Facebook Page
Ashdown Cars

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home


Ashdown Cars

R.L. Kennedy

Yard job with 0-6-0 6213 heads east from Keele Street to Lake Simcoe Ice on the North Toronto Subdivision to load up newer "Ashdown" cars with ice. CP 422969 is the first car. 7/12/47 Al Paterson

There are a lot of different kinds of railway cars, their names and nicknames familiar to most people, but there are only a few that bear the name of their inventor. The Jordan spreader is one of the best known although the identity of Mr. Jordan is perhaps less well known, however the story of Oswald F. Jordan a Canadian railroader is a story for another time. The Hart convertible (ballast) car is likely another one, an old piece of equipment once a very common sight, now almost extinct.

There is also George Pullman's famous sleeping cars not to mention Webster Wagner and his sleepers, both Americans as were George Westinghouse of Air Brake fame and Eli Janney inventor of the automatic knuckle coupler. Many locomotive builders applied their own names to the products they built starting here in Canada with James Good of Toronto who built the first Canadian steam locomotive, Matthias Baldwin whose locomotives roamed the U.S. and Canada, as did Thomas Rogers's efforts including a certain well known CPR engine (136) that is still in use, William Mason and his unique Mason Bogie engines, Ephraim Shay, Anatole Mallet and numerous others. There are many others whose devices bear their names including such 'household' names as Egide Walschaerts, a Belgian inventor, and Samuel Morse, the dot and dash man.

Have you ever heard of Ashdown cars? Not too likely for they were used in only one place that I know of, CPR's Lambton Yard in Toronto where Sam Ashdown worked as a yardmaster. Back in the days of ice reefers (refrigerator cars) it was necessary to add ice enroute and sometimes salt depending upon the particular perishable product being shipped and the shippers instructions. There were regular icing points all across Canada usually just main terminals as the fast schedule they moved on meant infrequent re-icing. Toronto Terminals was one such place and many years ago the Ice House was located in West Toronto yard near the RIP track. In fact the ice house lead is still in use and the yard job that worked it was know as the Ice House Lead job even though it was officially the E.Y.E.E. (East Yard East End) under the Keele St. Yardmaster back when Lambton/West Toronto was the main yard for Toronto.

Older ashdown cars.
W. G. Carruthers Collection of Ken Whitehead

Later on a new ice plant was built for Lake Simcoe Ice at North Toronto right next to the main line. It could re-ice cars right on the train but only one or two at a time so if a train had lots of reefers it would cause a big delay. This became crucial when it was a hot train such as 904, THE hottest train through Lambton Yard. It carried traffic from Chicago to Newport (Via Detroit-Toronto-Montreal) much of it meat from Chicago and Omaha packing houses. 904 also made a big lift at Lambton mostly cars ex Canada Packers at West Toronto (more meat!) To reduce the delay to this fast freight train Sam Ashdown set about having several old wooden box cars converted into Ice Service cars. These cars had extension sides built on top of their roof, ice was loaded on top of the card roof, where it could then be man handled into the bunkers of the reefers through their roof hatches. To get a supply of ice a yard engine would haul the cars across the North Toronto Sub. (about 5 miles away) to Lake Simcoe Ice where blocks of ice would be loaded onto the car roofs and then it would return to Lambton. Meanwhile the yardmaster (there were five per shift counting the General) would keep two tracks clear in Lambton yard, one for 904 to arrive on (and depart from) the other a clear alley for the yard job to use. They would simply run up the clear track stopping beside the icers and the R&H Dept. (Re-icing & Heating) men would load the ice into the reefers, then move on to the next icers etc. I am not sure but I think the sides were sectionalized and dropped down across the gap, between the tracks. There may have been a shute as well to slide the ice along. The Constable might be walking the train in a routine inspection of the car seals and the US customs 'inbond' seals. As Service (work) cars they had 450,000 series numbers. 106 Ice Service cars are shown in the Summary of Equipment (M.P 14) issued January 1,1956. They would be used to deliver ice to various terminals. If any reader knows of similar roof top ice loading locations please tell us.

Many other things were happening at the same time starting with the removal of the road engine and van. Clerks would go over the waybills and write out icing bills to charge the customer for ice and salt used. The constable would be checking seals on car doors, especially U.S. Customs In Bond seals. Cars would be added or removed by a yard engine, the Car Dept. would be busy inspecting the train, oiling journals, tapping wheels and then conducting an air brake test once the new road engine and van were on. Then it was HIGH BALL!

BACK to Stories

Back (Use your browser Back button)

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home

Old Time Trains © 2009