Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Making things make sense

So it all started with this first photo. A pair of Wabash F-7s, a Wabash caboose and a Wabash SW-8 about to cross or having just crossed Talbot street in St Thomas. When I first saw this photo I had assumed that the photo showed a set of units returning from being serviced in either the PM/C&O shops or the NYC shops which was just south of this location. As the Wabash had no major servicing facilities in Ontario, they did contract with both of the other railroads to provide locomotive service.
But my suspicious nature had me wondering if this really the story behind this photo.

Then on Sunday past I purchased this next photo from Helmut Ostermann, which shows a Wabash train on the London & Port Stanley right of way. A right of way that is perpendicular to the Wabash trackage. (See the map below.) Helmut told me to contact Wes Dengate, a well known Wabash historian for the full story. Which I did. And it now all makes sense.
Both images are from the summer of 1952. That summer there was a strike by the car ferry captains on the Detroit River, which would have prevented the Wabash from moving any traffic to Buffalo. So the Wabash struck a deal with the NYC, C&O and L&PS to allow them to continue moving traffic across Ontario.
The Wabash was given permission to use the NYC tunnel in Detroit and they ran on the NYC trackage as far as St Thomas. Red Balls would pull into the St Thomas NYC yard, then a SW-8 would couple onto the rear to keep slack out of the train as well as assist in breaking the train to keep the level crossings clear. The train would back around the curve onto the L&PS/C&O trackage, then proceed north, across the NYC and across the Wabash main out over the L&PS trestle over the Kettle Creek. Then again back around the west leg of the wye, and finally get onto the Cayuga sub and resume normal activity.
You can follow all this on the map. You may wonder why they didn't use the curve on the north side of the NYC main. That track radius was too tight for mainline equipment.

The further explanation of the first photo, why is there no freight cars, is clear now. St Thomas was a crew change point. Under normal circumstances west bound Red Balls would leave the consists standing to the east of the CPR interchange and run in to the yard with motive power and cabooses only, perform the crew swap, and then return to the train and proceed west.
It is clear to me now that something like that is going on in the first photo we see.
This whole maneuver must of played havoc with the timetables and frayed not a few nerves. This went on for most of the summer of 1952. But it is neat to note that 4 competing railroads worked together to solve a problem.

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