Along the Brockville & Westport (Cont'd)
The stations at the flag stops varied greatly in design, depending on when they were built. At best, they provided shelter from the elements while passengers waited to flag down the train.
One such example was the Soperton Station. In 1967, the late Mrs Esma Brown wrote of her experiences waiting for the train to go to school in Athens:
"Soperton station didn't appear on the scene until January 1897. The station was a small square building about twelve feet each side. It was a flag station, which meant the train would not stop without a signal. In my time, the signal was simply raising an arm, but it would even stop without this signal if any person were standing outside in plain view on the station platform.
The station was warmly built. Outside, it was board and batten construction; inside, the walls were sheeted with four inch tongue-and-groove boards on the diagonal. Inside the station was a box stove which might be used in cold weather if any wood could be found. (The box stove was later removed.) Along two sides were built-in bench type seats, until they disappeared for fire-wood.
There were two fairly narrow windows, one facing east and the other west, from which one could watch for the approach of the train. Soon after leaving Lyndhurst station, a train coming from the west had to be fed extra coal to get up steam for the grade. Soperton station was 29 feet higher than the station at Lyndhurst. The black smoke could be seen long before the engine came into view.
The station was painted half red and half green, the upper half red. Some years earlier the stations had been white with green trim. The Soperton signboard was on the front, to the left of the station door facing the tracks.
A few yards west of the station on the railway right-of-way was a white board marker on a telegraph pole. On this marker was the number 20 painted in black on each side of the board. This marked the half way spot between Brockville and Westport. The total line measured 40 miles.
During our public school days we had to cross the tracks daily on our way to and from school. I remember putting crossed pins on the track so that after the wheels passed over them, they became a tiny pair of scissors.
When we started to high school at Athens, we went by train Monday mornings and returned home Friday nights. Dad always took us to the station, and during the winter, in stormy weather, we'd phone Delta or Lyndhurst to see if the train would be on time. The train men were very good. If they saw us coming, they'd hold the train for a few minutes because over the years they became acquainted with nearly everyone, especially the high school students who travelled. by train regularly.
On Monday mornings and Friday nights the train carried many students from as far west as Newboro. Some of the trainmen I remember well were Mr. McCulloch and Mr Gorton, conductors; Jim Murphy fireman; and Pete Moore. Mail was carried daily on the train and the postmaster, Mr. Stafford, met the late afternoon train from. Brockville. If there were no passengers getting off or on, the train did not stop. It slowed down and the mail clerk on the train dropped the mail bags onto the station platform, then reached out for the bag held high by the postmaster. This meant that Mr. Stafford had to stand in a particular spot so this procedure could be carried out successfully.
With the decline of railway passenger travel later in the 1920's some of the trains were taken off the line. The B&W "Jitney" was used for passenger end mail service, and made two round trips daily.
When the B&W Railway line was closed in 1952, Soperton station was sold to Robert Tedford, who moved it to Beverly Lake and had it made into a summer cottage adding a verandah on all sides."
It's not very often that we get such a first-person story of our local history. We are greatful to J. Brown of Mallorytown, Ont. for providing us with his mother's personal account of her school days and the Soperton Station.
This is what the Soperton station looked like in August 1948. Exept for the worn paint, it had changed very little since it was built in 1897. What looks like a shadow halfway down each side is really the red paint on the upper-half and the green paint on the lower-half as described by Mrs. Brown above. Photo courtesy National Archives PA-203404.
Today, all traces of Soperton station and the Brockville & Westport have disappeared. You have to look very closely into the tree line at the intersection of Raison Road and Black Church Road (near the village of Soperton) to visualize the approach of the railway line from Athens. From the intersection, you won't find any trace of the roadbed as it crosses the open farmers' fields.
However, on Saturday, November 10, 1923, these fields were the scene of a major train wreck on the B&W. The tender and 5 cars of a south-bound freight train derailed. A large crowd of men are gathered around the cattle-car next to the locomotive. The boxcars are Canadian National, Grand Trunk, and a very rare Grand Trunk Pacific.
To put everything back on the tracks required the help of a 25-ton crane, Canadian National #63025. The flatcar contains a load of arch-bar trucks.
Here, the crane has hooked onto the end of the overturned boxcar and is preparing to move it out of the way.
As the "Athens Reporter" noted, not until early Monday morning was the line cleared of one of the most serious in the history of the subdivision. It was necessary to re-rail the tender of the locomotive and five cars and to repair a considerable length of track before traffic could be resumed. The accident was attributed to the tender jumping the track, when the cars in the rear followed suit. These contained cheese and livestock. The stock car did not overturn and the animals were consequently not injured seriously. The train was in charge of Conductor James Murphy of Brockville, with Engineer -ost, of Ottawa, at the throttle.
To look at the field today, you'd never know that a railway line ran across it. The first two photos are courtesy of Mrs. J. Frye of Soperton. The last photo is courtesy of Dr. D. Wight of Athens.