The Railway in 1970
Ken Devine & Ron Davis
In 1970, the Komoka station was one of the last remaining stations which served the many small towns and villages in Southwestern Ontario. In the past, these small towns were almost completely dependent on the railways for the transportation of goods, such as commercial supplies, food, clothing, fuel, etc., in and out of the towns in order for their industries and people to survive. Communication in the form of telegraph transmission was at one time the main contact with the outside world. Now, with our modern highway systems, trucking firms, and telecommunications systems, the railways are serving the country in a somewhat different way.
Today, the railways are developing a more efficient high-speed bulk carrying system. Raw materials move at high speeds from mines, oil fields and so on to manufacturers in large quantities. These cargos must be received on a constant and reliable basis to keep the manufacturers in operation. Many industries in one city are dependent on industries in other cities for goods necessary to complete their finished product. Many goods, such as grain from the big elevators in the West, must arrive at our sea ports on a regular on-time basis to make shipping schedule deadlines for export to other countries dependent on these products.
As a result of this modern trade system, Canada’s two main railways – the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway – are changing their whole systems of operation by centralizing around big cities and changing to highly specialized equipment for a quick transfer of cargo.
Some of the changes being made to make railways a specialized transportation system:
- Powerful High-Speed Engines
Two modern diesel engines hooked together are capable of pulling a train weighing approximately 7,000 tons. This weight is typical of a train consisting of 100 to 125 loaded cars. Such a train is capable of maintaining a speed of about 80 mph for distances of up to four hundred miles without being serviced.
- High-Speed Road Beds
To handle the weight of such heavy trains, rails and road beds must be in top condition. Curves are being straightened and banked to allow trains to maintain high speeds safely. Signal systems that operate similar to traffic lights are in operation for railways. The track is divided into sections of approximately one mile long. These sections are called blocks. When a train is occupying one block, a following train will get a red or yellow signal preventing the train from moving into the next block until the block is clear. When the block is clear, the train will then get a green signal permitting it to enter. This system keeps trains moving safely with a minimum of delays.
- Hump Yards
In the past, when a train moved into a terminal like Toronto, the train had to be broken up and each car had to be put into a different track in order to make up trains going in different directions. These cars had to be switched into their respective tracks one-by-one with a switch engine handling each car separately. This switching is now done in what is called a hump yard. The incoming train is left at the top of a hill, usually man-made. Each car is cut loose at the top of the hill and allowed to roll down into its proper track. This is all done by one man located in a high tower who is able, by the use of a television scanner, to see each car and line it into its respective track. He aligns each switch from inside the tower by simply pushing a button.
- Waybills and Computers
Each loaded car must be accompanied by a document called a waybill. This waybill carries all the information necessary for the movement of the car from its point of origin: destination, contents of the car, weight, charges, and any special instructions (such as temperatures to be maintained for perishable goods and feeding and watering instructions for cattle). Each waybill has a computer punch card accompanying it. This card is being made up at the same time that the train in being made up. The card is run through a machine which makes up a complete list of the train. This list is called a journal. As the machine is printing it, the journal is also being received in printed form at the destination where the train will eventually arrive. This advanced information received by the yardmaster at this point enables him to make a switch list and be prepared for the train when it arrives at his terminal.
- TV Scanners
At various points along the right of way are located TV scanners or cameras which keep a constant check on each train passing them and feed information such as the condition of all equipment on the train to computers at various points. If a shipper or consignee desires to know where the goods are at any time, railway personnel can, by the use of these scanners, tell exactly where the goods are and when to expect their arrival.
All of this modern equipment helps to make the railway a fast and efficient transportation system from commercial centre to commercial centre. But, this technology does not pass over small communities such as Komoka. Komoka is visited every other day by a small train called a switcher of way freight. Railway cars are loaded by our industries and are picked up by this switcher and are taken to London where they become part of the big, fast-moving freight trains.
- Other Services Supplied by the Railway
Telegraph messages are now, for the most part, a thing of the past. If you wish to send a telegram to a person in Vancouver, you simply call the C.N. Telecommunications office in London by phone. Your message is put on a teletype machine, and at the same time that it is being typed in London, it is being received in Vancouver. It is then immediately telephoned to the party receiving it.
- Passenger Trains
Passenger trains do not stop in small villages now, because it is not economical for railways to do so. They know that most people can easily find transportation to the nearest city. By cutting out stops at all small towns, they can offer a faster service from city to city. Even though it is not as fast as airlines for long distance travel, rail travel is a relaxing and interesting way to go. It is the best way to enjoy the scenery and be relaxed and comfortable at the same time.
The railway has its own hotels in all major cities in Canada. For example, if you wish to take a vacation, stopping off at Winnipeg, Regina, and Vancouver, the railway ticket agent can arrange all your transportation, meals and hotel accomodations at one time. This leaves you free to enjoy your vacation without being bothered to make arrangements every time you stop at another city.
- Express Freight
This service is supplied for people who want to send small parcels to various points around the country. Of course, we would not require our own box car to ship one small parcel. If we wanted to ship a parcel to Toronto for example, we simply take it to the station where it will be picked up by truck, taken to London, and put into a freight car along with many others to make up a carload. In some cases the truck itself is loaded onto a flat car and is then immediately ready for delivering its parcels upon arrival in Toronto.
- Komoka as a Railway Point
Komoka serves two main functions as a railway point. First, it serves the public and industries of Komoka, and second, it is important to the railway itself as a junction point. Canadian National serves the people of Komoka with an express service as already explained. It also serves the Master Feeds mill and [up until 1985] the McCutcheon lumber company.
McCutcheon Lumber had to carry a large supply of various kinds of lumber brought from various parts of Canada. Most of this lumber came from the sawmills of northern Ontario and Quebec, and some from British Columbia. The lumber was received mostly from Prince Rupert, B.C. and Noranda, Quebec.
Master Feeds is Komoka’s biggest receiver of freight. This business relies on the railway for many products they require to manufacture feed for cattle and poultry in the area. Grain products milled at Port Colbourne, Ontario such as shorts, screenings and also fish-meal from various points in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are required constantly for the manufacture of feed. Products going into fertilizer, such as potash and phosphate (from Saskatchewan) and anhydrous ammonia (from Sarnia) are received in bulk each spring for the planting season. During harvest of wheat and corn, Master Feeds must ship this grain to sea ports for export or to factories for manufacture of cereal and other food products. Some “Komoka Corn” goes to Port Credit to make starch and syrup and some corn also goes to the Kellogg’s plant in London to become cereal and eventually wind up back in Komoka at our breakfast tables.
Komoka is important to the railway itself as a junction point. C.N.’s main line – a double track – runs from Chicago to Montreal with trains operating in opposite directions on each track. Komoka is the junction point for a single track which runs from Komoka to Glencoe and then on to Windsor. It is the duty of the operator at the Komoka station to align switches properly in order to divert the trains operating on this single track going to and from Glencoe. Trains which operate on a single track must be operated under strict train order authority to prevent collisions. Each train must operate only on written authority giving it right of track over trains operating in the opposite direction. It is the duty of the Komoka operator to issue train orders for all trains moving from Komoka to Glencoe. These train orders give each train instructions about meeting trains in the opposite direction, conditions of track, and also information about whether trains having superiority have arrived or left Komoka. These orders are all numbered and must be listed on a train clearance with the signatures of a train dispatcher in London and the operator at the Komoka station before any such train is allowed to enter the single track. Passenger trains operate on a time schedule. These are considered first class trains. Freight trains are known as extra trains since they do not operate on any particular schedule. Passenger trains are always superior to extra trains and are always given right of track over any other train on a single track.