Mile 6.1: 4th Concession Westminster ( Stop 5)

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Dingman Creek meanders across the L&PS right-of-way near the 4th concession just south of Stop 5. The railway spans the creek on a 55 foot deck girder bridge fabricated in 1896 by the Dominion Bridge Company of Lachine Quebec. This bridge was installed as part a major upgrade done by the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway when they operated the line under a 20 year lease that ended when the L&PS was electrified in 1914.

Here an L&PS Express Freight motor northbound at Dingman Creek.

(MSTS)

 

I received some very interesting correspondence from Ian Mathers who grew up on Concession 4 near the L&PS tracks. Here's his description of the area. Thanks Ian for sharing this great first-hand account of living near the L&PS in the 1950s and 60s. ( Note: I provide a 1950 era map at the bottom of this page to help locate the places he mentions):

I am living in Yellowknife, NT - a long way from London, ON but this railway (in the electric days) still evokes strong childhood memories.   I was an 11 year old kid when the CNR bought it and ended the era of the London & Port Stanley Railway. Growing up right next to the crossing at Brockley (Westminster Concession IV) I remember fondly playing around the Dingman Creek bridge.  As soon as I saw that image in your web site, it sparked a flood of memory.  All the local kids raced to the crossing for every train to wave to the crew.

We lived on the west side of the crossing at Brockley (4th concession) on the south side of the road. The house my dad and mom built in 1951/1952 is still there and I believe it's still the second one from the crossing (about 500 ft from the tracks). In 1959, my dad built a garage on the east side of the house with a breezeway between and then in 1961 closed that in to make a kitchen and free up some room in the original house after my youngest brother was born. I think the original farm belonged to a large house, set back a considerable distance south of the road about 1000 ft west of the tracks. In the late 1990's it was a retirement home or hospice and the driveway was still lined with tall conifers that were ancient when I was a boy.

On the other side the frontage had been subdivided in the early 1950's and 2 or 3 acre lots sold to veterans. At that time, Veterans Affairs was giving low interest loan guarantees to former servicemen from the Second World War and that led to the unusual development around that crossing. There were 6 families on the north side and 3 on the south as well as 6 or 7 on the avenue to the southeast, so there were lots of kids (18 or 20) close in ages to my brothers and I in the general vicinity.

The station at Brockley (4th concession) was on the northwest side, about 30 feet from the road and was completely green, a couple of shades lighter than the motorcars. My mom can't remember any signal at the station and says that all you had to do was make sure the approaching motorcar could see you. In the late 50's there was also a driveway just behind it (inside the ROW) to a small old house about 60 feet north of the concession, just outside the railway right of way fence. I don't know when it was built, but the couple who lived there were already in their 70's and likely had lived there for a long time. By 1961, the shelter had been removed, but the concrete foundation is likely still there. I remember it being there for a couple of years or so after the passenger service ended and then it was gone.

It seems to me that the rail bridge abutments were concrete, stepped at something like 2 ft, but it may have been large limestone blocks. The road bridge was a narrow steel truss.

I don't know when First Westminster Church was built, but it was old when we went there. I believe it has had some additions over the years, but in the early 1960's it was the original structure and was quite visible from the tracks at the 3rd concession. We used to walk the mile up the line to the 3rd to go to church and my brother and I used to play around the dingman creek bridge all summer. My brother Eric was nearly killed on the bridge when he got his foot wedged between two ties. If it hadn't been for my cousin, he likely would have been.

When I was a little older, during the spring and early summer, we used the track from the 4th to the 5th concession to avoid the runoff on the way from school. I went to Westminster SS #10 at the northeast corner of Hubrey Road and the 5th concession until 1965. Westminster SS#10 was a primary school. SS as far as I know meant School System. It had been a typical cream colour brick one-room school (main door facing south to the concession road) and in 1960 had a flat-roofed, red brick addition on the west side with a corridor at the south end between that and the original structure. The fenced area around the school was about an acre. On the 4th concession, everyone on the north side west of the tracks were already going into the city by 1960. On the south side, and to the east of the tracks both sides of the concession were still going to the old country schoolhouses. Most of the local kids who were old enough for high school went to South or Central and finally, in Sept. 1965, all the old one-room schools were closed and everyone went to the larger schools. For a long time after the schools were centralized, it was an ethnic club or hall (Ukrainian or Polish).

Hubrey Road, about half way from the 5th to the 4th concession had a correction, a fairly sharp curve first to the east then swinging back to the north and the road grade dropped a significant amount. It continued north to the 4th and just past the intersection was another steel truss bridge identical to the one near the tracks. There was a fairly steep drop into the intersection on the south, west and north sides of that intersection and we often stopped there while walking home in the winter to have 'lunchpail races' in the snowbanks on the hillside. A couple of times, the snow drifted in so deep that Hubrey Road would be closed for 2 or 3 days until the county plow could get through. On the north side of the bridge on Hubrey Road, the grade leveled out and about 3/4 mile up, at a rather steep hill above a swampy area, it turned west for a half mile, then north to the 3rd concession. Green Giant built a plant there in about 1966. Another spur line was taken off the rail line half a mile north of the 4th in about 1962 to a bulk cement facility not too far from Wellington Road.

At that time (1957 to 1965), there were sometimes interesting cars on the L&PS - along with the normal 'Champion Oils / Sterling Fuels' and L&PS coal hoppers - NYC, CNR, B&M, Wabash, sometimes CPR and very infrequently even western roads like PGE, UP and ATSF - and once I saw a E&N flatcar. My dad and an uncle were train fans and pointed out unusual ones whenever they were seen. They also used to speak fondly of the years after the war when everyone would head for Port Stanley to dance to the big bands at the Stork Club. It was a popular diversion for the entire region.

The route from Pond Mills to Glanworth, at least in the time I recall, all had wigwag warnings until sometime around 1962 when they were replaced with the standard bell/light/crossbuck. I don't know when they were originally installed, but they were the only wigwags I ever saw in use and it also seems to me that there was only one at each crossing, although I may be wrong. The CNR and CPR were just starting to install the bell/light/crossbuck we are accustomed to now at most level crossings.

Early that year, there was a fatal accident at the 4th concession crossing. I don't know too much about it - the adults kept some things from us. I do remember the night that Gord Gorey (they lived closer than we did to the crossing) came to get my dad around 10:30 at night. I remember hearing them talk afterward about how the driver likely didn't see the the signal because it was very dark, quite foggy and there was only a small light on the wigwag arm. It was also unusual to have a train at that time of night. With the uphill approach, his headlights would have shone under the train and the freight cars were generally very dark. I gather that the car ran right under a boxcar. Shortly afterward, the L&PS put reflective strips on the car frames and painted the tyres of their freight cars white for increased visibility. That same year, the township also regraded and ditched the road from Wellington Road to the 'avenue' just past Dingman Creek bridge, which was replaced with the concrete one that is still there as far as I know.

 

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