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London & Lake Erie Railway - Route Description

London & Lake Erie Railway - Route Information

The main downfall of the Traction Line lay in its routing. Like most interurbans, the line was designed primarily for passenger traffic. The tracks ran alongside local roads for most of its route, and this provided a rather extended trip from London to St. Thomas. While serving rural interests to initially grow traffic on the line, it would also contribute to the company's eventual demise. The London & Port Stanley Railway by comparison ran in an almost straight line south from London. It had been designed as a steam railway with much more favourable grades and a more direct route. Before the L&PS was electrified, this wasn't a big issue, but once the wires went up on the L&PS, its steam-railroad heritage was to its advantage. The L&PS with its new high speed cars and 45 minute London to Port Stanley run effectively reduced the Traction to a local rural line.

Route Map

The Traction Line Route

The line began in London from a small brick station located near the corner of Richmond and Horton streets at 183 Horton. The station also housed the company offices. From the London depot, the line ran south, over a large steel truss bridge that spanned the Thames River and a low wooden trestle beyond spanning the river plain. The tracks then ran along the edge of Carfrae Crescent before crossing Grand Ave and heading south on a private-right-of-way to Base Line Road, where the line curved westbound to follow the street. Just over one block north of Baseline at Chester Street the company had its London repair shops and car barn. The line ran along the north side of Base Line until it crossed Ridout Street, where it switched to the other side of the road before it curved south again at Wharncliffe Road.

The line ran south along Wharncliffe Road, passing through the village of Glendale at the corner of Wharncliffe and Southdale Roads, then heading southwest before it reached Lambeth. At Lambeth, the line curved south again along Talbot Road and ran along the eastern edge of the road. Just south of Lambeth, the company purchased land for use as a picnic park. Alexandra Park was located where Greenhills Country Club now stands. This park was intended to be a destination for passengers on the line. After Alexandra park, the line continued south through the villages of Scottsville and Tempo. Just south of Tempo the line switched over to the west side of the road, due to issues negotiating a right of way with the landowners on the east side. The line entered the village of Talbotville along Highway 4, then turned off the highway to enter a private right-of way heading southeast towards the village of Lyndhurst, just north of St. Thomas. The tracks then ran underneath the joint Grand Trunk/Wabash line near Lyndhurst in a deep cut before dropping down into the Kettle Creek valley. The line spanned the Kettle Creek valley on a long wooden trestle, with a steel truss bridge in the middle spanning the creek itself. The climb up out of the valley into St. Thomas was a 4.5% grade, and this would turn out to be the worst on the line. At the top of the hill, the line built another car barn at the corner of Talbot and Stanley Streets.

The South Western Traction Company had an agreement with the city of St. Thomas to route cars over a portion of the existing St. Thomas Street Railway. The Traction cars used the St. Thomas line up Talbot Street, crossing over the southbound L&PS at grade. The station in St. Thomas was in a storefront along Talbot Street, just opposite City Hall. The cars then continued along Talbot to First street, where they followed the Street Railway south. The Traction line cars then turned east onto Elm Street, still following the street railway, before turning south again onto private right-of-way towards Port Stanley. There are also notes of Traction Line cars using the street railway line up Kains Avenue to the Grand Trunk/Wabash station for mail service. For travel through St. Thomas, the Traction Line was initially going to use the street railway overhead. In early 1907, after converting to DC operation from original AC, the Traction Company strung its own wire through town.

Heading south from St. Thomas, the line primarily ran along private right-of-way to the village of Union, passing right through the middle of town, and followed Highway 4 south into Port Stanley. The Traction station in Port Stanley was located on the eastern side of the harbour, on Colborne Street. There was a siding running behind the station down to the breakwater to serve the small charter steamers and fishing industry. This was a far cry from the facilities of the London & Port Stanley railway on the west side of the harbour. The Traction Line's location was suitable for the passenger trade due to its proximity to the central business district in Port Stanley. In the coming years however, the west side of town would be developed with its extensive beach, and the Traction Line's location would be a substantial hinderance to take advantage of this new traffic. The L&PS station was only several blocks away from the beach, and after electrification, a station would be built right on the beach.

Comparison with the London and Port Stanley Railway

The London & Port Stanley Railway had been in existance as a steam railway for fifty years before the Traction Line began building on the same route. The L&PS was a much more direct line, running in almost a straight line to the Lake from London. This would prove an advantage when the line was electrified in 1915. Passenger service was the Traction Line's main revenue source. When the L&PS was managed by the Pere Marquette, passenger service was rather poor, and most travellers electred to take the Traction. After the L&S electrification, that was no longer the case. Trains were run hourly from London with a trip to Port Stanley taking only 45 minutes, compared to an hour and fifteen minutes or more for the Traction.

Beginning in London, the L&PS originally used the Grand Trunk station on York Street. After electrification, the L&PS built its own platform on the other side of the Grand Trunk mainline. From the London station, the L&PS ran paralell to the GTR for several blocks before turning south near Maitland street. The L&PS then ran southeast for a short distance through South London before heading almost due south. The line passed through the village of Glanworth before running straight through St. Thomas, passing the village of Union ont he west side to Port Stanley. The L&PS built a small passenger shelter wnear Union, compared to the Traction station which was centrally located.

In St. Thomas, the London & Port Stanley interchanged with four different railways; The Grand Trunk and Wabash, the Michigan Central, and the Pere Marquette (Later Chesapeake & Ohio). This was carry-over from its days as a steam freight railway, but the L&PS always had a strong freight business. The Traction Line never really had much of an interchange freight service, concentrating mainly on passengers. Around 1915, an interchange with the Michigan Central was built in St. Thomas, but the lines curves and grades hampered much heavy freight.

The L&PS facilities in Port Stanley were rather extensive compared to the Traction. The L&PS had a large ferry slip in place for docking rail ferries, as well as a large grain elevator and coal yard. As stated above, after electrification, the L&PS build a spur line from the Port Stanley station to the beach area. By this time there was a casino, a number of amusement rides and shops and other attractions along the boardwalk and beach. The City of London, to promote passenger traffic, erected a large bathng pavilion. Also built was an incline railway to the top of the heights overlooking the beach. It was much more convenient for passengers to simply get off the train at the beach rather than walk halfway across town from the Traction station.

The L&PS had very little in the way of grades, compared to the Traction Line which had several large grades, culminating with the above mentioned 4.5% climb out of the Kettle Creek valley. The L&PS crossed over the valley further upstream, where the valley was narrower. As a result, the L&PS had a ling trestle spanning the entire valley.

Overall, the Traction Line was no match for the L&PS once it electrified. While there were numerous reasons for the Traction Company's demise, the company's routing compared to that of the L&PS was a definite contributing factor.

Any questions, comments, pictures, etc - Please e-mail me Dan MacKellar

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Last Update May 10, 2011