Inco retiree reflects on past days of riding the ‘rails’ in Sudbury – by Mary Katherine Keown (Sudbury Star – September 26, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

As a younger man, Fred Baston lived on Riverside Drive. Each morning the Inco employee set out, sometimes while it was still dark and bitterly cold, to catch the streetcar near Regent and Lorne streets. His 12-hour shift at the Copper Cliff smelter ran from 8 a.m. to 8 p. m

“It was a good, cheap ride to work,” he says. The year was 1949 and it cost 25 cents to ride the streetcar, or five tickets for a dollar. Convenient enough, but not always comfortable. “They were noisy; you could hear them coming on the rails,” Baston, now 86 and living at Pioneer Manor, says.

The Sudbury-Copper Cliff and Creighton Electric Railway was founded in 1903, but the first streetcar made its inaugural run in 1912. It took 30 minutes to make the journey from Elm and Durham, to the terminal in Copper Cliff. More than 14 km of track were laid. The last carriage to run between Sudbury and Copper Cliff made its journey on Oct. 1, 1950.

As a kid, Baston was “bumming” it on trains. As he got older, he took to the hobo life, riding the rails westward. At 22, the young man left his hometown of Bathurst, N.B., 350 km north of Saint John on Chaleur Bay. He tucked himself into an open-air train car and hid from the view of ticketing agents.

“I was looking for someplace to work,” he says.

Baston and a buddy arrived in Sudbury in the middle of the night. They thought it “was a hole in the ground,” but ran over to Ramsey Lake to wash themselves.

“And then we hit the Ledo for a draft,” he laughs.

“The night life? I was drunk all the time. I would visit every hotel in Sudbury,” he adds.

The year after he arrived, Baston found work at Inco, first as a jack-of-all-trades and eventually as a locomotive engineer. An enthusiastic and cheeky storyteller, Baston admits he took liberties on the job.

“While I was running the train to Frood, I would have a bottle of beer on the control while the conductors played a round of crib,” he says, but insists he “could still run the engine safely.”

“That’s the God’s honest truth,” he adds. “(The conductors) knew I could run the engine and they knew I could do the work.”

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