By Terry Hughes
Our picture for this month features three modes of transportation attempting to overcome the Niagara Escarpment at Peter St. in Thorold next to the Welland Canal at Lock 7.
Using the cars in the nearby parking lot as to what date this would be, I can tell you the latest model car is a 1957 Buick and steam is still in use on the accompanying railway line (1957-58). The ship in Lock 7 is the R.O. Petman, a self unloader with coal for either Hamilton steel plants or Toronto. In the distance are two canallers in Lock 6 continuing their downward descent to Lake Ontario.
The significance of this engineering wonder is that ships displacing up to thirty thousand tons can be lifted or lowered some 326 ft. to Lake Erie or Lake Ontario. Automobiles can handle steep grades as much as four to six percent but unlike the other forms of transportation here, they do not have to carry heavy loads.
For the Canadian National who owns this line, the grade for their trains is 2.8%; the steepest grade on this railway anywhere in Canada. Possibly a helper engine maybe on the tail end giving the 6165 a boost. It was often possible to see a triple header working this grade!
Notice how the spectators’ attention is split between the ship and the labouring locomotive working up the hill. So why should we Wellanders have an interest in what goes on in this photo? Didn’t you stop here for a Coke and watch the ships tackle the escarpment before there was a Lock 3 platform and exhibit? Remember, those ships interrupted our daily movements with the raising of the lift bridges!
This train is flying white flags which means she is an extra. She will be dropping off cars in Welland with raw materials for our industries or empties to ship products from the Atlas, General Tire or Welland Forge. Remember: this was around the late 1950s and Welland industries were booming.
Next Feature: Summertime fun at Crystal Beach on the Atlas Steels Picnic.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading.)