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Northward to Montreal in November 1957

August 07, 2022

We’re about to begin a pair of journeys with photographer Bob Krone, which will culminate with publication of Steam Encounters at Montreal vol. 2. Bob, a longtime reader of mine, has been furnishing details of his story so we can put this upcoming adventure into context.

Here’s Bob (above), at age 15 on November 11, 1957. He’s posed with CNR Northern 6150 at Turcot West. His friend Jeff Melin took this picture. But we’re getting ahead of our story...

Bob Krone's youth

In November 1957, Bob Krone is a high school student. He’s grown up in Hackensack, New Jersey, which is a suburb of New York City. You can see it toward the north in this extract from a 1956 Shell road map:

Our photographer shares his father’s first name, so we’ll refer to Bob’s dad as “Robert”. A chemical engineer, Robert commutes to work in Jersey City and Manhattan on the New Jersey & New York Railroad (operated by the Erie Railroad). It's a north-south route on the right half of this map:

Young Bob is smitten

Most of us can trace back in our lives to the moments when our fascination with steam locomotives began. In Bob’s case, it was watching the Erie K-1 and K-4 Pacifics which headed his father’s commuter trains. In his earlier youth, he often rode with his mother to meet his dad’s train at the nearby Fairmount Avenue station. He was smitten by the Erie Pacifics, and positioned himself exactly adjacent to where he anticipated the incoming locomotive to stop.

On summer days in his youth, Bob also rode his bicycle to Fairmount Avenue to catch the local freight, usually headed by an Erie Consolidation. Bob timed his visits for midday, so he could clamber onto the locomotive with the train crew’s permission while the men ate their lunch. Also within reach (by bicycle or bus) was the four-track New York Central River Division through Teaneck. There, Bob observed NYC Pacifics, Mohawks and the occasional Hudson at work.

Alas, the NYC was dieselized east of Buffalo effective August 7, 1953. Steam ended on the Erie, with K-1 Pacific 2530 heading a commuter train, the following March 17. For young Bob, the steam era was over on the local scene long before he had any kind of mobility to travel.

Father-and-son steam safaris

Robert, though not a railfan, was sympathetic to his son’s fascination with steam locomotives. Father and son embarked on their first steam “safari” in November 1956 to the Norfolk & Western at Roanoke. They contemplate another trip together a year later, which brings us to where the action will begin in Steam Encounters at Montreal vol. 2.

“Steam in Canada!” has captured the imagination of 15-year-old Bob Krone. His dad will be pleased to allocated a bit of vacation time to extend the Veterans Day Weekend. Their objective is Montreal, some 382 miles to the north.

Planning ahead

As an engineer, Robert plans their trip in advance. He engages a Montreal business associate’s assistance. The latter recommends the Motel Raphaël as accommodation. It’s at the western city limit and at the starting point of the main highway to Toronto. For proximity of railway photographic locations, this lodging will prove to be ideal for the trio. It’s a short walk to the Canadian Pacific’s Montreal West station to the north, and close to the westernmost end of the Canadian National’s Turcot yard in the opposite direction:

The business associate also secures permission for the visitors to set foot on railway property at the CNR’s Turcot roundhouse and the CPR’s St. Luc roundhouse.

Our trek begins on November 7, 1957...

It’s time for us to climb in the car with our photographer host. After Robert Krone finishes work on Thursday, November 7, 1957, he takes the wheel of his new 1957 Buick Super:

Bob and Jeff—and us—are aboard. By night, we motor north on the New York State Thruway. Failing to dim his headlights after a State Police car passes, Robert escapes with a warning. The remainder of the drive in darkness is unremarkable, and we take up lodging for the night.

Next day spottings en route

Friday, November 8 is overcast for the drive north on U.S. 9 toward Montreal. Near Plattsburgh, New York a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress appears at low altitude, with landing gear and flaps down on approach. We pull over to the side of the road and get out to watch the massive bomber descend. It’s the first time any of us have seen one of these aircraft.

On the Canadian side of the border, teenagers Bob and Jeff are worried when they see our first CNR train, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. It’s a freight, headed by diesels. Is steam already dead at Montreal? On the tail end is a distinctive orange wooden caboose, unlike anything we’ve seen before.

We're finally here!

We reach the western outskirts of Montreal and check in to the Motel Raphaël. We’re excited, because from the south we've heard steam whistles. We’ve seen, and even caught the whiff of, soft coal smoke. It’s dusk and skies are overcast, but no matter. On foot, we hasten across the four-lane Sainte Anne de Bellevue Boulevard. We’re heading for Turcot West, the western throat of the massive CNR yard. In our next background installment, we’ll pick up the story there.

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