• Railroads of southern Ontario

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Canada. For specific railroad questions, see Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Canada. For specific railroad questions, see Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.

Moderator: Ken V

  by SST
I'm sure we've all read books and articles about Canadian Railroads and in particular, the operations that fed NYS via Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Over the past several years I have flown on Northwest Airlines via DTW and wanted to sit on the right side of the plane heading west but was never able to get a seat. I wanted to get a birds eye view of Canada and follow the various r-o-w's in Southern Ontario.

United Airlines recently brought in the 757-200 so I priced a fare to ORD to get a ride on it and I got an amazing fare. And a seat on a/c right. Then I got bumped to First Class with an improved view!

I departed in the morning and a front had just gone through. I was disappointed because that meant zero visibility and I wouldn't see anything on the ground. After our initial turn out after departure we entered the clouds. After 15 minutes we broke out and then clear of clouds and I could see much of Southern Ontario. The overcast stayed well north most of the way across. I had a very clean and clear window. A rarity these days. Made for good use of my binoculars.

I picked up a r-o-w and followed it. It was clearly an abandoned line. As I followed it, the line connected each little town like dots. Each town had elevators or large buildings. I couldn't tell if they were warehouses or freight terminals. I couldn't distinquish between small buildings vs stations. We were too high and south of the line.

Sometimes the line would turn into a street leading out of or into a town. Most of the time the line was crossing large tracks of farm land. For much of the farm land the row crossed, it had been "converted" back into farm land. But, you could still make out where the row is due to the soils color. There is a lot of dark soil on the row as compared to the rest of the land. Easy to spot from the air. But all is not lost. Not completely anyways. There are still "islands" of "unconverted" row in the middle of some of these fields. Clusters of trees are a give-a way.

As we headed further west, the line took a more Southwesterly course. I presumed that it was headed for crossing at DTW. Soon it passed underneath and I crossed into Michigan north of DTW. I've been reviewing my Detroit Sectional aviation chart trying to figure out which line I was following. I don't know for sure. The problem is, when we departed, we entered the clouds and didn't get into the clear until all the familiar land marks were gone. My best guess is based on Uniteds typical routing to ORD. Which would pretty much put me in the vicintiy of London,Ontario. If that's true, then the line out of Stratford to St Mary's to Sarina, westbound, closely matches what I saw. The RR line on my chart does not indicate that it is abandoned though. Maybe it's not entirely abandoned.

Unfortunately, I will likely never no for certain which line I was watching. But if you ever have the chance to fly westbound out of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Albany, get a seat on the right side of the plane. Eastbound sit on the left.
  by scharnhorst
You can save your self the time and money SVP Railroad atlas came out covering Ontario Canada the book eaither came out last month or is comeing out this month I saw an add in one of the MR Mags.
  by Ken V
This is just a guess but it could have been the Canada Southern - a former NYC/Michigan Central line running between Fort Erie and Windsor via St. Thomas which was abandoned in pieces over the last 5-15 years. Another possibility is the Canada Air Line that followed a similar route. It was known as CN's Cayuga Sub before the tracks were pulled in the late 1990's.

The route: Stratford-St. Marys-London-Sarnia is in use daily. The eastern portion is operated by the Goderich & Exeter (Rail America) and the segment from London to Sarnia is part of CN's main line to Chicago.
  by Ken V
Upon review of the aforementioned SPV atlas and a bit of further research, there was an old Grand Trunk line from St. Marys to Sarnia north of the present route. It seems this line, known as CN's Forest Subdivision, was last used in the late 1980's. Using Google maps, most of the right of way is still clearly visible and looks very much like the views you described from the air. Then again, most of southern Ontario looks like this (lots of farm land) and there are plenty of other abandoned railways around.

Here is a link to some photos taken of this line a number of years ago: http://www.niagararails.com/forest.shtml
  by tree68
American's SYR-ORD flight crosses at Port Huron/Sarnia and passes over Flint. I always try to get on the south side of the air craft on that flight so I can try to pick out features from my old hometown NW of Detroit.

I did find on another trip that my GPS works on the south side of an aircraft, if I hold it tight to the window. That was interesting...
Try Google Maps and switch to "Satellite" view. Railway Right Of Ways are easy to follow (even abandoned ones). Some of the photo resolution is quite good.