Sunday, Jan. 4
Going to go back in time....back in the mid 70's to early 80's, I used to ride the Canton local (also called the CTSE) and knew most all the crew.
Elmer Stark from Norwood was the regular engineer...Tommy Hurteau and Stanley "Corky" Farmer were the firemen (when one was avail.) The
head brakeman varied, but, the rear brakemen were usually Wayne Henderson from Norwood or Joe Lightfoot from Ogdensburg. The "boss" varied
also, but, Pete Ryan and Ernie Whitcomb from Ogdensburg were on most of the time I was around. Great bunch of guys who watched out for a young
man who was really interested in the job. Yes, the trainmaster in Massena would have had a stroke if he had known I was around / on his trains! But,
I knew my place, and, the rules, and everything was okay with the crew. Learned a lot from those guys. Sadly, most all of them are now passed on.
The local, in my "good ole days", was usually powered by an AlCO RS-32...2000hp. They were originally built for the NYC (1964 I believe) for their highspeed flexi-van service down on the mainline. Sometime in the early 70's they were sent north for local and yard service. Regulars on the Canton local were the
2030, 2033, 2034 and others as well. In their NYC days they all were numbered with a "8" replacing the the "2". These RS32's were regulars from at least
Watertown north for use as local and yard engines. One of the units I rode, 2033, under the firemans window, one could still see the old NYC cigarband
herald / decal! Seemed to be pretty good locomotives...never heard a gripe about them. And, being ALCOs, they sure could put up the exhaust smoke!
There was nothing better than listening to a idling, or working ALCO. A few times the local even came into town double-headed...that is how good business
was then from Massena to Canton.
The local always ran with one the N9E or N11 transfer cabooses. When I first started riding with them, the N9E (I forget the number of the assigned car)
was the usual model. Later, especially after Conrail came about, the N11 started showing up. They were nice cabooses, and, the crews were assigned to
them, so, they were usually well taken care of. I remember the "illegal" am/fm battery radio that was instatlled for listening to the World Series!
If I recall correctly, southbound from Massena, the first stop was Norwood for interchange with the Norwood and St. Lawrence Railroad (now, New York and
Ogdensburg). Then they had the Agway store, Elliott Hardwood lumberyard and Bisnet's scrap steel yard in Potsdam. Then, in Canton, there were two propane gas dealers (the names changed alot over the years)...one was switched southbound, the other northbound. Then they went to the busy Agway bulk plant where switching normally took the better part of an hour or more. Agway also had a fertilizer plant on the same siding, but, they did not receive many cars as I recall. Agway was normally good for 6 to 8 cars a day...sometimes less. Continuing southbound into Canton, they had the Agway Store, the Allied feed mill, and occassionally Robinson farm supply would receive a flatcar of machinery on the team track next to the Agway store siding. Then they would cross Buck street, go onto the bridge over the Grasse River and switch the Kraft plant. I would like to have a dollar for every PFE reefer we pulled out of there loaded with cheese! And, once in a great while we would have orders to take a car (reefer) further south toward Dekalb to the old Martins Beer Plant near Eddy. This reefer would be loaded with cased and keg beer. This was a facing point switch to us and we would do this drop by the old "flying switch". That was a sight to be seen! Going back northbound, leaving Canton, as I said before, there was another propane dealer to switch. These two dealers usually were good for a couple of cars a week. Then they would have the Potsdam Paper Mill siding (Nekoosa Edwards at that time) which was just north of Potsdam near Clarks Crossing (State Highway 56). I never rode down there with them, so, cannot comment on same. I don't believe they did anything in Norwood on the way back, but, it would make sense if they did in order to pick-up cars from the N&StL that came over during the day. Yes, these were long days....the crew was called for 7AM with a 7:30AM departure from Massena Monday thru Friday (excluding holidays). Most days the crew would make OT...sometimes never getting out of canton until mid afternoon or later (especially in the winter months) to start the northbound trip.
These were great times....learned alot....certainly miss them all now. Say what you may about the old Penn Central, but, their employees were not the problem...in this case they were the railroads best asset.