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Ontario Southland Railway

Ingersoll - Tillsonburg Line

CPR Port Burwell Spur
Formerly Port Burwell Subdivision. Abandoned December 25, 1987 beyond Tillsonburg to Port Burwell.
Ingersoll to Tillsonburg 17.6 miles. Leased February 26, 1998 to OSR.

by R.L.Kennedy

All photographs: Walter Pfefferle unless otherwise credited.

(Last updated May 4, 2020)

OSR also operates and maintains on a lease basis from the CPR, the remainder of its Port Burwell Subdivision, 18 miles between Ingersoll and Tillsonburg, Ontario. Originally built in 1895 as the Tillsonburg, Lake Erie & Pacific 33 miles from Port Burwell to Ingersoll, it was leased October 6, 1904 to the CPR for 999 years. It was near abandonment due to declining traffic when OSR took over its operation February 26, 1998.

The line originally operated on a unique "every 5 days" schedule. Monday and Friday on the first week, and Wednesday only on the second week. This was to accommodate a cycle of assigned freight shipments that arrived every 5 days! This later changed to twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays).

More recently the line has operated five days a week serving industries in Tillsonburg and Mount Elgin as well as interchange with another shortline, St.Thomas & Eastern, (Trillium Rail), operating a portion of the former CNR Cayuga Subdivision between St.Thomas and Delhi. Much STER traffic arrives via the CPR and thus is handled by OSR. Total traffic was only about 800 cars per year but, has increased considerably. It is now handled by one 2-man crew operating five days a week.

Customers in Tillsonburg include TDS (Total Distribution Systems) Group (formerly Livingston), auto parts, wooden crates etc. Johnson Controls, (formerly Hoover) foam auto seats; Nu-Gro, Vigoro brand fertilizers, and Cargill in Mount Elgin.

Update: Salford shop finally opened October 25, 2004 (see Gallery below) at which time operations were relocated there from leased facilities in Tillsonburg although some equipment remains stored there. Track work has been ongoing for some time now using second-hand CN track machines to install thousands of new and used ties. The main work over the entire line is nearing completion as 2006 comes to and end. Investing for the future.

Traffic continues to increase requiring five day a week operation. The acquisition in November 2003 of Nu-Gro Corp.'s former Pursell Vigoro Canada ice melter business by Kissner Group (Preston, est. 1878) has expanded this seasonal traffic to many times the volume previously handled. Loads all arrive from Saskatchewan via CN and ST&E. This plant is on the old CASO connecting track in Tillsonburg. One tiny remnant of a once great railway.

Wellmaster Pipe & Supply, Inc. an old local business in Tillsonburg has become a new customer shipping small diameter pipe for the Alberta oil industry. Much of this traffic is currently (late 2006) being shipped CN via STER due to a shortage of CP bulkhead flats.

Future Transfer on the St.Thomas & Eastern in Tillsonburg continues to receive CP traffic via OSR including for a new customer, Safety-Kleen Systems Inc. which is moving loads both in and outbound. They have a fleet of 300 tank cars to move waste liquid product for recycling. Note: In 1984 Safety-Kleen acquired controlling interest in Breslube Enterprises Ltd, Breslau, ON, a major Canadian re-refiner of used automotive oil.

Changes Over the Years

Many changes have taken place over the years as Ontario Southland has continued to grow and expand including adding an additonal branchline. Increased traffic has resulted from good service and competition through connections to both CN and CP. New customers have been added to further increase traffic on all lines.

Tillsonburg-Ingersoll Gallery

183_504 coming off the Port Burwell Sub. at Ingersoll.
Very late RS-18's built low nose. MLW 5/1968. INCO 208-3

501 still in BCR paint scheme. Ingersoll Port Burwell Sub. April 6, 2006

OSR 500 ALCO S6 (ex SP 1240) southbound at Charles Street in Ingersoll, 1999. Peter's Trains

Recently acquired used Liebherr hy-rail brush cutter at work on Tillsonburg line.
Three photos: April 9, 2016 Drew De Bruyn



Mile 4.5

401005 plowing southbound at Salford enroute to Tillsonburg. February 25, 2015

1594_182_6508 southbound with plenty of tonnage! May 18, 2017

M-420 644 and GP9 175 in fall colours scene at Mile 5.58
Scroll down to see another shot of this train going through Mount Elgin.


Aerial views


Salford is a very small village on two lane Highway 19 running between Ingersoll and Tillsonburg. The township welcomed the added taxation in this mostly rural area and some farm land was acquired next to the mainline. OSR located their diesel shop here in part because there were no homes nearby, taxation was lower than another site elsewhere. The shop opened October 25, 2004.

Prior to getting their own shop OSR used inside and outside space at Johnson Controls warehouse in Tillsonburg Mile 17.3. Far from suitable with minimal inside space.

The original building measured 50 feet by 125 feet with two deadend tracks each holding two units. Additional track was laid outside to store dead units, two box cars of parts etc. and two track machines. This soon proved inadequate for OSR's needs and a large expansion was built in 2013. It is 75 feet by 185 feet with three tracks holding three units each. In addition other track was rearranged etc. and another track was laid on the far side of the mainline and parallel to it to be used to store units.

Rear of 6508 shows steam generator still in place. Note clean shop floor and tidy appearance.
A clean and tidy place is a safe work environment.

Shop tracks rearranged and three added for expansion to the right.
Long deadend storage siding at left of mainline holds about 10-12 units etc.
Two boxcars are now on dead track. 503 upfront and 1245 at right.

Note: Blue unit is CEFX 3143 SD40M-2. OSR provides shop space for outside company.

Original shop area. 503 and 1249 with 502.

OSR built a small diesel shop at Salford where a welcoming township smoothed the way with lower taxes than elsewhere.
It would later be expanded from two tracks and four units to five tracks.

Dowler-Karn, a family-owned local fuel dealer has always supplied OSR diesels.

Mount Elgin
Mile 7.7

M-420 644 and GP9 175 (both OSRX) with same train shown (scroll up) near Salford.

Former Cargill facility closed. 12/21/2014 Walter Pfefferle

RS-18 183 (ex INCO 208-3) switching Cargill in Mount Elgin. 2006 Peter Mumby

Note: Cargill closed its operation and while a number of companies have looked at the site nothing has yet materialized for rail.

Mile 15.2

Map 1957 ------ Map 1985

Tillsonburg is/was a maze of tracks of CNR, CPR and MCR. In addition to the CPR Port Burwell Sub. mainline and a small yard there is another smaller yard that connects to the CASO (Michigan Central) double track mainline between Buffalo and Detroit. Between these two yards was a CNR branchline (Burford Sub.) long abandoned which connected with the Cayuga Sub. Another CPR track branched off to reach the small CPR station. South of town the Port Burwell Sub. connects with the CNR Cayuga Sub. and a small CNR yard presently used by Future Transfer and expaned for their use. There were no less than four stations used by these railways. Two are preserved with the small CPR station relocated next to the old (1879) large brick GWR station (CN Tillsonburg North) on it original site. Presently these are used as Station Arts Centre and also Tillsonburg Farmers Market. These are located near the main business area. The ex NYC Tillsonburg station is in use as a commercial property also still on its orginal site. See all the stations here:

Tight squeeze! GP7 378 is southbound and about to go under the abandoned CASO mainline.
Note the tell-tale to warn brakemen of low clearance. March 14, 2012 Tim Ball

Same view standing back a little further shows the abandoned CNR Burford Sub. now a trail.
Walter Pfefferle

Tillsonburg North Yard. 5 tracks. Looking north. Curve towards CASO bridge is just out of view in distance.
Walter Pfefferle

Major track work to accommodate a new transload facility in the small East Yard.

TTX bulkhead flat being loaded with pipe (oil, gas & water) by Wellmaster Pipe and Supply Inc. an old local business
with a 60,000 square foot plant on 9 acres but without its own rail siding. OSR built this facility to serve them.

Kissner Milling
Ice melting products

Former CASO connecting track between Tillsonburg yard and former CN CASO Sub.

22 Clarke Street East

This facility ended rail traffic from Saskatchewan following acquisition by
Kissner Group of a salt mine under Detroit with salt being trucked from there.
October 12, 2015

Future Transfer Co. Inc.

301 Tillson Avenue

50 Clearview Drive

c. mile 15

Monsanto Canada Inc
DEKALB corn products

281 Tillson Avenue (County Road 53)

Background old news item Tillsonburg Times now lost.


A new customer Future Transfer relocated to Tillsonburg in 2003 with a transload facility to expand its trucking operation. Unfortunately OSR was unable to secure sufficient land on their line resulting in them establishing their facility on the CN Cayuga Subdivision at 3 Rouse Street which had been shortlined and was operated by Trillium Ry. subsidiary St.Thomas and Eastern Ry. However, OSR had an interchange with ST&E which permitted CPR and CN traffic to reach any customer.

Safety Klean established a facility here to handle used motor oil and other products providing loads in and loads out.

Future Transfer established a second facility on the OSR which resulted in relocation of much of the traffic to that location.

Two new tracks being built. Three photos; May 3, 2020 Walter Pfefferle


One of two Future Trackmobile car movers. Sitting in road mode.


A Future Trackmobile car mover handles tank cars at this location.

Former TDS Automotive Canada Inc. 301 Tillson Avenue warehouse closed November 30, 2008
following loss of GM parts business. Previously operated by Livingston primarily making wood crates
and shipping knocked down automobiles to foreign countries by ocean ship.

Note: Telephoto lense distorts tracks.

Big Otter Creek trestle
Mile 16.3

182_1401 southbound over Big Otter Creek trestle with an unusually big shipment
of five bulkhead flats of lumber destined to International Beams.

Note: This trestle was restricted to a lower load limit prohibiting loads requring them to be rerouted via STER.
Empties were allowed on northbound trains. Later, a further restriction closed the trestle to all traffic.

Mile 94.0 connecting track to Mile 17.4 OSR Tillsonburg Spur (Formerly CPR Port Burwell Sub.)


Adient Seating Canada
Formerly, Johnson Controls Inc.
previously Hoover Chemicals.

Major maker of automotive seats for many makes.

100 Townline Road, Tillsonburg

Aerial view inc.closeup Future Transfer on Cayuga Sub.

4 OSR flat cars used as reachers to keep locomotive out of Adient's building.



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