Facebook Page
Old Time Trains


Canadian Pacific Railway

London Division Branch Lines



The London Division had numerous branch lines all built under various charters including between Woodstock and St. Mary's, Woodstock and Port Burwell, Woodstock and St.Thomas. This latter line became a branch early when the main line was extended west to London and Windsor. Also, Goderich to Guelph and Hamilton. Woodstock was home terminal for branch assignments for many years.

Aerial views Woodstock
1945 and 1953

Branchline railroading was a different way than on the main line, far fewer trains meant a more casual and easy going leisurely pace with a lack of officials around to bother the men. Schedules were relaxed especially freight and mixed trains. Even passenger train delays were less likely to result in being "called up on the carpet" for. Service, was another thing. Branchline passengers and freight customers were accommodated in a way not seen on the main line. It was not uncommon for a passenger or mixed train to stop where it was not scheduled to or, in between stations to let a passenger on or off. This was handled locally by the station agent or conductor without benefit of approval from higher ups. Regulars were known like family and conductors often worked the same job for many years.


Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here!
A large gathering greets 4-6-0 391 on the newly built track.
St.Marys Museum


Built CP New Shops #1145 9/1891 numbered 547.
Renumbered 2/1908 D3b 391 Renumbered again 7291 11/1912. Scrapped 3/1922

Fourth Class No. 71 eng. 1061 working hard northward up the steep grade to Ostrander.
Straffordville Mile 25.6 Port Burwell Subdivision 1958
Ken Verrell Collection


Busy scene with 6552 on the table and other units in background.
Woodstock 11/04/1979 A.W. Mooney

D10 1086 being coaled up, while 886 waits its turn at Woodstock, July 6, 1957
Don Mc.Cartney Collection

Extra 888 one of local way freights working out of Woodstock. September 28, 1957
D10g CPR 12/1910 Al Paterson/Bud Laws Collection

949 sitting in Woodstock. 9/1954 L.A.Stuckey/Bud Laws Collection

1051 sitting on shop track in Woodstock. 8/07/1954 James Walder/John Riddell Collection


St. Mary's and Western Railway was incorporated in 1905, and plans were approved by the Department of Railways and Canals to build from Woodstock to St.Mary's, and later to Exeter and Sarnia. In 1907 the line was re-surveyed from St.Mary's back 15.9 miles through a half dozen communities to Embro, 5 miles short of the CPR mainline. The first construction train was in St.Mary's May 29,1908, the line opened July 9th, meanwhile, the CPR had taken control July 1st. On February 25,1909, the St.M&W was leased to the CPR for 99 years. They obviously liked it, for on October 2,1912 the lease was altered to 999 years! It didn't last that long however, not only was the company dissolved in a 1958 mass clean up of leased railways, but the line itself was later abandoned, leaving St.Marys to the CNR.

Three routes were surveyed through Stratford to Exeter and Sarnia, but nothing came of this. Again in 1911-12 it was proposed to build from Embro through Stratford to Linwood, and from the G&G south to St.Mary's, but none were ever to see CPR tracks, they were to remain CNR towns forever.

GM 600 GMDH-1 A1713 9/1958 600 hp hydraulic unit testing/demonstrating
on St.Marys Subdivision in 1958. Bill Thomson

Eventually sold 5/1962 to Federal Railways of Brazil. No other 600 hp units were built aside from 1001.

1095 switching in St.Marys. Saturday, April 5, 1958 Philip Horning/Herbert Harwood Collection

Preserved at Kingston.

St.Marys yard, looking north. Fall 1986. Eugene D. Burles

An "armstrong" turntable and a small enginehouse was once located at St.Marys. In April 1930, a 70' table was installed, and in September, a 40,000 gallon water tank. St.Marys Cement was a major customer for many years, but otherwise there was not a lot of traffic on this short branch. A daily except Sunday Mixed train was sufficient until its last run on Saturday, April 27,1957, when M682 departed St.Marys at 5:20 P.M. with D10 steam engine 1086 and an eleven car train that included combine 3288 and a van, one last time. Freight service continued until the last train left St.Marys 9.20 pm February 7, 1995 with engine 8242 a rebuilt GP9, and one car of cement. The line was abandoned March 5, 1995, between Mile 5.5 and 23.6. (A short 1.45 mile piece beyond here was abandoned August 13,1988.) The track still remains as a Spur, from the Galt Sub. at Mile 94.92 running from Mile 4.3 to Mile 5.5 for 5590 feet.

Mileage 6.1 look south

Mileage 7.0 look north

Abandoned right-of-way April 10, 2005
Walter E. Pfefferle

Tillsonburg, Lake Erie and Pacific Railway was incorporated March 26,1890 to build from Port Burwell to Tillsonburg and Ingersoll or Woodstock connecting to the CVR (CPR). May 23,1891 an agreement was made with the GTR to construct and operate the line as an extension of the Brantford, Norfolk and Port Burwell (GWR). By October 1892 the GTR had reneged on the agreement and the project was stalled and seemed doomed like an earlier effort when the Port Burwell and Ingersoll was granted a Provincial charter in 1871. Finally, in May 1894 survey work began and construction followed on July 1,1895. In 1896 it owned one locomotive (and leased another), two passenger cars and a few freight cars. On January 2,1896, 16 miles of 56 pound rail with a maximum 1% grade opened. It did not its own station in Tillsonburg, rather it gained the use of the GTR's station over 3 miles of their track.

6616 returning to home terminal at Woodstock. Digital restoration; Walter Pfefferle

S-13 DL-406 660 HP MLW 82420 6/1959
One order only. Ten units 6614-6623.
Last order for yard diesels.

NOTE: This was one of many yard diesels equipped for main line service. Slanted illuminated front number boards, classification lamps, chime air horn and combination pilots were all required by BTC Order.

1095 leads the Mixed northbound out of Port Burwell as seen from the combine.

D10 839, Port Burwell, This loco was assigned to the port for switching the car ferry "Ashtabula"
whose smoke is behind the water tank. The rotating racks on the right are for drying fish.
Port B's fish industry was waning at this time, in favour of Pt. Dover, so the racks are disused.
September 24, 1955 Robert J. Sandusky

D10 892, off the Woodstock mixed, is turning for its return trip from Port Burwell. Looking north. Yard engine 839
is poking half out of the 2-stall engine house. Note the coal bucket loader & 2 coal gons, 347051 empty, 347052 full.
Note this is an "Armstrong" turntable! September 24, 1955 Robert J. Sandusky

No. 839, Port Burwell, looking south. No.892 has cleared the turntable and is moving down past
the station to pick up its loads for the northbound mixed. No. 839 is pulling out engine coal gons
to get one filled up at the coal piles down the yard. September 24, 1955 Robert J. Sandusky

A contract was let October 21,1897 for the 3.75 mile (3.4 final) Loop Line to CASO. April 1898 it was under construction, and opened, with 65 lb. rail on December 31st. The TLE&P now totaled 19.41 miles.
May 1899 saw Ingersoll entice the railway to build to their town instead of Woodstock. July 25,1901 a contract was let for 15.33 miles of line to serve four villages and Woodstock. It opened December 13,1902. Also in 1902 application was made for an extension via Embro and Stratford all the way to Collingwood! January 1903, approval was given for an extension to Woodstock and Berlin (Kitchener) or, Ingersoll to Stratford.

October 6,1904 the TLE&P was leased to the CPR for a mere 999 years! August 28,1905 approval was given to build 25.4 miles from Ingersoll towards Collingwood. This work was delayed and changed to go through Zorra to Embro instead and connect with the St.Mary's and Western Ontario, which the CPR also took control of. The line between Zorra and Embro opened June 30,1908, and Ingersoll June 11,1911.

Nothing was built to reach Kitchener, Stratford nor Collingwood.

In 1912 the CPR facilities at Port Burwell included a 4-stall engine house with a 70' turntable and a 40,000 gal. water tank. By the late 1950's there was only a 2-stall engine house with turntable, along with a 20,000 gal. water tank, along with the station and freight shed The railway eventually owned four elevators. It was here too, that a dock was built to handle ships that would bring freight cars of coal from Ashtabula, Ohio. This would be the main traffic for decades, much of it for the CPR!

Ingersoll received a 70' turntable in April 1930, and a 40,000 gal. water tank in September.

Ingersoll North received a second-hand 70' turntable to replace its 55' one which was so small the D-10 working the St.Mary's job had to backup in one direction.

Ingersoll to Zorra was abandoned May 30,1987; Port Burwell to Tillsonburg, December 25,1987.
Diamond at Mileage 15.2 in Tillsonburg with CNR Tillsonburg North Spur removed July 1993. (This 15.3 mile spur was what was left of the CNR Burford Subdivision running from Tillsonburg Junction east towards Burford and abandoned in 1987.)

Eventually, declining traffic led to a decision to contract out operation of the remaining portion of the Port Burwell Sub. between Tillsonburg and Ingersoll in February 1999 to Ontario Southland.

Map: Tillsonburg 1957 R.J.Sandusky Map: Tillsonburg 1985 R.J.Sandusky

Pennsylvania-Ontario Transportation Company was formed February 16, 1906 under US law, with 50/50 ownership by the CPR and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Its purpose was to operate a car ferry operation between Ashtabula, Ohio, a major coal and ore port, and the fishing village of Port Burwell. Great Lakes Engineering Works of St.Clair, Michigan built a steel car ferry, ASHTABULA, capable of carrying 26 freight cars on four tracks. Primary traffic was coal from mines in Ohio and Pennsylvania, much of it OCS (On Company Service) for the CPR itself. In fact, this was very nearly all the traffic carried, along with a small amount of southbound forest products. Coal traffic in 1929 totaled 361,000 tons, while southbound freight was just 10% of that figure. Of course, the service did not operate during three months of winter, so the daily average of coal well exceeded 1000 tons! In the depths of the Depression it was reduced 60%, while World War II brought it partially back up. By the 1950's dieselization and a general decline in coal reduced the car ferry to an irregular service. The end came abruptly on September 18,1958 when the ASHTABULA collided with the freighter Ben Moreel in Ashtabula, Ohio which resulted in its sinking. Although it was re-floated, it went back to where it had been built, for scrapping. Its purpose and time were over, from now on coal would come to Ontario all-rail via Buffalo.

ENLARGE Circa 1920's. Dave Rusnak Sr. Collection

For many years a D10 4-6-0 was regular power on the Port Burwell coal trains. The climb out of the harbour resulted in doubling the grade. A D10 could handle 1040 tons to Ingersoll, but only 800 out of Port Burwell. Port Burwell to Ostrander (21 miles), was officially considered a Helper Grade, (and Port Burwell to Vienna, 2 miles a Doubling Grade), but in fact they doubled to Ostrander. A D10 could take double the tonnage from that point 12 miles to Ingersoll as well as the rest of the way to Lambton. Total elevation gain was 300 feet. Normal practice was for the regular job to start out before the ferry arrived, taking 10-12 cars up the grade to Ostrander, then return to Port Burwell, switch the ferry and take another 10-12 cars north, lifting the first cars and continuing with a maximum of 20-24 cars. Another D10 handled the regular Mixed train, referred to as
"The Plug", it was limited to 8 cars due to the heavy passenger equipment.

Earlier that same day with 882 on M660 Woodstock to Port Burwell on Otter Creek trestle over Hwy. 19.

ENLARGE to read detailed caption

CP 888 Port Burwell 6 July 1957 S.S. "Ashtabula" (sunk 1958)
Photo © Bob Sandusky

ENLARGE to read detailed caption.

CP 882 climbing out of Port Burwell with mixed train M659, 19 May 1956.

. ENLARGE to read detailed caption.


961 northbound with the Mixed. Ostrander 4/26/1957 Bud Laws Collection

South Ontario Pacific Railway was incorporated in 1887 to build from the West Ontario Pacific at Woodstock 53 miles through Brantford to Hamilton. This would require 16 miles of 1% grade from Hamilton to Copetown , and include a 600' tunnel. From Woodstock the line was to run 76 miles to Goderich, and in the opposite direction would run 42 miles to the Niagara River where a ferry or bridge would carry the line into the USA. Yet another line would run via the Burlington Beach strip to Cooksville or Toronto. This totaled 200 miles of railway. It also had power to build from Embro (near Woodstock), via St.Mary's to Lake Huron in the area between Bayfield and Kincardine. Nothing was built.

The Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie, soon to become the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo, began building through Brantford to Hamilton, negating the need for one part of the main line. The TH&B line to the Niagara frontier owned and controlled by the NYC and CPR eliminated another segment of the proposed main line.

Meanwhile, in 1906 the Hamilton & Guelph Junction Railway was Provincially incorporated to build from the CPR at Guelph Jct. to the GTR at Bayview Jct. It died without ever doing anything.

Finally, in November 1910 the SOP (CPR) announces it will build from Hamilton to Guelph Junction. February 21,1911 the CPR files plans for this line as well as onward through Georgetown or Acton to Georgian Bay. May 1911 construction was started at Guelph Jct. via Waterdown to Hamilton. 16.3 miles of 85 pound rail and a steep grade of approximately 1.9% - the steepest in S. Ont. climbing 586' in only 5.4 miles - northward to Waterdown that restricted tonnage severely, a D-10 being limited to only 515 tons but 1315 afterwards. The line opened July 1, 1912 after having been leased to the CPR effective January 1,1912 for 999 years! This was to be the only piece of railway built using the SOP charter.

On to: Branch Lines - Guelph and Goderich

Back to:Main History





Back (Use your browser Back button)

Old Time Trains © 2021