Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cherry picking & the train tracks

Walking on the railroad tracks this winter (see previous post) has reminded me of my younger days & the fun we used to have playing on the tracks.

Nowadays there is just 1 track, but when I was growing up there was a double track plus 2 sidings.
Often there would be empty trains parked on the sidings, sometimes for weeks.

We had a row of sour cherry trees planted along the tracks, the whole length of the farm. I remember that my Dad was always pleased when the CNR would park a train on the siding around the time these cherries were ripening. The parked train helped to block the wind and prevent the cherries from bruising as bad.

Cherry picking always involved my siblings, some neighbourhood friends and an assortment of cousins. During our breaks, lunchhours and even after work, we would play on the tracks - and the parked train cars. Empty auto carriers were our favourites. Back then they were open with 2 or 3 levels. The bigger & braver kids would run along the top level and jump from car to car. The smaller of us would run along the lower level and across the hitch from car to car. It was always a race!

The car carriers are now completely enclosed to protect the vehicles.

My brother likes to tell of the time he & a cousin were playing in an empty iron ore car, oblivious to the fact that a locomotive was hooking up to the parked train. Only when the train began to move did they realize what was happening and jump off in a panic.

And once, when a train stopped right beside where we were picking, my cousin negotiated a tour of the caboose - in exchange for a basket of cherries. Certainly that was a highlight of our summer!

We used to check the railroad ties for these metal discs that had a number stamped on them - the year that the tie was installed. They don't mark them anymore but it is still possible to find some older ties like this one from 1962. We would try to find ties with our birth year on them.

Today the sidings are gone - at least the rails are. Most of the ties are still there, but overgrown with weeds and scrub growth. CN which used to meticulously maintain the tracks and the land alongside, now does the minimum of upkeep. Only the track itself is maintained (barely).
There is just a single track now. The 2nd track was removed maybe 10 years ago. No one seems to know why, but some say the old trestle over Jordan Harbour was too weak to support 2 trains if they happened to pass while on this bridge. The single track is only for about 30 kilometres or so - from right at our farm and west to Grimsby, so there are often trains idling beside our place waiting for their turn to continue down the tracks.

Many trains pass by each day - both freight and passenger. Most have CN locomotives, but the train cars themselves have very many different logos on them, with names from all over North America.

The VIA passenger train passes the farm just after 7:00 am on it's way to Toronto and returns in early evening, each weekday.

The Amtrak can be seen at 10 am each day on it's route from Toronto to New York City. It also passes by in early evening heading the opposite way.

The GO train uses the tracks on summer weekends, carrying passengers from Toronto to enjoy all that Niagara offers, and passengers from Niagara to Toronto to experience the big city.

I still enjoy living and working along the tracks - watching the trains, waving to the engineers, walking along the rails ...

And there is nothing like being on the tractor, totally engrossed in your work (or perhaps dozing), oblivious to the train sneeking up behind you, and then blowing it's whistle from a few metres away!
Really gets the old heart racing!!


  1. Great post Ron!

    Xander & I were down at the new "Roundhouse Park" downtown Toronto a couple of months ago and we saw those covered auto cars and didn't know what they were... thought maybe doubledecker livestock or something. I'll have to tell him.

    We were up in Ottawa at the Science Museum in Dec and got a tour of an old caboose but your tour sure beats that one!

  2. It's a shame Chris, that cabooses are relegated to museums now. I still miss seeing them on the end of the trains.