Millions for Railroad Improvements in Canada

W. Arnot Craick July 1 1911

Millions for Railroad Improvements in Canada

W. Arnot Craick July 1 1911

Millions for Railroad Improvements in Canada

W. Arnot Craick

THE whistling of the air brakes on the seventeen hundred passenger and seven hundred freight trains, which are despatched over the steam railroads of Canada from Atlantic to Pacific every day of the year, is forever calling the attention of the traveler to the wonderful process of evolution through which the railroad systems of the country are passing. There is no standing still. Even the smallest road must needs fall in with the march of progress and adopt those improvements and betterments which are essential to its

continued existence. It is an interesting study to trace out how the employment of some one new device often leads inevitably to a whole chain of alterations in roadbed, mechanism, and equipment, costing millions of money.

The movement towards a more modern and efficient system of railroading in Canada dates from about the year 1897. Prior to that time there had been some years of retrenchment. The United States and Canada had passed through a period of hard times, which had led the managements of railroads on both sides of the

line to adopt a policy of economy in all departments of operation. This policy, necessitated as it was by financial stringency in the first place, was continued for some: time after the return of more prosperous times had rendered it no longer essential. It took form in one direction, at least, in

the building of larger locomotives, capable of hauling longer and heavier trains, and of bigger cars, with much greater carrying capacity. Then, in order to make the running of these/heavier trains safer and more expeditious, the railroad companies became immediately involved in a prac-

tical reconstruction of their entire roadbed, at a cost, oftentimes, in excess of the cost of original construction.

This work of reconstruction is still in process in many parts of Canada. It is being forced on the railroads by the exigencies of a situation which demands that no one road can afford to lag behind another in its efforts to carry freight and passengers as cheaply, safely and rapidly as possible. The story of railroad development in Canada along these lines will prove a revelation to those who are inclined to think that railroad companies only make their large expenditures on the construction of new lines.

But the introduction of heavier engines and cars on Canadian railroads was only made feasible, after all, by the invention of the air brake. This wonderful contrivance has done more to revolutionize railroading than almost any other invention since the locomotive itself was first constructed. Without its aid the operation of the heavy transcontinental and international expresses which rush across Canada with such tremendous momentum would be attended with so much danger that it would be next to impossible to run them safely and satisfactorily.

Most Canadians can recall the days of the hand brake, when brakemen were accustomed to run along the tops of the freight cars or through the aisles of the passenger coaches, setting the brakes by twisting an iron wheel at the end of each car. The comparative lightness of the cars in those days made this method of control practicable, but to-day it would be no easy matter to stop a heavy express train, traveling at high speed, by hand power alone.

The invention of George Westinghouse

was revolutionary in its results. From its practical application to railroading dates the growth of modern railroad equipment It had in it the germ of all the thousand and one improvements and betterments which have gone to make the modern railroad the smooth and perfect mechanism it is to-day.

Westinghouse’s invention was irresistible. No railroad company, no matter how conservative, could afford to ignore it. It was taken up everywhere and nowhere more quickly than by the leading Canadian roads. Despite the huge cost involved in equipping 'locomotives and cars with the system, its advantages were so patent, that before long most of the rolling stock in the country was under its control. To-day, out of the 132,681 cars of all descriptions on Canadian railroads, 125,321 are furnished with the air brake equipment. At an average cost of fifty dollars for a freight car, $150 for a passenger coach and $500 for a locomotive, the railroad companies have spent in the neighborhood of ten millions for air brakes on their locomotives and cars.

Thus dawned the era of the new Canadian railroad—not with any flourish of trumpets or display of fireworks, but imperceptibly, almost, and with a resistless force, which nothing could prevent.

To illustrate the way in which locomotives have increased in size and weight during the past fifteen or twenty years, one need only refer to the popular fallacy of calling a big engine a “mogul.” Newspaper readers are regaled with lurid accounts of how “a big mogul” hurls itself out of the darkness upon “a little passenger engine” and smashes if to smithereens. Such descriptions sound very amus-

ing to railroad men. In reality, the mogul engine in the collision is probably the small one of the two. Fifteen to twenty years ago the mogul, which is the name technically given to a locomotive having three pairs of driving wheels and a single pair of truck wheels, was really a big engine, but to-day it is ordinarily one of the smallest engines in use. As a mere question of size, the average engine of the old era weighed 40 tons, without tender, having a capacity of 65 per cent. The biggest engine in use in Canada to-day, is of the “Articulated” type, weighs 150 tons and has a capacity of 270 per cent.

Every traveler must have been impressed with the immense increase both in size and weight of the passenger coaches now in ordinary use in Canada over those in use twenty years ago. Here again figures will demonstrate this increase more clearly than any other method of description The wretched and, to us, uncomfortable coaches of the eighties only weighed on the average 25 tons. The big and luxurious coaches which are being built for Canadian roads to-day tip the scales at 45 to 55 tons.

And as for the freight cars, the change has been just as notable. Not so very many years ago a box car, only twenty-four feet long, was no uncommon sight. Then, during the eighties, the standard had risen to thirty-three feet. To-day it is 36 ft. 8 in. By the discarding of the smaller cars from year to year, and the substitution of larger cars, the average tonnage of freight cars is steadily increasing. In 1907 it stood at 27.6 tons; in 1910 it had advanced to 29.1 tons. In the same way the average amount of freight carried by each car during the course of the year has grown from 545 tons in 1908 to 622

tons in 1910. Freight cars capable of holding 55 tons are now being used in Canada.

For the year ending June 30, 1910, it cost the railroads of Canada the sum of $8,812,778.25 for the purchase of ties, rails, ballast, other track material, and the construction of tunnels, bridges, trestles and culverts. This expenditure comes under the heading of maintenance of way, and illustrates forcefully what the railroads have to spend annually to keep their roadbed in condition for the operation of trains, which are becoming every year bigger and heavier.

Consider the item of steel rails. At the beginning of the new era, Canadian roads were as a rule equipped with rails weighing sixty pounds to the yard. For carrying the rolling stock of the previous decade these rails were entirely satisfactory, and they would even have done later on in sections where traffic is light. But on main lines, where trains are run at frequent intervals, and the wear on the rails is severe, their usefulness was over immediately the day of the heavier train dawned. Heavier rails had to he substituted at once. From sixty pounders, the standard rose to seventy-two pounders, then to eighties, and to-day the average rail weighs about 85 pounds to the yard, with hundred pound rails on some sections, where the wear is particularly heavy.

While under ordinary circumstances the life of a rail extends from about ten to twelve years, owing to the changes outlined above, tracks have had to be relaid at intervals of from 7 to 9 years. When the thousands of miles of road are taken into consideration (a total of 26,230 miles on June 30, 1910) the immense expense

of this particular kind of reconstruction work is abundantly apparent. Roads like the Canadian Pacific and the Grand Trunk have to maintain a complete tracklaying equipment all the year round, consisting of trains of flat cal’s, boarding cars, etc., manned by a gang of track layers The new rail bill of the C. P. R. for 1910 was nearly $400,000, most of which was spent in re-laying old tracks.

Of course the substitution of new rails for olddoes not mean that the old rails are unnecessarily of no further use. They are not a dead loss to the railway company. A process of culling is carried on. The best of the old rails are reserved for repair purposes or for use on branch lines. The next best go into sidings or unimportant branches, and only the poorest are scrapped.

While the running of heavier trains has occasioned the discarding of light rails, it has not necessarily involved any

serious changes in the character

of the ties on which the rails are laid. The life of the average wooden tie in Canada is from six to ten years, and when its life is exhausted, it is used for firewood in section houses or otherwise disposed of. But one change has been found necessary by the laying of heavier rails, and that is in the placing of the ties. While twenty years ago the ties were placed with centres twenty-four inches apart, now they are laid with only a distance of from eighteen to twenty inches between centres. This means that in a given stretch of track from twenty-five to thirtythree per cent, more ties are needed than was formerly the case.

But this is not all. The greater cost of ties at the present day must also be taken into consideration. Ties now cost from

one hundred to one hundred and twentyfive per cent, more than they did twenty years ago. This heavy increase has led to the chemical treatment of the wood by some American roads, with the object of lengthening the period of use, and doubtless Canadian roads will soon have to give serious attention to the adoption of a similar policy. The tie bill of Canadian roads is now three million and a half a year.

However, the wear and tear on rails and ties, occasioned by the fast running of heavy engines and cai’s, has caused such friction between the rails and the ties, that in order to save the latter from early destruction, it has of recent years been found necessary to introduce what are known as tie plates—flat pieces of metal, with or without shoulders, resting on the ties, and on which the rails are laid. These are calculated to prevent the wearing away of the wood and spreading of track. They are now being generally used and the equipping of a section of road with them naturally involves heavy expense, both in the purchase and the laying of the plates.

And then again the item of ballasting must be remembered. The relaying of the tracks has necessitated the use of a great deal more ballast in order to give the track the evenness and solidarity which it needs more than ever under present conditions. Ballast cost the railways of Canada about a million dollars in 1910.

But where the effect of the heavier equipment has been most felt is in connection with the bridges. Before the larger engines could be safely run over the line, every bridge and trestle had to be strengthened to bear the heavier load, and this was followed by the rebuilding of practically every bridge in the country. Most

of the old bridges were constructed of wood. These have been, and are being, replaced by steel and stone or concrete structures, erected with a big margin to make good any extra stress for many years to come. What this is costing the railway companies may be gathered from the fact that the bill for this work in 1910 amounted to $2,048,471.72.

In addition to this it has been found advisable to practically rebuild miles of road in order to straighten the lines and to-reduce grades to a minimum. When the Grand Trunk started the heavy work of double-tracking their main line from Montreal to Toronto, they carried the undertaking along satisfactorily as far as Port Hope, and then they struck a kink. West of Port Hope the line ran into a hilly section of country where the grades were killing. Following the lake shore the old road skirted the tops of the headlands and swung down in long curves around the inlets. What was to be done? Operating trains west of Port Hope was expensive. Frequently freights had to be cut in two and run in sections and there were often cases of trains being stalled on the heavy grades. To double-track the old road seemed a piece of folly and for some years nothing was done. Then Charles

M. Hays, the little Napoleon of Railroading, took hold of things. “We’ll locate an entirely new line wherever necessary from Port Hope to Port Union,” said he, “and get rid of heavy grades and sharp curves,” So the Grand Trunk engineers struck into the fine farm lands of Durham county and for many miles constructed a brand new railway, which in some places lay a full mile away from the old road. The gradients were reduced from a maximum of 1.02 per cent, to 0.30 per cent, against east bound traffic and from 1.03 per cent, to 0.66 per cent, against west bound traffic. It cost millions to do it but it reduced operating expenses tremendously.

This is but one example. Recent railroad history supplies many others. The C. P. R. double-tracking operations along the grain-funnel route from Winnipeg to Fort William necessitated the deviation of the road for many miles through the rough country west of Lake Superior. It cost C. P. R. shareholders from twelve to fifteen million dollars to do this little job, but resultant economies in operation abundantly justified the investment.

The most spectacular of recent engineering feats in railroad reconstruction has been the building of the spiral tunnels on the mountain division of the C. P. Ri between Field and Hector, B.C. Here was the situation,—a narrow mountain valley

through which the Kicking Horse River poured tumultuously, and a railway clinging perilously between the steep slope of the mountain and the rushing river. It was only a distance of four miles between the two stations, but the grade reached a maximum of 4.5 per cent, which was quite enough to turn any engine driver’s hair grey. In the light of modern conditions, this state of affairs was inbearable. but how could it be altered? What was wanted was some way of stretching out that four miles of track until it would be long enough to reduce the grade to a reasonable figure. Many were the suggestions offered but none were deemed practicable until one day a long-headed individual asked why, if they could not get distance in the open valley, they could not secure it by running slap into the mountainside, where there was anv aniount of room to be had for the blasting. It was a happy thought and it proved to be the solution of the difficultv. Trains now cover 8.2 miles of track in running between Hector and Field, part of which distance is consumed in circling round towards the interior of skv-scraping^ mountains and coming out again at a lower level. There is a reduction of grade from 4.5 per cent, to 2.2 per cent, and while it cost

up in the millions to achieve this result, look at the saving.

The Crow’s Nest line of the C. P. R. between Lethbridge and Macleod used to be a source of much worry and expense to the management. It was only thirtyseven miles long but they were thirtyseven miles of trouble, with seven degree curves and a 1.2 per cent, grade. Moreover nearly three of the thirty seven miles were consumed in wooden bridges one of which was 2,933 feet long and several of them oyer 100 feet high. Though only built in 1897, the life of these bridges was nearly over by 1904 and there was constant fear of collapse. Traffic was increasing and something had to be done. With one sweep of the pen, the C. P. R directors obliterated the whole road and gave orders for a brand new railway, costing over two million dollars. What was the result? A saving in distance of 5.23 miles; in curvature of 1.735 degrees: and in rise and fall of 401.5 feet, with a reduction in the number of bridges from twenty to two. One of the latter is the celebrated Belly River bridge at Lethbridge, one of the largest in the world. 5,327 feet long and 314 feet high at the highest point.

But it was not only the roadbed of the railways that was affected by the advent

of the new locomotive and cars. Many other portions of the railroad systems had to be changed to meet altered conditions. For instance, turntables which could accomodate moguls were not long or strongenough to take on modern ten wheelers or consolidations. Every turntable on the divisions where the larger engines were introduced had to be replaced with a bigger one. Practically the same thing applies to engine houses. The coming of the big engines with their greater length and height meant the practical demolition of all the old houses and the erection of new and larger ones. When it is recalled that there are over four thousand locomotives in everyday use on Canadian railroads, of which a majority are of the new type, it follows that the engine house space required to shelter even a small per-

centage of them is very considerable and must have cost a large sum. Then too the repair and machine shops to which locomotives are sent for overhauling from time to time, nave had to undergo complete reconstruction, owing to the inadequacy of their equipment for handling large engines.

Even the evolution of the passenger coach from the light and uncomfortable vehicle of the eighties to the solid vestibuled coach of to-day has been attended by an immense variety of consequent improvements, involving the expenditure of large sums of money for their installation. As one example consider steam heating which has superseded the old coal stove, that was not only inadequate but dangerous. The introduction of steam heating has involved the establish-

ment at all terminal points of stationary steam heating plants for keeping standing cars warm in cold weather. Travelers cannot have failed to notice the attachments in large stations for this purpose. Then the use of gas for lighting cars has led to the installation of gas plants at terminal points, from which the gas is piped alongside the tracks and the tanks on the cars are filled as required.

Still another installation has been found necessary in connection with the vacuum cleaning of passenger coaches, which is now carried on regularly wherever cars are stored. In all three cases the railroad compames have had to go to big expense to maintain the service. Besides this the construction of cars with vestibules has been the cause of sending a lot of the old cars to the scrap heap, because on the finer trains only vestibuled coaches are used.

While the use of heavier rolling stock

and the building of a more solid and level roadbed has improved operating conditions considerably and has to a certain extent prevented the terrible loss of life and property which characterized railroad wrecks during the era of lighter equipment, yet accidents still happen from time to time, as any reader of the daily press cannot fail to note. Collisions occur even to-day. Trains are derailed.

Mishaps of various kinds frequently happen. There is still need for the wrecking train, of which Kipling sings so realistically,

“Oh, the Empire State must learn to wait

And the Cannon-ball go hang;

When the West-bound’s ditched, and the tool-car’s hitched

And it’s ’way for the Breakdown Gang (Tara-ra)

’WTay for the Breakdown Gang!”

But the old auxiliary which could tackle a wreck successfully not so many years ago, has been sent to the scrap heap long ere this. Its little hand crane, which could swing up a locomotive from, the ditch in those days, would be quite useless to-day when engines commonly weigh 75 to 100 tons, and cars 50 to 75 tons. The railroad companies have had to provide each divisional point on their lines with those big sixty, seventy-five or one hundred ton steam cranes, which are now despatched to the scene of wrecks. Their introduction became absolutely necessary when the day of heavier rolling stock dawned. And it will alwavs be the same whenever engines or cars exceed in weight the capacity of the cranes.

A somewhat similar situation was created when the new standard freight car was backed up by the yard engine on the old 40 ton car scale. It simply wouldn’t fit and in one moment every scale on the road was rendered practically useless. A wholesale discarding of the old scales became necessary and at every important shipping point or wherever cars áre weighed, new scales had to be installed. Their capacity now extends from one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons. In fact so powerful are they, that engines can be run right over them without requiring a dead rail to relieve the extra load. This is a great and an expensive change from the old twenty ton scale and is as good an illlustration as any of what the railway .revolution of recent years involves in the matter of incidental equipment.

But this is by no means all. A few years ago every freight shed in the country of any size was built with 'doors at thirty-three foot intervals, the object being that when a train of cars was run in on the siding alongside, the doors of the cars would be exactly opposite the doors of the shed. As soon as the bigger and longer freight cars were introduced, it was found that this result was no longer attained and while it was hardly a big enough defeat to render the freight shed no longer serviceable, yet it was so inconvenient that in some sheds, the old doors were knocked out and new continuous doors substituted. These doors are operated between posts, which stand at intervals down the entire length of the

shed. In this way, no matter where the door of a car come, it will always be directly opposite a door in the shed. All new freight sheds in Canada of any size are now being built with the continuous doors on the track side.

One other result of the advent of the big engine and its train of larger cars was the construction of longer meeting tracks, or sidings, at all stations. The old train, consisting of fifteen or twenty thirtythree foot cars, could draw up on a three hundred and fifty yard siding and allow a train running in the opposite direction to pass quite comfortably. But, the present-day train of fifty to one hundred freight cars, would have to do some strange juggling (or “sawing-bye” as the trainmen call it) to accomplish the same result on the same siding. Before the longer trains could run properly, every station had to be provided with two or three times the length of siding it already possessed and this in itself was no inconsiderable undertaking.

There are many other directions in which changes have been made necessary. The use of trestles and elevators for handling coal cars has made the old-style coal car useless. It has been superseded by the new self-unloading style of car. 'An automatic device for handling the ashes dumped from locomotives has done away with the old ash pit and the shovelling of ashes. Automatic couplers have put the old link and pin coupling out of business with the result that on only about twelve per cent, of the cars in the country is the old-style coupling now used. The “new rail roader” is not conspicuous by the loss of fingers and the old timers look upon them as “dudes.”

Incidental to the introduction of so many new automatic devices in the operation of trains, the larger roads have had to go to the expense of equipping special instruction cars with these appliances, which are used to teach new employees how to handle them. They have also equipped cars with instruments to show the drawing power of engines and to determine the outline dimensions to which freight cars may be loaded without coming to grief against bridge abutments, the sides of tunnels, etc. All these have been rendered necessary by the use of new and improved methods of railroading.