some worked in gangs doing interior cleaning, while exterior washers worked in other gangs, one for the transcontinental trains, known as "Peg" (Winnipeg), a north side(of the cars)gang and a south side gang along with "end" men who did the dirtier work around vestibules etc. There were also two or three men known as "soapers" who used an acid bath to brighten up exterior paint. The top jobs, those most sought after, were the half-dozen men assigned to the Business Cars.

During World War II women replaced many men as car cleaners. To accommodate them a coach was assigned for use as a locker room. It was a dismissal offence for any male employee to be inside this car. If repairs were required to the interior, a foreman would have to be called before a man could enter the car.

Most of the men were represented by the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, Lodge 511, which included King Street and Parkdale. (West Toronto was Lodge 258 and included Lambton and Obico). There were separate seniority lists for both areas. The electrical shop had about 25 electricians who were in a separate union as were 9 steam fitters. There was also a small staff of labourers and four clerks, represented by two other unions.

NOTE: King Street men looked after the LCL Shed and team tracks. This small staff included an inspector, airbrake tester and a freight carpenter. This latter person did minor repairs to box car interiors. There was only one carman was on the afternoon shift.

Parkdale was staffed by 2 carmen and 2 helpers only on the afternoon shift.

SPECIAL THANKS for the detailed information about the Car Department go to Vern Poirier, retired carman, who worked most of his 41 years of C.P.R. service at John Street Coach Yard where he was for many years Local Chairman of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen.

Next: John Street Locomotive Department



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