Ontario Southland Railway
Ingersoll - Tillsonburg Line
CPR Port Burwell Spur
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.
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.
183_504 coming off the Port Burwell Sub. at Ingersoll.
501 still in BCR paint scheme. Ingersoll Port Burwell Sub. April 6, 2006
Recently acquired used Liebherr hy-rail brush cutter
at work on Tillsonburg line.
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
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.
Shop tracks rearranged and three added for expansion to the right.
Note: Blue unit is CEFX 3143 SD40M-2. OSR provides shop space for outside
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.
Dowler-Karn, a family-owned local fuel dealer has always supplied OSR diesels.
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.
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.
Same view standing back a little further shows the abandoned
CNR Burford Sub. now a trail.
Tillsonburg North Yard. 5 tracks. Looking north. Curve
towards CASO bridge is just out of view in distance.
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
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
Future Transfer Co. Inc.
301 Tillson Avenue
50 Clearview Drive
c. mile 15
Monsanto Canada Inc
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.
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
Note: Telephoto lense distorts tracks.
Big Otter Creek trestle
182_1401 southbound over Big Otter Creek trestle with an unusually
Note: This trestle was restricted to a lower load limit prohibiting
loads requring them to be rerouted via STER.
Mile 94.0 connecting track to Mile 17.4 OSR Tillsonburg Spur (Formerly CPR Port Burwell Sub.)
Adient Seating Canada
Major maker of automotive seats for many makes.
4 OSR flat cars used as reachers to keep locomotive out of Adient's building.
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