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Lambton Yard

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Canadian Pacific Railway

Lambton Yard


Yard engine is moving westward on the centre lead. Most likely this is the Stock engine, a 3 shift lead job
switching the west end of West Toronto Yard, to the right is the "big lead"of Lambton Yard and on the left
is the Here Yard lead. OCS coal and cinders in the foreground. 1935. Patterson-George Collection

Lambton Yard, and its accompanying West Toronto Yard, have undergone many changes over the long decades of their existence. Lambton itself was built in 1912-13 as an expansion of the adjacent West Toronto Yard, with Runnymede Road being the dividing point. This expansion took place at a time of heavy traffic growth of a young Canada. Lambton was designed to accommodate 55 car trains. Most commonly made up of 36 foot wooden 30 ton boxcars. At this time Ten Wheelers, (D10's and older) and Consolidations were common freight power, with P1 Mikados (5000 series) just coming on the roster.

Lambton is a hump yard, Runnymede Road is the crest of the hump. Lead switching crews were said to “change off at the hump”, meaning the yard office. Both Lambton and West Toronto are saucer shaped so that cars could be “kicked” (cut off in motion), and allowed to roll freely into tracks or an “alley” without fear of them rolling out the other end. This allowed the crew to go about switching more cars. Only in this way could the large numbers of cars be switched per shift although this resulted in many heavy impacts causing much freight damage. Even cars placarded “Do Not Hump” didn’t always escape damage, so the freight claims people installed portable recorders that would enable them to determine when and where the lading suffered damage. It was common to see such cars chalked up with a clock face to indicate there was a “clock” inside the car. This did get careful handling for the one car out of hundreds.

A huge V5 class 0-8-0 was assigned to the “Big Lead” to do this humping in Lambton, while on the West Toronto side a 6900 0-8-0 or 3400 2-8-0 was used. Similar engines worked other lead jobs and smaller 6200 0-6-0's did other yard and local switching. In the 1940’s came ALCO S-2 1000HP diesel switchers to replace steam. Six lead jobs were required to perform yard switching. One at each end of both yards, another to move cars between West Toronto yard and Lambton yard and yet another to switch the way yard. There was also a job each shift to switch the RIP tracks. In addition, there were several "local" jobs to switch industries.

Yard Assignments Toronto Terminals 1954

Traffic requirements necessitated a second track be added in 1905 to the mainline between North Toronto and West Toronto diamond and from there to Lambton. When Lambton yard was built double tracking took place in 1911 from Lambton to Obico except for the Humber River bridge where a gauntlet was installed until December 1914 by which time the bridge had been replaced. A gauntlet is 4 rails together without the need for switches that can only be used by one train at a time.

At Obico a cut-off was built to Canpa in 1910 as a short cut to reach the Joint Section which would allow freight trains to and from Hamilton a direct route to Lambton Yard. Prior to this trains had to back in both directions via Parkdale to Bathurst Street.

The Here Yard was changed from being a repair facility, the narrow gauge car dept. tracks were removed and 13 dead end tracks with “half moons” resulted. Aside from miscellaneous storage, vans (cabooses) for Toronto crews were kept here. London Division men who slept in their vans had a van alley between Jane Street and Scarlett Road next to St.Clair Avenue, a quieter part of the yard. Double ended, it was long enough to allow a gap between vans so as not to disturb others who were sleeping when the yard engine came for an ordered van. The road engine would get their own van if they were running light to Leaside yard for their train.

The Great Depression caused a severe drop in traffic and West Toronto Yard was changed from a marshalling yard to a storage yard (by removing lamps from switches), to reduce taxes for the duration. Lambton Yard continued as a 24 hour a day marshalling yard.

Lambton was originally divided into two yards, one for arrivals and one for departures. Closest to the mainline were 11 tracks and then more leads made a 9 track parallel yard. After 1921, this was combined into one yard with tracks extended closer to Scarlett Road to accommodate longer trains made up of 40 foot steel 40 & 50 ton box cars. Tank cars were 33', flat cars and gondolas were 41' , 46', 48' and a few 52', which were the longest cars in general use. Tracks 1-3 could hold 103-100 cars plus engine and van.

1950's Car Limits
London 56 and Van
Mac Tier 69 and Van
Trenton 69 and Van
Hamilton 90 and Van

Both Lambton and West Toronto yards were used for arrivals, marshalling/classification and departures. West Toronto was for arrivals of north and east trains and departure of west and south (Hamilton) trains. Lambton for departure of north and east trains. Wayfreights and other local jobs were switched in the way freight yard, part of West Toronto yard. Some London trains also departed from Leaside yard.

Map-old blueprint 1943 Details area shown below.

Lambton yard office May 27, 1956 Click to read detailed caption
Toronto Public Library (TRL) J.V.Salmon Collection S 1-3571A

1912 subway under construction before yard office and roundhouse were built.

1915 new subway also shows yard office

Streetcar tracks on Runnymede Road

The Yard Office was located at Runnymede Road, on the north-west side of the subway (underpass). It was a large wooden building on a cement foundation where a General Yardmaster had responsibility for the operation of Lambton (and West Toronto) Yard. The General Car Foreman and General Locomotive Foreman had similar responsibilities for their respective departments, all of which were part of the Operating Department.

Eventually, this decrepit building was finally replaced in July 1976 with the present brick building, in connection with construction of a new underpass on Runnymede Road which also resulted in minor track re-alignment of the leads etc. located on top of the bridge. See Part 3.

Yardmasters, one for each of Lambton and West Toronto were located here. Another yardmaster was at the West End (just east of Scarlett Road), in a small shack referred to as "Churchill". Not sure why it was called that except in winter walking to it often felt like you were going that far north! All positions were 24/7 as they say now. In other words it took a total of 5 yardmasters per shift to run the yard. These yardmasters (except for the General), spent most of their time out in the yard, not sitting at a desk! As well there were switchtenders at each extremity, Keele Street Yard Office and Scarlett Road in the Scale House, who looked after getting trains in and out of the yard, as all switches were hand-operated.

Utility men, known as the "marker up", one for each of Lambton and West Toronto, every shift, worked from Lambton yard office. These were yardmen who aided switchmen by Chalking Up arrived trains with marks to indicate where cars were going.

One of the minor changes introduced early in 1960 was talk-back speaker system throughout the yard to enable the yardmaster to stay in touch with yard crews and vice-versa. An old-fashioned crank (magneto) phone system using a "clothes line" strung from one end of the yard to the other, had for decades provided the primary means of communication, and it worked just fine! You simply turned the crank to ring the place you wanted using coded rings. Two short, Yard Office; three short, Keele Street Yard Office; four short, Scarlett Road switchtender; two long, west end Yardmaster; one long one short, Ice house switch shanty; one long, West Toronto Diamond; one long two short, Northern Diamond. It was acknowledged with one short ring, and you then lifted the receiver and talked on the party line. It was not long afterwards that two-way radio was added to all yard engines. A second phone line ran to the West Toronto shops. There were other local phone lines, including one between Leaside Yard and Lambton Yard Office, another at Lambton Roundhouse, and still more at Parkdale, John Street etc. This system was used at yards everywhere on the CPR.

The other means of private communications was the train dispatchers system that ran all along every track across Canada. These lines were a carrier system of party lines controlled by the appropriate dispatcher. There was also the morse code telegraph system which dated from the earliest days and remained in use to supplement the telephones. All of these systems were maintained, including the pole lines, by the Communications Department.

Two way radio was installed in 1960's in all yard and local engines to aid in communication with the yardmaster including customer service switching instructions etc. Earliest use of radio was in Oct.1946 at the Coach Yard.

Part 3

back to Part 1


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