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then & now: vintage locomotion

September 7

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.

CN 6060 1945 - saf affect

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.

CN envelope front 1945 - saf affect

CN envelope 1945 back - saf affect

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.

CN Roundhouse Sky Dome - saf affect

CN Roundhouse marker - saf affect

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.

CP Roundhouse - saf affect

CN 6213 - saf affect

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.

CN 6060 Today - RMRS

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.

Steele-Briggs Seed Co 1945 - saf affect

This Steele-Briggs Seed Co. building was home to the company’s head office (as shown in this 1921 postcard) and is now home to offices of a number of smaller companies. And likely, one day, condo lofts.

Steele-Briggs-Seed-postcard-dec-24-1921

Toronto tracks - saf affect

Steele-Bigs looking up Spadina - saf affect

Steele-Biggs Seed Co 2013 - saf affect

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 9 4:38 pm

    Time marches on…

  2. Don Totten permalink
    September 11 6:17 am

    Thanks for the photo Susan. We at RMRS are working to have 6060 returned to operation when funding and estimates for her repair are complete. There is a new Youtube out on the web called CNR 6060 runpast at Big Valley. I was the fireman that day Harry Home was the engineer. We put on a thrill for the crowd. Hope you enjoy it. Don Totten Rocky Mountain Rail Society

    • September 11 8:55 am

      Thank you for the added information, Don, and for all of the work RMRS does to keep this beauty alive and well. 🙂

  3. Anonymous permalink
    September 14 9:56 am

    49 Spadina has historical designation by the City of Toronto. It will remain sought after office space for many, many years to come. Whoever owns it seems to be pouring a lot of money into it, judging by the new mechanical rooms on the roof, the fire escape on the east side and workers on scaffolding on the south face of the building. Floor to ceiling height is likely 15 feet per story, common for over 100 year old factory buildings like this one.
    I wonder if the old railway tracks are still under the pavement on the south side of the building?

    • September 14 10:42 am

      Good to know! Yes, I am curious about the tracks near the building too, seeing as the trains would come right up to the building to the loading docks.

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