5: Management planning
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There is a lot more to building a new commuter service than just
ordering new train equipment. A site for a service depot had to be
decided and made ready. Train schedules and working timetables
needed to be created, merged with all the other train movements on
the line. Planning of crew operations, cycling and time keeping
would involve the Personnel Department and relations with the
Brotherhoods. Locations had to be visited where stations could be
built, and the potential sites examined at the various levels of
Government, to determine which ones fitted best the foreseen
public service. The operation of the stations had to planned,
relating to manning, design of tickets and ticket sales, revenue
control, and accumulation of traffic statistics, for information to the
government planners. All of these factors would have to be
designed and constructed, while avoiding conflict with existing
traffic moving on the same lines, and the same thing for the final
service, when it went into operation.
The commuter group
To do this work, I looked for personnel who already had a
good experience and understanding of railway operations
and management, but also who had enough flexibility, to be
able to envisage and implement new concepts in passenger
handling. I already had two supporters, Bob Withrow on
the equipment side, and Jack George for accounting. For
train operations and traffic control, we needed someone
with experience in line operations, dispatching techniques,
operating rules, and crew dispatching. There were several
good candidates in this line, and we chose the best. He was
George Dollis, at that moment working as Chief Train
Dispatcher at Capreol. For station layouts and track
designs, I looked to the railway's Engineering Department,
who assigned Harry Kier to the Commuter Group. Finally, we needed office space, and an Office
Manager to do our internal organisation, furniture, supplies, telephones, and typing support when
needed. For this, we were lucky to have assigned to us Miss Jessie Smith, who had been managing
the Regional Typing Pool. With a temporary typist added, we were a total of seven people creating
a new image of rail commuter services for Toronto.
The rest of this book is devoted to telling the story of how we went about getting it done, and all the
actions and vicissitudes that went along with it. Those are the subjects of the next chapters.
By this time we were already feeling the pressure. The Premier had said: "By the end of next year",
that would be December 1966, and here we were already into Fall 1965! We were a nucleus of six
officers of the railway, defining the new operation with support from the personnel of CN's other
departments. The seventh person was there to do the typing for us, but this was not a steady position,
because the typists came and went several times, so it is not so easy to identify who did what in that
We had help and participation from all the other departments in CN that applied their specialties to
the work. While these were internal to the railway organisation, all aspects were to be developed with
the client, that is, with the representatives of the Government of Ontario, since the resulting operation
was what was being contracted for. Some new thinking was required in determining the legal
relationship between CN and the Government. It was without precedent in those days, to have the
railway contract to operate a passenger service in the name of a client outside the railway. There
would be complications concerning legal liabilities, public image, ownership of the various fixed
facilities, accumulating the accounts within the railway and sending the bills to the client to receive
This was something the involved managerial relations and policy between the railway and the client,
and needed to be conducted at the level of Senior Management, so it fell upon the shoulders of the
Area Manager to take the lead in that. Jack Spicer, the Manager who had worked with MTARTS
during the study phases, had been promoted to Edmonton, Alberta, and was no longer involved. The
new Area Manager was Ray Williams, so he surely went through a quick learning phase to know
what it was all about.
In the early months, after the announcement that CN would operate a commuter service, the
Government had ordered the train equipment. There was not a lot more they could do until we had
created the commuter group and could begin to define the operation more specifically. The
recommendations to Government to act had been made by the study group MTARTS, and they had
overseen the placing of the orders by the Department of Highways, while CN's Chief of Motive
Power and Car Equipment, Les McGregor, had assigned staff from Headquarters in Montreal to
oversee the technicalities with the manufacturers. So it was in early Summer that I started reporting
to the MTARTS committee how the commuter group was progressing, and it was clear that action
would soon be needed on the government side.
Management by government
There was recognition that a project of this size should not be
administered by a committee, so some re-organisation was in
order. This was an action for Cam McNab, Deputy Minister
of Highways, so he arranged for the whole responsibility to be
taken over by the Department of Highways. He needed to find
somebody with knowledge of railway operations, and he
already had Bill Howard on his staff, as Chief of
Administration for the Department. Bill was from a railway family, and had worked for CN as train
crew in the years 1946-1950. So by late 1965, he had become familiar also with office practices in
government. Now they were contracting with CN for train operations that would be in their name,
so Cam called him in one day and told him: "You're it!"
Bill was no stranger to railway operations. He often said, "Really, I was born into the railway!" then
he would go on to explain that his parents worked for the Canadian Northern Railway, at a place then
called "Grant". When CN was formed, a new rail connection was built from Long Lac to a new
junction on the Canadian Northern at Nakina. All the old Canadian Northern staff and equipment was
moved from Grant to Nakina, but there was no housing for all those people, so they were housed in
box cars. So Bill first saw the light of day when he was born in a boxcar!
You could not get much
closer to the railway than that!
Cam had been a driving force in getting MTARTS set up, and was a member of the Steering
Committee throughout the study process. Most of the paper work of the committee had passed
through Bill's hands, so he was aware of the current status, and he contacted me right away to tell
me that what responsibility he had been given. There was an agreement to be negotiated between CN
and the Government. Not only would CN be operating a commuter service in their name and
projecting their image, but there was work to be done on the ground. Outside the limits of railway
property, station houses were to be built, parking lots and access roadways, sewage, drainage and
lighting, snow clearance and general housekeeping to be managed. As we traveled along the line to
fix the locations for the stations, Bill traveled with us, then he could see what work would be required
outside the railway right of way, for roadway access and lands for parking.
To get this work done, responsibility was transferred from the MTARTS group, who had done the
study within the Department of Transportation, to the Department of Highways. This brought it
directly under the direction of Cam McNab, and Bill Howard, to take over for the government side.
When I met with Bill, he spoke about his involvement in the political field. He was always impressed
with the support coming to the Department from the political side. Before being assigned to the
commuter project, he had been handling the preparation of estimates and in presenting them before
the legislature. All parties in the legislature gave their full cooperation. It could have been because
they wanted to see things above ground. They couldn't get excited about putting their names to things
like a sewer, or anything that would not be visible to the public. Every politician could be happy to
be associated particularly with trains. Both before and after inauguration, when Cam took Bill before
the legislature with their estimates to ask for appropriations, it was always a case of "You are doing
great, but you are not doing enough!" "Why are you not doing more?" "Should be more, should be
bigger, should be going here, should be going there!" They all wanted trains, to Barrie, to Niagara
Falls, everywhere. It was a visible thing they could associate with.
At first, he moved into the offices of MTARTS, working with Roy Cowley, the Chairman, and Phil
Wade, the Project Director, but he was responding directly only to the Minister of Highways, Charlie
McNaughton, and the Deputy Minister, Cam McNab. As we had done in the commuter group, he
also started with only a bare-bones organisation of only five people, and he recruited a sixth person
as time grew closer to operations. Three of his staff were transferred directly from MTARTS, Roy
McEwen, Joe Desjardins and the secretary. Roy had worked on the analysis of population statistics,
preparing the forecasts for probable traffic demand on the planned commuter service, and Bill
continued to have him advancing this work. Joe's work had been in respect of access to stations, by
automobile, by public transit, and on foot, so the new organisation had the benefit of his experiences.
Bill had official support from the other departments of Government, and needed only to bring in two
new members of his staff to do the fieldwork. The first was Gerry Griffin, from the Engineering
Department of Canadian Pacific Railways. His assignment was to layout the arrangements for
roadway access and parking areas, at the station sites that we had, by now, fixed by agreement with
both parties. Gerry called upon the support of all necessary departments in the Department of
Highways, and the other parts of Government, as he needed them. While Ed Ingraham was in charge
of Public Relations, he had recognised what lands they would have to buy or lease, so it fell to Gerry
to work with the legal departments to organise taking them over.
At a later stage, Jack Clark joined the staff, to look after the station buildings and staff facilities.
Negotiating the agreement
There was early recognition of the need to finalise an agreement, but there were many details of
operations and plant still to be decided, that made the negotiations be an evolutionary process. Ray
Williams took along with him members of CN's legal Department, and Bill Howard had legal support
on his side. I was brought in from time to time, to resolve questions of operating procedures and
accounting. It was a long and difficult process that was not fully completed until the service had been
in operation for a couple of years.
When I met with Bill Howard, he recalled the long hours in these meetings. "I was responsible, with
legal help, to sit down and spend many days, weeks and months to come up with an agreement. CN
was to operate a commuter service that they were already building, but there was no legal agreement
for them to run it. We hammered out most of the details, then the lawyers got into the problems of
legal liability. It took us longer to cover that subject than it took us to cover the operating aspects.
The liability clauses were more than half the agreement."
In summary, the early planning for the new service was in the hands of just a small group of people,
dependent upon all the Departments of the parent companies for the skills and support they needed.
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