Working on the railway
Tom Kennedy was a railway man. In 1897, at the age of eighteen, he joined the Michigan Central, which operated lines in southern Ontario’s Niagara region. His first occupation was as a call boy, running to the homes of men employed on the train crew to let them know they were needed for work, as telephones were not then in use.
This photo shows Kennedy, second from left, circa 1910 at the Victoria Yard, the marshalling yards at Fort Erie/Bridgeburg, Ontario. Fort Erie was then a bustling railway town and the railroad formed the social fabric of the community.
The International Railway Bridge linking Fort Erie and Buffalo, New York, was built there in 1873 and still operates today. The New York Central took over the Michigan Central line in 1929 and the old “board and batten” yard office was still in use until near the end of the Second World War. Sometime after 1960, the building was removed. A more modern brick depot replaced it across the tracks.
Tom Kennedy Jr. believes that his father was a brakeman or freight conductor when this picture was taken, judging by the clothing, but notes that the men have previously been erroneously identified as baggage handlers. The other men in the photo are Frank Dunn, Charles Finlay, Smith Irvine, Ben Kraft, and Jack O’Neill.
Railway work was in the Kennedy family’s blood. Tom Kennedy Sr.’s father was an oiler at the Victoria Yard and his grandfather supplied the railroad with ties. Tom Sr. completed forty-six years of service and was yardmaster for Victoria Yard at the time of his death in 1943.
Tom Kennedy Jr. is the son of Tom Kennedy and resides in St. Catharines, Ontario.