Finding more about your ancestors to give life and character to their story.


Monday, 20 October 2014

All Aboard!



 

The railways played a major role in our history, as did the people who worked for them.

I always loved going on the train. Growing up we lived outside the city and once a year at Christmas time my mother would take us kids on the Canadian Pacific Lakeshore  commuter train into Montreal's Windsor Station. From there we would walk up the hill to Ste. Catherine Street to see the magical Christmas window displays in the major department stores. Then of course to visit Santa, ride on the Toyville Train, and do our own shopping at the Red Basket Shop in Eaton's Department Store. In 1957 my parents took us on the Canadian Pacific train from Montreal to Alberta where my Mom's cousin had a ranch. That was quite an adventure for my 7 year old self and my brothers.

One day skipping school, my friend and I walked from the high school to the bus station, hopped on the train and stayed one car ahead of the conductor to the next stop where we got off to walk to her house.



As a young adult working in the city I took the train every morning  for the hour+ ride into the city. Sometimes on the way home I would get off the train at Montreal West and walk to my grandmother's house, a short walk from the station. We would visit for a while then I would get a later train home. The car interiors were certainly not like today.  The seats were plush blue upholstery that were very comfortable, and brass accents throughout the cars. Some people reclined the back of their seat and slept for the duration, others took this time to read the morning papers or catch up on work. If you wanted to socialize the backs of the seats switched sides so two seats could be facing each other. There were washrooms at each end of the cars. At that time I didn't know, nor think about it, but my paternal great grandfather, who I never met, once worked for the company that made those cars.  He worked his way up to yardmaster at Canada Car, which became Canadian Car and Foundry with a merge in 1911. There is a photo of the Canadian Car & Foundry shop taken in 2003 here.

In 1910 my maternal great grandfather worked 56 hours a week as a brass finisher for the Canadian National Railway to earn $557 for the year. His son (my grandfather's brother) Alexander, being a young man of 20, having no family and perhaps not as experienced, worked the same 56 hours as a brass finisher to earn $365 that year. My grandfather started working for the railroad when he came home from the war. He was a master steamfitter for Canadian National Railway. I have a couple of other ancestors who worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad.... and a scandalous 2x great uncle that was engineer foreman for the Grand Rapides & Indiana Railway at Cheboygan, Michigan. 

My husbands maternal grandparents immigrated to Canada from Galicia, Austria, with the promise of free land in Canada's West.  On May 19, 1900 the family of 8 left Hamburg on the steamship Arcadia and arrived at the old Pier 2 in Halifax on June 2nd. From there, with their fellow immigrants, they boarded the waiting train and travelled across the country to Winnipeg, Manitoba.... to a new life.

 
 

One time when my husband and I were coming back from the east, we stopped on our way home at Craigellachie near Revelstoke, BC where the "Last Spike" was hammered home, completing Canadian Pacific’s trans-continental railway. If you are out that way it is well worth the stop.

If there are no surviving records of employees of the railroads, there are lots of magazines, souvenir albums and pamphlets that could tell the story of your railway employee ancestors, and perhaps mention their name.


Relevant Links:

Grand Trunk Railway employees' annual pic-nic to Campbellford (Ont)  1883

Officers of the Grand Trunk Railroad 1893

The Canadian Pacific Railway Employee Sketches

The Delaware and Hudson Railroad Bulletin (several issues 1929-1938)

The Frisco Railroad employees' magazine 1925 (01 & 02)

Illinois Central Railroad employees' magazine 1914-1922

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad employees' magazine (Vol 1-7)

Souvenir Album; Home for the Aged and Disabled Railroad Employees - US 1911

International official souvenir; Brotherhood Railway Carmen of America 1902

Illustrated souvenir, tourist guide and time table of the Hamilton, Grimsby and Beamsville Electric Railway Company - Ontario 1909

Grand Trunk Pacific (directors, info, map, etc) 1911

Grand Trunk Railway System 1896-1907

Grand Trunk Railway general passenger time table - 1880

Railways and their employees

Train Collection at Library Archives Canada

Train Collection at LAC 2 - (newer link)

Railway Employees (Employees Provident Fund - Canada) - LAC

Chinese workers of the Canadian Pacific Railway - LAC

National Archives UK - Railway workers

Traveller's Guide to the Railways of England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, France and Germany 1843

Railway Times - London (Gazette and News - several volumes)

Disturnell's railway and steamship guide - fares, maps,  hotels, etc - 1854

Chicago Railway Equipment Company ; souvenir album 1893-1908

A souvenir of the "Overland limited train" 1897

Utah Central Railroad jubilee; souvenir program 1870

Cheshire Archives Railways Staff Database - 17 staff registers of 4 railway companies

Railroad Souvenir Books (Trove) - Australia

Nominal Roll of the First Railway section (AIF) - NSW, AU

The Great Eastern Railway Society - UK

Caledonia Railway Association

The Erie Railroad Archives

Illinois Central Railroad Records

List of Shareholders ; Grand Trunk Railroad of Canada 1875

The Railway Purchasing Agent's Directory, containing directions where to purchase every article used in constructing and operating railways, also, a list of railways, with name and address of officials in charge of purchasing departments - US 1900

Summer vacation tours ; 1905 (throughout US to Canada w/prices)

A souvenir, trans-continental excursion of railroad agents (w/names list) US 1870

From Canadian Pacific Railway; Souvenir illustrating the insignia of the Canadian Army, is a simple tribute to the Canadian soldiers - 1918