Carleton Junction Busy Spot In Days of Old Wood Burners Men Who Cut and Hauled Supplies for “Puffing Billies” (steam locomotives) Suffered Great Hardships. Memories of Days When Wood Piles and Water Plugs Lined the Old Brockville and Ottawa Railway. Were Some Fierce Encounters Between the Bush Whackers. ( bandits)
In one of his interesting and colorful series of stories relating to the old days in the neighborhood of Carleton Place, Mr. J. Sid Annable tells about the time in the early eighties when the district around the Junction Town was the center of operations for harvesting fuel to feed the little wood-burning engines that operated on the old Brockville and Ottawa Railway.
“Carleton Junction,” Mr. Annable writes, “was made the working center for the wood gathering operations for the Chalk River and Havelock divisions. The large round house located at the Junction housed the old wood-burners which were equipped with four driving wheels, two on each side. The fender, coupled to the engine, was constructed in much the same fashion as fenders are today. Built of steel with a capacity of up to ten thousand gallons of water, the center was made In a large U to hold the wood about fifteen cords ot four-foot sticks, mostly from the swamps and rough timber lands between Perth and Havelock.”
Every station on the line had Its water tower and wood yard for refuelling purposes. Those water plugs were all under the supervision of Road Master Tom Burgess and he was very proud of the pretty flower beds and shrubs around each station, for which he was personally responsible. Like the Shanties. It was Burgess job to see that the wood was harvested. In winter time he had hundreds of choppers cutting down the tamarack and hemlock trees which were under ten inches at the butt, trimming off the branches and cutting the wood into proper lengths.
After that the wood was hauled on sloops or bobsleighs out to the railway tracks where sidings were provided to hold hundreds of cars. These sidings were also used by trains passing in opposite directions. “The wood was piled as close to the rails as safety would permit. The bush whackers were paid so much a cord, after the wood was measured by the road master’s foreman. When the snow was gone and the winter cutting was finished, there were wood piles everywhere you looked along the main line.
“Then came the wood trains operating out of Carleton Junc tion. About ten crews were en gaged in this work five or six weeks every spring. Among the old time engineers who were at the throttles on the wood trains were Jack Carey, Joe Durecott and Jack Gallagher, all of whom have long since passed to the great beyond.
Some of the conductors I recall were Bill Flagg, Abe Chapman, Pat Caddington, Jack McDonald. Oake Brushe and Jack Laval. “These wood trains would pull twenty flat or box cars to the wood piles and the crew, working for ninety cents a day. would load the cars and ride them to their des tination where they would then engage in the task of unloading These men, with hands cut and bleeding and clothes torn to shreds, worked anywhere from ten to fifteen hours a day.
Real Hardships. “The hardships these nomads of the bush endured to eke out a bare existence was little short of terrible. When they returned home each night they and their families would face mitts with leather of all kinds to protect their hands. Old Dan Tucker and Jim Miller, (read-Remembering a Shoemaker in Lanark Village–Thomas Wilson) the village shoemakers, often cut up calf skins in the shape of mitt fronts and sold them to the workers at twenty cents a pair. “Many fights and wrestling matches were staged at the wood yards and camps while the men were waiting for the trains to pick them up after the day’s work was done. Many a battle royal was started by bullies who always went around with chips on their shoulders. “The genial assistant superintendent, H. B. Spencer, earned for himself the international reputation of being the greatest authority on snow filling on the railways in winter time.
In his capacity as chief train despatches J. E. A. Robillard also was instrumental in preventing many a pile up of trains by his method of mapping out suitable meeting points. His able assistant. John Cole, was always on the Job at night. “Mr. Spencer left the employ of the C.P.R. in later years and assumed the management of the Hull Electric Railway. But his connection with that enterprise was of short duration; lt was not long before he was back on the old Job with the CP.R. “It was in 1885, I believe, that the railways turned to the use of soft coal as a fuel, and that was the finish of wood burning locomotives In this part ot Canada.”