Thursday, 26 July 2012

CP 8245 Westbound

CP Rail 8245 westbound near Milan, Quebec. This scene was recorded in 1994 a few weeks before CP Rail abandoned their entire network and operations east of Sherbrooke, Quebec. The boxcars shown are passing over what was once the west end of the Milan siding. (Photo credit missing)

Almost 19 years later... an almost repeat performance.

February 09, 2013 at Milan, Quebec. This scene of Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway's 6022 westbound was recorded at the same location. (Frank Jolin photo)

The same image with my two cents of useless information added

McLeod's Crossing

Compliments of Google Maps, a satellite-view of McLeod's Crossing and the surrounding area. Those names in white are from Google.

I'm hoping this aerial-view illustration of the railway crossing (formerly CPR) of Highway 214 will provide a better perspective regarding the following images that have been recorded over the years.

This train is heading east and about to cross Highway 214 at the location that was once known locally as McLeod's Crossing. The boxcars seen on the right are passing mile board 19. The train shown is on the S-curve sag east of Spruce, the former short siding between Milan and Scotstown. (Photo: George Pitarys, November 27, 1994 )

On June 08, 2012, almost 18 years later, Frank Jolin captured this eastbound train at the same location. No Longer CP Rail, this route is now part of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic.

On February 05, 2010, Frank Jolin captured this image of 5026 Westbound. This MM&A train is at the same location but approaching the highway crossing from the opposite direction

Here's an interesting tidbit of CPR history from 1906 concerning that very same spot where 5026 westbound was curving through almost 104 years later.

Frank Jolin also recorded this beautiful autumn scene at McLeod's Crossing on October 04, 2010. The train shown is westbound and rolling across Highway 214. The previous three photos were taken down there at the crossing. Continue following this highway over the hill and the village of Milan, Quebec, is a bit less than 5 miles ahead. If for some reason you ever happen to be on foot and on the way to Milan, then follow the's a mile shorter. In the 1960's and 70's I walked both routes more than  once.

In the early 1950's Canadian Pacific Railway had a listed station named McLeod's near mile 18.5; a scheduled passenger flag-stop when the mixed trains operated over the Megantic Subdivision.

M256 and M257 provided the 1950-51 winter-spring seasonal mixed train service between Sherbrooke and Megantic.

The Scotstown to Milan highway in early spring. During the spring thaw this road would often become impassible. My father recorded this scene in 1959 near McLeod's crossing. The photo shows the same stretch of road and top of the hill as seen in the photo above taken by Frank Jolin some 51 years later in 2010. Asphalt did not arrive here until after 1980.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum: August 11, 2013

McLeod's Crossing as seen from Highway 214 early evening on July 23, 1992. The front end of the CP Rail eastbound freight is descending the sag from Spruce, however, as the cloud of exhaust smoke reveals, the locomotives are still working hard to pull the rear of the train uphill.

Early afternoon on July 23, 1992 at McLeod's Crossing. Westbound freight led by RS-18u locomotives CP1862 and 1847 had just crossed Highway 214. That day was hot. Note the open doors on 1862 to assist with cooling.

Addendum: October 02, 2017 

Between mile 18 and 19 of the former Megantic Subdivision.

Here's another amazing Frank Jolin image recorded on August 27, 2016, at McLeod's Crossing between Milan and Scotstown. Compare this scene to Frank's February 2010 winter scene of 5026 westbound at this same location.

Might be hard to imagine now while looking at this image, but in the 1960's the former CPR right of way was kept devoid of trees and brush right back to the page wire fences and a short two-rut road ran along the railway (right side here) to the former station McLeod's.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Aerial View of Milan, Quebec.

Quite a few years have passed since I last saw this scene.

I remember Duncan McLeod selling postcards with this same image in his store, which is the building behind the church on the right of the church steeple. Although now only a memory and historical footnote, McLeod Bros. Store was a Milan business and landmark for 99 years.

Milan, Quebec. View from the air.

The above scene was probably recorded in the early 1950's. 

This unique aerial perspective of Milan provides an excellent view of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the final decade of the steam era. The photo also provides a rare glimpse of how life once looked like in a small, railway-served wilderness village in the eastern corner of the Eastern Townships near Maine.

In the early 1950's the CPR in Milan appeared alive and well. The railway station was manned and open, steam-powered trains were prevalent and the water tower saw daily use. Boxcars were spotted on the team track for loading; mostly lumber and other woods destined elsewhere. 

Mail also came in by train and upon arrival was taken over to the post office. (building to the right of the water tower and across from the church.) My great-uncle Murdo Murray (maternal grandfather's brother-in-law) delivered Milan's rural mail by horse and carriage right up until he retired in 1959.

In the early 1950's, roads into and out of Milan were not paved; often impassible during winter and through the spring thaw, The CPR augmented their passenger schedules with a mixed-train winter service between Sherbrooke and Megantic.

Change was inevitable and changes came.

Roads were improved and CPR's winter mixed train service disappeared in the early 1950's. Mail service soon abandoned the railway and travelled to and from town by road.

Between 1957 and 1961 the station was closed, the steam era ended and the water tower was immediately demolished. The empty station lasted until spring 1967; demolished also and replaced by a corrugated metal shelter which remained until trains 201 and 206 were discontinued in 1970. 

Unfortunately tiny towns were not immune to railway-related tragedy. In 1960, Mrs. Norman McLeod (Duncan McLeod's mother) was struck and killed by a train at the town's unprotected railway crossing. Shortly afterward, warning lights and bells were installed.

Streets in Milan were first paved in 1959 or 1960, but the highway between Milan and Scotstown remained unpaved until the early 1980's. 

In summer 1980 while passing through Milan en route to Maine, Kie and I saw Christie MacArthur in the ditch beside the still gravel Highway 214, mending the wire fence to keep the sheep in. She must have been in her 90's then. 

Driving into Milan has never been the same since gravel-surfaced, washboard-like MacArthur's Corner disappeared forever. 

The Oddblock Station Agent


Village of Milan, Quebec, in the mid 1950's as seen while approaching from the north end of town. The CPR water tower is almost in the center of the photo.

D. K. McLeod

CPR Hat Check tickets

On one trip I asked the conductor of train 201 for the hat check he had issued for my seat when lifting my ticket. Nearing the end of the ride, he handed me the hat check as a souvenir for my trip and then asked me about my grandparents whom I had been visiting for the weekend. I was surprised that he knew who I was and who my grandparents were.

A few moments later as I was about to detrain at Montreal West station, the conductor slipped all the hat check tickets he had collected into my jacket pocket. That was a small gesture that I have never forgotten. Twenty-six years later I still have that assortment of hat check tickets as a reminder from one of my last journeys on train 201 before it vanished into history.

Later I learned that the conductor was Donald K. McLeod who worked on the Farnham Division trains. He was originally from Milan, Quebec, although not related to Leslie McLeod. long time residents often referred to him as D.K. 

Years earlier, my grandmother had been the teacher in Milan’s one-room, one-class school. She once told me that D.K. had been one of her students.

The Oddblock Station Agent
written in 1995

Addendum January 2019

An unexpected find...

A few more CPR Hat Check tickets

Last October I was going through papers my mother had squirreled away and I stumbled upon one of my school projects she'd kept. 

Decades ago I'd pocketed these hat checks assigned to my seat as a young passenger on Trains 203 and 203 during the mid 1960's and then later used them in that CPR-related school paper.

Note the conductor punches on the right and left match those of the first group.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Train 202

Donald Haskel recorded a once daily railway event at Sherbrooke, Quebec, that is now long gone.

In December 1963, Canadian Pacific Railway’s daily Train 202 en route from Montreal to Megantic, was stopped at Sherbrooke, Quebec.

During the obligatory ten minute wait, the rail diesel cars would be separated. The lead unit (far end near the signal) would continue on to Megantic. The remaining units would be left behind at Sherbrooke, to be added on to Train 203 from Megantic in the afternoon. 

During holiday periods, and weekends when passenger counts warranted, more than one rail diesel car would make the trip to Megantic.

Copied from the Canadian Pacific Railway public timetable issued October 31,1965

The last week of December 1965 saw Train 202 from Montreal arriving about noon at Milan, Quebec. The consist was an unidentified F unit, a baggage car and four coaches instead of the usual single rail diesel car. Every train nut has to start with a first train photograph and this was my first.

In early 1966, trains 202 and 203 were discontinued. Trains 206 and 201 had their trips lengthened to continue providing local passenger service between Sherbrooke and Megantic. The same CPR practice of subtracting and adding RDC units from and to trains at Sherbrooke continued until August 01, 1970, when trains 206 and 201 disappeared forever.

The Oddblock Station Agent

The CPR Water Tower at Milan, Quebec

This undated photo of Canadian Pacific Railway’s water tower in Milan, Quebec, was probably taken by my mother in the late 1950’s.

This is the best photo of CPR’s Milan water tower that I have been able to locate. The photo was taken from the driveway of my grandparent’s home. Their house faced the tower and railway which made train watching very easy.

The intended subject of this photo may have been the heavy snowfall or possibly the water tower itself. The ball high on the mast shows that the tank was full and ready for the next steam powered train to take on water.

This wood-framed, octagonal-shaped building, painted in CPR maroon, was once a familiar Canadian railway structure. From this photo, the reason for the wooden shell was obvious; the building was heated to keep the water from freezing during the winter. Winters in Milan were very cold.

As a small child, I remember watching the steam locomotives of trains stopping and taking on water. Only once do I recall having been inside the wooden structure.

I remember accompanying my grandfather to pick up a 100 pound bag of grain. He had brought his wheelbarrow to carry the load and I was given a ride. We had to wait for someone from inside the Poulin’s general store (which was also the town’s post office and partly visible behind the tower) to come and unlock the door of the water tower. My grandfather had to pick up the bag from inside and load it on to the wheel barrow. I do not know the reason why the grain was stored there.

The water supply for the tower’s tank was gravity fed, piped in from a concrete reservoir that the railway had constructed on the slopes behind my grandfather’s home. The reservoir was not on railway property. Perhaps this was the reason why the railway provided the water supply to my grandparent’s home and the other nearby homes. Occasionally my grandparents would talk about the water pressure at home being lost after a train had stopped to take on water.

The tower was dismantled immediately following the end of steam in 1960. The concrete foundation was visible for years after.

The Oddblock Station Agent


More than 50 years later, Frank Jolin captured this scene of 5013 westbound passing over the crossing in Milan. He would have been standing about 100 feet to the left of the location where the water tower photo was taken.

Addendum Nov 12, 2015

Not the Milan CPR water tower, but the one shown below is/was identical, including the paint.

CPR water tower at Franz, Ontario. (image from Trainweb)