Sub-Divisions and Division Points

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by RobertInOntario, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I've enjoyed learning about sub-divisions and divisions points in a discussion at

    But, since that thread was really about freight train speeds, I've decided to start a new thread here on sub-divisions and division points. I'm finding this topic fascinating and learning quite a bit!

    I've just learned, for example, that British trains did not really have sub-divisions and division points during the steam days as we did (and do) but that they had something similar and used different terminology.

    Here in North America, I'm also wondering if there are (or were) locomotive sheds, freight stations, service areas or something similar located at the various division points? Also, would a particular train crew simply spend all of their working s on the same sub-division or would they be transferred around from one sub to another?

    Just curious -- thanks again!

  2. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    In the days of steam, division points had roundhouses, turntables, sand towers, water towers, and even coaling towers or sheds.

    Brockville was a division point on the CNR/ Grand Trunk Toronto - Montreal mainline. For a look at what Brockville looked like in the days of steam around the early 1920's, click on this link to my website.
    Reaction of the Grand Trunk Railway - Overview - Page 4

    The photo is the "entranceway" to the turntable and roundhouse. The "structure" in the foreground is the ashpit where the steam locomotives dropped their coal fires or ashes. The gondola in the photo is being loaded with ashes (you can see what looks like a bit of a "conveyor"). To the right are several gondolas that are already loaded with ashes.

    The photos at the end of this link get us right up close to the turntable. In the background you can see the roundhouse. There are 11 steam locomotives sitting around the turntable. What you can't see are the other locomotives around the turntable pit that are out of view.
    Grand Trunk Railway in Brockville - Overview

    The photo at the bottom of the page shows an aerial view of the coaling shed. A long ramp leads up to the top which would allow coal hoppers to be pushed up the ramp to unload their contents into bins in the coaling shed. Steam locomotives needing coal would simply pull alongside the coaling shed, lower the chute, pull a cable and coal would tumble out into the tender. You can see the steam rising from two locomotives that are alongside the coaling shed loading up with coal.

    The only thing we are missing is the water tower. You can barely see this in the middle photo. However, the railways didn't want mainline locomotives uncoupling from their train and trekkinig down tracks of the yard to fill up with water. In order to keep these trains on time, a water spout was located across the tracks from the station.

    Similar facilities were installed at Belleville - the next division point west of Brockville on the CN/ Grand Trunk Toronto - Montreal mainline.

    Canadian Pacific had similar (and larger) facilities in Smiths Falls because it was also the junction point for a number of branch and main lines.

    Most train crews would operate out of a Division point and would usually work only one sub. For example Brockville was the end of one sub and the beginning of another sub (or to look at it another way, the beginning of one sub and the end of another sub). To work a sub, the train crew had to be familiar with the physical way the sub rolled up and down around hill and dale (and even mountains).

    For example, even today, CP Rail crews working out of Smiths Falls on the Winchester sub (Montreal to Smiths Falls) would not be allowed to operate on the Laggan sub (Calgary to Field BC over the Rocky mountains) simply because the Smiths Falls crews would not be familiar with the Rockies, Kicking Horse Pass, the Spiral Tunnels, etc. Conversely, the crew from Calgary wouldn't be allowed to operate over the Winchester sub because they would not be familiar with the junctions with the CN (de Beaujeau), the double track, the AMT commuter trains, pulling in and out of the intermodal yard at Lachine, etc, etc.

    And we haven't even gotten into the "Human Resources"/ union question of seniority and transferring that seniority from one sub to another sub.

    Bob M.
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Bob -- this is really interesting and helpful ! I'll visit those websites as well. Cheers, Rob
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There are a number of considerations on personnel changing divisions. While route knowledge is important, it can be acquired. A change in business might result in a number of personnel moving to a different division. When they arrived, seniority would determine how good a job they could bid for, or how often they might get called for a job on the extra board. Someone who was at the bottom of one division could ask for a transfer.
    I read that when a man moved up into a supervisory position, he would be moved to a different subdivision or division so that he wouldn't be supervising his old buddies -- a major shakeup for the family.
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    My circa 1930s CN schedule of rates of pay for engineers, firemen, and other crew "on the road" lists 100 miles of travel as a days work (expected to take approximately 8 hours).

  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Interesting. This keeps making more and more sense -- I guess that's why many/most of today's subs are still around 100 to 125 miles. Cheers, Rob
  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Andrew and David make some very interesting points about the "Human Resources" side of subdivisions. In most cases, except for yard switching, engineers and trainmen on the mainline are paid by the "piece of work". The "piece of work" comprises a number of elements, including the nature of the train, the sub, and the employee's level of seniority. This all is a very complex subject.

    For the trains, some trains are worth more in wages than other trains. For example, in the old days, a passenger train was worth more in wages than a wayfreight. Even today, CP Rail's XPressway trailer train is worth more than an intermodal train. Even with intermodal trains, hotshot time-sensitive intermodals are worth more in wages than than low priority intermodals. And a grain train probably has the lowest priority of all through freights.

    Then you have the different subs. If an engineer is qualified to operate on several subs, working one sub may be worth more in wages than working another sub. For example, working CP Rail's Brockville sub between Smiths Falls and Brockville is worth less than working the Belleville sub between Smiths Falls and Toronto.

    Train crew get to "bid" on the trains based on their seniority within the sub. Transferring to another sub may result in the person ending up lower on the seniority list in the new sub than what they were in the old sub.

    Then you have regularly scheduled trains - such as those shown in an employee timetable - and then you have extras. Crew with high seniority tend to bid on the regularly scheduled trains as they can then put order into their personal lives. Which leaves crew with lower seniority left to bid on the extras.

    This only touches the tip of the iceburg on the personnel side of subs which is really stretching the limits of my knowledge.

    Anyone out there who knows the ins and outs of the seniority system and bidding on the jobs?
    Bob M.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    To follow up on Railway Bob's point about "pieces of work", my schedule also lists different rates of pay for different equipment. Bigger engines generally pay more, but not as much as you might think if they are considered "easier" - e.g. have a mechanical stoker or are oil fired...!

    So to get the most pay, you have to also bid on the hardest job - namely a big, handfired coal burner. But make sure you save some of those wages for when you wreck your back shovelling 10-12 tons of coal in an 8-hour shift. ;)

  9. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hey, Andrew, it wasn't all that bad: I'm uncertain as to the timeframe, but hours of service were longer in the "good old days" - 16 if I'm not mistaken. That means that the guy makin' the big bucks could spread the work over a longer period of time. ;):-D:-D

  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I thought it was bad enough to travel 100 miles in 8 hours - now you're saying it was 16...! That's only about 6 miles per hour - a long way off the "mile a minute" service first achieved by J.R. Booth on his railway(s).

    On hours of service, I did some work at the Ottawa Central Experimental Farm, and we found some log books at one point. They covered the time span (1930s?) when the work week was shortened to 6 days, and the shifts went from 14 to about 12 hours...

  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Another consideration is that a lot of railroading is "sit and wait": wait for orders, wait for a signal, wait for another train, wait for access to the track, etc., etc. That's certainly not meant to belittle the difficulty of the job, either. :-D

  12. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    If you are "bucking"the extra board its first in-first out.There is nothing like being 10 or 12 out at your away terminal.
    As far as subdivisions some had yards and engine service areas and some had railroad YMCAs where a "away" crew could eat and rest while waiting their return trip to their home terminal.Subdivisions could host passenger terminals and freight houses.

    Not all subdivisions are equal..:eek:

    Now there is another type of subdivision that might be no more then a section of track..The Russell Subdivision covered the approaches to the Russell yard and yard area and is 7 miles long..Also the Cabin Creek Subdivision isn't more then a coal branch line..
    Look here..The Big Sandy Subdivision started at Elkhorn City,Ky and ended at Catlettsburg,Ky At Catlettsburg the crews ran over the Russell Subdivision to the Russell yard.See how it works?
    Then a subdivision could be a terminal like C&O's (now CSX) Toledo Terminal Subdivision..
    So,one would need to research a given subdivision to find out what type it was..
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Does anyone know where you can find what the various CN subs are for Ontario? I'm now curious to find out what are the names of the various subs where I do a lot of train watching.

    For example, my office is right next to a busy CN line that goes underneath Woodbine Ave. in Markam, and then carries on northeast crossing 14th Avenue in Markham.

    I also watch this line a bit when my son & I are hiking in the Rouge Valley near the Toronto Zoo. I think this is the same line. Just curious if anyone knows what sub this is, how long it is and where it starts/ends.


  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Rob: we keep plugging Canadian Trackside Guide. If this year's are sold out, maybe a used copy of recent year's; the subs haven't changed much.
    I think you're talking about the Uxbridge sub. This runs from Scarborough Jcn on the Kingston sub up to Stouffville. (GO branch and York-Durham Heritage Rly.) Interesting: end of track is Mile 38.9; Scarborough Jcn is mile 61.0; there's 39 miles missing!
  15. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Canadian Trackside Guide, published by Bytown Railway Society, $31.95 Cdn, $29.95 US, shipping and taxes included. Or better yet, support your local hobby shop and buy it there. The 2007 edition is all sold out at Bytown. Some copies may be available at your LHS.

    Like your AMEX card, when railfanning, don't leave home without it!. Buy two copies, even. Keep one in the car, keep the other in the house. Never throw away the old copies of the CTG.

    In addition to containing maps that identify the subdivisions in a region (eg Ontario), the CTG also includes mileage schedules for each subdivision, identifying key stations with the mileage, passing sidings and their length, location of hot-box detectors, whether it's controlled by CTC, OCS, etc, the radio frequencies used, along with a whole lot of other information.

    There's also a section on the locomotive roster of each railway in Canada, whether national, shortline, industrial, CN, CP, VIA, GO, OCR, OVR, QGR, etc, etc. It also includes the listing of some of the lease companies with locomotives on lease to the railways. Usually the first section that a first-time reader uses when railfanning. You can identify the make, model, when built, who built by, when rebuilt, renumbered, how many in the class, how many scrapped, how many remaining, etc, etc. Very handy when railfanning alongside the track and you want to know about the lash-up on that train that just passed you.

    There's also a section on understanding the trackside signals, their different "aspects", what each aspect means, etc.

    And there's also a section on preserved railway equipment. And a whole lot more information that will overwhelm you.

    Well worth the money! A railfan's must-have.

    Bob M.

    PS - A notebook is also handy when railfanning for taking notes about the train that just passed you. Time, location, locomotive numbers, type of cars in the consist, etc, etc. Oh, yes. Also some pencils and pens in the car as you will always forget to take along some pencils and pens.

    PPS - Also a radio scanner so that you can catch the squawk going on (this is a major investment but if you can afford it, go for it). On mainlines, it will also tell you when trains are coming if you know where the hotbox detectors are. As each train passes a hotbox detector, the detector radios the crew as to the total axle count on the train, and whether the detector has detected any defects (eg hot axles) on the train. The radio scanner will pick up these messages.
  16. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, David -- appreciate your info. I'm not sure, though, if this line is the Uxbridge Sub. We ride the YDHR a fair bit and I have a strong hunch this is a different line. Maybe I'll look at an Ontario map -- that should sort it out! I'll check the CTG as well. Cheers! Rob
  17. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

  18. cpr_paul

    cpr_paul Member

    I think the line you are referring to is CN's York Subdivision, which runs from Bramalea Junction to Pickering. It was built in the 1960s to allow CN freight traffic to by-pass downtown Toronto.
  19. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Interesting -- thanks, Paul. This does sound like the York Sub then. As far as I know, it does cross through Markham, past the Toronto Zoo/Rouge Valley and on into Pickering.

    Maybe I'll ask staff at the new George's Trains store which is right next to this line, and walking distance from my office! :mrgreen: Don't know why I didn't think of this before!

  20. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, I just checked at George's Trains and it's definitely the York Sub! But they said it starts at a yard around Keele and Hwy 7 (not Bramalea Jctn) and ends at Pickering.

    Cheers, Rob

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