High-Balling For Victory

Canadian trains, lake ships, motor trucks, planes are moving more war freight, more people, than ever before

GUY S. CUNLIFFE June 1 1942

High-Balling For Victory

Canadian trains, lake ships, motor trucks, planes are moving more war freight, more people, than ever before

GUY S. CUNLIFFE June 1 1942

High-Balling For Victory

Canadian trains, lake ships, motor trucks, planes are moving more war freight, more people, than ever before


THE CLAMMY grey of early dawn was just beginning to filter across the sprawling melange of tracks and cars and engines in the big railway yard on the edge of Montreal. The batteries of floodlights reared at strategic points around the yard were still flinging their garish beams to light the work of the switching crews. At the edge of the yard the black bulk of a powerful freight engine came rumbling in on one of the main entry tracks.

The yardmaster squinted with alert and seasoned eye at the incoming train. He stepped quickly across the network of tracks, waving to the engineer. Then with one hand he touched the other elbow—to the engineer a signal that his tremendous cargo of war supplies was to be moved onto track nine.

“Better get busy right away,” the yardmaster called to the switchman. “There’s a lot of hot babies in that one.” In the key rail yards through which pour in a ceaseless stream the human and material expression of Canada’s war effort, a “hot baby” is a freight car marked for prompt and speedy handling.

The locomotive’s big drive wheels groaned as the brake shoes bit into them, slowing the gigantic snake of following cars—sixty-four of them, jangling and bumping noisily over the switch points.

“The stuff is sure moving through here these days,” muttered the yardmaster as he turned back toward his office. “Beats the devil what you can do when a war really puts the pressure on. A couple of years ago I’d have said anyone was crazy who told us we could find the tracks and do the breakups and move the cars that are going through here every day now.”

His thoughts were probably being echoed by men in scores of yards, large and small, across the country. For strong as is the railwayman’s pride in his calling and in what the railways can do when called upon, Canada’s 139,000 railroad workers have surprised even themselves by what they have accomplished to keep the country’s war effort rolling.

They have literally carried the war to the enemy in mighty volume, in the shape of fighting men, weapons and equipment, munitions and supplies, machines and materials. All must be kept constantly moving toward the fighting fronts—to and from the war plants, to the seaports and the waiting convoys at the coasts.

Last year the pounding drive wheels of 4,300

locomotives hauled 129,000,000 tons of freight and more than 28,000,000 passengers over the 42,000 miles of track operated by Canada’s railroads. Multiply the freight tonnage by the distance each piece of freight was carried and you get the tremendous total of nearly fifty billion ton-miles. Passenger-miles totalled more than three billion—equivalent to a 260-mile train ride for every Canadian citizen.

Total freight movement in 1941 was forty per cent over the prewar level, setting an all-time record a good fifth above the previous top year of 1928. And Canada’s current freight and passenger traffic is officially estimated as sixty per cent above the 1917-18 peak of the Great War—and still going up.

But train whistles echoing through the mountains, over the prairies and across the industrial east, tell only part of the wartime transportation story. Troops and their equipment, raw materials for factories at home and overseas, finished war goods in lolossal volume and variety, move along a mammoth and complex conveyor belt whose burden is shared by rail, lake, highway and air transport.

Lake freighters which had long lain idle in ports like Kingston, Midland and Collingwood have been overhauled and pressed into service to help carry the 111,121,000 tons of freight which passed through the U.S. and Canadian locks at Sault Ste. Marie last year. Total tonnage figures for lake shipping

are difficult to estimate, and the Sault figure does not take into account freightage between lower lake ports. There are probably more than 300 companies (U.S. and Canadian) operating upward of 2,000 ships on the lakes—less the unstated number which today are in deepwater war service.

Motor trucking in Canada has grown to be a $500,000,000 industry employing 400,000 people, according to the Automotive Association of Ontario. Canada’s 269,000 trucks range from tractor-trailer giants speeding through the night along the paved four-lane highways of Ontario to modest half-ton market trucks on thousands of farms scattered throughout the Dominion—but all of them hauling produce and machinery, sides of beef and plane parts, to help keep Canada’s war production channels free-flowing.

Also doing its full share of the transport job is the airplane, the silver, twin-motored transports of Trans-Canada Air Lines speeding passengers, freight and mail along regular routes from coast to coast, and the freight and passenger planes of Canadian Pacific Air Lines whose “bush flying” services now lace the north country. Trans-Canada carried 85,154 passengers in 1941 (a sixty per cent jump) and 173,192 pounds of air express (up sixtyfour per cent). Air mail on T.C.A. routes amounts to 250,000 letters a day.

On the transport front, as in the fighting zones in

many countries, it must be remembered that this is a war of movement and of speed. To win the war by “getting there fustest with the mostest” means that no matter how great the Allied potential resources of men and materials, they are useless until they are moved where they can be most effective.

This thrusts one of the biggest war jobs of all on transport, a job enough to stagger any but the tough and unruffled men in the operating end of the business. Upon them lies the onus of ensuring that no guns or tanks or shells, no raw materials or foodstuffs, lie stagnating at a factory or stock pile when ready to progress toward the battle lines. No troops or trainees must be left getting restless at concentration depot or training camp when plans are ready to move them forward to active service. On top of all this, government officials and businessmen must be carried to and fro across the country on execution of war work, and an increased volume of ordinary freight has to be handled.

164,000 Box Cars

IN BEARING the brunt of meeting the challenge, the railways have had to extend themselves as never before. Wonders have been accomplished by personnel, equipment and operating facilities. Rail executives pardonably have taken occasion to point

out that even with the substantial additions to trackage, rolling stock and equipment since the war began, the railways could not have done the job were it not for the progressive extension and improvement of resources, through good times and bad, since the last war.

Currently the two main railway systems in the Dominion have in operation a daily average of close to 164,000 freight cars. It is estimated that if all the engines, freight and passenger cars of the two systems were put bumper to bumper, they would stretch from Montreal to well the other side of Winnipeg.

A heavy proportion of the daily total traffic of the two railroads is handled through the yards and other facilities of the big rail centres at Toronto and Montreal. Sooner or later much of the movement of troops, war supplies and materials is funnelled through these clearing points. For the dominant movement of war freight is from west to east (both to war plants and to eastern seaports), and the principal concentrations of war industry are in central Canada.

Around Montreal, for example, the Canadian National Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway between them operate more than a score of yards, presently called upon to keep in motion without congestion a daily average of 12,000 to 15.000 cars. A flow of that many cars means the movement in

and out of the terminals, and within or between yards, of from 60,000 to 80,000 tons of freight.

The bulk of this traffic is handled, of course, through a relatively few big yards.

To the average citizen, and even to such railwaymen as terminal and district dispatchers, a train is a train—a single unit operating in the transport machine of the national production line. But to the yard men, a train is a conglomeration of as many units as there are cars, temporarily moving in unison. Each unit or car has its special purpose and destination, and presents special problems to be disposed of. Our Montreal yardman and his crew probably handle the movement of 2,000 to 3,000 cars a day—a volume far above anything ever attained before, even in the boom days of 1928-29.

As every engine must pull as near as possible to the limit of its hauling power, the yardmaster may send his “iron horses” puffing out of the yard with anywhere from fifty to ninety cars rumbling behind. In the assembling of such a train, the yard crew may have to break up and take out cars from six or eight other trains including a total of 250 to 300 cars. Each of these contributing trains may have cars from ten or fifteen different points, requiring perhaps twice that many switching operations for assembly of the new train.

Take for example a train of fifty-five or sixty cars coming to a C.P.R. yard at Montreal from a

junction point in eastern Ontario. Some of the cars will have been assembled at the junction point from various sections of eastern Ontario, others will have come from points in western Ontario or beyond. It is almost entirely a war train, for such shipments as are not destined for the Montreal area or near-by points in Quebec are heading east to the seaboard for export.

In such a train could be a score or more carloads of wheat, four or five cars of flour, and a car each of chlorine, zinc, oil, silicon, manganese, copper matte, explosives, canned goods and milk. Another time it may include six cars of meat, several full of aircraft parts, beans, paper, steel billets, shells for filling at a munitions plant, scrap steel for conversion into heavy war equipment, such as guns.

Sometimes half a train or even a whole train may be loaded with wheat, lumber, bacon or other type of primary supplies needed in Britain. This is reflected in the breakdown of freight tonnage carried by the railways. Last year, for instance, the largest single increase in tonnage carried by the C.P.R. was one of thirty-four per cent in handling “products of agriculture” which amounted to more than 12,300,000 tons.

Raw materials, semi-finished goods and equipment parts are just as much “war stuff” to the railwayman as completed munitions or other war supplies, for he knows that sooner or later they will help to swell the rising strength of Canada and the United Nations. And conversely, a yardmaster knows when he puts through a carload of guns or army trucks or cartridge cases, that puffing trains and yard engines in other regions have handled the components of these products long before they reached the machining or assembly stages in war plants.

Moving the Troops

TRANSPORT of troops, both en masse and in smaller groups, is one of the most vital tasks undertaken by Canada’s railways. The movement of the various contingents of divisional troops, airmen, naval forces and reserve forces to overseas points through Canadian ports has required not only a tremendous amount of rolling stock and equipment, but exacting schedules of train movements.

For example, the first contingent to sail from the proverbial “eastern Canadian port” called for seventeen special C.N.R. troop trains, and the second contingent involved eighteen trains. To allow ample time for embarkation of the men on each train before the arrival of the next, these trains as originally scheduled arrived at the dockside at two-hour intervals. But so well had they been ticketed and organized on the way to the ships, that it took an average of only fifty minutes to effect the transfer of troops from each train to the ship.

Troop trains average sixteen cars in size and carry between 400 and 500 men apiece. In addition to the problem of accommodating the men and moving them swiftly to port, troop movements have also posed the major question of how to feed them. This has been solved by use of a special type of commissary car from which it was possible to give them ample meals, served without delay at each man’s place in his own car.

Since the start of the war, chefs on C.N.R. troop trains alone have served 102 tons of bread, 74 tons of beef, and 165 tons of potatoes, not to mention 2 tons of coffee.

Accenting the main task of the railroads in grappling with heavily increased war and commercial traffic, has been erection of new and extended war factories across the country. Alany of these are in outlying sections without rail connection or, at best, on spur lines.

To cope with such special developments the C.P.R. alone last year laid down over seventy miles of industrial siding trackage to serve 115 new war plants, in addition to nearly forty miles of new yard and siding tracks. The C.N.R. spent approximately $10,000,000 in 1941 for war projects,

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High-Balling for Victory

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embracing construction or improvement of tracks, yards, spurs, shops and other railway facilities.

The rolling stock, built up and expanded over the past twenty-five years, has been heavily increased since the start of war. Soon after outbreak of hostilities, a government advance of $25,000,000 was placed at the disposal of the railways for rolling stock purchases, and since then both roads have made large outlays for new equipment. The C.P.R. alone appropriated around $14,000,000 last year and this year for new and improved rolling stock, including fortytwo heavy-type locomotives and hundreds of new freight cars of various types.

The increased trackage and equipment, and the capacity use of both, throw a special challenge to the operating, maintenance and repair divisions of the railways. Travellers do not often realize the importance of maintenance-of-way work, or the size of the personnel engaged in it. A total force of from 20,000 to 25,000— depending on the season—is employed by the two big railways on these operations alone.

There have been similar increases in the responsibility of the yard crews, the thousands employed in the engine houses and repair shops, the dispatching and control staffs.

The increased demands on the operating and maintenance forces have been eased to some extent not only by the new and improved facilities developed since the war, but by the progressive improvement over the past quarter century in both the durability and efficiency of the railways’ equipment. Today locomotives are more powerful, cars are of one-third greater capacity and are more efficient, tracks are heavier and

better wearing, and the general movement of traffic is much faster than twenty-five years ago.

The effect of such factors, it has been estimated by railroad experts, is that with a given expenditure of labor and materials fifty per cent more transportation is obtained today than was the case in 1914. Costs are also being held down so that the railways are doing their tremendous job with a minimum diversion of man power, materials and finances from the war effort.

As was pointed out several months ago by R. C. Vaughan, president of the C.N.R., Canada had only one transcontinental rail route open for traffic when the last war began, while today there are three. In fact, these three coast-to-coast routes are the only unified, through-service, single management routes on the continent that could be strictly classed as transcontinental.

There have been other important steps of progress since 1914. The hauling capacity or “tractive effort” of the largest locomotives has been stepped up from 52,000 to 90,000 pounds, and their useful operating performance has been increased from 30,000 to 125,000 miles a year. The average load of freight trains has more than doubled and their average speed is up seventy per cent.

The entire operating picture and the far smoother overall flow of traffic contrast sharply with the delays and congestion, the lack of equipment and the embargoes of twenty-five years ago. This is due partly to a greater quantity of more efficient equipment and operating facilities. It is due also to closer and more effective control of traffic. Highly centralized by the railways themselves in sections of line where traffic density requires operating flexibility, this control stems upward through rail executives to the final, sweeping authority vested in T. C. Lockwood, the Dominion Transport Controller.

With the full co-operation of the railways through the Railway Association—which incidentally flowered out of the troubles of the last war— Mr. Lockwood works from Montreal to ensure that traffic moves when and where required, as fast as possible. War needs get priority, of course. The use and allocation of equipment, the routing and schedules of trains, and a multitude of kindred matters come under him.

This control is also valuable in preventing heavy export movements of rail traffic from moving to the dockside at eastern or river ports before boats are available to take on the shipments. Sometimes the ships in a convoy may be delayed beyond the expected date, and the forwarding of rail shipments scheduled for these vessels would merely congest rail yards or wharf storage or both.

This often means that the harassed yardmasters in the Montreal or Toronto terminals must find some way of holding back the cars intended for the eastward export movement. However, this problem is eased by

the fact that the railways may not even move an export-consigned car off a factory siding without an authorizing order from the Controller.

Highway Hauling

WHILE a huge volume of primary products and finished war materials goes directly from source to the seaboard, transport lines also handle great quantities of semifinished goods moving from factory to factory. This, too, is a job which keeps the railroads busy, but it is also one in which motor trucking plays an important part.

From every important rail centre and lake port there fans out a network of motor transport lines, handling short-haul pickups and deliveries. And with the growth of highway carriers giant trucks do long-haul jobs as well. A ten-ton transport on the Toronto-Montreal run may pile up a mileage of 60,000 in a year, carrying a full load every trip; and so busy is this line that trucks operating between the two cities make an estimated forty-five round trips each day. One Ontario firm operates 400 units, two others 350 trucks each.

The 269,000 trucks in the Dominion are divided into four categories. First are the common carriers, for hire by anyone with something to ship. Second, farm trucks—but since one farmer may often haul produce for others, these may also be considered as “for hire.” Third, private truck fleets operated by chain stores, breweries, etc., which firms may also ship by common carrier. Fourth, delivery trucks run by department stores, laundries, bread companies, etc.

If the war’s production speed-up has increased trucking activity, the gasoline and rubber shortage has threatened to limit motor freight transportation and introduced a new era of co-operation to supplant previous competition. Under James Stewart, Administrator of Services for the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, working through the various automotive associations, measures are being taken to pool truck lines, cutting out duplicate services, and to reduce the frequency of deliveries.

The army has enlisted many crack transport drivers, and man power has become a serious problem for the trucking industry. It takes the better part of a year to train a highway “pilot.” The new man starts as a loader (loading is an art in itself), then handles a city pickup truck for a time before starting on the highway with an experienced driver for the first few trips. The best transport driver type is said to be a family man with responsibilities, from thirty to thirty-five years of age. The men who handle the big highway trucks are supposed to be the safest and most courteous drivers on the road; they know their routes well, are ready for any emergency, and in many cases are trained in first aid.

Both the railways and the bus operators are doing a big job in the transport of workers to and from war plants, especially those in outlying sections. A single war plant in a suburban area may require the operation several times a day of one or more commuters’ trains, or a fleet

of buses, to carry employees to and from their homes. This traffic has been steadily increasing, as more and more workers give up driving their own cars to conserve gasoline and tires.

That Canada’s wartime transportation assignment extends to the far corners of the Dominion is indicated by the increased traffic along northern air routes since hostilities began. Serving the mining industry used to be the prime concern of the bush flying operators, and the war has brought a decrease in this traffic. The loss has been more than made up by the heavy flow of freight under

government order for the building of northern air bases and other defense projects.

Yukon Southern Airways, which in 1939 operated two trips weekly between Vancouver and Whitehorse, in the Yukon, has increased this service to six trips a week. This is in addition to charter flights, ferrying men and equipment to undisclosed R.C.A.F. bases in the far northwest. This is only one of the northern flying companies which have recently been bought up and amalgamated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which now has a busy fleet of a hundred planes flying 5,000,000 miles a year.