You Can Go Places On A Train For A Nickel, Published 18 December 1947
Who said it cost so much to travel nowadays? I have just bought three railway tickets in Ottawa this morning, and each of them cost exactly five cents. (That is .05). I went into the Canadian National ticket office on Sparks street first, and pried Herman Grierson away from wrapping up a couple of Florida tickets for the quality trade.
"I want the cheapest ticket you have" I said.
"How about, Carlsbad Springs?" he countered.
Since that point is 11.3 miles from Ottawa, I could see that the ticket would run into money. I offered a counter proposal.
"Sell me one to Bank street" I urged.
This called for a lot of heavy work. . He got out the tariff book, which is about the size of a standard dictionary, and couldn't find what he wanted. Out came another enormous tome, which you would think held every railway statistic in the world. From this big book, after some searching, he deduced the fact that the railway fare to Bank street station from Union Station is five cents. .
"That's my speed" I said.
Methodical .Herman went over to the stand-by typewriter on the counter, and typed out a receipt in the same careful way he had typed out my ticket. Then he used the counter stamp, he applied his own signature and I had my ticket.
"This has caught me unprepared" he smiled. "Now if you had only wanted to go to California via New Orleans, and back to Seattle, it would be easy."
So I got my receipt for five cents, and my ticket. Now comes the. funny part. The Canadian National doesn't run a train which makes the Bank street stop. There are trains which start at Union station and don't stop at Bank street, and trains which start at Bank street and don't go to Union station, but you cannot make the journey from Union Station to Bank street, according to the time table. I am thinking of getting my money back..
Emboldened by this bargain hunting, I went into the Canadian Pacific. There I saw Clayton Albert as busy as a one-armed man with a harp. I told him I wanted a ticket to Hull.
"Hull or Hull West?" he said, trying to make a bigger sale.
"Just Hull" I said.
"Coach class or first class?" he continued, still trying to make that cash killing.
"First class" I said, deciding to give him a break.
So he went and got a yellow first class ticket. Where Herman Grierson typed out the ticket, he wrote it by hand.
The two classes set me thinking.
"I'll take a coach class ticket as well" I remarked, while Count de Cossato, Italian minister watched the whole transaction.
Clayton rushed away, and this time came back with a "pink' ticket. This was for the coach. Again he whipped out his trusty pen, and started doing some writing. By now, you could see he was tiring, and so Boy Scout Gerry Dewan'came along, and helped him a little bit.
I now was going to get two tickets to Hull, one first class, and therefore good in parlor cars and sleepers, and the other good only in day coaches.
I made ready to give ten cents for one, five cents for the other.
Clayton Albert started to grin from ear to ear. "They're both the same price, Austin" he said, after consulting the tariff. "Each is worth five cents."
I duly took my two tickets, one good in parlor cars, and one good in coaches, one in yellow, and one in pink, and asked for a receipt. Mr. Albert spent about a minute on the receipt.
He then had to make out a bill for the two tickets, one copy for the customer, if he wanted it, one for the cashier. Then there were two stubs to tear off, and the change to get. I gather he was glad to see the last of me.
Now comes the hard part. I've got to put my 15 cents expenses through the city editor.
150 Pounds Of Baggage And All For A Nickel, Published 24 December 1947
It turns out that I overlooked a bet when I bought that first class ticket to Hull for .05. Not only could I have travelled out of the city, over the bridge, and to far off Hull, a distance of 1.7 miles, lor a nickel, but I could also have checked 150 pounds of baggage on my ticket.
I could have checked another 150 pounds of baggage on the other ticket. Then when I got to Hull, all I had to do was to buy another five cent ticket, and they would have had to bring my trunk back again.
There are still other possibilities. I like the one about the fellow who works in Ottawa lives in Hull and rides a bicycle. Every time it rains, he goes to the Union Depot, buys a five cent rail fare, then checks his bike home. That's what they tell me, anyway.
As a matter of fact, the railway likes you to buy tickets for short rides. The short haul passenger business is very profitable, when done in bulk. They say that the Long Island Railway is the most profitable of them all, from the standpoint of passenger business, and it gives its passengers not much more than a street car ride. It is a sign of a progressive and sophisticated city, when some of its populace come to work on a train.
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I can imagine there would be a certain amount of anguish if the CPR ever went after the Britannia business in a big way, stopping a train there about 8.20, delivering passengers to the city about 8.45, and then picking them up again at 5.15 p.m. for export.
The only railway line really suited for suburban passenger business scorns it. Consider the cross town line to Carp and points west. A commuter train could stop at Ottawa East, Bank street, Bronson, Bayswater, Parkdale, Island Park Drive, and then perhaps once between there and Graham's Bay. If they had started to work up a passenger business there 25 years ago, they would have made themselves some change. But now according to Fred Bronson et al., those tracks are coming out anyway, and so this whole discussion is academic.