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Taking the Red Eye Home

A personal story about the Lake Erie & Northen interurban.

Al Howlett

About 1948 I was working at the Galt Printers off Main Street in Galt and the means to get home to Glen Morris was by way of the Lake Erie and Northern interurban train. After work I would head two blocks East up Main street to the station. On the way I would pass Nagies grocery store where the front window contained the doughnut machine. I had to pass quickly so not to provoke a hunger pang as I could only afford to buy one now and then. It was always interesting to watch the mechanical machine whip up chocolate or caramel coated ones. The plain ones were also good. (same price).

Next came the station an attractive red brick with bay window and a large waiting room with row seats of sturdy oak in a standard CPR design. The walls had the ubiquitous CPR prints showing the wonders of train travel in the mountains. Settling into one of the seat's you could listen to the ticking of the station clock that had adjustable red letters on the face stating how many seconds slow or fast it was. Or there would be the occasional clatter of the telegraph sounder that had more to do with train operation on the parent CPR than the LE&N. The station agent was a lady who wore large pearl earrings and would take train orders from the Preston dispatcher as well as selling tickets. She had a nervous condition and would shake her head as she went about her work. I would have a book of paper tickets because it was cheaper to ride that way. They were punched when purchased and the conductor would tear one off on the train. I don't recall the ticket price this many years later, but it was probably reasonable fare. The station toilets were at the South end of the building and were quite modern compared to the ones at the stations out on the line. The big brass knobs on the doors had a slot for 5 cents to open the door to the stalls. The message is, don't get caught short without change. I wonder what big brass in Montreal came up with that idea ?

Going outside on the wooden platform you could look around the back of the station at the big wall of the PW Gardner Company advertising the windows and doors the company manufactured. The noise of the working machinery in the factory could be heard producing wooden windows and doors. Mill Creek flowed past next to the mill and there was a track leading across a wooden trestle over the creek to service the plant as well as the McDougal pump manufacturing works further on. Just across Main Street you could see the CPR freight house with tracks containing boxcars with men loading and unloading freight shipments with handcarts.

Canadian Pacific Electric Lines station Galt, Ontario.

Out on one of the two tracks in front of the station an electric interurban car may have arrived rather silently and the conductor would come in and announce "This car for the CPR" Passengers from downtown would take this up to the Galt CPR station for destinations such as London, Toronto or almost any other place in North America. The Southbound cars would come in on the 2nd track over with a destination sign in the window Brantford or Port Dover. Then it was time to climb on board and find your favorite seat usually on the West side as the train was going south. Sitting down in the quiet car you could see the Newland's factory and if the windows were open you could hear the looms and carding machines at work. Suddenly the quiet would end, as the air pump under the car would start with a "kling-a-kling" noise to charge up the air brakes and then shut off abruptly. In the winter the electric heaters below the seats kept things nice and warm. The electric lights with fancy shades would be all aglow. The anticipation of the short train ride home would keep me awake for the events to follow.
At 5:25 pm the conductor would bound up the steps into the car announcing, Paris, Brantford, Waterford, Simcoe and Port Dover. These electric cars were speedy and the stop at Glen Morris was only about 17 minutes away. Port Dover 51 miles away was only one hour and twenty minutes including stops in between. wo pulls on the communication cord down the center of the car we would start the trip. Next the conductor would open the rear door and pull the trolley pole from the overhead wire. The car would lose power and the lights would go out for a few seconds as the trolley was moved to another wire. The wires did not have wire frogs to guide the trolley wheel to another line so this was an ongoing event throughout the LE&N whenever the trains moved to another track. If the conductor was a little slow making the connection it could prompt a cheer from some of the young folks. When the electric line was built it was planned to install pantographs that did not need wire frogs. However this never happened, as it was cheaper to use trolley poles.

A few minutes later the car would reach Concession street where it was required to stop before crossing due to the office and yards of the Muir Coal Company that blocked the view for pedestrians and vehicles. Quickly accelerating past the CNR station and freight house on the right and then across the CNR diamond Water street and the mighty Grand River came into view. I and another young passenger would commence one of our high-jinks as the conductor was up ahead collecting tickets. Working in the print shop small strips of cardboard were used for spacing between the lines of lead type. These bit's of card and a rubber band made an excellent finger sling shot. The idea was to hit someone on the back of the head sitting ahead of you. Most people rode facing the direction of travel. So when they looked around to find the culprit you would be admiring the scenery in the Grand valley or the overhead lamps. I would not direct a shot at someone who I did not know in any case.

On one trip after engaging in the head stinger game the conductor called us to task. You boys have got to stop this, as I want you to see the damage you have done. A man was sitting at the back of the coach with his hat pulled down over his face. Lifting the hat revealed a beautiful red shiner. It was decided that a new form of entertainment should be found henceforth. Our little game had not created that gentleman's situation for sure. It's still a mystery many years later, but maybe he disserved the poke. That conductor was a diplomatic credit to his profession and liked by all of us.

The Glen Morris station was one of the most unique stations on the LE&N. Built sometime in the 1840's as a stone dwelling for a tailor shop. When the LE&N was built in 1914 this former home was adapted for use as a station. My Grandfather and family occupied this home in 1907 when my father was born here. Standing on the platform I watched the big electric car head south. With two red marker lamps on the rear shining brightly, and inside a red eye shining brightly as well. Destination "Paris, Brantford, Waterford, Simcoe and Port Dover" plus flag stops in between. Riding the LE&N was fun and this is probably one of the reasons I became a life long railroad buff and a lover of plain doughnuts at Tim's.




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