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Canadian Pacific Railway

Toronto Division

John Street Piggyback Yard


John Street Piggyback Yard, 1963. Canadian Pacific

The CPR began operating a piggyback service between Toronto and Montreal on December 1,1952 handling merchandise previously carried in box cars. Effective October 9, 1957 a new service hauled highway truck trailers on a dedicated piggyback train and expedited schedule. It was the beginning of a new era that would lead to the present day intermodal operations featuring containers that travel by highway, rail and ocean.

End ramps for circus style loading were built on the west-end of tracks in the north coach yard. The traffic grew, and more of the yard was taken over at the same time as passenger trains were declining. The train number was 928, and it was a hot train! Four RS-18's were dispatched from Lambton roundhouse, two hours ahead of train time. The tail-end crew came on duty at John Street. As traffic grew an early train (926) was added and a late train (930). All trains departed in the evening. On Saturday only one train operated, it was ordered early (6 p.m.) as an extra. It wasn't so urgent due to its Sunday arrival in Montreal. This meant less power and more tonnage! It was usually assisted up the Don, something not done through the week as there was plenty of power for the fast run (65 mph instead of 50 mph for regular freight trains). High wind drag slowed the train and required more horsepower to keep up speed. In the late 1950's a John Street passenger steam engine would sometimes be used as an assist engine.

Both CN and CP needed bigger facilities and both agreed neither would maintain a downtown Toronto yard if the other didn't. John Street trains had grown so long, (120+ cars) that when 928 was built (around the loop) the engines and van would be side-by-side! A new, larger facility was built at Obico replacing the small Queensway Yard. For a time both Obico and the Coach Yard handled pig trains, but while it was desired to operate out of one location, neither CN nor CP wanted the other railway to have the advantage of a downtown location. Finally, both agreed that neither would maintain a downtown yard if the other didn't. CN moved from Bathurst Street to Mimico and CPR to Obico. John Street was closed at the end of October 1971. .

Depart ............................... Arrive

926 7.15 p.m. " Early Pig" . 927 3.50 a.m.

928 8.55 p.m. "Big Pig" . ... 929 6.10 a.m.

930 12.01 a.m. "Little Pig" ..931 8.30 a.m

John Street Piggyback yard is shown in the middle of this photograph to the right
of the coach shop. Stripping shed and commissary building farther right.
Bottom right tracks are part of Union Station.

Abandoned stripping shed mid-1972

John Street car shop near the end of its time, April 1985. Gord Billinghurst

Read more at Intermodal Pioneer

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