The Carlington Summit

The J. R. Booth lumber yards in City View were mentioned in this story in the June 1983 issue. These yards were still active in the summer of 1939. A second yard was active in the vicinity of the old Broad Street Station, an area now part of the Ottawa River Parkway. Two other yards, those in the Booth Street area and to the south of Carling Avenue near Dow's Lake, had been phased out by 1939.

A network of railway sidings, shown on the accompanying fire insurance plan, spread out through the City View yard. The sidings were fed by a spur line that left the main line (now the Queensway) just west of Island Park Drive and crossed Carling Avenue just east of Westgate Shopping Plaza.

There were two methods of moving cars in the yard. If the move was a short one between piles along a siding, our car might be “pinched” by hand by two men using six- to eight-foot steel bars with a wedge-shaped end. The wedge was nosed between the wheel and the rail, and the free end of the bar was depressed towards the rail. The car responded with a slow roll along the track. A small red-and-black four-wheeled steam shunter was the motive power for any yard movement beyond the short “pinch and coast”. Cars were brought to and from the yard on a daily basis by a larger locomotive.

A typical loading crew in the yard consisted of the scaler, two or three loading hands, and tally clerk. As lumber was loaded into a boxcar from a pile along a siding, the scaler called out the grade and critical dimensions of each board, usually flipping the board over in the process to check the quality. The tally clerk's job was to catch the details and record a tick for each board on his tally card. This became a little difficult if the scaler had a sore throat, kept on chewing tobacco as he spoke, or if the particular pile of lumber was mixed in quality, length and width. Once the box car was loaded, the tally marks were totalled and suitably multiplied and divided to arrive at a total board-foot measure for load.

In 1939, the wage rate for the tally clerk was 31 cents an hour. The pay for a 9 hour day, lasting from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. was the grand total of $2.79 per day! This wasn't such a bad wage for a student's summer job, considering that prices in 1939 were ten times lower than those of today. Ice cream cones were a nickel or a dime, the streetcar was 7 cents, and the price of gas was 25 or 30 cents a gallon.

In the summer of 1939, most of the lumber piles sported a silver-grey look. This was a good reflection of the state of the economy. To be silver-grey, the lumber had to have been sitting in the yard exposed to the weather for at least a couple of years.

Practically all lumber was air dried at that time - hence the large areas occupied by the yards. On a hot summer day, it was a real treat to spend a few moments in the cool shade on the downwind side of pile of freshly sawn white pine.

A crew from the City View yard would occasionally go down in a boxcar to the booth yard near Lebreton Flats to load white pine “deal” planks that were cut three inches thick. The rail line followed the Queensway to east of Bronson Avenue and then switched back to go under the Somerset and Wellington Street bridges to reach the yard. The Queensway rail line also provided a convenient hiking route from Ottawa's old west end, Hintonburg, to reach what was in 1939 referred to as “little mountain” - the present Carlington Summit.

If memory serves correctly the City View yard held perhaps 20 million board feet in 1939. The wartime demand for lumber pretty well cleared out the yard, making the area bounded by Carling, Merivale, Shillington and Fisher a prime candidate for postwar veterans' housing.

[Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the August 1983 edition of the Carlington Summit and was retyped and submitted by David Darwin.]