13.1, A NEW HOME AT 9 HILLAVON DRIVE, ISLINGTON, ONT.
So, following the departure from Moncton I found myself about April 1, 1964 in a room high up in the Royal York Hotel facing the centre of my new territory, namely Toronto Union Station with mainlines and yards both east and west. As in previous cases it was first necessary to find a new home for the family. I do not recall at this time (1999) too many details of the search which was less intensive than in other cases, partly because I was able to get some assistance from the railway's real estate staff.
I do recall that older houses and newer houses close to downtown were very expensive so I found myself limited to the suburbs once more. My finances at the time were a bit restrained because we had not sold the house in Gunningsville and so settled for a more modest home at a suitable price. This turned out to be a nice new three-bedroom bungalow at 9 Hillavon Drive (see photo) in the suburban area of Islington. It was well located from the viewpoint of schools and was only three houses from Mimico Creek park and Glen Agar park. A public swimming pool and tennis courts were also located fairly close but shopping would require using the car. On the negative side it was not directly on a bus route and the outer end of the subway was a considerable distance away so that I had to use the car to get to work. This was a 45 minute drive utilizing Highway 27, the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Gardiner Expressway. The GO commuter trains were still in the future (of which more later). One perk which helped was the free indoor parking space allotted to me underneath Union Station. As we have always done, we limited ourselves to one car. I used it on working days and Anne got it on weekends and evenings for shopping and other needs. She was of course mainly busy at home with the growing family who were able to walk to the conveniently located schools. I had never driven on expressways before coming to Toronto, the learning process resulted in a couple of narrow escapes from collisions for which I was thankful. Expressways have now burgeoned thoughout North America so that you make use of them for all driving except for purely local short trips.
The house itself was quite bright and liveable. Also it had a full basement which we got the builder to finish as a recreation room including its own fireplace. Later on we got a small bedroom and toilet installed for teenager Robin who no longer wanted to share space with his younger brother. He took great joy in decorating it with products of his imagination; the one of these I most remember was a sinuous concoction of wire and silver paper which had a bell-shaped end and so was called "Trumpeter-el-Sud". There was a nice verandah on the front and a good sized patio and play yard in the back. The finishing touch was a house number sign which showed a perfect silhouette of our dog Randy. Cost of the house was not too bad (the builder had three of them for sale) so we got it for less than $30,000. It still had not increased greatly when we left in 1969 but the mind boggler is that its price in the 1990's was around $300,000! By that time it was said that greater Toronto controlled about 40% of the total business activity in the whole of Canada.
13.2, CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES AND DEVLOPMENT
Robin was of course growing rapidly and had reached young manhood at age 19 by the time we left in 1969. All three of the children felt the loss of connections back in Moncton and it took a little time for them to get accepted by neighborhood playmates in their new territory. However, they have always been good at making friends and were able to attract them by the various activities they brought with them. Robin sill had a great interest in bikes when we first arrived. Maria got a new
C.C.M. ladies style and I got a new Raleigh 3-speed so I was able to relinqish my old C.C.M. Crescent to Jim who initially had to ride it without a seat, the bike being a little too big for him at age 8. I enjoyed going for bike rides with the children around the many lovely neighborhoods in our area on Sunday mornings when traffic was light. We also took many great rides along the footpaths running the length of Mimico Creek.
Robin however soon became interested in motorcycles as befitted someone who was a full 16 years old. Because they can be dangerous Anne and I debated letting him have one, but finally agreed providing he use it with care and learn how to maintain and service it himself. It proved to be a great thing for him as he went into motorcycle design and engineering with great gusto and it later on got him to take Engineering at university. By the time he eventually gave up on motorcycles (in the 1980's) he had owned three or four of them. The first one was a nice red Honda of about 120 cc, but he traded up to a 450cc Honda, then to two second hand BMW's and eventually to a 750cc 4-cylinder Honda. He became a real entrepreneur such as when he rebuilt the better of the two BMW's for himself and rebuilt the other so it was good enough to sell for almost as much as the two had originally cost him! Over the next few years he rode his machines not only up to Beausoleil Island but to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Laclu and Rivers West to Calgary. One year he and a pal rode on a wide ranging trip through the U.S. Southwest. Anne and I were greatly relieved that he never had a serious accident although he did receive some knee injuries when he was cut off by a car making a right hand turn at a traffic light. Robin attended Richview Collegiate High School and after he got older than 16 he got his first summer job, which was acting as a bus boy in the restaurant under the grandstand at the Canadian National Exhibition. Then in the winters he was able to go on weekends and some evenings as a skating monitor at Centennial Park where we would all go skating on the large pond from time to time. Regarding the skating we also all liked to go skating on Mimico Creek at Christmas and New Year's. You could follow it almost up to the Airport which was about three miles from where we lived. Another activity which Robin and Jim used that creek for was sailing toy boats which they made from wood with paper sails. Robin has carried this on to the present day (1999) as he still is teaching his children how to make and sail toy boats!
Maria was a bit quieter than the boys, but she was always active in whatever was going on. She first attended ////????Junior High School then graduated to a newly built High School called Martin- Grove Collegiate. She became quite keen on Track and Field sports and also indoor court sports and swimming. She was in the school choir and took part in their annual recital and we still have the recording they made at that time. No doubt her piano training from Moncton was an asset in her musical activities. Some of her sports activities required early morning practices which meant me getting up in time to drive her there. She learned to cook a bit and helped her mother in this respect. This was important to her as she later took up a career in food services as we shall see. As she reached 16 she became involved in young people's activities and developed some interest in neighborhood boys as one would naturally expect. One or her pranks was to sneak out of her bedroom window after curfew and cavort with some of the young people. Her mother discovered her absence one night and locked the window; poor Maria had to ring the doorbell and endure a good scolding when she returned home! She remained Randy's best friend as always, and he loved to lay on her lap or follow her about on walks in the park. She made some fast friends while we lived there and still visits Eleanoroles from time to time when she is in Toronto. They decided on their own one year that they needed to go to a charm school which they did to help learn etiquette, pick out clothes, learn attractive grooming, etc.. Early on in Toronto we were in contact with Kate Aitken who was Anne's aunt who was the best known women's radio personality at the time and who also had a large home in Islington. We were invited to visit her Spa run for ladies trying to get in shape; we there met some of Anne's cousins and enjoyed the grounds and general country location of the Spa. We also got invited to her Christmas party at her Islington home which was largely attended by numerous advertisers and programming associates from the programs she did. Maria was all bug-eyed at such a large gathering of impressive media people and spent the evening wandering among the crowd talking to some and observing all that went on!
Jim was only 7 when we moved and was 12 when we left Toronto. He attended Glen Agar Elementary School while we were there and did tolerably well as a student. He built a sort of kiddie cart from old wagon wheels, boxes and bits of wood in which he could coast down the local sidewalks while steering the front axle with two cords, like you would drive a horse. He also got Randy to sit in it while Jim pulled him along; if Randy got scared he could always jump off! Jim was also very bright and he loved to play board games which Robin was so ingenious at thinking up and building. Usually Robin won and he usually beat me too. The only time I won was when he invented a warfare game based on ships and submarines. Based on my navy knowledge of Operations Research I could predict the probability of where his sub was with a greater chance of sinking it than he had of sinking mine. Robin also built an electrical version of X's and O's using small switches and lights. Jim always liked tobogganing, so in the winter he would go with us or our neighbors over to Centennial park where the municipality had built a huge artficial mountain down which they could slide. Once we got into trouble with the neighbors because Jim let their toboggan go down empty and they never found it. Another thing we all enjoyed was flying kites. There was lots of room at Glen Agar park and when the wind was right they could get them up high. Even with kites new technology helped. Robin started making them from thin garbage bag plastic and used the lightest weight nylon cord, both of which were great improvements over the heavier store wrapping paper and cotton store string I used as a boy. Robin and Jim were able to get one kite up as far as 1500 ft. of cord would take it! At some point we commenced taking the children to Sunday School at the local United Church. Anne had been brought up in the United church whereas I was raised in St. James Anglican church in Rivers. At this stage in life my faith was not as strong as hers so we were married in a United Church in Dauphin and attended United church for many years after. Jim had good musical sense and I got him signed up for the well-known Anglican St. George's choir in Toronto. He attended for a while and learned something about choral music, but when I was away on World Bank consulting in Argentina in 1968 Jim sort of lost interest and let it go. I made an attempt to interest all the kids in the game of tennis which I have liked all my life, though there have been many gaps (such as wartime) where I have not played at all. The kids did not take to it strongly, though Maria tells me she plays at it from time to time. The one who enjoyed it most was Randy, who just loved to search for lost tennis balls on the scrubby, sloping slope just over the fence from the courts. He could smell those balls from several feet away!
In general, during the Toronto years we kept up family holiday trips to Laclu and Rivers. In addition to this we took advantage of local venues and made weekend trips north where we could roam in the large parks and have picnics there. More especially, we took week long camping trips to Beausoleil Island National Park which we could reach by driving north through Orillia to Honey Harbour where we had to load all our gear into the motor launch to take us to the island. It was a beautiful treed place with good swimming and boats for rent so we had lots of fun there. Beausoleil is not widely known as National Parks go and one reason would be that the mosquitoes there are fierce. We nearly got eaten up one evening while wee sat outdoors to hear the park warden give a lecture on the deer and other wildlife living in the park. The other reason was that car traffic to all of the resorts north of Toronto was via a single highway and the growing use of cars instead of trains or buses meant there were literally two hour long traffic tieups on weekends. Robin used to come up on his motorcycle and did much better.
Perhaps our biggest family outing ever was our trip to Montreal's fabulous Expo '67 which was part of Canada's 100th anniversary celebrations. It had started up in May and received great acclaim; even the Toronto news media people who attended the opening day gave rave reviews in our papers and all in Toronto were green with envy that Montreal was in many respects ahead, not only with Expo but with the then new Place Ville Marie and Queen Elizabeth Hotel developments plus extensive expressway and subway additions. While we had some downtown celebrations in Toronto on July 1 which Robin and I attended they were nowhere near the thing that was Expo, which had of course been contributed to by the whole country, not just Montreal. At home one highlight was at midnight when the neighbor from across the street came out and blew "O Canada" on her trumpet. I have regretted ever since that we did not seize the opportunity to grab a bottle of rye and go out to get a real street party going singing O Canada plus the many other traditional songs which all of us then knew!
Montreal's Expo was really great. I went out and saw it first during its initial week in May. I was in Montreal on railway business but I took the subway to the Expo grounds as soon as work was over. It gave me a great emotional rush just the way the entrance welcome and bienvenue was set up at the "Place d'Accueil" where beautiful well-trained young ladies came rushing up to greet us and answer questions. I rode the overhead Monorail railway which circumnavigated the whole magnificent site and found it truly enchanting in the gathering dusk in spite of the cool spring breeze comiing off the nearby St. Laurence River.
This preview was so exciting that I decided Anne and I should take a week's vacation with the whole family and spend it all at Expo so as to experience and enjoy as much as possible of its theme, "Man and His World".
Accordingly we booked a large double bedded room at the newly opened Bonaventure Hotel for an unbelievably low (by to-day's standards) rate of less than $15 per day, including a cot for Jim. Expo turned out to be one of the greatest experiences you could imagine. Not only did it have entertainment and fun, but it had pavilions from countries all around the world which were highly educational. Each gave something of its history, its peoples, its art and its industry. The architecture of each building was indicative of its own, like the spectacular tiled patterns on the buildings from the Arabic countries. Each country generally offered examples of dance and music from live artists and would sell some of their key smaller products. The Czeh pavilion was very popular for a number of reasons, but we were attracted by its wonderful display of glassware and still have two fine wine glasses we bought a mementoes. The U.S. pavilion was housed in a huge free-standing biosphere designed by Buckminster Fuller. It had quirky interesting exhibits such as a collection of headgear reflecting an interesting look at what had been popular with various groups in the States. Thinking of Buckminster Fuller we can mention at this time that there were other great examples of new engineering and architectural ideas such as the huge cable suspended tent built by Germany and the imaginative structure housing the French exhibits. There was also a new type of suspension bridge joining the two islands on the site; it was an advanced idea which has since been incorporated in the Alex Fraser and the Skytrain bridges in Vancouver and in the very long multi-span bridge across the bay near Tampa, Florida. The whole site, with its dozens of buildings was an extravaganza of trying out new ideas, using both old and new materials and methods of constuction. Most pavilions had their own restaurant which served their own types of cuisine and local wines. I remember an excellent dinner of Chicken Kiev in the Russian pavilion washed down with an excellent white wine from their state of Georgia. There was also a great beer garden on the site which was frequented by party types in the evening. I went there for a cooler one day and wasa horrified to have to pay 90 centsfor what you could get in a downtown restaurant for 50 cents. By comparison with to-day (1999) how lucky we were, to-day there's no place in the country you can get a beer for less than $2.50! The Canadian pavilion was not too bad, it served good Canadian wines for 50 cents a generous glass, but compare that with to-day's restaurant price of not less than $3.50! On the serious side the Canadian Pavilion had a fine sub-exhibit run by our own native Inuit explaining their culture to us.
The crowds were terrific, you had to line up for nearly all events or pavilions. This gave the opportunity to talk to people next you in the line which could include someone from the other end of the earth. The longest lineup was that for a show called the Minotaur, named after a mythical beast. We spent well over an hour in the line and went through a whole series of fantastic special effects and things that titillated your imagination as to what the beast might be. In the end you were faced with the climactic conclusion that the beast in life might be yourself. It harks of something I once read which said, "every man contains within himself the seeds of his own destruction". It's probably true which puts it up to everyone not to let the destructive seeds grow to maturity!
One of the great ways of presenting things which was developed by the producers of the various shows on the site was the imaginative use of multi-screen projection. There were shows about everything from railways to the birth of a baby! The grounds of the whole site were fun just to walk about in which we did a good deal of. The landcscaping, the special lighting fixtures, the pavement patterns and many other features were present. You could either walk everywhere or use the elevated monorail and enjoy the kaleidoscopic panorama on your ay to where you were going. We took in all the shows we could and the whole family enjoyed it. We never went off the grounds or away from the hotel except one evening Anne and I went to a theatre production which had been brought to town by Expo. We may not have been aware of it at the time, but as will unfold shortly in this chronicle, it was the last major outing which we had together as a family!!
13.3, ANNE'S WORK AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Work for Anne lay mainly in keeping house. She was the one who did it all, enabling me to keep up with my very demanding job (of which details later). She saw the kids got to school on time, that their health was cared for and as chief disciplinarian that they learned good life habits! She did all the shopping and when we went for a weekend jaunt or a two-week holiday she did most of the packing, including the tents and her well-organized system of utensils, cots, bedding and other necessities of camp life. As far as shopping went, Toronto was our first experience with malls, but we had to go quite a distance along highway 401 to get to the nearest one of any size.
Her great interest aside from work and family was her art which she had kept up all along since high school in Winnipeg. She had become highly proficient in painting, whether by water color, oils, screen painting, mono prints, etc.. She never tired of trying the latest techniques and styles of modern art, (such as Op Art) and she did very well in most of them. She joined both the Humber Valley and the Etobicoke art clubs and got to know many of the other artists in our area. She took some courses from a well-known lady artist who had come from a Kibutz in Israel and also talked to people like Jackson Pollock about her work. Perhaps her main contribution in life was the fact that she took on the job (through one of the art groups) of organizing and directing Saturday morning classes for children at the schools in our area. This was a big operation, eventually with 20 teachers and 300 children involved! Her routine was to claim the car every Saturday morning and visit 6 or 7 classes to review their work and discuss programs and progress with the teachers. She not only taught them to use different media for drawing and painting but also to do paper cutouts, origami and stabiles. She was strongly opposed to giving them outline pictures to color or dots to follow; she taught them by giving and idea to represent and set them use their imagination as to how they wanted to handle the problem. Thus she could give the task of creating a picture of their home, or of a pet or wild animal, or she could say draw us a picture of Christmas celebrations or toys received, etc.. Then, at the end of each school year the teachers would bring forth selections of their students' work and Anne would organize an exhibition where it could be viewed by parents and the art community generally. Looking back at many color slides I took of these displays I am truly impressed with their quality and variety. These are surely a tremendous legacy of her work and talent and it would be interesting, though virtually impossible to find out how many of those students would remember and still use to-day the things they learned through her organization and supervision of those art classes!
The things we used to do together were entertaining at home or visiting friends such as Gwen and Ernie Gilliatt and some of Anne's art contacts. While the kids played with many other children on Hillavon Drive we did not seem to develop close friendships with their parents. We would often go to a movie on Friday night and stop for coffee and a doughnut on the way home. We would take a dozen home with us for the kids to eat. Anne and I very seldom went out to eat in a local restaurant, I guess it was not in our budget and children and other activities took up our time. We did however occasionaly go downtown to concerts or opera to the O'Keefe Centre or to plays or musicals at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. I well remember how much we enjoyed "MyFair Lady" and and "The Sound of Music"! On Saturday I would take the kids out bike riding or skating when Anne was busy and also took them to family movies at the local cinemas. We did not often go out to eat in restaurants in the evening as it was expensive when you took account of the cost of baby sitters and we were usually tired by then anyway. Also, though I was making a fairly good salary we were spending it all on food, clothing, holidays, house mortgage payments and the car. We in fact saved very little money at that stage of life and I don't remember investing any until about 1968 when I got a rebate of $6000 from payments I had made on a Company sponsored insurance fund; when the unions won a concession that the payments should be made by the Company the latter was obliged to extend the same privilege to its managment staffs. Anne used to like to take me out to visit any art shows that came to town in the Toronto art galleries and in this way I got some knowledge of Art that I should otherwise not have gone after. One particular show I did enjoy was a showing of a large number of paintings by Canalletto. I liked his style and particularly appreciated his treatment of buildings and such in Venice. In fact I was so impressed with his large painting of Plaza San Marco showing the campanile (tower) and the cathedral it raised my hopes that I might some day get to walk in that square and have a drink while taking in the beauty of the architecture with the Venetian sunlight just right. As we shall see later I did get to do just that.
Another thing Anne and I liked was to go for fairly long walks in the evening up the Mimico Creek ravine park Those of you who are famililar with Toronto will know that these parks along nearly all the rivers and streams are one of the glories of that busy city. After a couple of years, Anne would decline to go saying that she was tired. Also, at times she complained about aches in her shoulder, which we roughly thought might be due to the time she struck her head on the roof while we were down in the coal mine we visited near New Glasgow. However, she discovered she had a lump on her left breast in 1967 and it was diagnosed as cancer. The decision was made to have the breast removed and this was done at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in our end of the city. They felt they had got it all and that the lymph system was not infected. Nevertheless we knew we were on watch to see if she could survive for five years without a recurrence. I was horrified to realize that the doctors treating cancers never use the word "cure". Instead they talk only of the dreaded disease being in a state of "remission". Anyway, it did not recur in our remaining time in Toronto so I will leave this terrible subject for now and move on to talk about my work related matters as General Superintendent of Transportation for C.N.'s Great Lakes Region.
13.4, NEW YARDS, FREIGHT TRAINS, GO TRAINS, RAPIDOS and TURBOTRAINS
The Great Lakes Region comprised the Northern Ontario Area, the Toronto Area, the London Area and Rideau Area, so it virually covered the whole of the Province of Ontario. Physicaly, it was no larger than the Atlantic Region I had left, but it had more manufacturing, more freight traffic and more passenger operations. One of the main reasons that I was selected to come there as GST was the fact that Doug Gonder, who had been my boss earlier in Moncton, was now Vice-President of the Great Lakes Region. Another main reason was that the new hump classification yard in the Toronto area was approaching completion and they wanted to have the benefit of my experience with the opening of this even larger one in Toronto which had a dual main hump plus a separate local hump to classify all the local industrial traffic. It may be blowing my own horn a bit, but we did have a very good opening. This was mainly because I instructed them that we would open it gradually. Thus we only diverted two trains a day from the old Mimico and other yards to the new one and allowed the staff to get used to digesting that before taking more. This process took about two weeks to be completed and then we were able to close down much of the operations at the older yards. A good deal of credit must go to Jack Campbell who was my Assistant GST as he knew the traffic well enough to select the best order of diversion for each pair of trains and carefully monitored any problems. He was assisted by Roy Menary who was the Operations Manager for the Toronto Area and he virtually lived at the new yard for the first month of its operation. Bob Field, who was the Yard Superintendent also contributed by devising the yard operating plan which we all called the freight car mixmaster! I am proud of the fact that we could combine the local officers' knowledge of their traffic with my knowledge of the best opening process so that we carried it off with very few customer complaints!
As the country's and Ontarios's economy was growing rapidly in those halcyon days of the '60s so was railway traffic. For this reason we had to enlarge the Oakville yard (mostly Ford motor traffic) and the Oshawa yard (mostly General Motors). There was also need to improve our facilities in Windsor where Ford and Chrysler both had large operations. First Ernie Gilliatt and later Norman Hanks who were Transportation Planning Engineers did good work on these. It was also necessary to start up special Piggyback yards designed to be able to handle trains of flats and cranes to lift the trailers and containers from road to rail. Over the years this intermodal traffic has shown rapid increases because it enables rail to interface efficiently with highway trucking where rail has the economic advantage for hauls over 500km. In recent years the railways have increased their ability to serve this traffic by increasing overhead line clearances so containers can be double-stacked on specially designed piggyback flats. Thus we now (1999) see solid intermodal trains handling up to 250 containers moving across all the main routes in North America!
Another interesting freight train development lay in the adoption of Unit Trains to move solid trainloads of heavy commodities from one customer at origin to one customer at destination. I have already mentioned the gypsum train in the Atlantic Region; during my time in Toronto we set up a unit train to move iron ore from a mine at Dane in Northern Ontario to the steel mills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This train had special hopper cars designed for automatic opening for loading and unloading as the locomotive pulled the train slowly along at the origin and destination. We had some problems with the U.S. part of the movement because the then almost bankrupt Penn-Central did not maintain their share of the cars properly--you cannot handle iron ore pellets when there are holes as big as your fist in the flow sheets of the hoppers. It took the force majeure of the steel company in Pittsburgh to get the matter straightened out!
A general freight operating problem we had was that trains were often delayed by waiting at the three swing bridges we had across the Welland Canal. We got an opportunity to do something about it when the Canal authorities wanted to straighten the canal where we had one of our bridges. A consultant had made a report for them but it did not go far enough. Norm Hanks got into it with the backing of myself and the Regional Chief Engineer and developed a plan where we would rearrage our trackage and services so we just needed one crossing of the canal and that in a tunnel!
An interesting aspect of the job on the Great Lakes was that of dealing with the large manufacturing concerns who would hound us if traffic was delayed or if there was insufficient car supply for loading. The various Traffic Manager's of these companies would keep pressure on us whenever they had problems. I recall one case where the GM had me and our railway Marketing people go to Oshawa for a meeting. He threatened to divert traffic to trucks and actually picked up the phone and called a trucking company to handle some specific loads while we were there. Of couse he didn't want to give it to the trucks because they cost more than rail; he wanted to get specialized service for truck prices! That of course was his job and we always did our best to serve our customers. I recall one year when Massey-Harris was shipping a concentrated backlog of farm combines to Mexico. They didn't ship these on a regular basis and accumulated them at their plant until they could benefit from some change in the Mexican customs duties and when that happened they wanted to ship the accumulated machines right away! It was impossible for us to have that many flat cars "instanter" but I recall working the phone with our own car service people and with Transportation Officers on the Santa Fe and other Chicago railways to get extra flats to us as soon as possible! The trouble with some of these emergencies was that the industry's traffic manager would often place the blame for his problems on the railway!
There are many more freight related matters I could speak about and most of them engaged my mind and my enthusiasm at the time. I still find great pleasure in recalling many of them. However, a proper description of each and its running to conclusion would unreasonably lengthen these memoirs which I have to make interesting to a variety of audiences who may not all be interested in the internal nuts and bolts of Railroading! So I have to to pick out some of the highlights that will hopefully be of interest to all who go to the trouble of reading these tales in the future.
One such happening worthy of notice was the strike of our Express service employees which mainly affected our central shed operations in Toronto. As in the case of many strikes there was a variety of causes and there were always agitators who would seek to respond to these and get a majority strike vote which under labour laws in Canada gives the union the legal right to engage in what in Britain is called "Industrial Action" but here is usually called a strike. The effect on movement of express shipments was of course drastic as all main sheds were picketed. The main Express building was adjoining the station and our regional offices so there was fear that the union would picket these and even make it impossible for the rest of railway staffs including management people like me from gettting to work. Jack Spicer, who was then Area Manager of the Toronto Area was greatly concerned. From his office window he could see the Union leaders coming and going and realized they were meeting in a pub near the express sheds so he suggested that some of us management people should stay in our building to avoid being shut out by picket action. There were several eating places in the station complex so we would not starve as long as the food and chocolate bars held out, but there was no organized place where we could sleep as the tunnel across to the Royal York Hotel could easily be blocked by pickets. Accordingly, those of us directly involved with day to day operations got cots placed in our offices and that's how we survived for over a week until the strike was settled. While much progress has been made in industrial relations since that time, there are still lots of problems between workers and management that persist to this day so that strikes or threats of strikes are uite prevalent. Even as I write to-day, (March 1999), there is a bus strike in Victoria and a threat of a walkout of office workers on B.C. Transit in Vancouver.
Enough of freight and express for the moment, let me turn to things which happened affecting passenger services while I was in the Great Lakes Region; these will probably be of much greater interest to the general reader than freight matters! In the 1960's rail inter-city service was still widely used, although new highways were allowing large amounts of travel by car while the airlines were gradually evolving from a higher cost elite type of service to a lower cost mass travel thing. These developments were at this time met by the railways improving their services where patronage was available while reducing or even cancelling services being deserted for the car or the plane.
One of the main services we had was our heavily travelled Toronto-Montreal segment where we operated three through trains per day plus locals in each direction. I have already told the story of how our passenger sales people under the leadership of their redoubtable Vice-President Pierre Delagrave got the Maritime trains revitalised through the red, white and blue fares for light, medium and heavy travel days. In the case of our Toronto-Montreal services he came up with a very dynamic set of improvements in addition to the fare scheme. These consisted of improvements in the facilities and equipment to make passengers more comfortable, together with high grade publicity schemes in all media to sell them. The plan revolved around designating these services by calling the trains "RAPIDOS", a name which was lifted from Italy and had a bilingual acceptance in Canada. The cars to be used on these trains were redecorated inside with revised furnishings in the lounge and chair cars, new lighting and new amenities to give them a new image. The standard color livery of the whole passenger train, including locomotives was changed to the black and green with gold stripe. In Toronto Union Station the Rapidos were given the use of Track 1, which permitted first class passengers to board directly from the West waiting room and go up to the train on a red carpet!
Of course we supposedly stuffy old railroaders were amazed at all this new age pizzaz, but nevertheless we played our part. We were given the task of getting the running times reduced from the more than six hours which had prevailed ever since the depression action of combining CN and CP services on this route to save money. It was possible to achieve reductions due to using diesels which required no coal and water enroute (as steam power did) and by working with Engineering to get some judicious increases in speed restrictions, particularly on curves. I felt we could get the schedule down to 5hrs 30 mins, but my counterpart in Montreal, who had jurisdiction west to Coteau was holding out for 5hrs 45mins. It had to go to the Chief of Transportation for settlement and he (Jack Hayes) ruled in my favor. What swung the decision was the fact that my staff had discovered on some old train dispatching sheets that the run had actually been made in 5hrs 30 mins on several occasions using steam locomotives! A few years later, when the aero designed "Turbotrain" was produced by United Technology and Pullman Standard with cars that could tilt on the curves the time was reduced to 5hrs, (advertised as 4hrs 59mins by Marketing and Sales). While the Turbotrains eventually wore out (or were abandoned when thy had been fully updated, depending on who tells it) the 4hr 59 min schedules were re-introduced with the more conservative Light, Rapid and Comfortable trains which continue to the present day (1999). I have ridden them in recent times and I find they do a great job which requires them to run at 100 mph on the best pieces of tangent track. This is certainly below the speeds approaching 200mph in Japan and France, but we must recognize these latter trains have a purpose built line with very slight curvature and no freight train operation to share with.
But that's enough of inter-city operations for now. It is equally important to turn to the increase in the role of railway commuter trains which to-day are a necessity in our major cities where it has been finally accepted by all that you cannot move heavy volumes of passengers by auto; from either the cost, the running time or the pollution points of view! This proof developed while I was based in Toronto: the East-West Gardiner Expressway, which cost up to $16 million per mile was overcrowded and demanding expansion from irate commuters. After study the then city fathers and the highways department of the Province said "enough, we'll eventually end up paving everything from Lake Ontario up to Bloor Street and end up broke if we do it this way"! So the Government of Ontario approached Canadian National and it was agreed to go ahead with a first class commuter service on our main line from Pickering on the East to Oakville on the West. We obtained some spare diesel locomotives from the provincial railway, (Ontario Northland) and some used commuter cars from the Reading Railway in Philedelphia to start a test service. The mechanical dept. didn't want to go to push-pull service with locomotives on either end of the train (to avoid turning at the end of the run) but this would save time and a train set. I knew from my observations of the heavy Chicago and Northwestern service that pushpull would work o.k., even if you only put a cable connected cab control car on one end instead of a complete locomotive. The tests worked and so the Government of Ontario Highways Department were the ones who bought the new "GO Trains" and turned their backs on their recently avowed devotion to the laying of asphalt! The service level established was every 20 mins at peak and every hour throughout the rest of the day. This required that we have extra trackage East from Union Station to Guildford and West from Union station to Mimico with new two-way running Centralized Traffic Control complete from Pickering to Oakville.
In the initial year the trains handled 17,000 passengers per day, but with extension to other lines and the purchase of more trains they to-day handle in excess of 100,000 passengers per day. Divide that by an average commuter's car occupancy of 1.2 people and see what a horrendous problem there would be to handle all of this by expressway!
13.5, A HEAD-ON COLLISION
It was 3 a.m. and Anne and I and children were suddenly and rudely awakened from our sleep in the drawing room of the last car on our train, the westbound Super-Continental. I knew it must be at least a serious derailment, but when I went to the open dutch door in the vestibule and looked ahead I saw much smoke reflecting the flickering glow of fire! I immediately dressed and rushed to the head end where I realized we were involved in a head on collision with a freight train just east of the east switch at the isolated station and passing track in Northern Ontario called Dunrankin. It is located between Capreol and Hornepayne. Head-ons are a railroader's worst dream, and this was a bad, bad one. Our passenger diesels were in the ditch locked in wreckage with the freight diesels. Our baggage cars and first coach were accordioned out into the other ditch and there was a pileup of freight cars on the main line behind the freight diesels. The engineer and fireman on the passenger diesel and the engineer and head-end brakeman on the freight were all killed instantly, so it was truly a terrible scene. Fortunately, no passengers were killed but a few in the lead coach suffered minor injuries. Worse carnage was avoided for two reasons, at 3 a.m. all passengers were sleeping in the reclining seats, and the general ruggedness of steel coaches causes them to splay out into the ditch instead of absorbing the total impact!
As I was the only railway officer on the train I took charge and got the conductors to help. The fuel from the diesel fire was starting to spread into the pulpwood spilled from the lead freight cars into the wreckage. The crews got working with the fire extinguishers they could pry loose from the diesels, but it soon became obvious that there was not enough extinguisher capacity to put out the fire completely. I got someone to wake up the section crew in the local section house and got them to bring all their shovels. We then commandeered the sleeping and dining car crews to start in helping to dig earth and sand from the ditch onto the burning wreckage; with such a large crew going at it with relief hands available they were able to get the locomotive and pulpwood fires out. For that I heaved a great sigh of relief as there were several carloads of pulpwood there which would have created a massive fire had we not put it out in time!
Of course the conductor had called the train dispatcher and the Capreol "big hook" was dispatched, arriving about noon to start the cleanup. Jimmy Weaver, the Area Operations Manager and several other area officers arrived with the hook. Jimmy and I made the decision to request the help of the C.P.R 's hook based at Sudbury as it was essential to clear our main line as soon as possible. We called the coroner's office in Toronto and he arrived after about five hours. Normally you are not supposed to disturb the wreckage nor move any bodies until the coroner has examined the scene to deteremine cause, etc.. We were not going to leave them this long in the summer sun, so removed the bodies of the dead men and placed them in the derailed baggage car. The coroner was as mad as hell that we had moved the bodies but we weren't worried that it had done any harm; the cause of their deaths was pretty obvious. The surviving crews who knew them all were badly shaken up as were all including me. I had not seen that many bodies even during my three years of naval service!
All railway accidents are carefully investigated. I have done many of them, particularly as Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent, but none of accidents as serious as this. I wrote a handwritten account of what I gleaned on the scene and gave it to Jimmy as the investingating responsibility lay with the Area. not with us at regional headquarters who got to reveiw it later. Basically, the visible cause was that the freight train had entered the west switch of the siding while signals were set for the passenger train to hold the main line. Instead of stopping at the east end where there was a red signal displayed against it the freight train ran out onto the main track where the head on with the passenger train occurred about 150 ft. east of the east switch.
The signals and switches were found to have operated correctly so it became obvious the freight engineer did not have hais train under control. The rails and ties at the west switch were displaced by 4 inches and later field tests with the same type of locomotive proved that he had entered the siding at 45 mph instead of the design speed of 15 mph for the type of switch turnout there. Still further investigation (the coroner played a part here) proved that the freight engineer had more than the legal 0.8 % alcohol level in his blood. Final investigation showed he had been drinking beer after dinner but took the call for the train and did not apppear abnormal to the shop staff at Hornepayne when he took the engines. The real problem in this case was not necessarily that he was drunk at the time of the accident, but that its effect was to make certain he would fall asleep at that worst hour of the day, 3.a.m.! My own personal experience on the road riding trains has shown that it is damned hard to stay awake between 2 and 5 a.m. even if you are sober! The other factor which lulled the man to sleep was that a long ascending grade leading up to Dunrankin would mean the train would operate at a steady speed with no need to touch the throttle or the brake for a long period!
The remaining part of our passenger train was re-routed over an alternate route and Anne and the children proceeded as we were on our way for our annual holidays at Rivers, Winnipeg and Laclu. The train was delayed by the rerouting for more than a day and so I caught up to the family by riding a track motor car to the junction at Oba, once I was sure Jimmy and his area people were all present and in charge of clearing up the wreck and completing the investigation. One of the few written commendations I have ever got in my life was sent to me by Walter Mitchell, the Area Manager in Capreol, who felt my actions in taking charge and putting out the fires were worth mentioning. On the other side of the ledger, four wooden crosses, bearing the names of those railroaders who lost their life, were erected beside the track at Dunrankin and the last time we were by there in the early 90's they could still be seen from the train!
15.6, AU REVOIR, BIENVENUE ENCORE A MONTREAL
From a chronological point of view the above wreck occurred in 1967 so that it had nothing to do with my being promoted to Montreal Headquarters in 1969. (It was generally true, however, on both C.N. and C.P. that an officer could be transferred or even demoted if too many accidents occurred on his territory over a period of time). Over the five years I was there the Great Lakes Region had built up a very good staff, which under the leadership of Doug Gonder as Vice Preisident had become a first class team with whom it was a pleasure to work. We were all good men in our respective positions and haence were eligible for transfer or promotion. I will not try to cover all the details, but the team through coincidence and retirements at Headquarters was greatly changed during 1969.
As a few examples: Jack Spicer was promoted to an Assistant Vice-Pres. in Montreal, Ron Lawless rose to become head of freight sales (and was later to become President and CEO), Charlie Armstrong became Chief of Transportation, Harry Bloomfield moved from Area Manager in Capreol to Assistant Vice-Pres. of Personnel, Keith Hunt was promoted to General Manager in Toronto, Dick Veenis, who was our Gen.Supt. Motive Power and Car became Chief of that function at Headquarters in Montreal and little old I was asked by Charlie Armstrong if I would come to Montreal as Assistant Chief of Transportation (Planning). It was a great team and we all proved it by going further. So I moved from my office on the 4th floor of Toronto Union Station to a more modernistic office on the 15th floor of the new CN Headquarters building in downtown Montreal. It was somewhat different to the 3rd floor desk area I had shared in the "bull pen" of the old McGill St. headquarters in Montreal!