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Port Mc.Nicoll Grain Trains

Cliff Beagan

The grain trains from Port McNicoll were scheduled as (4th class) #84 from Medonte on the timetable of the Mactier Sub and there could be 2 (or more) sections on any given day. A 2300 or 2400 class steam engine (75 inch drivers) could haul 2635 & 2890 tons out of Port McNicoll with a push across Hog Bay trestle by the yard engine, that tonnage would also be the doubling tonnage over Tottenham hill. Those high wheelers could actually run that tonnage over the hill without doubling if you had a good engineman, good weather, and had momentum in your favour when you arrived at the beginning of the hill at Beeton. If you had to use any sand on the sharp curve part way up the hill at Tottenham you increased the chances of stalling though. The 5300 and 5400 engines with the low drive wheels and greater tonnage (3515 tons) would always stall because they could not get the momentum built up between Alliston and Beeton that the high wheelers could. Steam engines 'ran' a train over a hill whereas diesels 'pull' a train over a hill.

On the trip north, we would usually take a trainload of empties up to Port, but on occasion, when they would have an excess of box cars at the elevators, we would 'dead head' our caboose to Port Switch at Medonte on a freight train destined to Mactier. In this instance, the Port engine would be in the lead and act as the 'push engine' to Bolton. On the other end, the dead head Port caboose would be marshalled next to the train and the working caboose would naturally be on the 'tail end' leaving Toronto. The train would then stop at Port switch, and to eliminate extra time with switching the vans, we would proceed as follows: The head end brakeman would cut off the lead engine, throw the switch, and send him a few car lengths distant into the Port extension track. While this manouver was going on at the head end, the tail end guys would turn
the angle cock ahead of the two vans and bleed the air off both of them. When the head end had completed their move, and the Mactier engine pulled the train forward, we would proceed to make a 'double drop' of the vans. There is a slight downhill grade in that area, and after we had gained some forward momentum, one dead head Port brakeman would ride the ladder of the last box car of the train going forward, we then pulled the pin on the front of each van, applied the hand brakes to both vans slightly, and with slightly different intensity, so that both vans were separated from the train and maybe 100 feet distant from each other as they approached Portswitch. The brakeman riding the last box car dropped off at Port Switch and threw the switch to let the dead head van drop in towards the waiting engine on the extension track. He then quickly lined the switch for the main line again to let the Mactier van proceed down the main line and reattach to the tail end of their now stopped train. We would couple up the hose bags on both vans, the Port engine and van would proceed along side the Mactier bound train up to Medonte station to pick up running orders from there to Port McNicoll and at the same time signal the head end that they were clear to proceed north to Mactier. And that is how a double drop was accomplished in the old days. Something that
would never happen in todays modern railroading I would guess.



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