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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Letters The London And Port Stanley Railway

March 20, 2018

The London And Port Stanley Railway (LPS ) was constructed between 1853 to 1856 due to the high freight charges for agriculture products being shipped from London. And after the LPS was operational; it worked as the rates were lowered !

During the opening celebrations a passenger train was used with borrowed equipment from the surrounding steam railways and to the delight of the LPS officials.They saw that money could also be made moving passengers along with the freight.

From the time period between 1856 to 1915 when the line was electrified the LPS operation was leased to other railways (after changing the gauge from broad gauge to standard gauge which is 56 1/2 ").

Sir Adam Beck became chair of the LPS and he electrified the line as a template for an Ontario interurban system that will be completed by GO in about 2115 !The success of the LPS placed the Traction Line into bankruptcy due to the Traction Line taking 2 hours from London to Port Stanley and the LPS only taking 1 hour.Since the LPS needed an attraction for their passengers they invested heavily into Port's beach,bathing suits changing facilities,the LPS pavilion (the Stork Club),sporting events,and the picnic hill area with the incline cars (that are now at the Elgin county Railway Museum ,225 Wellington St St Thomas.)Passenger volumes increased to its peak in 1943 when 1.7 million passengers were transported due to the gasoline and vehicle rationing.Not bad for a 24 1/2 mile operation !

Of course with the harbour being dredged to then seaway depth commercial traffic occurred and the Bessemer rail ferry along with export and import traffic added to the bottom line of the LPS.Another factor with the commercial dredging is the spring flooding stopped as the water was always able to travel UNDER the ice .The commercial end of the Port Stanley harbour was after Canadian National Railway took over the LPS .They and Transport Canada decided commercial marine traffic could be handled at Windsor and Hamilton.

Now for the demise of the LPS and all branch line passenger railways.The private motor vehicle with cheap gasoline along with our subsidised highway system made the LPS a second option when travelling to Port Stanley. It was GOVERNMENT POLICY that altered branch line passenger travel.The first and most important was when the government removed the mail contracts from rail and transferring the contracts to trucks advising it is the best thing since sliced bread.Also since the city of London could see the storm clouds coming for the LPS and other railways being charged MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAXES.Yes the railways were given free taxation in order to draw them into particular cities.Yet that passed and after the defined time frame ;taxation started and that is why their has been so many lesser used rail lines abandoned .

Now for the washout that closed the St Thomas to Port Stanley portion.This was the exit that Canadian National Railways needed.And they applied for abandonment and received the authorising order to do so.Keeping the London to St Thomas portion in order to serve Ford .

And along came Port Stanley Terminal Rail Inc.(PSTR )Who were individuals that would not budge from their plan to operate a tourist and freight railway ! No matter the obstacles placed in front of them. Come washouts,government stop orders,blocked road crossings, due to pavement,and no operating authority.Since the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB )was formed to regulate Ontario railways or short line railways and there were no new applications since the 1920s.PSTR and the OMB worked together for a safe operation.Since there were no off the shelf safety manuals for shortline railways.PSTR designed and submitted their safety operating manual to the OMB for approval;that was approved.To this date PSTR's safety culture continues.

During the OMB hearing the chair advised all lawyers present to start from right to left.Stand and state their name and who they represent.And he was there to sort this application out.Which he did in no uncertain terms after a day and a half.In due time the OMB authorised that the federal Transport Canada who regulate the federal railways oversee the Ontario short line railways.This unified the operating culture of a standardised safe operations in Ontario.

As PSTR also planned freight operations .Jeff Willsie purchased hopper rail cars and rail engines in order to operate freight from the then Port Stanley to St Thomas Top Notch elevators yet the MTO placed gravel at the south and north entrance of there LPS corridor as they owned the corridor before the province deeded it to the city of St Thomas.And that is the start of Ontario Southland Railway that operate in St Thomas to Courtland,Ingersoll to Tillsonburg,Woodstock to St Thomas and Guelph Junction to Guelph.The next time you see the cream and maroon engines ;the gravel piles were the start.

In May of 1989 Canadian National Railways pulled the LPS connection from the Barwick St bridge in St Thomas to the C&O transfer wye south of Centre St that connected to the then Conrail / CASO / CNR route.This enabled CNR to lay off the 24 / 7 BX operators thus cutting four jobs.

Now for the good news.

In 2013 the city of St Thomas with the Dorothy Palmer funds and other government funding relayed the LPS corridor from the C&O transfer wye to 300 feet south of Kains St.

And the city with CNR (who owns part of the LPS corridor) from the 300 feet south of Kains St to the Barwick St Bridge.A distance of 2230 feet .Are in the design stage before a contract is given out as per Wendell Graves.

Their appears to be a "make it happen" plan for the connection at this time.And after the connection a passenger train could travel from London to Port Stanley while stopping at the replica LPS Talbot St Thomas station !

If a student would like a school project . The history of the London and Port Stanley Railway with reference from the books of Frank and Nancy Prothero titled Passport to Pleasure A history of the L&PS Railway or their Port Stanley:Musings & Memories could make an interesting historical document of how to design a future interurban transportation route.

Robert Weare
St. Thomas

Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2018 10:29:12 AM EST

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