Station Master 1954

National Film Board of Canada

This film was recommended to me by Pete! It’s the third National Film Board of Canada movie I have reviewed on my blogs and the first to mainly feature Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). This is the story of CP station master Dalton Henry and his crew in little Finch, Ontario. The Canadian Pacific had a crossing here with a New York Central (NYC) branch line to Ottawa.

Steam was still active in Eastern Canada at the time and there is a nice mix of trains on both railroads. The CP rails still exist through Finch, but the NYC branch was abandoned shortly thereafter in February 1957.

This black & white short packs a lot of railroad action into its 15 minutes and is a poignant look at the way things used to be on the railway. Highball!

Out in front of the depot, a section gang is busily shoveling snow from switches and the crossing diamond. Up in the interlocking tower, Charlie lights up a Player’s and checks his pocket watch. Note the nearby telegraph key and dispatcher’s phone on a scissors arm.

As the credits open, a steam-powered freight blasts through town, with the camera panning over towards the tower and station. Too dark (early morning) for an ID on the locomotive.

At the Esso gas station, we spy a 1952-53 Cadillac (thanks, big brother!) as Dalton chats up the locals on his way to work in the depot. Here’s Dalt on the blower inside the station. Love those old candlestick telephones!


As workers finish cleaning up the tracks, another section crew rides a “putt-putt” (open air motor car) eastward (towards Montreal) to inspect the right-of-way.

Meanwhile, Charlie climbs the stairs of the tower whilst an NYC worker (toting two signal lamps) rides a velocipede north towards Ottawa. I found a couple interesting websites about the New York & Ottawa Railway line HERE and HERE which ran from the International Border, through Finch, to Ottawa.

As Charlie sets up in the tower, CP GMD-built FP7A diesels #4101 and mate blast westward (towards Smiths Falls, ON) with a train of classic Canadian Pacific Railway 40′ boxcars. That’s quite a tall cupola on the caboose.


As stated in the film’s narration, this was one of the last operating interlocking towers in the Province and we get a good look at the interior. Charlie dons his headphones, copies down train orders from the dispatcher, and throws a few armstrong levers as the telegraph key clatters in the background.


An enormous load from Vickers (hydraulic device maybe?) is switched onto a side track by a steam powered way freight. Can’t quite make out the wheel arrangement or number on the steamer.

CP #2207, a Class G1d 4-6-2 built October 1907 in Canadian Pacific’s Angus Shops (Montreal) leads a freight westward out of Finch. The 2207 was scrapped in August 1959.


High Noon! Lunch time. The section crew piles into the depot for their mid-day repast. Note the chalked-up passenger train schedule as well as the skirt-raising hussy on the calendar. Last frame, both of the younger guys sport snappy Kromer railroader caps.


Roadmaster Charlie Young arrives from the east in his Sylvester motor car. M-1663 was built by Sylvester Steel Products Co. Ltd. in LINDSAY, Ontario!

Mr. Young sports a natty bow tie as he chats with the gang. Brrr…that looks like a COLD ride.


“Here comes 915. He’s late”. NYC #8307 is a 1600hp Alco RS-3 built in 1951 leading a three car heavyweight passenger train (baggage, baggage-RPO, coach) into Finch. This train is traveling northward and has stopped for passengers and freight.

Waiting room of the Finch station. This picture belongs by itself because there’s so much going on here. How about those stripey old-time hockey sweaters the boys wear? In the corner is a “coin box public telephone” with a New York Central travel poster featuring a “lightning-stripe” E unit. Quite a crowd on hand to ride the evening passenger into Montreal.

Here comes the 5:15! Tonight’s train is led by CP #1201, a Class G5 4-6-2 built in 1944 at CP’s Angus Shops. #1201 is something special for a couple reasons. First, this was the last, home-built steam locomotive constructed at Angus and second, CP #1201 has been preserved, and is still with us.

Here is a 2019 YouTube video of CP #1201 being backed into the Ingenium Centre in Ottawa, Canada where it resides today.


1201’s engineer strikes the classic pose as Dalton Henry loads Mrs. Love’s Valentine cake into the baggage car. With everyone aboard, Dalton gives the engineer a highball and the 5:15 is on its way.

With the day’s work completed, everyone heads for home and the credits roll.

Here’s a link to the film I reviewed if you’re interested:

If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at: Lindsay.Korst@gmail.com, or leave a comment.  Thanks and enjoy the blog!

THE END

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