Ottawa Railway History Circle

Finding No. 39    CPR Smiths Falls Rail Welding Plant

Photo by Bill Linley was taken on February 16, 1969.
 It shows three of the ex-PRR Erie-builts at the west end of the plant

Photo by Bruce Chapman 14 September 1969

An overall view of the plant taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978

Aerial photo showing the plant.  Photo from 19 February 2018 provided by Eugene Kirkham
The Welding Plant was at mile 123 of the CPR Winchester subdivision
1. Summary

1968, September 26
- Canadian Pacific opens a 
Continuous Welded Rail plant in the yard at Smiths Falls using the shells of Fairbanks Morse Erie-built units.

1989, October 27 - the CPR Smiths Falls Rail Welding Plant closes.   It was well known as being housed in four Pennsylvania Railroad Fairbanks Morse B units dating from 1948.

2. Details of the Equipment Used

The following from Bill Linley, Bruce Mercer, Ken Ardinger, Earl Roberts and Fred Clark:

The locomotive "shells" were as follows:
CP 404395 - This was thought to have been PRR 9460B (28641, 11-1947, F-M L1109). However RAMX 9460 was recorded at Rutherford Yard, PA, in the 1980s. There is a discrepancy in the records and the origin is not clear.  This was the finishing car. On closure of the plant this was scrapped on site.

CP 404396 - PRR 9462B GE 28643, 11-1947, F-M L1115 likely sold to RMAX and then to ? This was for welding and stripping. On closure of the plant this was scrapped on site.  (Jim Boyd's Morning Sun book on FM's says the 9462 was FM L1112 not L1115.)

CP 404397 - PRR 9474B GE 29411, 6 -1948, F-M L1147; trade-in GE in 3-63; sold RMAX of Chicago; then to CP. This was for grinding and inspection. After closure this went to Winnipeg and was eventually scrapped there in 2010.

CP 404398 - PRR 9476B GE 29438,  7-1948, F-M L1144; trade-in to GE? in 12-63; to RAMX 9476. This was the power car. It was supposedly photo'd at Rutherford PA in 1/83 (?).  This was likely the last of the Erie-builts. On closure of the plant this was scrapped on site.

CP 404931 - Baggage Car, part of the rail plant housing two grinding stations. This was a baggage car CP 4203 built by CC&F in 1947, rebuilt by CP in 1967

The order of components, from west to east, was 404395, 404396, 404931 and 404397 with 404398 on the north side, closer to the west end.

In addition, the Bytown Railway Society's Canadian Trackside Guide for 1988-89-90-91-92 lists the following at Smiths Falls

CP 2739,  baggage car built by CC&F in 1950 as CP 4739

CP 404945 baggage car built by CC&F in 1950; CP 4254 rebuilt in 1974

No# CP baggage car.

The 1993 edition of the Canadian Trackside Guide lists all the equipment above with the exception of 404397 which is shown at the Winnipeg Continuous Rail Welding Plant. The 1994 edition shows 404395, 404396 and 404398 as in the process of being scrapped.

3. Pictures of the Equipment

CP 404395

CP 404395 taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978
CP 404396

CP 404396 taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978

CP 404397
CP 404397 taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978

CP 404397 at North Transcona on 10 May 2010 shortly before being scrapped. Photo by Ross Harrison.
CP 404398

CP 404398, as RAMX 9476 upon arrival at Smiths Falls 5 October 1968. Photo by Bruce Chapman

CP 404398 taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978

CP 404398 taken by Bruce Chapman on 22 September 1991
CP 404931

Former baggage car CP 404931 taken by Fred Clark on 15 July 1978

4. The Trucks

Bruce Chapman took these photos of the unique trucks on 21 July 1993

 When scrapping time came for the plant, the units became famous as some of their unique trucks went to the USA (and Mexico?) to provide support for some of the four remaining Alco PA's.  One set of trucks went to Dale McCormack's ex ATSF (62L) / D&H 18 PA-2 which is now at the Rail Heritage Center in Portland, Oregon painted as NKP 190.  It is not certain if another set went to the 59L/D&H 16 that is at the Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco, Texas.

5. Operation of the Plant

A full description of the function of the plant is shown in The Spanner September-October 1968
The CPR publication "The Spanner" has an additional article on long welded rails in September-October 1968 with a brief mention of the Smiths Falls plant:
A CPR Newsletter of 1974 also has a piece about Smiths Falls and the plant.

6. Eugene Kirkham Reminiscences

I worked at the CWR plant at Smiths Falls in 1976 and 1977. My dad worked there from day one until he retired in 1980. He was a welding inspector. I worked on the rail gang as a rail handler and filled in at the CWR plant as a labourer when someone went on vacation.  The plant was managed by Glen Pollock. Glen was a great guy to work for and was well respected. There was a sister plant at Transcona, in Winnipeg. Both plants were set up in 1968. Usually when I'm asked about the CWR plant it's about the Erie-built, Fairbanks-Morse B unit shells the welding plant equipment was installed in.

Below is photo of the two shifts and the rail gang. I think this photo was taken when the plant first opened.  Dad is the 8th man from the left, back row: an open jacket with red lining. Glen is the one sitting on the rails with the white helmet and green jacket.

The rail plant in Smiths Falls consisted of four, 1948 Erie-built, Fairbanks-Morse B series locomotive shells.  The polishing station, welder and stripper, and pusher motor, were housed in three of these Erie shells. The fourth shell was the power car. A baggage car housed the Pre-Inspection and Welding Inspection stations. The rail plant was located on a single track at the north side of the eastern yard.

 Other Equipment

A baggage car and box car stored spare parts and plant consumables such as filters, gloves, masks, etc. Scrap metal and waste from the welding and stripping process was dumped into a gondola for recycling. These cars sat on the adjacent track as did the power car. A third track serviced the area where rails were stockpiled for the rail plant. In 1977, a spur was built off of this track to service a second area for rail storage. In previous years, additional rails were stored off site in another part of the rail yard. Six flat cars delivered rails to the table. There was a tool shed on site for performing repairs and maintenance. A prefab building housed the plant office, a small eating area, showers, wash rooms and lockers. The rail plant used two cranes. One crane was located permanently at the table, another worked in the rail storage area. A cherry picker handled small jobs in the yard including moving and spotting cars. A pickup truck was used for trips to the far end and for picking up supplies at the CP stores.

Loading the table

A crane placed rails from a flat car onto the “table”. The table was basically two moving tracks that held about 12 rails. When another rail was required, the table was activated and the next rail was dropped onto rollers. Rails were fed this way, one at a time to the start of the assembly line: the polishing station.

The Polishing Station

At this station a grinding operator “polished” the head, web and the base of the rail to expose the bare metal for the welder. Polishing was performed using an air powered, manual grinder. Another grinder mounted on a moving table was used to polish the base.

Also, at this station, the last rail of the string, and the first rail of the next string were joined using fish plates (joint bars) to facilitate the separation of the completed string from the next string in the process. A finished string was 1440 feet long.

The Welder

The rail then moved to the welder where the rail was welded to the existing string of rails while another rail moved to the polisher. The welding process caused a large ridge of red hot metal or burr to be formed where the weld occurred. Huge traction motors called pushers moved the rail, now part of a larger string. The next station was the stripper.

The Stripper

The stripper was a shearing machine that removed the burr still red hot from the welder.

The Pre-Inspection Station

The string then moved to the pre-inspection station where a single grinding operator polished the rough edges left by the stripper to prepare it for the welding inspection station.

The Welding Inspection Station

The final station was the welding inspection station. The weld was inspected visually for defects or uneven welds. Two welding inspectors worked at this station. More grinding was performed and the weld underwent a magnetic particle inspection test. If a defect were detected, it would be marked, the string was backed up to the welding station and it would be re-welded. In a worst-case scenario such as a HRK (Hooked Rail Kink), the rail would be cut and re-welded.

The Rail Train

As the string was manufactured, it was pushed out on to the rail train which consisted of approximately 30 modified gondola cars which carried four rows of 10 rails. Every gondola except one was equipped with two roller stands or racks. Each rack contained the slots the string moved along.  Each slot used rollers to allow the string to move easily down the train. The gondola without the racks, located mid train, contained the tie down area. It was here the string was anchored or tied down to keep it from moving during transit. The rail plant also provided air to the rail train for charging the brakes and for the impact wrench at the tie down. 

Point Men

Two point men managed the breaking of the string and monitored the movement of the string down the rail train. A “point” was attached to the beginning of the string.  Called a point because of its shape, it was attached to two holes of the rail using track bolts and nuts.

When a string was completed, the point man at the far end, end of the rail train, removed the point and brought it back to the near end, beginning of the rail train, where the string was broken. First the rail plates were removed. The new string was then positioned to travel down the next slot on the rack and the point was attached. The new string was ready to travel down the train.

The far end point man then proceeded to the tie down point. The string was tied down and secured. Rail anchors were also added to each string as an extra precaution to keep the rail from moving during transport. 

The Rail Gang

The rail gang consisted of two to four men. Gondolas filled with rails entered the yard and were unloaded by a crane and stored in rail piles. The rail gang also supplied the plant with rails. Rails were loaded onto flat cars and delivered to the table area

7. Bruce Chapman Reminiscences

I was ‘promoted’ to the Operation Centre in Montreal from Smiths Falls dispatching on August 17th, 1974. 

Not too long before this, there was a CWR train leaving the yard for the Belleville Subdivision. It had made it through the yard to the shop, out the west end, and had to cross over the CNR interchange track, the Chalk River Subdivision, and then onto the westward Belleville Subdivision. All went well until he entered the Belleville Subdivision crossover, and one flatcar derailed...turned out it had a high flange, and cut the crossover.

The car foreman, or the guy in charge says: “No problem”!!  He got the auxiliary over and tried to lift the car...but he was lifting the whole train, and the boom on the auxiliary bent. I believe he got demoted..the Chalk and CNR were blocked for some time until they could jack up the offending car, and tried to change out the offending wheel. 

When the CWR plant was being dismantled in Smiths Falls one B unit went to Winnipeg where it lasted a long lone time in CP Transcona yard.  

This picture was taken by Bill Craigo on 21 June 1991 after the plant had closed

Taken by Bruce Chapman after closure on 22 September 1991

This Page Updated 3 March 2018