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Old Time Trains

Ontario Southland Railway

by R.L.Kennedy

CNR Cayuga Subdivision

All photographs: Walter Pfefferle unless otherwise credited.

(Last updated January 6 th, 2019)

Background: Effective November 9, 1998 Canadian National Railway leased its Cayuga Sub. from just east of St.Thomas 33 miles through Aylmer, Tillsonburg (connecting to OSR) to Courtland and Delhi a deadend as track was long abandoned beyond this point. It included running rights into CN's yard in St.Thomas. It was leased to Trillium Railway another independent Canadian shortline which created the St.Thomas and Eastern Railway.

ST&E struggled on for years with minimal traffic and little growth providing service twice a week. Ironically, the biggest increase resulted from a new customer that was unable to find land with rail access to OSR in Tillsonburg. Future Transfer an independent trucking operation in Aylmer relocated to Tillsonburg in CN's yard after ST&E had taken over. Initially CN traffic going to OSR was handed over in Tillsonburg as was CPR traffic handled by OSR going to ST&E destinations including Future Transfer. Once OSR leased the CPR St.Thomas Sub. they were able to connect to CN in St.Thomas directly thereby cutting out Trillium.

Eventually, low traffic combined with minimal track maintenance and the need for major bridge repairs in Tillsonburg and between Courtland and Delhi did in St.Thomas & Eastern and parent Trillium abruptly ended operations December 20, 2013 with minimal notice (30 days?)

OSR stepped in to provide interim local service for CN customers in Tillsonburg (east of the bridge) and Courtland.
No service was provided to Alymer (new ethanol plant) and Delhi. Note: CN traffic destined to CPR customers has been interchanged directly to OSR in St.Thomas since OSR leased the St.Thomas Sub. Initially, cars were set-off and lifted
near the old Wabash Transfer. Following shut down of the ST&E interchange made in CN St. Thomas Flora Street yard.

Short term arrangements were renewed a number of times while CN sought another operator in the interim OSR continues to operate part of the line recently adding St.Thomas to Aylmer. Major repairs to the embargoed trestle just west of Tillsonburg yard undertaken by CN during 2016 in order to reopen line. The first train operated early in 2017 from CN St.Thomas to Tillsonburg over the trestle. This one trestle cost $640,000 dollars while extensive track work replacing 6,000 ties cost another $900,000 in addition to another 3800 ties put in by OSR mostly between St. Thomas and Aylmer all carried out earlier in 2016. This eliminated the long-existing 10 mph track speed bringing it up to varying but much higher speed. A long stretch of excellent CWR also exists.


Running rights granted on the Cayuga spur in St.Thomas to reach CN St.Thomas Flora Street yard for interchange with CN (Talbot Spur going 14.5 miles London.) This is the former London and Port Stanley radial railway. The connection to CPR St.Thomas Subdivision remains.


Formet Industries

A division of Magna International Inc.
Automobile parts manufacturer.

1 Cosma Court.

Connections to both CNR and CPR in St.Thomas. The Formet plant is switched by CANDO Contracting.

Other industries in St.Thomas:

Mile 108.5 Cayuga Sub.

Integrated Grain Processors Co-operative Inc.
33 Talbot Street East

IGPC Ethanol Inc. wholly-owned subsidiary.
Fuel grade ethanol producer using local corn.
89 Progress Drive

Began production October 2008 sourcing corn from Cargill.
A partnership effective October 1, 2015 with Thompsons Ltd. replaced Cargill.
A major $135 million expansion doubling capacity is currently (October 2016) under consideration.
It could include Canada's first fibre separation technology system.
Rail is expected to play a more important role.

Other ethanol plants in Ontario include: a 400-million-litre facility owned by Suncor St. Clair in Sarnia; a 200-million litre plant owned by Greenfield Specialty Alcohols 200-million product in Johnstown in Eastern Ontario; another similar-sized operation by Greenfield in Chatham; a smaller 27-million litre operation in Tiverton; and Kawartha Ethanols' 120-million litre plant at Havelock.

200 million litre plant. Progress Drive street view.

Not a tank car in sight! Most ethanol moves by truck due to short haul such as Hamilton.

378_383 eastbound just east of Aylmer crossing Glencolin Line (Springfield Rd. Elgin County 40 behind)
is the first train to operate on the restored Cayuga line over the long-embargoed
trestle to reach Future Transfer in CN Tillsonburg yard. January 5, 2017.


1400_1620 ran across the recently repaired trestle and back to settle new timbers securly as desired by the
maintenance people prior to final approval of the completed work. This drone still shot shows the long length
of the trestle. Highway 3 in right background is similarly lengthy structure. There are a number of long trestles
throughout the St.Thomas-Tillsonburg area on multiple railway lines. Tillsonburg 11/17/2016.

Tillsonburg yard
Mile 94.4 Cayuga Sub.

Future Transfer Company Inc.

Began operation in 2003

Clean Harbors (formerly Safety Clean) also located here.
Transload dirty/cleaned oil to/from plant in Breslau.

Note: In 2016 most of this traffic was redirected by Clean Harbors
to GJR in Guelph which is much closer to Breslau.

Aerial view inc.closeup Future Transfer on Cayuga Sub.

Looking east along the CN Cayuga Sub. formerly St.Thomas and Eastern.
Weed covered yard tracks to the right were built/expanded to handle Future's traffic as were tracks at left.
After opening of Future's new location on Tillson Avenue on OSR much traffic was diverted there.

Two views October 12, 2015 taken at our request as well as Tillson Avenue location.


One of two Trackmobile car movers.

Mile 89.7 Cayuga Sub.

LA Co-op Federee
AGRI_business Div.

159 Talbot Street

Effective November 2018 most of the operations of Cargill in Ontario were acquired including the
two facilities in Courtland which included former Norfolk Co-Op acquired by Cargill Canada.

8235_503 switching the newly acquired facility. Courtland January 4, 2019

1401_182 make a rare trip to Courtland. Still nice weather! November 7, 2016



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