then & now: vintage locomotion
This week marked a year since I took an epic, educational, and enjoyable train ride across Canada on VIA Rail’s The Canadian. Anniversaries are always a nice time to conjure up memories of an incredible experience such as this, but I also thought I’d take this opportunity to share an on-theme look into a moment in time of Canadian National Railway’s 6060 locomotive.
While The Canadian is lead by a decidedly more modern locomotive, the Canadian National Railways 1944 U-1-f class locomotives were a class of twenty 4-8-2 or Mountain type locomotives built by Montreal Locomotive Works. They were numbered 6060–6079 by CN and nicknamed ‘Bullet Nose Bettys’ due to their distinctive cone-shape smokebox door cover.
My personal connection to the 6060 comes with family ties, and this 1945 photograph.
Taken in Toronto, it was mailed to my grandfather in 1945, as the original envelope indicates, leading me to believe that my grandfather is in the crowd around and on top of this engine. Alas my father would likely have been able to answer that question, but as each day goes by since his passing I realize there were so many more questions I had for him, that of course could never all be answered in one’s lifetime.
In the mid-1900s, my grandfather worked at the CN roundhouse in Toronto, repairing these massive machines. The CN roundhouse is no more, but its location is remembered and marked on the bridge over the tracks at the north-west side of Roger’s Centre (formerly Skydome), the construction of which meant the demise of this utilitarian train shed that allowed for the ease in shifting locomotives into each bay for repair via the rotating turntable.
The Canadian Pacific Railway John Street Roundhouse still exists around the other side of the stadium, in what is now known as Roundhouse Park and the home of the Toronto Railway Museum. The turntable still works and if a visit is timed right, one can see it in action.
The CN 6060 also still exists and is still operable, now making its home in Alberta and is lovingly cared for by the Rocky Mountain Rail Society.
While trains still come in and out of the city at this location, much has changed at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Front Street W. at which the 1945 photo of the 6060 was taken, including track grade changes and the sprouting up of condos all around. Yet surprisingly, the warehouse that is visible in the background of this photo still stands.
This Steele-Briggs Seed Co. building was home to the company’s head office (as shown in this 1921 postcard), now home to offices of a number of smaller companies. And likely, one day, condo lofts.