Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jack's Switch Engine and preserving vintage tin in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario.

I've always wanted to tell this story....most of it is fact but keep in mind that some is somewhat hearsay...  I've been told this through the years and believe it to be the truth.
PLEASE NOTE - NEW DATA - (I received an email from Merlin's family friend Kevin Herman who set me straight on the information that was hearsay.  The new and correct information is shown in red).
The story will develop into wondering why us gearheads preserve vintage tin.
The story begins in 1927 when a young man named Jack Merlin came to Fort William with his father at the young age of 3.  Jack and his family lived in Montreal, as his father was working for Canada Car and Foundry there.  His father was promoted to Superintendent of the Fort William plant in 1927 so off they went to make their home here at The Lakehead.  Jack himself began working at Can Car in 1941 at the age of 17 and retired in 1989.  During this time two important things happened.....
Firstly he had an affinity for old cars of which he purchased his first at age 12.
Secondly, during his tenure at Canada Car and Foundry he had purchased a Canadian Locomotive Company 44Ton 44H44A1 Type Switcher commonly named DT2 (CPR Class HS-5B) powered by 2-250HP Caterpillar D-337 engines from the then Great Lakes Paper Company, which was stored at Western Metals.  It was retired from CP Rail use on July 29th of 1974 and was also owned by Calonego Construction.  The original CPR number was #12 and Great Lakes Paper changed it to #231.  Jack had to remove it from Western Metals so why not take in home...which he easy feat.
...Now when you travel west up Oliver Road and not too far before Murillo....look to your left and you will see Jack's train on a short piece of track set back on his may also notice a few old vehicles along Oliver Road near the train, however what you can only see from aerial photos thanks to google earth are literally 100's of vintage vehicles there mostly from the late 1940's to the late 1970's, and even a bit later.  I had the privilege about 12 years ago to visit Jack's collection with my old friend Clarence Merko and Jack.  I was blown away by the massive amount of fully intact cars in there, of which all are for sale by contacting Jack's son Bill according to family friend Kevin Herman, who also helped me out immensely to correct all that you see in red here (Thank You Kevin) now some photos.
The original Great Lakes Paper 
Mill and Woodlands Logo.
This is one of the many Great Lakes Paper's Original switchers
but not Jack's.  This one is #128 and the GLP logo is shown on the 
side.  This engine was previously owned by Can Car before going 
to GLP and was a General Electric Unit.  I believe that Jack would 
have operated this locomotive.

Here's GLP #129 - not Jack's either.
Kevin sent me this updated photo of #12 before Great Lakes Paper purchased it.

This is what you will see as you head out west towards Murillo on the south side of Oliver Road.

To the left is a close-up of Jack's engine on the property and the photo on the right is the same engine  - a CLC 44TON built by the Canadian Locomotive Company in 1958.  The paint scheme had changed somewhat but it was the Great Lakes Paper switcher.  The window configuration is exactly the same.

The next photo shows approximately where it is located on the Merlin property and also shows the massive amount of cars from a Google Earth photo.  Oliver Road runs east and west along side the property on the left.  The top of the photo would be east and the right would be south.
 This next photo is a similar photo turned showing Oliver Road along the top....left is west and right is east.
 Jack Merlin was a great guy, and the visit that Clarence and I had those many years ago was very memorable.  I remember seeing Jack at auto auctions around our city and was always likely to win with his bid.  I must also mention that Jack ran "Merlin Motors" in 1960 as well as working at Can Car.  There is no phone listing in the 1960 phone book, but Merlin Motors was located at the same location as the Merlin property is today.  The Merlin family did live at 2627 Arthur St. in Fort William in the early years...the property would have been just west of Papa Piccolino's Pizza where the two apartment buildings are today...and Jack did have a few cars on that property to the chagrin of local neighbours nearby.  Their original house was actually moved out to the Oliver Road location as well.
The next part of this post is firstly a story that was posted on this blog in January of's a great memory written by my friend George Rogers who now lives in Winnipeg......It is about the excitement in finding an old piece of junk when we were kids which was always elusive as we were either run off someones property or we could never afford it at the time.....this falls in line with all the vintage tin still on Jack's property....still elusive to this day.
Please click on this link to view the post then return for the rest of the story.... Field of "A's"

This is a photo of the guys wife who wouldn't let us kids purchase the cool potential hot rods.
 This final group of photos are a few of my own field finds and what they became over the years
'32 Ford Coupe before from Mankato Mn.
My '32 Ford as it appeared in American Rodder magazine in 1995.

This Old Stock Car Chassis
....and this old stock car wreck
from about 1954
 The Chassis and Body parts on the left were restored to the modified race car here.  This was another check mark off the bucket list.

Many of you have already seen the before and after of the model A sedan I drive.

Last is my present Model T custom started as the partially primered sedan in this field of dreams, but took me way to long to finish to the "Thai Teal" sedan you see in the last photo below.

Thank you to Jack for preserving that diesel engine and all those great cars...thank you to George Rogers for the impressive local story and thank you to all those who held back from scrapping all that tin and saved a few pieces for guys like myself to resurrect them into something new again.  It's been a fuel tank's almost on more projects for me.....LOL.


Jan Morrison said...

I don't believe that is a GE built switcher. It looks alot more like one of Canadian Pacific's Canadian Locomotive Works (CLC) Hydraulic Switchers. It would have been built in Kingston, and transfered over to the mill when Canadian Pacific bought it in 1974.

Dave Cano said...

You could very well be right Jan. There were so many similar looking switch engines in this era....I'm just going by what I was told. Thanks for your comment. D.

Dave Cano said...

The only thing is that the engine was purchased and transferred to his property before 1974.