Ashdown Cars

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  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,745 posts
Ashdown Cars
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, October 07, 2017 9:15 PM

Ashdown Cars

R.L. Kennedy


Yard job with 0-6-0 6213 heads east from Keele Street to Lake Simcoe Ice on the North Toronto Subdivision to load up newer "Ashdown" cars with ice. CP 422969 is the first car. 7/12/47 Al Paterson

Have you ever heard of Ashdown cars? Not too likely for they were used in only one place that I know of, CPR's Lambton Yard in Toronto where Sam Ashdown worked as a yardmaster. Back in the days of ice reefers (refrigerator cars) it was necessary to add ice enroute and sometimes salt depending upon the particular perishable product being shipped and the shippers instructions. There were regular icing points all across Canada usually just main terminals as the fast schedule they moved on meant infrequent re-icing. Toronto Terminals was one such place and many years ago the Ice House was located in West Toronto yard near the RIP track. In fact the ice house lead is still in use and the yard job that worked it was know as the Ice House Lead job even though it was officially the E.Y.E.E. (East Yard East End) under the Keele St. Yardmaster back when Lambton/West Toronto was the main yard for Toronto.

Older ashdown cars. 
W. G. Carruthers Collection of Ken Whitehead 


Later on a new ice plant was built for Lake Simcoe Ice at North Toronto right next to the main line. It could re-ice cars right on the train but only one or two at a time so if a train had lots of reefers it would cause a big delay. This became crucial when it was a hot train such as 904, THE hottest train through Lambton Yard. It carried traffic from Chicago to Newport (Via Detroit-Toronto-Montreal) much of it meat from Chicago and Omaha packing houses. 904 also made a big lift at Lambton mostly cars ex Canada Packers at West Toronto (more meat!) To reduce the delay to this fast freight train Sam Ashdown set about having several old wooden box cars converted into Ice Service cars. These cars had extension sides built on top of their roof, ice was loaded on top of the card roof, where it could then be man handled into the bunkers of the reefers through their roof hatches. To get a supply of ice a yard engine would haul the cars across the North Toronto Sub. (about 5 miles away) to Lake Simcoe Ice where blocks of ice would be loaded onto the car roofs and then it would return to Lambton. Meanwhile the yardmaster (there were five per shift counting the General) would keep two tracks clear in Lambton yard, one for 904 to arrive on (and depart from) the other a clear alley for the yard job to use. They would simply run up the clear track stopping beside the icers and the R&H Dept. (Re-icing & Heating) men would load the ice into the reefers, then move on to the next icers etc. I am not sure but I think the sides were sectionalized and dropped down across the gap, between the tracks. There may have been a shute as well to slide the ice along. The Constable might be walking the train in a routine inspection of the car seals and the US customs 'inbond' seals. As Service (work) cars they had 450,000 series numbers. 106 Ice Service cars are shown in the Summary of Equipment (M.P 14) issued January 1,1956. They would be used to deliver ice to various terminals. If any reader knows of similar roof top ice loading locations please tell us.

So sort of a portable ice reefer station or an extension onto an existing one, and to deliver ice to various locations.

Was this concept used in any places in the USA?


  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,080 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 07, 2017 10:26 PM

Not to my knowledge.  Most, if not all re-icing was done in the yards from facilities built for the pupose, I've never heard of re-icing cars used here in the US.

Anything's possible of course. 

I'm curious, was the ice produced by Lake Simcoe Ice, or was it harvested from Lake Simcoe and stored in ice houses for future use?  A system like that would have mirrored exactly what was done here in the northern states before mechanical refrigeration made ice harvesting obsolete. 

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,745 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, October 07, 2017 11:16 PM

Lake Simcoe to Toronto is not exactly around the corner. It is a one and a half hour to 2 hour drive depending on where on Lake Simcoe and thats on a good day. Lets give the rail a 2 hour hour trip at best. 

So blocks of ice would be cut out of the Lake and then stored. Those Ashdown cars could have been loaded there and highballed back to the Big Smoke asap. That is doubtful though, they must have been loaded at the "Lake Simcoe Ice Plant" located in town. That plant almost for sure received its ice from Lake Simcoe cutting during the winter months. 

Wonder if train 904 or it's descendant is still running?

It was a pretty smart idea really, adding capacity for icing a hot train and it could work "down the line" as it filled the reefers.  


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